DEPRECATED (And updated - see Author's Note)
"I don't believe it!"
"That is why you fail."
"Execute Order Sixty-six."
I stood alone in the clearing between the listening-post construction site and the native forest. My eyes were locked on the empty disc of the holo-projector in my hand. Order 66. Jedi. Traitors. Eliminate them. I made a quick glance at the forest behind me. The Commander had excused herself to wander the strange landscape for a while, probably to do her Jedi thing. She would have no warning. I would take her out quickly; she'd never know what had happened.
My hands fell to my twin blasters. I knew what to do. Traitors were worse than the enemy, and had no right to live. If the Jedi had betrayed the Republic I had sworn to protect, it was my duty to bring them down. Still, deep down in some corner I didn't know I had, I felt unease. Something not right. But these were my orders - orders were always right.
I turned towards the forest where the Commander had disappeared. As I began to move forward, something indistinguishable began to fill my mind's eye. A house? A boot-shaped house. Cut! Cut Lawquane! Did he say something about this? I racked my brain, trying to decipher what it was my mind was trying to tell me. A voice. A clone's voice. Cut? But it wasn't Cut. It was my voice. What was it? What did I say? The words came back to me slowly...
...We were sitting at the small kitchen table. Cut was right across from me ... I spoke with a conviction I didn't know I was capable of. "If we fail," I said severely, "than our children - and their children - could be forced to live under an evil I can't well imagine..."
If we fail... Evil. My words ran through my head again. What was I saying? Evil? You didn't learn a definition of 'evil' at Kamino. It was sort of a vague reference to your enemy and anyone or anything that assists it. Evil, for now, was "Separatists". Separatists and Jedi, I thought to myself.
Jedi. Evil. Something didn't sit right. I looked around again. My squad was forming up outside the station. They had received the order as well. If I couldn't straighten this out in my head quick, they would take care of it for me. Maybe that would be easier.
Jedi. Evil. Why did it bother me so much? It wasn't like treason was unknown in the ranks of the Republic. The Jedi were traitors. So they were evil. So I would kill them.
Evil. Why did that word keep coming back? I didn't even know what it really meant. But some part of me was revolting at applying that term to the men and women who had led us to this point. Again, memories began flooding back...
...A brave attack. An utter failure. The beastly cyborg threw our squad to the ground, most of them dead on contact. I struggled to move, but it was no use. The monster raised his deadly blade of light over his head. I dimly noted it was the same color as my unit markings. Same color as my Commander's eyes. The blade swung towards my head. It never arrived. Another beam of light, this one a familiar shade of green, crossed its path, both blades warming my head uncomfortably. I heard a child's voice, brave words to a merciless monster. She should have run. Should have completed her mission. She stayed, and nearly lost her life in a fierce effort to save ours...
My men were making their way towards me. Another image filled my head...
...My eyes were riveted to the security footage. She was behind an energy shield, dangerously close to the airlock. Hands bound. The malicious grin of the bounty hunter as he taunted her distraught Master, our General. Her voice rose, pleading for him to leave her to a horrible death, rather than risk the well being of others. I shuddered; I didn't know one could beg to be left to die...
Such self-sacrifice, such courage, and it was all evil?
...The deadly blue haze filled the room. Entering our nostrils, our mouths, filling our bodies with the cruel poison. Her voice rang clear and strong. "As long as we are able," I heard her say. Brave words, again. But she would die - we all would, and it would be so much more painful for her small body. Yet till the moment she fainted, collapsing into my arms, she encouraged, she comforted. She gave everything she could till the moment she fell. I thought to myself, 'If I were a normal person, this is when I would cry'...
This was the evil I was fighting to prevent? This was what I was to protect the Republic from?
Could the most loyal, dedicated servants of the Republic be declared its enemies, by one man, far away? If the Jedi were traitors, if they were evil, what was good? What would I be fighting for after this?
My squad was approaching. Cull was hailing me. I could see the Commander approaching as well, from the opposite direction. Still unaware. She wouldn't stand a chance. It would be over soon, and things could go back to normal.
No. Things would never be the same, if I failed now... Fail? What's wrong with you? Following orders is failing, now? This is why they don't teach philosophy at Kamino, soldier. You'd never get anything done! I must do my duty! But I couldn't. I couldn't do it. But I couldn't stop it either. My brothers would do it. That would work. The order would be carried out, and I could avoid another embarrassing argument with myself.
And I would have failed.
I may not have known how to define what evil was, but force, I knew what it was not. And for all their faults, the Jedi were not evil. The Council? Dimwitted, maybe. Individual Jedi? There were some bad ones, for sure. Maybe a few traitors, even. Every single Jedi in the galaxy? No. My Commander?
"Some rules are meant to be broken," she used to say. Blast, this was one such 'rule', if ever there was one! If the kid dies today, it will be over my charred, dead body, because I will not fail. Not now, not ever.
The squad had reached my position. The Sergeant spoke first. "Sir, we have received the orders. What's our plan of attack?"
I opened my mouth to answer, when she came into view, gazing obliviously upwards into the deep purple sky. You never were one for good timing, kid. I heard the sound of weapons cocking. "Soldiers!" I shouted harshly. "Stand down!"
Cull looked at me, suspiciously. "But sir, we have orders - "
Too late to diplomatically handle this one. Drawing both of my blasters, I sprung between my men and the approaching form of the Commander. "You will stand down!" I shouted again. I desperately didn't want to kill my brothers - the thought was abhorrent to me. But I didn't have time to abhor it - there was no way I would let them get in a shot at our Commander.
Cull seemed to sense my intention. "Boys, you know what to do!" They did. Somewhat hesitantly, they took aim at me.
Wrong answer, I thought bitterly. They didn't have a chance. I fired both pistols. Kyle and Felt dropped first. I ducked and sprung abruptly to the right to break the lock on their HUDs. I rolled back into position and brought the butts of both blasters to another one, smashing in his visor. Nemo - I always liked that boy. As he fell I jumped and flipped over him, shielding myself behind his limp body to throw off the next round of fire. A boot to the left took down one who tried to flank me. Cull and the three remaining troopers formed up, and I prepared to start over again.
Then I realized my Commander was calling my name, horror and shock in her voice. She reached me from behind, igniting her lightsaber and holding it to my neck. I really wish you hadn't done that, kid.
"Rex!" she screamed, "What are you doing?" Saving your life, I wanted to say. But there wasn't time. The four remaining troopers hesitated for a moment, obviously a bit unsure of the proper protocol when your enemy is protecting you.
Cull snapped out of it first, aiming his rifle at her this time.
"What are you-?" She didn't have time to finish. I hurled myself into her body. The shot passed between our heads, scorching my helmet. This would be a lot easier if you didn't have that lightsaber at my throat. The other troopers began to fire. I knocked the lightsaber from her hands, glancing at her fallen form. A second shot struck her forearm. She lay gasping, her eyes widened in pain and disbelief. Time for talking later. I swung my fist, one stroke knocking all four weapons down, sending their fire into the dirt. That's why you never stand shoulder to shoulder, boys. Another two shots from my DC-17s. Hedge and Prim staggered, blaster burns in their foreheads. Two men left, Cull and Jasper. Good men. My new brothers. Shiny, but promising. This must be why the Seppies use droids. Thinking just makes everything harder.
I grabbed Jasper by the wrists, twisting his arms around his back, and hurling him at Cull. He raised his hands to catch his fall. A boot to their helmets, and both men lay still.
Eight brothers lying, dead or wounded, around my feet. And I thought Slick was bad, I thought grimly. But Slick had done this for himself; he wanted to cause harm. I hated it. It would have been a meaningless distinction to me before. But somehow, though I hated the damage I had caused, I couldn't regret it. Horrific as it was, it was also, in some twisted way, right.
The Commander was still lying on the ground, her face contorted in pain. Removing my helmet, I knelt beside her, pulling her to my chest as tenderly as I could. "It's okay, sir; you're safe now."
She winced, then between gasps, she asked slowly, "What... happened?..."
I sighed. I wished I knew. "Order 66 has been called, sir." I couldn't think of a nice way to say it, so I told her bluntly. "Every clone in the GAR has been ordered to eliminate the Jedi, using lethal force."
Her eyes widened further, if that were possible. "Why?" she panted, "Why would... how could..." she trailed off, the look on my face must have told her that I had no answers.
Then she slowly asked me, "You... why did you not?..." she took a deep breath. "You didn't do it..."
I never knew you as one to express the obvious, kid. "I don't understand many things about you Jedi, but I know for sure, you're not..." What was the word? "Evil. I've sworn to protect the Republic from evil, and that's not you."
She struggled to smile, just a little. "Thank you... Rex..." she answered, weakly.
"No thanks needed, Commander. I'm only..." again I paused. "Only doing my duty." My voice was grim. This was no time for reminiscing. "Come on - we got to get you patched up and off-planet." I tried to help her to her feet, but her legs collapsed when she tried. A charred patch on her her knee revealed had taken a hit to her leg, too. "I'm going to have to carry you, Commander, you're in no condition to walk." She nodded, blinking back the tears. I picked her up, her light form laying limply across my arms. "It's okay, Ahsoka," I whispered, trying to sound soothing, "I'll keep you safe." Or die trying.
She looked at me with tears in her eyes. "Where?" she asked, her breath still coming in hard gasps. "Where are we going?"
I shook my head. "Not sure just yet - somewhere without," I paused, still trying to comprehend this new reality I had been forced into. "Unfriendlies." I didn't even know what side I was on anymore. A half hour ago, it had been so simple. Republic was good, Separatist was bad. Now, for all I knew, I may have been the only one on the 'side' I had taken. I had no friends, anymore.
She struggled to calm herself. "I need to... relax... to concentrate..."
Oh yeah, her Jedi thing. Maybe that would give us some ideas. "Let's get you to the ship, first, Commander." I shifted my shoulders slowly to accommodate her weight. "You can rest once we're off-planet." She nodded again.
We reached the ship. I refused to look back, to view the destruction I had caused. I knew that it would always haunt me. I knew that those words I spoke at Cut's place would do this to me someday. I wished it was different, but I didn't regret it.
Looking at the small, frail form lying in my arms, my Commander - my friend - and seeing the trust in her pained face, I knew I never would regret it.
Long ago, I had asked myself what this would cost me. I still didn't know, but I knew I would gladly pay it ten times over, just to see that look on her face, and to know I had earned it.
Come what may, I would always know that I hadn't failed.
Disclaimer: I own very few things. Star Wars is not one of them. I gain nothing from this.
A/N Update (5/18): This one-shot is officially 'deprecated' - meaning, it stands alone; it's not going to be part of my future Order 66 story. I' leaving it up here, but it should not be considered part of my own "continuity" (which, for now, includes Sisters of Flame, When He Held Her, Beat the System, and Grudges). I will be writing a new Rex/Ahsoka Order 66 piece, maybe another one-shot, maybe as the start of my next story.
For those geeky enough to care, the reason is fairly simple - Rex here is treated as though he had essentially forgot much of what had happened, during the events of Deserter and beyond, whereas in my other work, you see that he actually takes these things more to heart, and it affects his character noticeably. So, this one-shot almost "rewinds" him, ignoring a lot of development. I still think he would have been conflicted about Order 66, but not in the way I wrote here.
So, long story short, enjoy this, be watching for a future Order 66 Rex/Ahsoka piece from me (as well as my larger story), and, if you haven't already, please review!