Updated: September 15, 2013

"Whatever Happened to Captain Rex?"

Chapter 23

Out in the hallway, Ahsoka continued to wait with Cody. The minutes seemed to tick by with agonizing slowness. They paced up and back in the hallway. They heard a noise from around the corner and the corridor was suddenly filled with a dozen members of the 501st. They crowded into the hallway with Ahsoka and Cody, an impressive sea of armored blue and white.

Echo walked up to Ahsoka and Cody, greeting each of them politely. Then, he turned to Cody, "We just heard Rex is back, and that he's injured. We all came down to see how he's doing. What's his status?"

Cody shook his head, "We don't know anything yet. Still waiting."

"Mind if we wait with you?" asked Fives.

Cody nodded his head toward the wall. Fives leaned up against the wall next to Cody. The rest of Torrent Squadron joined their vigil outside medbay, leaning up against the wall, waiting for word on their Captain.

It made Ahsoka's heartache to see Rex's brothers automatically lean up against the wall with that same casual, sturdy-legged stance that Rex always used.

The clones were completely silent as they waited. Although, Ahsoka suspected they were talking privately amongst themselves using their helmet comlinks.

She didn't mind being left out. She didn't want to talk to anyone now anyway. The hallway was too crowded now for her to pace back and forth. So, she found a spot in the hallway where she could stand comfortably and just let her mind drift. Time continued to pass. She couldn't help but think back to some of the things that happened on the planet. She reached a hand up to her lips.

"Commander?" the voice was Rex's. No. Wait. It wasn't. It was Fives. He was holding up a cup to her. "It's tea, Commander. Your preferred drink? Yes?" He gave her a a charming smile that was very much Fives, and not at all like Rex. She nodded gratefully, and accepted the cup. "Thank you, Fives."

She sipped the beverage and was surprised by how much it helped. She hadn't realized how tired she was. She quickly finished it off and tossed the cup in the nearest flash bin. The medbay door finally opened. An overly large medical droid swiveled his dome back and forth, taking in the large number of people congregated in the hallway.

"You are all waiting for Captain Rex?" the droid asked.

"Yes," the entire group answered as one.

Ahsoka rushed forward, nearly ploughing into the droid, in her haste to get word on Rex.

"You may enter now."

Cody looked at the clones, and pulled rank, "Ahsoka and I are going in first."

The other clones nodded, remaining in their position on the wall in the hallway.

Ahsoka followed closely behind the large droid, feeling strangely nervous. She was reassured by Cody's presence right beside her. Normally, she'd always regarded Cody as "Rex's friend." She wouldn't say they were particularly close. But, now, she was coming to rely upon Cody as an important friend, during a time when she needed the support.

The medbay was crowded, as it had been constantly since the start of the war. They threaded past bed after bed, filled with injured clones. Dressed identically in standard blue medbay attire, it was much harder to tell the clones apart. Ahsoka looked around anxiously for Rex. She worried that she would walk right past him, and not recognize him. She peered around for his blond head, not seeing him anywhere in the sea of injured men.

The meddroid led them through the twisting maze of narrow, identical beds, until they finally arrived at Rex. He was still sleeping, dressed in medbay attire. His leg was wrapped from hip to foot, and propped up with a drainage tube leading out of it. He looked thin, so his cheekbones were more angular than usual, and his pallor was pale. Ahsoka breathed a huge sigh of relief. It was still good to see him, even in this condition.

The meddroid turned to leave.

"Wait," Cody demanded of the droid, "what's his condition?"

The droid paused, "We completed only one surgery, at the Captain's request. We removed all the remaining fragments, and have treated him for infection and fever. Since he declined the second surgery here onboard ship, the decision about removing the leg, and getting a replacement part will be done at the ArmyMed Facility on Coruscant. The Captain will be transferred off-ship tomorrow."

The droid began leaving again.

Ahsoka's head was spinning from all the info, and she couldn't even come up with a response. Cody was able to respond faster.

"Wait! Come back hereā€¦ replacement parts?" Cody shouted to the retreating droid. But, it was too late. The droid ignored him and continued to toddle away.

"Hey, Cody, people are trying to sleep here, you know," came a raspy voice.

"Rex," Ahsoka turned to the sleeping clone captain.

Rex cracked his eyes open, blearily.

"Yeah, it's me," he said, "...I think. Water?"

Cody grabbed a nearby cup before Ahsoka could get to it, and swooped in, lifting Rex's head, helping him drink. By the ease with which he did it, Ahsoka could tell he had done this for Rex, and many other brothers, countless times before.

"Thanks," his injured brother said, leaning back, his voice clearer, "much better."

"How are you feeling?" Ahsoka asked, not sure what else to say.

"Like they've given me one too many hypos," Rex grumbled. "Parts of me are numb that I didn't even know I had."

Cody smiled, then turned serious, "What was the droid going on about just now?"

The Captain scowled, "Oh, that."

"Yes, that," said Cody, "what's going on?"

Rex sighed, obviously trying to pick the right words, "OK, this shabla tinny thinks the best way to fix my leg is to take it off and replace if with an artificial one."

Ahsoka let out a gasp before she could catch herself.

Cody looked at her sharply.

Rex said: "Yes, well, snip-happy droid here wanted to take it off already in this last surgery. I told him if he did he'd have a date with my DC-15, and that I'm very good at shooting droids. He was still going to do it anyway, but I told him if he did, I'd set the entire 501st on him."

Cody smirked, because he could easily picture Rex arguing threatening the medical droid.

Rex shrugged, "So, we compromised and decided he'd just take out the shrapnel in my leg. There were still some pieces of my leg armor in there. But," Rex scowled, and then sighed with annoyed resignation, "I still have to go talk to the people at Coruscant ArmyMed Center about whether this leg is fixable or not."

There was an awkward silence for a moment, as Cody and Ahsoka both struggled with the right response. Ahsoka couldn't help but envision what it would have been like to walk in just now and see Rex with a missing leg. Her stomach felt completely tied up in knots as she realized he could still lose his leg, and that he was being transferred off the ship.

Cody finally said: "ArmyMed is an excellent facility. A year newer than Polis Messa. State-of-the-art."

Rex gave a thin-lipped smile and just nodded, "So I hear."

"Ah... we should probably go... the corridor is filled with 501st waiting to see you. You up for more visitors?"Cody asked.

"Of course," Rex said, hoarsely, but cheerfully. His voice dropped a bit, then he confessed, "I'm not sure how long I'll be at ArmyMed." He exchanged a look with Cody, and Ahsoka wasn't sure what to make of the look. They were communicating something in that moment, an unspoken understanding. "And, Cody, bring me my blasters and kit."

Ahsoka looked at Rex, puzzled. "Why do you need it?"

Rex gave her a smile that didn't reach his eyes, "To shoot the droid, of course."

She knew he was joking, but there was something there. Something was going on. Rex and Cody seemed to know something that they didn't want to tell her.

Ahsoka and Cody left so that the rest of Rex's visitors could go spend time with him. On their way out, the medical droid summoned them to its' tiny, white cube-like office. There were no chairs. The office was purely utilitarian, designed with a droid's needs in mind. There was a desk, set-up perfectly to the droid's height, with imaging equipment, processing equipment, and a communications screen. Cody and Ahsoka stood crushed up against one wall in the tiny room, while the droid doctor pulled up a 3-D hologram of Rex's knee injury. It was a very sophisticated image- it rotated this way, and that, in a rather unsettling way, actually - but it did a good job of showing muscles and tendons, attached to a partial image of a leg bone. It looked like a perfectly healthy, muscular knee. Ahsoka furrowed her brows in confusion.

"This is the Captain's knee, as it looked before, an image taken at his last physical. I extrapolated this image from his full body scan," the droid explained.

"Oh," Ahsoka said soundlessly, cringing at what she knew was coming next.

"Here is a re-creation of the way we think the projectile impacted with the Captain's armor," the droid slowed everything down into an excruciatingly slow 3-D recreation, "and then the shot went right through the knee cap. As you can see, it destroyed most of the kneecap as it punctured through. And, then finally it hit the femur, fracturing that bone, before exiting out here in the back."

Ahsoka didn't want to continue to watch the painfully slow 3-D re-enactment, having seen it all happen live. But, she forced herself to watch, feeling it was the least she could do. She owed this to Rex, who had lived through this, and was still living with it. So, she watched every slow, painful, 3-D moment of it.

She watched the perfect 3-D graphics of the white plastoid armor overlaying the perfectly formed, genetically perfect knee. Then, the dramatically slow-motion shot of that clone killing-ammo coming in for its' date with destiny and striking Rex.

Ahsoka cringed as the 3-D shot impacted on the armor shattering it in all directions. She couldn't help it. The shot continued on inwards through the knee, exploding bone, cartilage, muscles and tendons. Cody held perfectly still, not showing any outward signs of emotion, but Ahsoka could feel his reaction. Rex was like that, too, Ahsoka realized, so good at hiding behind the helmet.

"A rather neat and tidy exit wound, actually, considering all the damage to the front... Would you like to see it again?" the droid asked enthusiastically.

"No," Ahsoka and Cody said simultaneously. They looked at each other, and exchanged a look of perfect understanding, then looked back at the droid again. Ahsoka realized again there was a lot more to Cody than she'd given him credit for.

"Well, alright then," the droid said, clearly disappointed they did not want to see the whole thing again, "I'm just going to back it up a bit to this important point..."

The droid froze the image, just as the shot was exiting the knee.

"As you can see," the droid said, using a built-in laser pointer, "a great deal of shrapnel entered the knee. Now, Captain Rex informed me that Commander Tano provided him with emergency first aid on-site, and removed a large piece of foreign material from his knee-"

Ahsoka's hand automatically reached into one of her hidden pockets and she ran her fingers over the fragment of armor she'd removed from Rex. The blood had long-since dried on it, making it just an oddly rust-colored whitish triangle, with sharp edges. She wasn't sure why she still carried the thing with her, but somehow, she hadn't been able to bring herself to part with it either. She forced herself to focus back on what the medical droid was saying.

"-there were also a number of smaller fragments which remained embedded in the tissues surrounding the knee."

Ahsoka cringed and sucked in her breath as the 3-D model lit up with all the tiny fragments now highlighted in fluorescent colors.

She still felt guilty for not having been able to remove those fragments.

Cody put a comforting hand on her shoulder. Ahsoka reached up and briefly gripped Cody's hand. These displays of compassions were unusual for Cody, but Rex always did bring out the best in people. Ahsoka forced herself to focus again. The med droid was still talking. She was so far behind on sleep, and food, that she was having difficulties concentrating.

"- fragments resulted in the Captain's high fever. We're treating the fever, however, there is still the danger it can turn systemic. Systemic infections can be fatal. This is why I recommended immediate amputation of the leg. It would greatly reduce the risk of systemic infection."

Ahsoka's stomach churned again at the words "amputation of the leg."

The 3-D image began to change, the bright dots disappearing one by one.

"Less than an hour ago, we performed surgery on the captain, removing all of these fragments," said the droid. "So, setting aside the systemic infection concerns, there is still the matter of the knee injury itself."

The 3-D image grew larger and more detailed, showing just how damaged the knee actually was.

The meddroid provided a detailed description of the damage to the knee. Ahsoka felt like she was following it at first, but then Ahsoka started tuning out all the medical words as cold dread filled her. OK, it was bad - very bad - she got that. Ahsoka felt like her eyes were glazing over as the droid went on and on. She tried to pay attention, but, this medical terminology was... uggh.

"Excuse me, Doctor," Cody said, intervening, "your attention to detail is greatly appreciated. But, could you bottom-line it for us?"

"Bottom-line, due to the excessive amount of nerve damage, it is highly unlikely the Captain's leg will regenerate successfully, even with extensive time in a bacta tank."

"Meaning?" Cody prompted.

"As I informed the Captain, his best option is to remove the leg, and put on a replacement part."

"Replacement part?" Ahsoka echoed hollowly.

"Yes," the droid said, matter-of-factly, "put on a replacement part. I'm sure the medical team at ArmyMed will concur with my assessment. It is very rare that I make an error in my processing," Ahsoka could tell the droid was annoyed that Rex had gone against his medical advice, "Captain Rex could save himself time by having his replacement part installed here. I am highly skilled, and I have clone replacement parts in the store room here. Your Captain is lucky - we just got a big shipment in. Store room is freshly stocked."

"Lucky?" Cody echoed, in a deadly cold voice that signaled this tinny's days could be numbered.

"Yes, parts are available now in much greater quantity and quality than at the beginning of the war. Thanks to all clones being a standardized size, we've been able to build and stock standardized replacement parts for almost all clone appendages. Still working out the logistics on a couple of the trickier appendages. Some appendages are harder to re-attach when they come off than other ones. But, this part replacement program is very exciting," the droid was almost gleeful as he worked up to his subject material, "Clones have a huge advantage over other organics, who often have to wait for custom limbs to be made-to-order. By amputating all clone limbs in a precise manner, we can attach standard, or stock, replacement parts. We can get clones back to work in a fraction of the time it used to take! It is a most exciting medical advancement! If you'd like, Commanders, I'll take you on a tour of our new stockroom. It is amazing how many parts we currently have in stock! Think how reassuring it will be next time a clone is injured in the field! You can reassure them a perfectly suitable replacement part is waiting for them back onboard! Come, I'll take you on a tour of the parts room," the droid turned around and began rolling out the door.

Ahsoka shuddered at the thought of seeing all manner of body parts stacked up in a store room. She could feel that Cody was seething.

"Another time, perhaps," Ahsoka said, quickly.

"Your loss," the droid said, swiveling his dome back and forth, "this part replacement program is the most exciting thing to happen since the war started."

Cody's hand had dropped to rest on top of his blaster. Ahsoka quickly put her hand on top of his and shook her head.

"You were giving us an update on Captain Rex's treatment options," Ahsoka quickly prompted, turning back to the droid. If she didn't watch them very carefully, between Rex and Cody, this medical droid was going to end up as slag.

"OK, then. Yes, well, as you know, Captain Rex declined the replacement part, and opted for the riskier course of action. He has decided to try bacta therapy with this limb, even though I told him it has a high probability of failure," the droid said, waving a hand dismissively at the 3-D holo of Rex's badly damaged leg. The droid gave it one final, almost contemptuous glance, and then switched off the display. "So, as I mentioned, he'll be transferred over to Coruscant ArmyMed Center as soon as we dock. We can't tie up the bacta tanks here. ArmyMed is willing to take on the more... borderline cases. For a time."

The med droid swiveled so that it fixed its' metallic gaze on Ahsoka and Cody, "Since you two are in command, I feel it is my duty to inform you that the Captain's current course of action could, and more likely, will result in him being permanently disabled and removed from service."

Ahsoka felt the floor drop out from under her.

Cody swore under his breath.

"That is all. Good day," the droid and made a hasty retreat from his office.

They heard a disturbance out in the hallway.

The droid was yelling: "What are you doing? This is a medbay, not a cantina!"

Rex definitely had more than a few visitors by his bedside. The dozen or so 501st men from the hallway were all crowded around his bedside. Ahsoka had never heard the song before, but the lyrics sure were colorful. All of the clones seemed to know the lyrics, though. A great number of the patients had joined in on the singing as well. Everyone was smiling, and the more the meddroid fussed, the louder they sang, and the more everyone smiled.

In the middle of it all, still looking pale and tired, but very happy, was Rex. He was in his glory, surrounded by all his brothers, and Ahsoka knew that Rex was at his happiest, with his brothers by his side. Cody started laughing. He pushed his way through the crowd. When the men saw who it was, they parted and let him through. Cody ended up right by Rex's side, and he joined in the singing as well.

The meddroid was waving its metallic limbs, trying to stop the group, but the more he fussed, the louder the group continued to get. The group was just finishing up, and giving themselves a loud cheer, when Admiral Yularen stormed in.

"What is going on here?" Admiral Yularen shouted. All singing immediately stopped. "I just received reports of a disturbance in sickbay. TwoOneBee called it a full stage riot."

Cody walked up to the Admiral. "Sir! Captain Rex here was injured on the TriLuna mission, and has to go stateside tomorrow for treatment at ArmyMed. We were just giving him a proper send off," Cody explained.

"Oh," the Admiral said, "yes, I heard you were injured, Captain," he looked at Rex's bandaged leg, "terrible thing that new ammo. An excellent job to all of you on that mission for getting those facilities destroyed." He looked at Cody, Rex and Ahsoka, "Once you are all well again, we'll have a proper celebration to mark the completion of that mission. In the meantime, carry on then. And, best wishes to you, Captain, in your recovery. We'll be eagerly awaiting your return."

Rex nodded respectfully, "Thank you, Admiral." There was something sad in his voice.

Admiral Yularen stepped back, and actually joined the crowd around the bed.

"Just one more song, and then we need to let Rex get some rest," Cody announced. The group groaned, like Cody was shutting down a good party.

"Yes, but if you could just sing the song a bit louder this time," Rex requested from his bed. Rex shot a look over at the medical droid, who had retreated to a corner. The rest of the group turned as one, and shot the droid the same look. The effect was very comical, as all the identical faces all turned to stare at the droid, as if indeed they were facing him on the battlefield. The droid chirped and then beat a hasty retreat. He retreated so quickly that he smacked full-speed into a wall. Everyone laughed, especially Rex and Cody. The Admiral did his best not to laugh at the droid, so he hid his laughter behind a supposed fit of coughing into his hand. Ahsoka actually felt a smidge of pity for the medical droid, because he was so helplessly outnumbered at the moment.

As a group, they sang one last song, a fighting song, and even Admiral Yularen joined in. And, as Rex requested, they did sing it very, very, loudly.

Ahsoka never did forget the look on Rex's face at that moment, how he lit up as he sang with his brothers, and looked around at all their faces. It was so clear in that moment, the bond shared between Rex and his brothers. Rex's eye caught hers, and he actually winked at her. She smiled broadly back at him, and she realized that it was going to be very difficult to fight the feeling she felt for him.

In that moment, surrounded by everyone who mattered to him, Ahsoka realized, Rex was happy. They finished out the last verse of the song, and the room quieted down. It once again started to feel like a medbay. You could again hear the beeping of life support machines across the room someplace. Ahsoka briefly wondered what that dying soldier across the room thought of all this singing.

One by one, the singing men from the 501st came by to clasp Rex's arm, Mando style, before filing out. Cody said his good byes, too, talking to Rex very quietly in Mando. Ahsoka would have given anything to know what they were talking about, because again she felt like they knew something very critical that they just weren't telling her. Cody gave Ahsoka a respectful nod, and then left her alone with Rex.

Now, finally alone, Ahsoka had no idea what to say to Rex. An awkward silence stretched between them.

"I should go," Ahsoka said, seeing how tired Rex looked, "You just had surgery."

Rex gave her a respectful nod. "Thank you again for everything. I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for you."

She wanted to say more to him, but the medical droid came in and shooed her away. The moment was lost.

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