This is the prequel to Awake & Alive. I hope you all enjoy and reviews are welcome on both stories!
As always, I own nothing!
"You're what I couldn't find
A total amazing mind
So understanding and so kind
You're everything to me."
Clone trooper CT-21-0408 also known by his brother as "Echo" thought he should feel better than he did. Echo was no longer deemed a "shiny" as Captain Rex liked to call the newbies. Deep down, he didn't know if he really deserved the honor. While he did aid in destroying the Rishi station, his other brother Hevy had been the true hero and deserved the medals and honor. Hevy had stayed behind to make sure the detonator was fixed but he sacrificed his life and manually detonated the explosives, making sure the job was fulfilled.
Echo stood in front of a mirror and stared at himself. His eyes fell on the medals that General Kenobi and Skywalker had pinned onto his armor. They should have meant something but they only served as a reminder of loss.
Echo heard the soft footsteps and felt a gloved hand on his shoulder. "He'll always be remembered Echo," his brother and original squad member Fives said gently.
He closed his eyes and then slowly reopened to see the similar face in the mirror. Fives had also received medals for the battle at Rishi station and had not taken them off yet. "You're still wearing them," Echo said.
Fives fingered the medals. "In remembrance of sacrifice. The generals and Captain Rex want to see us on the bridge." Echo finally tuned to face his brother and had a disgruntled look on his face.
"Now what do they want?"
"If I knew, I would have told you. Come on," Fives clapped him on the shoulder and ushered Echo out of their shared barracks.
To say they were shocked was an understatement, but they were trained to keep their emotions and expressions hidden. For their brave efforts and successfulness in their last mission Captain Rex with the presence of Kenobi and Skywalker inducted Fives and Echo into the 501st legion.
"Excellent job soldiers," Rex complimented.
"Thank you sir," Numbly Echo said. "And thank you Hevy," with that Echo about faced and left the room. Fives was left standing with Kenobi, Skywalker and Rex with bemused expressions.
"It always hard to lose a brother sirs," Fives explained.
"We understand," Rex said sympathetically. "Time does move on and wounds do heal."
"Yes sir," Fives nodded his head and was dismissed.
Echo stormed down the hall of Resolute locked into his own world. He was jarred out of his concentration when he felt a thud on his chest and suddenly found himself landing on his behind. With an "oof" he could hear the person land onto the hard floor.
"I'm sorry!" a very feminine voice apologized to him. Not a, "get out of my way," or "watch where you're going!" It was an actual apology. To him.
When Echo got his bearings straight he looked over at the body that he had ran into. Her hair was what captured his attention first. Chestnut red woven into a tightknit bun with golden flecks of blond running through it, Echo stared at the tresses hypnotically. Realizing that he was gaping, second thing he noticed as he made his way down to her face was that she was grinning at him. It was an embarrass grin, but still a grin. And third were her dark almond eyes. With just a look they held life, laughter and virtue.
"Are you alright?" He asked slightly self-conscious to be caught off guard and staring at her. He got up and held out a hand for her to take. She took it and he again noticed how small and delicate her hand and fingers were. He cursed his armor at the moment wishing that he could feel her skin against his. Stop it!
"I'm fine," her voice was pleasantly light. "I'm sorry I ran into you. I wasn't paying attention."
"That makes two of us," Echo admitted.
"Oh did you just get those?" she asked pointing to his medals.
He looked down at the medals and a small red glow that he never experienced appeared on his cheeks. "Uh, yes," he said awkwardly.
"Congratulations are in order then?" She asked.
He shrugged; he really didn't know how to respond. That's the reason why he was lost in space in the first place.
"I'm sorry, again. It's none of my business. Well I better be on my way." She waved to him and hurried off.
Echo watched her walk away but in the back of his mind it was screaming at him to get her name.
"Wait!" He shouted at her. She stopped and turned to him. Echo trotted up to the woman. He could feel small beads of sweat starting to form at the back of neck and goose bumps causing the hair on his arms to rise from anxious nerves. Bring on the droids any day, but talk to a girl!
"Can I get your name?" His voice raised an octave as Echo asked for the woman's name. He coughed to clear his voice and a slight blush rose to his cheeks.
She stared at him for a moment and Echo wasn't sure if the woman was going to slap him, walk away or talk to him. Suddenly a radiant smile bloomed upon her lips making his heart flutter. "It's Thea."
"Thea," he repeated. It was perfect. "I'm Echo."
"I hope to see you soon Echo," with that she was gone.
"Who is she?" Fives pestered his brother.
"No one," Echo grumbled. Relationships among the clone army were few and far between. It had not been encouraged because of their short life spans and the likely hood of survival in war was not good. It still didn't say some of the men and a few got a chance to have the opportunity to sit, or talk with a woman. Some even got lucky from a civilian they had helped and got to touch her hand or the really lucky got a kiss. Secrets and whispers had been shared amongst brothers though Echo and Fives didn't know how true it really was that even a trooper or two had shared a bed with a girl.
"Echo, come on. You said her name in your sleep. Who's Thea?
Echo sighed loudly. "A girl I bumped into okay? That's all. I'll probably never see her again."
"Never say never!" Fives teased. "Who knows, you may be one of those whispers some day of those who got to share a bed…" Before Fives could finish Echo slapped a hand over his brother's mouth to quiet him.
Four months later…
"Echo!" Echo jerked his head around at the call of his name and his eyes almost popped out of his head when he saw the bubbly red-head bounce his way.
"Thea!" He excitedly said and got up from his seat in the lunch area, ignoring his brothers' stares.
"I didn't think I would see you again!" Once again, she gave him a grand smile which sent his heart racing in all directions. How could a simple smile do that to a person's body?
"Care to sit with me?" Echo gestured to the table.
"I would love to, though I only have a few minutes. I am flying a couple generals to Kamino tonight and getting briefed on the mission."
At the word of his home planet, his eyebrows shot up and attention fully drawn onto her.
"Kamino?" He asked concerned.
"I'm unaware of the full details, I'm just the pilot, though I do know that's your home planet so I hope everything is alright," genuinely concerned she gave Echo a sympathetic look.
"Me too," he murmured.
"Listen, I'm sorry…I seem to be apologizing to you a lot, but I have to get this briefing over with but will you meet me back at my quarters in two hours?" She wrote down her room number and handed it over to him. "That's the combo to my room as well. I'll see you then." She lightly patted his hand and was off again before he could say anything.
"I can see why you like her," Fives plopped down next to his brother. "She gave you her room number?" He raised a surprised brow at Echo. Echo nodded numbly. "Watch your step brother, but have a good night."
Exactly two hours later Echo stood outside Thea's door debating whether to go inside or walk away. Fives was right, he had to be careful. He was diving head first with no end in sight.
"I'm glad you made it," her velvety voice made him jump and caused the goose bumps to return and cover his whole body this time.
"Come in Echo," she opened the door and motioned him in. He looked over the room, which was bleak much like the barracks he was used. A few pieces of furniture and a picture on the wall, but that's about it.
"Not much to the room, but it does the trick on these missions," she turned to face him.
"Do you go on missions much?" He winced inwardly. Echo wasn't much for small talk especially not with a woman and stood uncomfortably in the middle of the room scratching the back of his neck not knowing what else to do with his nervous hands.
"Yes, I finally gave up my apartment on Coruscant because I was never home. But I rather be in space, I feel more at home in these ships with the troops than I ever did on planet."
Is that how she saw them, him? Just as troopers? Did she, could she see past the armor?
"Would you like something to drink?" Thea offered.
"No," Echo declined. "What is the mission about?" GAR, military, missions, that's what he was good at talking about and since he was going to be briefed soon so he saw no harm in finding out early.
"Sounds like the Feds are planning a strike on Kamino and we need to beef up security," she sat down on the small gray standard-issued couch and beckoned him to do the same. His armor clicked and clanked as he folded his legs to sit.
"Sith! Those dang clankers," Echo cursed. "Sorry," he apologized. "It's just Kamino is the only home that we ever have known and we will defend it to our deaths."
"We seem to apologize to each other a lot don't we? Don't worry about it Echo. I would do the same thing if my home was under attack and I will do it for your home as well. We have to stick together, whether trooper or officer." He looked at her curiously.
"Thea, when you look at me, my brothers, do you just see another clone?" He asked bluntly.
"No Echo," immediately she answered. "If you were standing in crowd of a million of your brothers, I could pick you out. None of you are the same. Some of your brethren dye their hair, have tattoos, each scar is a representative, each crease in your forehead." Echo unconsciously rubbed his own forehead. "Each little mark, each twinge in your accent makes you all different. Most of all the way I see you and you see me makes you the most individual.
"And you are not disposable no matter what any superior or trooper tells you. Life is life and should never be wasted in war, but as long as there is a war, as long as you and your troops are fighting for the Republic I want to be there making sure you are flown in and out safely. Plus I think you all could use a friendly smile once in a while."
A sudden flare of passion that Echo had never experienced started at his toes and quickly sored through his body and he leaned in and captured her lips. It was like tasting honey and rich Alderaanian wine all at once. Thea's eyes widen with astonishment and then closed giving into the pressure of his mouth. He could hear the small moan from her and only hastened his desire for her more. Finally when air became a necessity, they broke apart gulping for a breath.
"That was…that was…" Echo struggled to find the right words.
Thea gently stroked the side of his head, running her fingers along his ear, behind it, down to his strong and then to his lips. "Perfect," she finished for him.
He never understood what love at first sight was all about; he had read it in novels that he had looked up over the year and even seen what he thought was love portrayed in a holodrama, but had never seen or felt it in real life. Echo wasn't sure if what he felt was love or infatuation over the moment.
He could feel himself start to tremble and tried to control it. Get a hold of yourself man! This isn't like taking down a force of battle droids. No…this is much better, much more exciting and enjoyable. Thea sparked a flame in Echo and he wanted to ignite it into an inferno. He liked this feeling she gave him, liked it a lot.
"Thea, we only just met, I don't want to make you uncomfortable with me or hate me. I wish I could say I would see you later, but I don't know if there will be a later. My life isn't built to last long, but I can guarantee that my loyalty and…" Echo gulped. Did he dare to say it? Yes, life was short as he just stated. "And my love will always be there. Do you dare take a chance on a clone like me?"
He held his breath, waiting for her answer. She looked over him, his eyes held hope and fear. "Echo, I won't take a chance on a clone." With his deep frown, she gathered his hands into her hers and continued, "I'll take a chance on this man." Echo was speechless. "I won't hurt you, Echo." She added.
"I don't think you are capable of hurt Thea," Echo took off his gloves and for the first time felt her hands, skin to skin and it was wonderful.
Echo stayed with Thea all night; even though he knew it was against protocol. He needed to be with her, feel her, and hear her. He wanted to know more about her and she told him about her family, growing up and becoming a pilot. She also played some holomovies for him since he rarely got to see them as well as read him a story that he found ironic.
It was about a woman that was imprisoned by her stepmother and two step sisters. When they got word of a ball being thrown (and Thea had to describe what a ball was to him) in honor of the Prince, the women had a fairy come and grant her wish of going to the ball. She had to leave by the stroke of midnight and in the midst of her exit she left one of her shoes. The prince looked all over the land for her and out of petty jealously, her stepmother locked her up so the prince couldn't find her. In the end, the Prince did find his true love and the woman and the Prince live happily ever after.
"I don't think happily ever after really exists," Echo said to Thea as they walked down the halls together.
"Maybe not, but you can live happily at least for a while," she squeezed his hand as they separated to their posts.
Echo and Fives were deployed to Kamino to help prepare the defense of the planet.
"So," Fives bugged Echo.
"So?" he shrugged off his brother.
"So, how's your girl?" Fives continued to press as they headed to the weaponry room.
"Thea, her name is Thea. And she's good," Echo tried to stop the smile from cracking on his lips but failed.
After checking on the weapons they unexpectedly received orders, dangerous orders from an ARC trooper to take up a sniping position outside on a platform bridge. After settling into position droids and the ship Trident landed and because of their expert drill training, Fives and Echo shot down the nearby droids, with their old friend 99 handing them back up ammo. Unfortunately the numbers became overwhelming and they had to fall back to the inside barracks. There they were joined by Commander Cody and Captain Rex along with some young cadets.
"You will all have to fight!" Rex ordered.
"No way!" One of the cadets protested. "We're not ready or trained to do this."
"You can lads," Echo tried to boost their moral. "This is your home, defend it with honor!" He met Rex's eye who nodded his approval.
"They are approaching," Cody informed.
"You boys stay here, we're going. If we fail, give them all that you got, you hear me?" Rex said. They all nodded. Rex, Cody, Fives, Echo and 99 hid behind the doors, waiting for the droids to approach, hoping they would just pass by. With no such luck, the droids who included Grevious, opened the door on them and they started firing.
As the odds became more overwhelming, 99 continued to toss detonators to Echo, Rex and Cody for more fire power. Rex ordered the cadets to come out of their hiding spots and open blasters on the droids, hoping that would help.
Noticing that they were out of detonators, 99 against orders from Rex tried to run to get more. The droids gunned him down instantly. Witnessing another brother's death almost made Echo lose his footing, but he stood tall and continued to rain blaster bolts on the enemy. Finally when he thought the chaos would never end the last droid fell. Breathing heavily, Echo noticed Fives cradling 99. He ran over to the fallen friend and mourned his loss.
"He died with honor," Echo choked back his emotion. He would not let his commanding officers see him break down.
"We have succeeded in Grevious and Ventress defeat at least for now. Kamino is safe." Rex announced as Echo and Fives walked with him in the docking bay.
He and Cody stopped short and turned to Fives and Echo. "Men, you have shown numerous times that you have what it takes. I can safely say for myself and Commander Cody that we would be proud to have you as Advanced Recon Commandos."
This time Echo could not hold back his disbelief. "Really?"
"Really soldier, congratulations." Cody saluted and gave him half a smile.
They all departed heading to their corresponding ships. "Can you believe it?" Fives excitedly said. "We're bloody ARC's!"
"Wow Echo, that's fantastic," Thea happily congratulated Echo after engulfing him in a hug. Realizing she must have embarrassed him in front of his brothers, she stepped back and beamed merrily at Echo.
"It definitely came as a surprise to Fives and me," Echo and Thea turned to walk with no destination in mind. He and Fives were given a week of leave and he wasn't quite sure what he was going to do.
"So what are you up to next?" She asked as she intertwined their fingers together. Since it didn't bother her at that she was being affectionate with him in the open he decided to stop letting it bother him too.
"I have a week of leave; do you have any time off?" He hopefully asked.
"Dang, no but I'll try and get one of the days off and come and see you. If I don't please, enjoy yourself."
Echo didn't think he could enjoy himself without her company anymore.
It was his last day of leave. He hadn't done anything but sleeping in late and eating a lot. It was all he wanted, the simple things in life and he got to contemplate about Thea. She was different, but in a wonderful way. Thea didn't care about that he was a clone, saw him as a man she liked him, maybe even go as far as to say love well, and he secretly hoped that she loved him. He was in love with her, he was sure of that.
"You look like you're in deep concentration. I can come back later if you want," a sultry voice said next to him. How she kept sneaking up on him he would never know, but he was so startled Echo almost fell out of bed.
"Echo! Are you okay?" she giggled.
"Thea!" He gasped.
"I figured you'd be here. Well actually I saw Fives and asked. I thought I told you to enjoy yourself," she said in good-nature accusingly as she pointed a finger at him.
He jumped off his bunk and stood in front of her and a deep blush rose stained his skin when he realized he was only in his boxers. "Um…"
"Oh…" Thea turned a nice shade of pink as well which Echo instantly found very attractive. His embarrassment disappeared when he realized he liked having this effect on her and leaned against his bed, arms folded in front of him, letting her get a full image of his body.
"I am enjoying my leave. I've been sleeping in late and eating a lot. Something we don't get to do," he explained and ginned mischievously as he noticed she couldn't keep her eyes off of him even when she tried to.
"Well," she cleared her throat, "that's good. I should let you get back to it then."
He reached out and grabbed her arm. "It would be even better if you stayed."
"Echo, we aren't exactly alone," she looked around the empty room.
"Nonsense. There hasn't been anyone in here all week. Thea," he grew serious, "I just want to be with you. We don't have to do anything you don't want to do."
She looked lovingly at him and gave him the gentlest kiss he had ever experienced. "Can we just lie together and talk? I can't wait to tell you of some of the planets I flew to!"
Echo climbed up onto his bed and held out a hand for her take. When she got up on the bunk he wrapped his strong arms around her and listened while she talked. He didn't care what they did as long as he just got to hold his girl.
"I can't believe we are trusting our lives to droids!" Echo exclaimed to Fives and Cody. "Droids, it's what we kill for a living not keep alive!"
"Echo it's the only way in. I trust General Skywalker's decision on this and you should to," and Cody effectively put an end to the conversation. Echo turned to his brother.
"Well?" he prompted.
Fives shrugged. "It's the only way in, and we really don't get a say in it any way."
Echo was frustrated. Not only did they have to trust droids to get them into the Citadel, a prison made especially for Jedi and to top everything off they had to go incased in carbonite. But Fives was right, no use in complaining, no one would listen to him and he was made to follow orders. Someday, he thought to himself. He wanted to have plans when the war was over. On his down time he thought about Thea, how much he enjoyed her company and he was trying to build up the courage to tell her face to face that he loved her.
They were going to be shipped out in an hour to the carbon freezing chamber and then his life was in the droids hands. He wished he could talk to Thea about it, but it would be risking the mission. He had a very bad feeling about this mission and the need to hear her sweet voice pushed him to make his decision.
Echo went over to a private comstation in the barracks and dialed Thea's personal code. He waited a minute or two and for a dreadful moment he thought she wasn't going to answer. Then her glowing brown eyes and always ready smile was there to greet him.
"Echo," she said enchantingly.
"Thea, I just…" It was on the tip of his tongue and he couldn't say it. "I'm going on another mission and I don't know when I'll be back. I just wanted to say goodbye."
"There are no goodbyes, Echo, only I'll see you later." She pressed her hand against the holo screen and he held up his as if they really could touch each other.
"I'll see you later Thea," he smiled sadly.
The Citadel was just as horrible as described. They were there to rescue Jedi Master Even Piell who held important information about the Nexus Route Hyperlane. It was dire that they get him out of the prison.
After being released from the carbonite, General Skywalker led Echo and his team to the edge of the cliff where they all saw the Electro-mines, where if touched they all could be killed instantly and alert the prison to their presence.
"We're going to have to free climb," Skywalker commanded the squad. Echo could hear the sighs, but rallied his command.
"Come on boys, up we go."
"Keth, I didn't sign up for this," one of the troopers, Charger groaned as he lifted himself up on another rock.
"None of us did, but here we are," Fives grumbled.
"Oh Sithspit," they all heard Padawan, Ahsoka Tano curse. "The doorway is blocked."
"Snipps, you can get through the vent shaft," Skywalker pointed out. He looked down at his troops and relayed the message. "Just a bit longer."
"Will she make it sir?" Echo asked, having some doubts.
"Does this answer your question Echo?" Ahsoka grinned down at them from the top of the cliff.
They finished their climb and as Fives turned to give Charger a hand up when Charger's foot slipped.
"Grab on quick!" Fives shouted. Echo turned to see Fives diving for his fellow brother. Echo grabbed a hold of Fives feet pulling him back. "No!" Five screamed as he watched Charger plummet to his death. The loud screams of the alarm sounded alerting everyone in the prison of their presence.
"We have to continue on!" Echo shouted over the alarm. Fives gave one last look into the Electro-mines and wished his brother well in the afterlife.
They quickly found the detention hallway which was covered with turrets. "Destroy all of them!" Echo ordered Fives and Longshot.
"Echo, Longshot! Run!" Fives shouted as an electro field pressed down the hallway, making the team run further into the prison.
Echo and the team took off in a run, but unfortunately Longshot tripped and fell. The electro field quickly caught up to the fallen trooper and a horrific scream filled their helmets and then silence. Another brother dead, another life loss. The dread Echo was felt before the mission completely consumed him and he wished he could talk to Thea right now. He wanted to tell her he loved her with all his heart and if he died right now, he would be the happiest man being able to let her know that. He knew it wasn't possible and he had to concentrate on the impossible mission.
"This way!" Kenobi yelled to them.
He opened a detention cell door and the Jedi Master Piell was indeed inside along with his officers whom included a captain named Tarkin. Tarkin had the other half of the vital information Piell was carrying. They decided to split the teams, Kenobi, Piell with Rex going one way and Skywalker, Ahsoka, Echo, Fives and Tarkin going another.
"Alright, let's get out of here," Skywalker said. He contacted R2 to have the shuttle prepped and ready for them. They traveled down a tunnel under the Citadel and as they reached the dead end of the tunnel several commando droids ambushed them.
"Duck!" Echo yelled as he saw Ahsoka getting ready to throw several detonators at the droids. With a huge explosion, the droids were obliterated.
"This way, there's a pipeline that may lead us out," Echo yelled as his ears continued to ring from the blast. After reaching the exit unfortunately more combat droids as well as crab droids met them.
"Get out of here!" Skywalker ordered. Echo helped his fellow team members out of the pipeline and ran for cover. Skywalker threw an explosive down the line, destroying everything around it.
"Obi Wan, where's your position?" Skywalker shouted into his comlink ducking as enemy fire rained down upon them.
"There sir!" Echo pointed. Obi Wan and his team were pinned down on the other side of the platform, surrounded by droids and blaster fire. Their shuttle was in between the two teams being guarded by the droids.
"What are we going to do?" Fives asked.
"Protect the shuttle. Don't let the droids destroy it!" Echo said determinedly. They were surrounded; the blaster fire was coming in torrents.
"Sir!" Echo shouted to the general. He noticed a commando droid on a watch tower trying to take shots on the shuttle. "The tower!"
Skywalker and Piell tried to take out the droid but in the process were knocked unconscious.
"Dammit!" Fives and Echo both cursed. It seemed they had lost this fight. No! Echo wasn't going to let the enemy win. Not when they had gotten this far; he had to do something before this was over, before they were all dead.
"What are you doing?" Fives yelled at him. "This is no time for a break!"
Echo completely ignored him and took out his comlink and dialed her number. "Come on, pick up!" He said impatiently.
Her beautiful face suddenly appeared on his small screen. "Thea!" He exclaimed. Echo threw off his helmet so he could look at her with his own eyes.
"Hi Echo," she smiled and then for the first time he had ever met her, she frowned filtered upon her face. "What's going on?"
"I don't have time, but I want to tell you I love you. I always will," Echo tried to imagine himself next to her, what her reaction would have been in any other circumstance than this.
"Echo? Concern laced thick in her voice, "I love you too, but what's going on?"
"Just always remember that Thea. I'll see you later," and before she could respond he cut the transmission. Echo turned to see Fives who had also taken his helmet off and was staring at him.
"Make sure she knows okay?" Echo demanded from his brother.
"What are you doing Echo?" Fives insisted.
"Just nod you head and say yes."
"Yes," Fives nodded. "What are you doing?"
Echo put his helmet back on and got up, blaster in hand. "Saving your shebs." With that, he ran out toward the shuttle, trying to block out Five's screams for him to come back. He picked up a fallen droid shield and made for the shuttle.
"Echo!" Fives screamed. He looked up to see a commando droid swoop in and fly into the shuttle destroying it and his brother. "Echo, no!" Numbness began to cast its shadow over Fives, but before he could sink into a dark void, Fives knew he had to complete the mission. Echo how could you?
He had to make it back and tell Thea Echo was dead but died saving all of them. How was he going to do that? He just lost his best friend, he closest brother.
"Fives, move it!" He heard Kenobi yell at him.
They made it off the Citadel not without their losses. Piell had been shot but not before telling Ahsoka the vital information before dying.
On the way back to Coruscant Fives sat alone in the hull of the ship staring blankly at his helmet. Echo was gone. What was he going to do? He pulled out his comlink and let it trembled in his hand.
"Thea," Fives tried to keep his voice calm and the quiver out of it. He tried to picture the smiling woman with his brother and it only brought sickening, hot tears to his eyes. The image on the comlink wasn't any better.
"Fives," her voice was barely a whisper. "Echo?"
"I'm sorry Thea," his voice cracked. He could see her lip tremble and she tried to hold back her tears unsuccessfully.
"I loved him, Fives." she sobbed. She would never get to say I'll see you later to him. Never again.
"He knows, Thea." Fives said mournfully.
"Goodbye Fives," with that she disconnected the link.