Random idea, inspired by a quote from the song 'The Bells of Notre Dame' from the Hunchback of Notre Dame Disney movie. Great movie, great quote (featured at the end of this story), if you've never seen it, please exit your rock and head to the nearest store. Right away. xP
Now, this is a prequel to the Clone Wars episode "Deserter", set at an unknown pre-Ahsoka time. The specifics of the when and where aren't too important – just know that this is taking place before he meets Cut Lawquane, or even Ahsoka.
A huge shout-out to Sachariah, who betaed this piece for me! (If you haven't read any of his stories, I highly recommend you go, right now, and get reading!) Also, credit to him for the idea of making this a prequel. I hadn't really set a time before, and he sorted that out and came up with the pre-"Deserter" idea.
Disclaimer: Not George Lucas.
"Monster!" he snarls, and Rex takes a step backwards, unsure of what to do next.
"Monster!" the man snarls again, his lips curled upwards like a dog's, spitting the word out in harsh tones with his hatred prominent. "You beast!"
Rex doesn't understand what the man is talking about. Instead, he holds his pistols unsteadily, not entirely sure of what to do next. Protocol tells him to shoot the man – he is a danger, a threat, and must be put down.
But something stays Rex's hand. He does not want to hurt this man. That is the reason he tells himself, and it is true.
But it's also true that he wants to find out exactly what it is he is being blamed for, why he is being called such a thing.
The man takes a menacing step forward, and Rex coolly points his gun at the man, who stops, still glaring at the captain. "Go ahead, clone," he spits out, and Rex blinks, taken off guard. "Kill me. You going to avenge my insult to you and your 'brothers'?" Rex does not understand. Why say it so harshly? "Go ahead! Do it! I expect nothing less from a monster like you!"
Finally, Rex speaks. "Why?" he asks simply.
"Why what?" growls the man.
"Why are you calling me a monster?" Rex tilts his head, confused. He wants a straight answer, but this man has, thus far, been talking in riddles.
"Because you are," the man says, then lets out a strangled laugh. "Because you are!"
Rex still does not understand. This man is accusing him of something without proof, without evidence, without even simple explanation. "That is not an answer," he says matter-of-factly.
"Yeah it is!" the man shouts back, his trembling hands sending shivers through the raised shovel in his grasp. "Because you're a clone!"
Rex takes a step back, as if the man had slapped him in the face. He counters, forcefully, "I am a man."
"Ha!" The man chortles in a bizarre mirth, as if Rex has said something funny. This is not at all what the captain had been expecting. "A man? You think you're a man? Oh, this is rich!" The man cannot stop laughing now. He is doubled over, the shovel dropped to the ground beside him as he clutches his burning sides.
Rex's eyes narrow through his visor, and he lifts up the helmet, laying it gently on the ground beside him. Holstering one of his pistols, he raises his now empty hand to his face, and points. "Look at me. This is the face of a man."
Gasping, the stranger before him replies, "No! It is not! Not if it is worn by thousands of others! The only man who wears that face is that bounty hunter! Yours? One of a monster. That's all you are. A monster. A clone. A creature, bred for the sole purpose of killing. A machine, made of human flesh. No, you 'sir', are not a man."
His breath has been stolen. Rex can no longer breathe, just stands, and gapes, as the stranger's words before him sink in. A clone. A creature. A machine. A monster.
Is he really all of these things? Is he?
Rex doesn't know.
Doubt creeps through the clone captain's mind.
The stranger is right. Rex has been bred for this war. This fighting.
His sole purpose in life is to kill others.
But no…that can't be right. It can't be. Rex does not fight to kill. He fights for the good of the Republic. For the safety of the citizens of the galaxies.
He fights for honor, and justice, and righteousness.
Or does he just fight because he's told to?
Rex doubts everything now.
"Die," the stranger hisses, and lunges at Rex with the shovel raised, ready to bash in Rex's unprotected skull.
The captain doesn't mean to. It is only self-defense, an instinct, as his arm shoots up and his pistol fires, and the stranger drops to the ground, his shovel clattering beside his sizzling body.
Rex stares, first at the limp being on the ground, and then at his own gloved hand, and smoking pistol.
He shot him. He shot the stranger, who had not caused any harm to anyone beyond threats. He could have easily taken out the stranger without shooting.
But he didn't.
Rex had killed the stranger.
Silently, he puts his pistol away and bends over to grab his helmet, settling it over his face once more, a still, emotionless mask to hide the likeness beneath.
As he walks away, the corpse cooling behind him, one question repeats in his mind, over and over, a mantra.
Who is the monster and who is the man?