Grudges

An excerpt from my [hopefully] upcoming post-Order 66 fic.


There was no escape.

Rex wasn't one to give up, but he knew better than to be deluded by wishful thinking. There was no way out, this time.

Inwardly he cursed himself for not thinking about his transponder sooner. He should have disabled that blasted device the moment they escaped Tosste. As it was, news of a renegade clone Captain, especially one as well known as Rex, had reached Coruscant and every Republic command chain within hours. As soon as he remembered it he had shorted the transponder, but it had been too late. Before he could calculate a new jump, a Republic Star Destroyer materialized in their path. Rex was no pilot, and he didn't have a chance at outmaneuvering the tractor beam. They were steadily pulled into the lower hangar.

It was a surreal experience; hours ago this would have been a completely normal occurrence. Returning to their warship, reuniting with his brothers, debriefing, getting some grub. It was all so natural, almost comforting in its familiarity.

This time, it was fatal.

He had made his choice. And now he, and his former Commander, would pay the price.

Ahsoka was still injured, unable to stand without help, let alone wield a lightsaber. He was well armed, but a single trooper could not possibly hold out for long. But he would do what he could. He laid Ahsoka down across a padded bench, hoping to keep her out of the line of fire for as long as possible. She stirred, and opened her eyes.

"Rex," she asked weakly. "What's happening?"

He grimaced. I wish she could have slept through this. "We've been caught in a tractor beam, sir. We're being boarded."

Her eyes widened slightly with understanding. "Rex, you can't... you can't do this." She winced from the pain in her right arm as she shifted. "Please, Rex. Just let them do it. Don't fight them for me." She paused, forced to catch her breath from the exertion of simple speech.

Rex shook his head, already drawing his pistols. The clanging of arrester hooks could be heard clearly as the transport was secured in the hangar. "No sir, I can't do that. I've already made my choice. Just hold still for now." He forced himself no to dwell on the inevitable. He had to fight, not mourn.

"No! Rex, I... I mean it. The Jedi are... gone. They're all gone anyway. I can't go on alone." Ahsoka's face was contorted with more than physical pain. "Rex, I don't want you to die... too."

"You're not alone, sir. Not yet." He rested a hand on her quivering shoulder, wishing he could do more to help her, but knowing there was nothing more that could be done. He turned towards the airlock. He stepped towards a control panel, and disabled the light circuits, plunging the cabin into darkness. His battered armor was only dimly visible in the red wash of emergency lighting from the cockpit. He took a defensive position inf front of the main entry. He stood firm, strong.

Inwardly he was falling apart.

Of course he would fight. He would fight to bitter end to keep his former Commander safe. But he also knew it didn't matter.

For one last time, he would fight an inconsequential battle. The moment one bolt got lucky, it was over for both of them.

He could hear the sounds of plasma cutters charging. He crouched behind a row of seats, taking care that his body blocked the wounded Jedi's prone form from view. He had removed his helmet – it's electronics had deactivated when he destroyed the transponder. But his weapons were in fine shape, all things considered. He leveled both pistols at the door. For a moment, it seemed like old times. He stood in battle readiness, awaiting the enemy charge, A blast of fire erupted from one end of the airlock, slowly encircling the seals, leaving a glowing orange trail in its wake. Soon, the charred door would be flung away, and blaster fire would exchange between him and the mindless killing machines.

Only this time, the mindless killing machines were his brothers. His family, his home. Though he would never admit to it, part of him wanted nothing more than to surrender, and be reunited with his brave kindred. He could still do it – if he assisted in taking down the Jedi onboard this ship, he could probably get away with only disciplinary action for delayed obedience. There'd be no one to contradict him; even his fallen brothers that he had left behind on Tosste would easily be believed to have been killed by the Jedi Commander. He could go back to the way things used to be, the way things were supposed to be. He could go home.

Never. He had already made his choice. He wouldn't look back now. Things never would be the way they used to be. Something had gone horribly wrong, and he could not stand by and let it happen, let alone take part in it. An evil he couldn't comprehend had already swallowed up the GAR as he knew it. The old way was gone, and there wasn't a new way to follow. Rex had chosen to make his own.

Unfortunately, it looked like he'd reached a dead end.

The door was nearly cut lose. Rex steeled himself, awaiting the storm. The plasma cutter came within inches of reaching its starting point.

Then it stopped.

Explosions rocked the transport. Rex was thrown to the ground, grabbing onto a seat support to keep from being tossed. He could hear shouts of alarm and shock coming from outside the airlock seal. Cautiously, he approached the nearest viewport, slowly sliding the shade from the duraglass.

Nothing. The hangar was completely dark. He could see points of light appearing as the clones began to activate their headlamps, apparently trying to make sense of the confusion.

A blue flash nearly blinded him. A massive shockwave spread through the hangar, jolting the transport with a surge of energy. Rex had only a small area he could observe, but it was enough to note that every trooper appeared to have been either killed or stunned by the wave. Sabotage? Are we under attack? Grimly he reminded himself that it was no longer 'we', when it came to his loyal brothers.

"Rex?" Ahsoka's voice sounded a little more urgent, though still pained. "What is going on?"

"Don't know, sir," Rex answered quickly, still watching out the viewport. "I think the ship maybe under attack."

Ahsoka appeared to be about to ask another question when the pounding of approaching footsteps silenced both of them. Someone was approaching the ruined airlock. Rex quickly assumed his previous position, his blasters at the ready.

A clanging sound was heard as the scorched disk of the door began to be forced in. Rex held steady, waiting... waiting...

The thick slab of metal fell to the floor with a reverberating crash. Rex closed his finger on the trigger, aiming directly at...

Nothing?

No one was there. Just an empty circle of darkness where the airlock used to be.

Rex knew there was someone out there, but they were making things more complicated. Cautiously he approached the open cut out. Without his HUD, he was effectively blind, making his advance all the more risky.

Suddenly he was hit with a wave of azure light. He staggered and collapsed, stunned. It was a low intensity ray, and he remained conscious, though immobile for a moment. Forcing himself to move, he lifted himself onto his left elbow, shakily raising his right arm, fingers clenched around his DC-17.

A quick jab from the blackness removed the weapon from his hand. The adrenaline surged through his veins, overpowering the stunned stupor that hung over him. He bolted upright, hurling himself at the unseen figure. Its thin, sinewy limbs intertwined with his muscular arms in a desperate grappling match. Despite his physical advantage, his shocked nerves didn't allow him to match his opponent's lightening fast strikes. He was flung backwards into the cabin, landing roughly against one of the benches. Dimly he heard Ahsoka's desperate voice crying out his name; even more dimly he began to make out the form of their mysterious assailant.

It was tall, absurdly skinny, and appeared dark as night in the dim interior. Its head was shaded with strange hat, featuring a ridiculously large brim. The neck was flanked on either with what appeared to be hoses, which disappeared into its cheeks. Rex knew he had seen this thing before, but he couldn't say when or where.

From behind him, he could hear Ahsoka forcing herself to a sitting position, stifling a cry of pain was she put pressure on her injured arm. A sharp snap-hiss followed by a wash of green light signaled the activation of her lightsaber. Weakly she reached to hold her blade in front of Rex, in a vain attempt to ward off the creature.

It continued its approached, slowly and deliberately, until it had stepped within the light of both the evac beacons and the trembling lightsaber. Hues of red and green illuminated a withered and all too familiar face.

Cad Bane.

His cold grin was faint, but taunting, as he glanced over the two helpless forms. Rex tried and failed to stand, an intense glare the only resistance he could offer. Ahsoka's face went from shock, to confusion, to a fearful determination."What... do you want... sleamo?"

Bane's grin widened. "I appreciate your curiosity, youngling, but I don't have time to chat. Let's just say that I tend to get what I want." He motioned behind him, and a stretcher floated through the opening, the bulbous yellow eyes of a servo droid behind it. "Come on, we don't have much time."

Ahsoka only glared at him. "And what makes you think... I'm going with you?"

"You don't have much of a choice, Jedi." Bane's voice held an irritated tone. "You're going to die if you stay here."

"And how do I know you won't just do their work for them?" Ahsoka retorted.

"You don't," he spoke wryly. "And if I told you, you shouldn't believe me. But if it's all the same, might as well take your chances with me. Now come on," he motioned to the stretcher. "Or, I can stun you if you like," he gripped his pistol.

Ahsoka thought hard, as best as she could, considering the circumstances. Bane did have a point - at the moment, they had little to lose by submitting. Whatever the sleamo had done to hold back the clone troopers wouldn't last long, and she and Rex would be as good as dead. If she wasn't injured, maybe they could find another way off the Star Destroyer, but somehow she didn't think Bane was just going to let them walk past him.

But then there was the little matter of her own... history with the alien mercenary. He had attempted to kill her once already, and she had returned the favor. She had even arrested him, and had had no qualms about rubbing that fact in his face. And she was the one who had suggested that the Jedi perform a combined mind probe on the imprisoned Bane, though she didn't actually participate. It seemed pretty clear that he knew exactly who she was, and that couldn't be a good thing.

Rex finally managed to stand, trying to block the Duros from reaching Ahsoka. "Not so fast, bounty hunter," he managed, still catching his breath. "You're not taking her with you." He scowled into Bane's red eyes.

Bane merely chuckled. "Not very intimidating, clone." He raised his weapon.

"No!"

The bounty hunter glanced suspiciously at Ahsoka. Her pragmatism and whatever bravado she still possessed disappeared, as she effectively fell to begging. "Please, please don't hurt him. Take me, but... don't hurt him." Her lightsaber extinguished, falling to the floor with a clatter.

A strange look of what might have been bewilderment crossed the Duros' blue face, before being replaced with a smirk. "Touching." He holstered his pistol, then snapped at Rex. "Alright, cooperate, and I'll take both of you. Any surprises from either, and the other's done for." He twisted Rex's wrists together with a sudden move, handcuffing him. Rex glared defiantly, but did not resist.

The big-eyed droid eased the stretcher next to Ahsoka's seat, then roughly pulled her onto it with his claw-like hands. She hissed in pain at the treatment. "Go easy on her, Todo," Bane muttered, leaning over to retrieve the fallen lightsaber. "I'll keep this for now," he stated matter-of-factly, hooking it to his belt. Ahsoka grimaced as he bound her as well, with a familiar Force-restricting wrist collar. "Move it," he ordered, leading the repulsor-stretcher and Rex out of the airlock and into the dark hangar.

Rex managed to get next to the stretcher. "Ahsoka, what are you doing?"

She winced, her injured limbs now pulsing with pain from the rough transportation. "I think... I feel this might be right. I don't know Rex, but it's not like it could get... a lot worse now."

Rex nodded, though inwardly he was thinking of several ways this could get a whole lot worse. This was the same bounty hunter that had been in league with the Separatists for the entire war, raiding Jedi and GAR strongholds and kidnapping important Republic figures. He was in bed with the Hutt crime-lords, and every other type of galactic filth. He couldn't be trusted, and wasn't asking to be. Handing themselves over to him sounded like suicide, but then again, so was staying here.

"Move it, we don't have much time. They'll have power restored in a few minutes and be back here again." Bane held a red lightstick, which he waved to indicate their direction. The droid increased its speed, and Rex moved quickly to stay abreast of the stretcher. The hangar was eerily quiet, the limp forms of either dead or unconscious clones laying haphazardly across the deck. Rex felt a surge of indignation at seeing his brothers harmed by this criminal, despite the knowledge that these good men would kill him, and Ahsoka, on sight if they could.

They reached the far wall of the hangar, and found themselves standing before another cutout opening through the hull. Bane stood aside, allowing Ahsoka's stretcher to pass, then Rex, giving the later a shove. "Get going, clone." Rex bit his lip, forcing himself not to retaliate. He increased his pace, nearly stumbling into another cabin at the end of the passage. This interior was also dimly lit by red emergency lighting, giving it a dark, ominous tone, not to mention it carried an unpleasant smell.

"Clumsy," Bane drawled. "It's a wonder your type has lasted this long." Rex's scowl deepened, though he didn't face the criminal. The bounty hunter entered, sealing the boarding door behind him, before turning to his two captives. "You," motioning to Rex, "Sit here." Sullenly Rex complied, taking a small seat along the opposite wall. Bane fastened his cuffs to a hull support, before turning to his droid sidekick. "Fasten her down. We're getting out of here."

"Wait," Ahsoka managed, still breathing heavily. "Why... why are you doing this?"

Bane turned to her, another smirk playing on his lips. "In my job, grudges are bad business." He turned towards the cockpit door, pausing at the entrance.

"Seems I've made an exception."

TO BE CONTINUED


Disclaimer: I don't own anything here.

Updated Author's Note: I had left out a couple paragraphs RE Ahsoka's prior run-ins with Bane - also removed a timeline 'bug', thanks to laloga.

Author's Note: Well, what do you think? Would this story work? Please note that this is *all* I have written of this story, and it could be some time before it's ready to be posted. I'm just testing the waters at this point.

Please review and tell me what you think!