Updated – July 2012
Below is the transcribed dialogue from 'The Hidden Enemy' episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, copyright, by Lucasfilm LTD.
I have merely fleshed out the action to begin Chopper's story.
Up in the south tower Chopper was seated at the monitor triangulating droid company positions with his back to the door. He hated having his back to the door; to any opening. He felt exposed, vulnerable, and a shiver ran up his spine as if a thousand tiny droids were marching up his backbone.
If he had set up the stand-alone, he would have set the monitor backward, facing the outside, to protect the trooper's body with the durasteel girder of the building, giving a view of the room, the doors and most of the windows. Sergeant Slick had set it up and Chopper wondered briefly if that had been intentional.
Suddenly, what Chopper feared most happened. Droids came in from both sides and from behind him, blasters firing. Chopper's breath drew in quickly; there was the sound of General Kenobi's light saber, troopers returning fire and the sound of falling men. The new commander of the 212th, Cody, and Sergeant Slick had moved in to cover him. There were the familiar clicks of dying troopers sounding off in his helmet. Chopper took the few seconds to wipe the chips clear of all information and key in the self-destruct override, trusting in Commander Cody and Slick to cover him, before grabbing his own bucket and blaster. The commander would protect him because of duty, the sergeant because of hate. The chips were molten slag now, the stand-alone crackling with electronic overload and Chopper slipped behind Cody, between Cody and Slick, his own blaster firing into the mass of droids.
As usual, the fighting was all over in a whirl of shortened time. He had seen opportunity glittering and pulled the tactical droid head before leaping onto the gunship – getting enemy intel.
But it was Chopper's secret shame that he'd only thought to make a centerpiece for his necklace. He wasn't the only one to collect droid parts. Others collected droid items and among the 'connoisseurs', a tactical droid part was admired.
That would prove it, wouldn't it? Prove he wasn't a failure; prove he was strong, stronger than Slick's hate?
They were off the gunship and Chopper turned in the com link to the sergeant, moving slowing by the south exit, leaning against the wall as if raggedly tired. He wasn't, he simply had something to do.
Slick looked at him, his lip curled up in what could never be mistaken as anything other than a sneer. Slick knew. It was why Slick had eased up on Chopper.
Chopper watched as the squad moved down the hall, Sketch carrying Gus's helmet as Slick spoke to the wounded man. Gus was shaking his head at the sergeant's questions though his hand was gripped tight against the wound and he held his arm pressed against his body. The other men moved as a group, Jester in the rear, toward medical and the mess. Slick stopped and turned, moving down the opposite corridor.
Chopper pulled the droid digit from where he had slipped it into the modular pocket. He took the time to carefully remove the barrel hinge and slip the droid finger onto his necklace, securely re-tying the wire that held them. Chopper took a moment to admire his handiwork. This one was a super battle droid, taken in one shot. That was rare and, in this particular case, intentional. Chopper smiled. The metal fingers clicked together with a harmony only he could decipher. Then he put it away and wandered to the mess.
He was hungry and looked at Punch and Sketch sitting together, laughing at some joke. Chopper thought they might be laughing at him, but pushed the thought aside. Just because he was paranoid didn't mean everything was about him. Punch and Sketch rarely had time together; Slick usually scheduled them opposite shifts. He took a table alone anyway, one near the wall. Jester wasn't in the mess. He'd probably gone back to the barracks and was cleaning his blaster.
Chopper was nursing the caf, long cooled. He didn't want to go to the barracks until he knew where Slick was and who else was in the barracks. No one liked being alone in the small room with only Slick though he never bothered Jester cleaning his deece.
The speaker in his helmet on the table spoke, but he'd had it set external audio, low volume.
"Slick's squad, report immediately to quarters."
The voice was the new commander's, not Slick's, and Chopper was fine with that. He was at the door only moments before the others; they were all there. Even Gus with his arm freshly bandaged. Together they walked into the squad's quarters. If Slick had called them, Chopper might have moved slower to make sure he was toward the end of the line and less likely to be the brunt of whatever anger Slick had for them. But it hadn't been the sergeant, it had been Commander Cody.
Chopper, Gus, Jester, Punch, Sketch; they walked into the room.
"No way they're capable of something like this." Sergeant Slick was speaking to Commander Cody and Captain Rex, his voice pleading. The two officers had stern, hard faces and Chopper wondered if he shouldn't have taken his regular spot. This didn't look good.
"Something like what?" It was Gus's voice. Unofficially ranked after Slick. Slick's right hand man. Sergeant's second. Slick's shadow. Slick's pet.
"You called them here?" Slick's voice held curiosity. That surprised Chopper. Slick so rarely didn't know what was going on. He had a knack for knowing what was going to happen on the battlefield. As much as Chopper hated Slick, Slick hadn't gotten any of them killed.
Yet. Today had been close.
"Of course we did. We're getting to the bottom of this." Captain Rex didn't sound anywhere near happy; he sounded harder than he did in battle. "Now."
"Look, let me have a few minutes with them first. It's going to hit them hard." Again Slick's voice was pleading with the officers. "They trust each other, and if one of our own betrayed us …" They heard that; they all heard that. Slick had modulated his voice low, as though trying to keep a secret. But he knew how good their hearing was. He wanted them to hear it.
Chopper's immediate response was 'why', but he was afraid he knew. He was afraid to look at the expressions on the faces of his squad mates. Afraid he'd see silent accusations. Afraid he'd see fear in Jester's face.
"I don't think that's necessary. Your men are tough, right?" Cody walked the line of men. "Take a seat, gentlemen."
It wasn't – quite – an order, but the men moved to sit. Punch and Sketch sat on one crate of supplies not yet unpacked while Chopper and Gus, in a fragile truce, sat on the other.
Jester took the few steps to his bunk; to his cave, they called it. Not Chopper, he wasn't one of them. He called it Jester's bunk or Jester's rack although he thought of it as 'Jester's refuge'. Chopper wasn't the only trooper that Slick hated.
"We have a turncoat in our midst," said Cody, "and we think it's one of you." Chopper looked at the floor, wondering if droid fingers had suddenly become traitorous.
Gus, next to him on the crate, let out a breath; just enough for Chopper to hear. Just enough for Chopper to understand that Gus knew who the traitor was and it was Chopper.
Chopper moved to his bunk, their fragile truce broken.
Jester, nervous, always nervous, one hand rubbing over his other, had attracted attention first. Or perhaps it was Slick, standing there, who'd brought the attention to Jester. Slick always seemed to be able to do that; to single out a man without a word, without a gesture; with merely a tiny glance or the slightest shift of his body.
Rex, closer, turned quickly toward Jester, crossing his arms. Cody was a heartbeat behind him.
Even then Chopper had wish for a partner like that, someone who could almost read your mind.
They had merely looked at Jester and he began speaking.
"I… I don't know. I was doing the things I always do after a mission." He was nervous, but Jester was always nervous. Slick encouraged that. Jester's right hand rubbed over his left fist. Chopper knew he wanted to hit Slick but that wasn't right. Other times, Jester's fist hurt from hitting the wall. And Chopper didn't think that was right either.
"Things like what?" Rex took the lead in questioning.
"I'm sorry, sir. I'm just a little nervous. You're my C.O." That should have explained it. Troopers were always nervous in speaking to command level officers, nervous to be singled out from their brothers.
"Well, way I figure it, you tell the truth you've got nothing to be nervous about." Rex's logic was reasonable, but Chopper knew that Jester might start stuttering badly in a moment. It was something new, within the last few days, and Slick yelled at him for it. Even Chopper knew that would only make it worse and wondered if that was why Slick yelled. Sometimes he wondered about Slick's first squad and wondered if Slick had treated them this way.
"Jester is telling the truth." Sketch broke in. "He cleans his weapon after every mission. First thing, every time. He's kind of obsessed that way."
Sketch to the rescue. Chopper disliked Sketch the least, he was fair and had occasionally told Slick he didn't approve of Slick's methods for handling his men. But Sketch had a friend and partner, Punch. Partners made you strong.
"Is that right? You were cleaning your weapon?" asked Cody as he looked back at Jester.
"Yes sir." Jester nodded. He understood now, there was no hidden agenda to the captain or commander. He simply had to answer their questions; unlike trying to figure out what Slick wanted.
"Go on the computer while you were in here?" That was Cody again.
"No sir. I didn't even power it up." Jester gestured vaguely toward the machine without moving his eyes from Commander Cody. "You can check."
Cody and Rex look at each other. They'd check. It could be seen in the look they gave each other. Chopper decided he wouldn't get on the system until this mess – whatever it was, whatever had caused it – was over.
"Show me your weapon," commanded Cody sharply, holding out his hand and Jester lifted the blaster for his inspection. Cody ran his fingers over the barrel. Chopper wondered that the metal wasn't fatigued. Jester was constantly polishing his blaster, especially after receiving a demerit for a dirty weapon. That had been cheap of Slick. They'd just come back from battle and Jester's was the only blaster Slick had checked. Even Chopper wasn't dinged that time, only Jester. Jester had questioned Slick. Why only him? Why right after battle? His questions had only earned him another demerit.
"Yep. Freshly scrubbed." Cody glanced at Rex. There was more silent communication between the two officers and Chopper yearned for someone like that at his back.
"The rag's over there in the corner." Jester gave a nod of his head toward the rag bin.
"Good man." said Cody as he handed back the weapon and Jester straightened at the rare praise. Chopper almost cried. Slick could have had the best squad in the company. Just for a few words of praise.
Cody turned from Jester toward Punch and Sketch. "You, you were cleaning your weapon too?" He had gestured at Punch. Punch was strong. Punch had someone to cover his back, someone to act as a partner. Punch had Sketch. Chopper thought that might be why Slick didn't torment Sketch or Punch individually. Sometimes he thought about partnering with Jester; for protection of them both but he intuitively realized it wouldn't work though he couldn't explain why.
"No, I was hungry. I went back to the mess." Punch replied, almost off-handed, as though he knew they wouldn't check on him; Slick never had.
"Right away?" Rex followed on Cody's questions.
"Oh, yeah." Punch was being almost insolent to them as he usually was with Slick. Bad move, Punch, thought Chopper. They are not like Slick.
"Anyone with you?" Rex's voice was a little harder this time. He'd caught that insolence and wanted Punch to know it. Punch straightened slightly and Chopper knew he was remembering the difference between a sergeant and a captain.
"Sketch, sir." Punch gave a slight gesture to the man sitting next to him. His voice and body had shifted to respectful.
Rex and Cody turned their attention to the next trooper.
"We got to the mess at the same time, got our grub, and sat together." Sketch's voice was milder, a simple recital of facts.
"Anyone else in the mess able to confirm what you two are saying?" Rex asked as he paced past Sketch, toward Gus.
"Lots of guys there. Ask any of them." Sketch replied.
"Oh, we will." Rex threatened softly and Chopper could see Sketch give a small shrug of his shoulders. Sketch didn't care, truth was on his side. Chopper knew the questions now, knew the time frame and it wasn't looking good for him. They were looking at the time he'd been stringing the droid fingers.
Rex and Cody, followed by Slick, paced back to Gus; Slick interrupting, "Captain, give me just a moment with them."
Of course, thought Chopper, he'd want to protect his pet.
"No, it's okay sarge." Gus shifted slightly. "I've got nothing to hide. I was in the infirmary. Got banged up pretty good by one of those clankers. Med droid was fixing me up."
Gus lifted his arm to show them and Cody touched his arm which trembled, the wounded muscles barely holding up his arm. "Doc's got all the records there, if you wanna check."
Cody and Rex moved in front of Chopper on his rack. Chopper had one leg on his bunk, one on the floor, his head slightly down, leaning against the wall. There'd be no interruption from Slick. Slick hated Chopper.
"So, Chopper, old boy. What's your alibi?" Chopper kept looking down, not meeting Rex's eyes.
Chopper, old boy.
Slick had coined that.
'Chopper, old boy, there's a little problem…'
'You've got a bit of an attitude, Chopper, old boy'.
'Chopper, old boy, I'm concerned about your tendency toward insubordination.'
So, Rex was part of it, part of Slick's tangle of hate. Really, he should have known.
"I was in the mess hall." Chopper decided it wasn't quite a total lie. He had been in the mess when they had called the troopers back to quarters.
"No, you weren't!" The outburst was from Sketch.
"You…I mean… you."...Sketch stood and he looked almost apologetically at Chopper.
"If you know something, kid, you should speak up." Cody's voice was implacable. Chopper was still sitting in that slightly insolent position, looking down. He shouldn't have tried. He knew it made him look worse; trying to avoid punishment for the droid fingers.
He breathed out in a soft sigh. He'd have to admit it and part of him was happy that he'd been caught; happy that he'd have to explain why, happy because now they would take him away from Slick.
"Chopper came in a lot later, after everyone else." Sketch explained. Now that was the truth and Sketch dealt only in the truth. Chopper sighed softly. He'd let Sketch know later that he didn't mind, that he didn't hold a grudge. Chopper would let him know that he understood.
Slick moved, catching Chopper's attention and he looked up at his sergeant suddenly realizing he was surrounded. Fear gripped his heart. Then he looked down again. What's the use? Why not confess? What's the difference?
"Where were you before you went to the mess, Chopper?" Rex's eyes glinted like a moonless night sky, hard, demanding and accusing.
"Nowhere. Walking around." Chopper raised his head to look at Cody, pleading with his eyes. Cody looked the most open to listening. Unlike everyone else in the room, with the possible exception of Jester, Cody's mind hadn't already been made up.
"Son, you know we'll need a better answer than that." Cody's voice was asking, neither hard nor angry but simply asking. Cody would listen; but he needed something to listen too, he needed more than evasion. He needed the truth.
Chopper released the breath he'd been holding with a sigh. "I was hiding at the south exit."
Confess, confess, guilty, guilty; shouted a portion of his mind. Chopper looked up at Cody, almost hopefully. He looked up at Rex then turned where he'd tucked the necklace earlier; where he usually kept the necklace so he could pull it out during hard nights and caress it with his fingers.
"I didn't want anyone to see me string these together." He pulled the fingers from edge of bunk between the frame and the thin mattress pad. The fingers tapped together and Chopper heard the lovely melody that sang of his strength. He was stronger than Slick's hate.
"Battle droid fingers." Rex's voice was low, but composed of steel and a little disgust. For the first time Chopper felt shame for collecting. Chopper leaned back, wanting to explain.
"I just wanted something back. I guess I felt like they owed me." Chopper frowned. How could he explain? The droids owed him for his scars, the ones on his face, his head and his body. They owed him for his torment, for the nightmares, for laughter, for returning to Kamino twice already, for the threat of reconditioning. How could he explain the droids had taken more from him than simply smooth skin? He opened his lips slightly to try.
"I always knew there was something deficient about you." Gus and Slick looked at him in derision. Gus was Slick's right hand man, Slick's second-in-charge, Slick's eyes and his ears. Now Gus was Slick's voice. The sentiment was pure Slick.
Chopper's lips became a tight line as he turned from his rack, away from the others and set his feet to the floor. He sat on the edge of his bunk. They didn't understand. They'd never understand and Chopper didn't know how to explain.
"This isn't good, Chopper." Slick took a step toward him; around the bunk, to face him. "Lying about where you were, taking forbidden items from a battlefield." Slick stood straight and crossed his arms. There was a gleam in his eyes. "I know. I put up with the attitude because you have skill." All the men were standing now. They were watching him; as if everything Chopper had done, everyone had done, was leading to this moment.
"But if you could break these rules, your whole character's in question here," Slick continued, pointing his finger at Chopper, then back to his cross-armed position. Chopper suddenly realized it wasn't battle droid fingers.
But what? It coalesced in his mind; the unexpected droid attack, the intel they would have gotten from the tactical droid, the sotto voce words of Slick. Chopper paled. They were talking treason.
"Wait, no. Hang on." Chopper stood, facing Cody. Cody would listen; his arms were open, ready to embrace the truth. "I'm no spy!" The men moved closer, circling him almost, surrounding him as if they expected…what?
"Chopper, we're all brothers but how can we trust anything you say now?" Slick's voice was reasonable.
"No, sir, I'm telling you, I did not … " Chopper turned to Commander Cody. He'd even turn to Captain Rex for help; anyone but Slick. Everyone in the barracks looked at him in various degrees of accusation and confusion. Chopper's mouth suddenly felt dry. Fear raged in him.
"It's okay." Slick's voice was comforting and he placed a friendly hand on Chopper's shoulder. Chopper wanted to believe him, wanted to fall, wanted to trust that brotherly hand on his shoulder.
"We'll get you a proper investigation," Slick continued. "You don't have to say anything till the Jedi come back and talk to you." Slick's voice was so … final; so reasonable and sympathetic.
Chopper bowed his head. Confess, confess rang the voices in his head. He was hesitant, wanting to accept; then it would be over, the long fight over. He'd lost.
Chopper raised his head, knowing it was a trap somehow. He jerked back, moving his shoulder from Slick's friendly touch. Slick had never been friendly. Not to him.
"Maybe you should talk, sir. Tell them where you went." Chopper said, his voice hard with anger as he pushed Slick's arm away with his elbow, turning to face him.
Slick's face showed his surprise at Chopper's confrontation. Chopper usually backed down, but Slick covered his surprise quickly and Chopper pushed a little more.
"I was at the south exit, remember? I saw you go in, sir. I saw you." Chopper shook with fear and anger. Would Commander Cody believe him? It was his word against the sergeant's and he'd already confessed to collecting forbidden items; he'd be court martialed for that. Was this another fruitless effort to make someone see the truth? Chopper pushed his finger up near Slick's face, leaning forward; invading his body space.
"Chopper, I have been patient." Slick reached towards Chopper, but Chopper pushed his hand away. Don't touch me, he wanted to shout, but that would only prove he was unstable, would only prove Slick's assertion. He had to keep control in this moment.
"Everyone else turned right," Chopper brushed his hand toward the barracks and the mess. "You turned left, toward the command center. Where were you going, sir?" Chopper brought his face so close to Slick's. "Where were you going?"
"Obviously, the kid feels cornered." Slick's voice replied, once again so reasonable, and Chopper knew he wouldn't win this time either. Slick all sympathetic was far more dangerous than Slick angry. Chopper's teeth clicked together against a cry of pain and loss and frustration.
"Sergeant! What did you mean, 'till the Jedi come back'?" Cody asked. Rex, behind Cody with his arms crossed like some unyielding statue as he glared at Chopper, slowly uncrossed them, opening himself up to new information. Cody took a step forward to confront Slick. Chopper felt something strange in his chest. It had a beat like his heart. Was that hope?
"How did you know the Jedi were gone? Cody asked and Chopper looked at him uncomprehending. The Jedi are gone? He caught the message from Cody's expression Back me up, trooper. As one, Cody and Chopper turned toward Slick.
"I really wish you hadn't noticed that, sir." Slick's voice was soft and genuinely regretful.
Dangerous, Chopper thought. It meant Slick was going to hand out a demerit, or laugh with cruel derision or… but Cody was a commander. What could Slick do against a commanding officer?
Slick bowed his head, his body relaxed. Suddenly he coiled and punched Cody then, with the recoil from the blow, struck Chopper's chin with his elbow. Chopper froze in amazement at the commander being hit by a trooper. They were clones, Cody was a superior officer and they were brothers. Traitor! Turncoat! Chopper fell, catching the bunk with his hip before ending on the floor.
Slick leapt over the bunk, tucked into a roll, came up on his feet and was out the door before anyone could react.
"It's Slick?" Rex's voice was amazed. Chopper wanted to retort, 'yeah, not me, captain' but was rising from the floor in as much shock as anyone else.
"Slick's the traitor?" There was and wasn't a question in Cody's voice; but he was moving, momentum provided by Rex's arms where Cody had been pushed by Slick's attack, to rush out in chase, Captain Rex at his heels.
Chopper stood, rubbing his hip. It was an automatic response since he was in armor and hadn't been injured. Slowly he moved toward where the remainder of the squad stood frozen in shock. Gus looked at him in what? Sympathy? Apology? as he stood. Jester looked at him in hope.
They had barely begun processing how the dynamics might change in the squad. Gus kept looking at Chopper, pain and guilt in his eyes. Punch opened his mouth wanting to say something, but always letting his mouth close because there was nothing to say.
"No one else knows yet." Jester's voice was soft but determined.
Sketch supplied the rest of the thought. "Slick might order…" He raised his hands, having no idea what a traitor might order, but understanding the chaos that could ensue.
"Gus." Jester called his attention away from Chopper as he found some words. "I'll tell the deck officer about Slick. You and Chopper follow the commander and captain; assist as necessary. Sketch, you and Punch go to the mess and asked if anyone has seen Slick. But keep what happened quiet." Then Jester grabbed his helmet and was out the door.
They glanced at each other then ran out to help.
It was only a few minutes later when the speaker in both Gus and Chopper's helmets spoke in Jester's voice. "Slick was seen going into the command center."
Chopper tapped Gus on the arm as he caught site of the two officers moving around the weapons of the armory. Suddenly, both officers turned rapidly even as an explosion lifted them off their feet and pushed them forward.
It must have been a linked series because the entire armory was suddenly engulfed in flame and noise.
"Sir," Gus called out as they ran up to Captain Rex holding a hand for Commander Cody. "Slick ran into the command center." Chopper stood, saluted his superior officers, along with Gus and nodded his confirmation of the message.
"You guys stay here. Seal the perimeter." Cody ordered as both he and Rex were running back to the barracks and command center. Chopper and Gus looked at the burning machinery.
"Slick did this?" Gus asked, his face pale and wan. "He was…"
"A traitor, Gus," answered Chopper, not unkindly. Gus had been a victim as much as him or Jester. "Let's see what we can save."
Chopper decided he'd have to do something about the droid fingers. They were forbidden. Now that Slick was no longer in charge, now that Slick had been caught and his treason discovered, Chopper was content to stay. He didn't think they'd forget about the fingers even if the big news was the traitor.
They wouldn't let him stay in the same squad though; it was too broken to repair and Chopper had no doubt they'd all be shipped to different units. He'd make sure to tell Jester that it hadn't been him, that it had always been Slick. He'd have to turn the fingers in before they came and got him. Maybe being transferred would be fine. There wasn't, couldn't be, any other sergeant in the GAR like Slick. Maybe he could be a good trooper now.
Chopper shook his head. Not with all those demerits. And it would be another company with different small ways of doing things. But he could try. He was willing to try.
He saw Rex limping down the hall of the barracks, helmet in one hand, leaning against the wall with the other.
Now, said his mind and Chopper moved next to the captain.
"Chopper." Rex acknowledged as he stopped moving and leaned against the wall.
"Sir. I.." Chopper bowed his head, not know what to say or how to say it. He held out the droid finger necklace. Rex held out his helmet and Chopper gently placed the necklace into the bucket. He didn't blame the captain for not wanting to touch him or the fingers.
"There will be a court martial." Rex's voice was hard.
"Yes, sir," nodded Chopper. "I expect that. I'll be waiting for Commander Cody's orders. Should I consider myself confined to quarters?"
Rex sighed, turned and began limping again as he made his way down the corridor without answering Chopper's question.
"What happened, sir?" Chopper took a step beside the captain of the 501st and gestured at his leg.
"Slick got me in a groin popper. Cody set it back and I managed to meet the Generals without limping. But it's stiffened up on me." He looked at Chopper who nervously shifted on his feet. "You and the rest of the squad did good in securing the barracks, did real good in saving the heavy cannons."
Rare praise and Chopper straightened. "Thank you, sir. Jester's idea." Chopper reached and took the helmet from Rex's fingers. "I've got strong shoulders, sir, if you'd like help getting back to your quarters."
Rex looked at him for a moment then reached out his hand and put it on Chopper's shoulder, letting Chopper take the weight of his injured leg.
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