A/N: In this week's episode, the commando team heads merrily off to the dungeons, the scouts get playful, Fives gets angsty, and Kix engages in gossip. Hey, it's been a tough week with the cancellation of the Clone Wars, so, happy day, nobody dies this week. I was going to tease all of you and say that in light of the cancellation of the show, I have decided to cancel this story, too. But, I couldn't be that cruel. No, no. Only Disney could take that much fun out of the Star Wars universe. Sorry. Was that my outside voice? Guess I'm feeling a bit out of sorts. However, there is a good interview on Rebel Forces Radio with James Arnold Taylor where he does a sort of 'Obi Wan' thing and suggests channeling that anger. (It's kind of funny, actually.) And, since the cast and crew ARE still intact at the moment and finishing up that "bonus" content, it's a good time to send letters to Disney and Lucasfilm expressing your positive support for the show. Such campaigns have worked in the past with Disney (twice) in saving already cancelled animated shows. Addresses where you can send letters are on the FaceBook page for Rebel Forces radio.
"Whatever Happened to Captain Rex?"
# # #
Jagger woke up quickly. He'd been creased along the side of the head with a bullet. Thankfully, his scout helmet had taken the brunt of the damage. Flex tended to his brother, mopping at a long bloody cut that ran from Jagger's ear to his cheek.
"Looks like you may end up with another impressive scar, vod," Flex teased.
"Just what I wanted," Jagger twisted his lips, sourly, and then grimaced as the cut on his face pulled. "Give me that," He tugged the bacta wipe from his brother and began cleaning it himself. "Go see to Sabre and quit harassing me."
Flex glanced back thoughtfully. "No. I think the ARC's got it well in hand. You're stuck with me."
Echo cocked his head to the side, and even through his helmet it was clear he was giving Flex a look. "The ARC has a name. It's Echo, vod."
Flex grinned, "Right." He leaned over and extended a hand, totally unperturbed by the minor correction he'd been given by the intimidating trooper, "I'm Flex. And, uh... thanks for saving our hides."
Echo shrugged, seemingly amused by the scout's exuberant personality, "Right. Well, you seemed to have it well in hand all by yourself actually."
Flex gazed down at his busted arm and his single usable limb. "Are you razzing me, ARC?"
Echo shrugged innocently, and turned his attention back to where he'd been inspecting Sabre's injuries. He was caught off-guard by the strong smack on the pauldron he got from Flex. "Hey!"
"Good one, ARCie. Nice to see you have a sense of humor under all that get up," Flex said, and then man-handled back the bacta wipe from Jagger and went back to tending his brother.
"It's Echo," the 501st trooper grumbled. But, he was drowned out by the loud conversation between the scouts.
"Ow! Ow! Easy Flex! That's my fekkin' head! Kriff!" Jagger winced as Flex continued to dab and clean at the deep bleeding gash.
"You're lucky you still have a head," Flex said, inspecting the wound closely. "That club would've caught you any different and we'd be short a terrains specialists right now." He dabbed in silence for a few moments, but the exuberant scout couldn't stay quiet for long. He glanced over at Sabre and whistled. "Now, that's gonna' hurt tomorrow." Sabre had been knocked out for the majority of the battle when he'd been tackled to the ground by a Kaz'harian. He'd suffered a severely bruised shoulder from a sideswipe from one of their clubs.
Sabre held still as Echo continued to apply bacta liberally to the entire area, "Not nearly as sore as you, vod. You still get us all beat when it comes to gettin' clubbed, Flex."
"Alright, I might have gotten clubbed. And, good," Flex allowed. He grabbed a fresh gauze pad and held it in place to help stem the bleeding on Jagger's head. He glanced back over at Hok, "but, I still think Sarge got it worse than me. He's still got a slug stuck in him. If you ask me, I think he enjoyed all of the attention he got with the Oppee. I mean, its even the same leg, mind you. What are the odds of that?"
Hok looked over at the team, and a weary smile crossed his features. It was a relief to hear them back to their normal bantering even if he seemed to be on the receiving end of it at the moment. "What can I say?" he tossed back over to the team, "Xyra loves a guy with impressive scars."
The other three scouts burst into laughter at this one. Fives glanced up sharply, "Who's Xyra?"
Hok turned his attention back to where Fives was tending to his leg, and bit his lip.
"Just a friend," he murmured, making a non-committal gesture with one-hand.
"Rrrright," Fives said, his tone indicating that he didn't believe the 'friend' osik for a micro-second. He looked up at Hok and met his eyes, "Well, you're lucky, vod." He glanced back at the other scouts, and then over toward Catcher, Travis and the rest of the team. "From what I've gathered, all of you are." His tone took on a sense of longing and a desire for something more.
"Fives," Hok began, not sure what it was he was going to say. He stopped. There was nothing he could offer the 501st ARC. He had everything back on Ando. And, from what he understood from Captain Rex, all of the 501st and the 212th were headed back directly into active service as soon as they left Darkknell. He felt his gut twist strangely. At one time, that was all that he had wanted.. what Fives had right now. But, then he met Xyra and lived for a time on Ando and everything had changed. He had a taste of a different sort of life and suddenly fighting somebody else's war didn't seem so appealing anymore. Everything he felt must have shown in his eyes, or at least some part of it.
Fives stared at him and his expression grew dark and cloudy. He scowled. "I get it, OK?" The 501st ARC said and he mopped at his brow. He quickly turned his attention back to Hok's leg, "I need to put a pressure bandage on this. The bleeding is not stopping. It's going to hurt." He tightened up the bandage with the efficient, practiced strokes of someone who had done the maneuver in the field many times. Hok sucked in his breath sharply at the sudden burst of pain.
His three team members stopped their light-hearted conversation and looked over at him in concern. He put up a hand indicating he was fine. He blew out a long steadying breath.
Fives glanced back at the scout team, and then spoke in a low voice to Hok, "They're a good group...your squad." There was something melancholy in his voice that indicated he had once belonged to a similar group. Hok wanted to ask what had happened to them, but he didn't.
"They are," the scout sergeant agreed, looking over toward his team. Flex and Jagger were in the midst of a heated argument about something. He smiled, again, as he studied them, thinking how lucky he was to have his squad intact.
Fives voice suddenly interrupted his thoughts, "But, they're right. Your injuries are worse than the others. You'd be best off seeing our medic, Kix."
Hok strained to see across the still-smoke filled corridor to where Kix was working on Catcher. The ARC Captain was lying unmoving on the ground. Hok wondered how badly he'd been hurt. Once the battle had been started, he'd been so distracted with keeping his team alive that he had no idea as to the status of the others.
"Alright," he agreed, "thanks for the help, Fives." Once again, he felt there was a great deal left unsaid. Fives gave him a curt nod and hauled him to his feet. They limped slowly and painfully across the corridor, making their way around the many bodies of the fallen Kaz'harians. There were corpses everywhere. At one point, Fives had to help him over a pile of the corpses. Hok tried to ignore their staring, glassy eyes and how human their hands seemed.
Those same hands tried to crush my skull, he reminded himself, focusing on his footing, so that he didn't stumble. He wasn't sure why fighting these Kaz'harians felt so different from fighting droids. His time with Xyra had changed him. Killing felt different now. There was more thought behind everything he did. And, thinking didn't make everything easier. He wondered if his time on Ando was starting to undo his flash training, and why that made him excited and terrified all at once.
Fives dropped him off over by the 501st medic. He couldn't stifle a groan as he slid down against the wall.
Kix glanced up at him. "I'll be with you in a bit."
"Alright, thanks," the scout sergeant murmured, leaning his head back against the wall. He shifted uncomfortably, trying to ignore the insistent throbbing in his leg. But, the sensation was so overwhelming, it was getting hard to focus on other things. It was different from the irritating prickling burn from a blaster. It also felt nothing like the injury he'd suffered to the same leg when he'd been attacked by the sea creature. When he'd first been shot by the slug, his whole leg had gone cold with a spreading icy numbness. That part of it hadn't been so bad, except he knew at the time it was probably just a precursor to something worse. The icy cold change over to a creeping fire. He'd tried to drown out the sensation, and succeeded for the most part since he had so much battle-adrenaline rushing through his system at the time. But, now that the battle was over and his entire body was winding down, all of the sensations were much harder to ignore. Hok shifted again, trying to find a comfortable position to sit. There was no such position. His head was pounding. His arms were tired. His leg felt awful. Even his shebs hurt. Fek. Everything hurt.
Kix's assessing gaze flicked over him with the practiced gaze of a medic. He always seemed to be hyper-aware of everyone around him. "How many stims and painkillers have you had?"
"One stim? No painkillers," he shook his head, "it's alright. I can wait." He pointed to Catcher, who was still lying prone and unmoving, eyes closed. He looked pale, showing obvious signs of having lost a great deal of blood. He didn't look good, at all. "The Captain-"
"He's stable," Kix said, putting a hand on Catcher's shoulder, "Don't argue with a medic."
Catcher's eyes flickered open and he glanced back at Hok, "Don't argue with him, Hok. It's useless, anyway."
Kix glanced over at Catcher, "Shut up and rest." But, his light-hearted tone belied the rebuke.
The ARC Captain opened just one eye and then closed it again. His lips quirked in amusement. "Bossy medics," he grumbled.
"Stubborn Captains," Kix tossed back. He pulled an IV of plasma out of his med-pac, and then threaded it into the Captain's arm. He double-checked the line, and then murmured with satisfaction as he saw the fluids steadily running into Catcher.
He turned his attention toward Hok. "Bucket off." His voice had all the imperious authority of somebody who was used to being obeyed at all times. He quickly looked over the bandage that Fives had applied to the wound and gave a nod of approval at the work. Hok unsealed his scout helmet. The moment he did, he began coughing. He hadn't realized how much smoke had accumulated in the corridor. His helmet filters had been doing an admirable job of filtering the worst of it.
"That's the residual flashbang smoke. It'll take a while to clear. Try breathing your nose and take shallower breaths," Kix advised. He waited until the scout had stopped coughing, so he could jab him with a large sharp of painkiller. "I'm almost done with the Captain here and then I can take care of that leg."
Catcher's eyes popped open, and he immediately pushed up to one elbow. "I can start telling my team to prepare to move out, then?" There was eagerness in his voice, but also a sense of urgency that hinted at importance business left undone.
Kix frowned, "If you're asking my medical opinion, I think you should be headed back to the ship with the amount of blood you've lost and that hole in your side. But, since you're determined to push on, yes, I'm almost finished with you. I just need to wrap your ribs." He gave the ARC a long reprimanding scowl, "You remind me of Captain Rex."
Catcher laughed, then groaned and put a hand to his injured side, "I'll take that as a compliment, Kix. Thank you. The Captain and I get along, well."
Hok put his head back, noticing that the pain had already faded, but the fatigue was still there. It had been a long day. Maybe they were already into their second day? Fatigue was throwing off his normally perfect sense of time. "Everybody gets along with Captain Rex. Oh, well, except... maybe for Lieutenant Travis."
Kix glanced up with interest from where he was applying a thick coat of bacta to the area around Catcher's ribs. "Huh... Sit up," he directed to the ARC, helping the clone up. He began wrapping bandages around his midsection. "So, the Captain and the Lieutenant butt heads?" the medic prompted, obviously as interested in gossip as the next clone.
The scout sergeant laughed again, "Butt heads? Like two raging tauntauns, I'd say."
The medic looked both bemused and puzzled as he worked to efficiently secure the bandage around the ARC's midsection, "Hard to picture. The Captain is tough on discipline, but he generally gets along well with everyone in the 501st."
"Aw, well, he gets along with everyone in the An-" Hok cut himself off abruptly before he said 'Andoan Legion.' The other three scouts on his team stared at him sharply. He glanced at them. He noticed Fives staring at him with narrowed eyes. He corrected himself and started again, "Uh... right..." He shook his head, feeling a bit flustered at his near slip-up.
Gah! Get your head on straight, Hok! One mistake like that and the entire Legion is compromised!
He took a deep breath, and started again, determined that he could finish the conversation and not reveal the secret location of their planet. He noticed that his team was watching him tensely, Fives was watching him like a Drayberian Hawk, and Kix just seemed genuinely interested in getting a good piece of gossip on the Captain.
"Ah... don't get me wrong, the Captain gets along with everyone," Hok continued, "He and the Lieutenant have this unusual relationship. Hard to describe. Guess you'd have to see them together. One minute they're fighting, and the next minute they're laughing. Apparently, they've known each other since Kamino. Command school."
Kix's eyebrows went up at this, "Really?" He glanced backwards surreptiously at where Travis was further down the corridor talking with the rest of the command team. "Huh."
Travis, whose helmet was still off, looked over at them, obviously wondering why everybody was suddenly looking his way. He quirked up an eyebrow their way in puzzlement.
Hok found that the talking was taking his mind off the pain in his leg. He was not normally one to gossip. After all, it wasn't a decent thing to be gossiping.
But, well, Kix seemed a decent enough clone. So, basically, he was just engaging in a bit of friendly conversation. All of the 501st guys were likable vode. He was just bonding with the boys in blue.
He leaned toward the medic. His voice dropping low to the point that Kix and Catcher had to lean in closer to hear him, "Rumor has it that he and the Captain were actually... vatmates." Hok pronounced each word slowly, drawing it out. Then, he paused and waited to see what effect it would have on the other two.
He did not have to wait long for a reaction. Kix's eyes widened, and Catcher gasped out, "Vat mates?"
Hok nodded, pleased with himself for his suspenseful delivery. "Yes. Got it from a most reliable source. Tek heard it from Gears, who heard it from Mako, who said he overheard it from Hodges." It was a rock solid source if he'd ever heard one.
"A vat mate?" Kix finished tying off the bandage, "We all had one at some point. But so many are culled off in the early stages of training that I don't know anyone who still has a surviving vattie. Extraordinary." He glanced back over at Travis again with new interest. "I wonder if its just a coincidence, or maybe the Kaminoans did something different and tampered with their genome..." His voice trailed off as he got lost in thought still staring at the Marine Lieutenant. It was obvious, though, that his interest had been completely piqued.
Travis seemed to have gotten fed up with being stared at. He stomped over toward Kix and Catcher. "Yes?"
Catcher glanced up, "Ah... Kix? You're about to let me go? Right?"
Kix sighed, "Against my better judgement, yes, I just need to give you final instructions."
The ARC nodded and then looked back up toward Travis, "Prepare the team to move out. I'll be with you shortly."
A pleased expression crossed the Marine's face. He was obviously just as eager to be underway again as Catcher, "We'll be ready." He spun on his heel and left to gather up Echo, Fives, Dart and Torch.
Kix turned his attention back to Catcher, "Alright, you need to take it easy with this wound. Drink as much fluids as you can to replace all that blood you lost. Slugthrower wounds have a higher rate of complication than blaster wounds. You should spend some time in a bacta tank when this is done to reduce the risk of sepsis."
"But, we don't have a-" Hok started.
"Sergeant Hok," Catcher cut him off sharply.
Kix glanced back and forth between the two. He raised up an eyebrow, then put up a hand to wave off any further argument. "No. Wait. I already know about this one. Lance told me you don't have a bacta tank. I already had this same argument with him." He ground a hand into his eyes. "Sorry. Just tired myself."
"But, if it helps, we're working on stealing one," Catcher's lips quirked with a confident smile.
Kix's eyebrows rose, "I did not just hear that."
"We're not GAR anymore. Different rules," the ARC shrugged and then winced.
Kix shook his head at him, "So you all keep reminding me."
"Can I get up?" Catcher asked.
Catcher tried to sit up, but had a difficult time. The medic expertly wrapped an arm underneath and helped guide him to his feet. The ARC Captain hissed as he rose, but made it to his feet. He nodded to the medic who released him to stand on his own.
Kix gave Catcher a long, assessing look and the ARC returned his gaze. Finally, the medic nodded. "Alright, you can go. And, your plans certainly sound interesting. Wish I could help. But, I'm under orders from the Captain to head to the dungeons. Chief medic for the final battle." There was a touch of pride in his voice as he announced his position to the Captain.
The ARC Captain nodded, "We're headed that way now." He glanced over to where the medic still needed to tend to Hok. "We have to be moving on, otherwise we'd invite you to join our team. We're under special orders ourselves."
Kix nodded, "Understood. Good luck."
Catcher moved away and made a brisk hand signal to Travis and the rest of the team. Without another word, the commando team silently moved down the corridor and disappeared from sight. Hok felt a sense of loss as he watched them go, particularly as he saw the blue and white forms of Fives and Echo slipping away.
"You experiencing any numbness or tingling?" Kix's voice drew him back to the present.
"Uh..." Hok had to think long and hard about the question. Right now, his whole leg just felt something Xyra had decided to roast for dinner. "No. I don't think so. Maybe at first. Not really now. I guess." He sighed, and blew out a breath, running a hand through his short-cropped hair, "I'm not really being helpful, am I?"
Kix laughed, good-naturedly, "No. That's alright."
The medic pulled back the bacta patch that Fives had applied right after the battle had ended. Hok flinched as the patch pulled at the wound. The medic scowled, and began cleaning the area. "I'll admit I'm growing tired of pulling slugs out of clones. Blaster wounds are beginning to seem downright appealing at his point." After he cleaned the area thoroughly, he began probing it. Hok flinched, and grasped his hands into a tight fist. "Well," the medic said, after giving the area a thorough inspection, "the slug is still in there, and its deep. I'll say the same to you that I did to your Captain. "Your best bet is to head back to your ship and have this removed in a proper surgery by your medic. Yanking these slugs out here in the field carries all sorts of risks, namely some rather nasty infections. And, it's just the painful way of doing things."
"But, if I head back to the ship, then I'm done," Hok said, sparing a quick glance back at the rest of his team, before looking back at the medic, and then down at the leg wound, "if you pull it out here, then I can continue on, right?"
"Possibly," the medic conceded, "...probably. But, it's going to be painful. Both to remove it, and to walk on it." His interest was suddenly caught by the top of the oppee scar peering out above Hok's leg armor. "How'd you get this? It's recent."
"It is," Hok admitted, "giant sea creature. Called an Oppee. Nasty bite. They like to drag clones into the sea and chew them for a bit."
"Impressive," the medic said, "Oppee. Massive sea creature. Native to Naboo, isn't it?"
"Uh... well," Hok coughed, "they're... uh... all over the Outer Rim... I believe," Hok hedged.
Kix's eyes narrowed, then he shrugged, "Alright, how far down does that scar go?"
"All the way to my foot," Hok said, pointing.
The medic whistled and nodded, "Never seen an Oppee bite before. Seen lots of things bite clones, but never one of these. Teeth must have been huge judging by the gap marks here."
He glanced at his scar with new interest, seeing it from the medic's persepctive, "Didn't notice that at the time. I did notice that those teeth were awfully sharp."
The medic laughed, "Yes, I'd imagine so. Guess you're lucky to still have your leg."
Hok thought of Xyra, who'd leapt into the freezing Andoan ocean to save him from the enormous sea creature. He was lucky to have his life, no less his leg. "I'm lucky in a lot of ways," the scout conceded. He pointed back at the slugthrower wound which had started to seep blood again, "I'd be appreciative if you'd take the slug out here. I need to stay with my team."
"Everybody wants to do things the hard way," Kix rolled his eyes, "Fine." He quickly injected the scout sergeant with a second painkiller and then a stim. "You're going to need both of these before I'm done. Now, just hold still and think of something pleasant." Hok considered donning his helmet, so he could scream if need be, but Kix had already started working. The medic was incredibly fast.
Fine. Better to just get this done.
He closed his eyes and thought of Xyra and her sister stitching up his leg back on the Manifest Destiny. He was careful not to let himself get too carried away in his imaginings because he didn't want his body to physically react. He badly missed his lover, and it didn't take much to remind his body that it had been too long since they'd last been together. The first thing he was going to do when he saw her again was-
Gah! No! Don't think of that! You get tight in the armor, and Kix is going to think you're that kind of brother.
Think about something else. Think Oppees. Kaminoans. Training drills at 0400. A few of my least favorite things.
Hok felt his body settling down.
There was a tugging sensation within the wound and the fire intensified. The scout sergeant clenched his fists, and his whole body tensed up.
"Almost got it," the medic said, focusing intently on his work.
The pain grew immediately worse, and Hok wanted to cry out. He bit his lip, and clenched his fists. He felt warm blood running down his leg and felt more tugging.
"Hang in there, its almost out," the medic coached, a line of sweat appearing on his brow as he worked.
Hok felt sudden sympathy for Kix, wondering what it must be like to have to do a job where you had to cause other brothers pain on a regular basis.
"Gah!" Hok couldn't hold back a final gasp as the medic gave a sharp tug. The scout felt a fresh gush of blood leaking down his leg.
"That was it. It's out," the medic said, holding up the slug. He quickly began working to control the bleeding and seal up the wound.
The scout sergeant leaned back, taking deep breaths.
"You, OK, Sarge?"
He glanced up and saw Flex kneeling down by his side, giving him a concerned look. Hok tried to speak, but all he could manage was a tired nod. Flex sat down next to him, and waited quietly, just offering comfort with his presence. Out of the corner of his eyes, Hok saw two more forms appear on the other side of him. He turned his head and noticed that Jagger and Sabre had taken a seat beside him, as well.
The 501st medic gave him an amused smile, "Your team, I assume?"
Hok nodded, trying to find the energy to speak. He took a deep breath, feeling pride in his team as he presented them, "Yes, finest scout team anywhere.
"Well, finest scout team anywhere," the medic finished tying the bandage off, "looks like you have your leader back." He cleaned blood off his hands with a wipe as Jagger and Flex helped Hok to his feet. "Don't overdo it. I removed the bullet, but it tore a hole right through your muscle. You're going to be feeling it."
Hok felt it as soon as he put weight on his leg.
"Lean on me, Sarge," Jagger said, grabbing onto Hok and throwing one of his arms over his shoulders.
He shifted his weight onto his other leg, and told himself if he could make it through an Oppee bit then he could get through a hole in his thigh. "Prepare to move out. We're headed to the dungeons."
# # #
Catcher was feeling it, as well, keeping one hand pressed hard over his thickly bandaged side, trying to find a comfortable way of walking that didn't pull on the injury.
"You, OK?" Catcher glanced over to find that Travis was walking alongside him.
"Yeah," he breathed out, rubbing at his side, "just sore." He gave the Marine a curious glance. "I saw you went down. What happened?"
Travis reached up and carefully removed his helmet, being carefully with the ligaments in his one hand. He clipped the headgear to his belt, and then tugged down his bodysuit revealing the extensive bruising on his neck.
"Impressive," Catcher said.
Travis shrugged, grimacing slightly from the gesture, and let the bodysuit slide back into place.
"And, your hand?" It hadn't escaped Catcher's notice the way the Marine was favoring the one limb.
"Those fekkin' clubs," Travis grumbled under his breath irritably. "I hate those things."
Catcher began to chuckle, the sound echoing around mechanically within the confines of his helmet.
Travis gave him a quizical look, "What's so funny?"
"Just knowing you're dating that doctor. Imaging her reaction. Better hope those fade." Catcher made a vague gesture with his hand toward the Marine's badly bruised neck, "Going to obvious you came real close to dying." He shook his head in bewilderment as if it trying to figure out a strange concept, "The woman-folk seem to get all worked up over that sort of thing."
Travis nodded, "You're right. It is very strange behavior." He sighed and rubbed at the marks on his neck subconsciously. Maybe with enough bacta he could get rid of the marks before they made it back to Ando.
Catcher sighed and decided to turn his mind to less confusing matters. "The dungeons, Travis. Let's go over the plan once again."
# # #