Captain Rex and the Last Cheese Pretzel
Part One: Discovery
His stomach growled.
It was getting close to the end of his shift. He'd head back to the temporary barracks he and the rest of the 501st were assigned upon hitting dirtside on Corellia, and that meant he could fill his stomach with as much food from the mess as he wanted. Forty-five more minutes. Forty-five minutes of waiting in the late afternoon sunshine pouring down on Coronet City, where no one was shooting at him and he wasn't shooting at anyone. It was far from the most harrowing experience Rex had ever had, waiting a measly forty-five minutes to get off duty and return to the barracks and all the food they promised.
The problem was, everyone around him was eating.
Tomorrow marked the first day of the Intergalactic Amity Conference, and the broad sweep of the convention center's plaza sprawled out before him. At the opposing end of the convention center's drive towered the convention center itself; banners in bright colors of red and blue were being draped over the entranceway by droids buzzing around on repulsors, the fabric of each banner rippling as it rolled down the windows and caught in the crisp breeze. The buildings of the complex stabbed upward into the sky, and even with the bright light of the late afternoon, the center seemed to glow from all the lights lit within. Somewhere, from too high and too awkward an angle for Rex to see from so far away and from the ground, a fountain burbled a heavy spray of water into the air before it tumbled down the side of the building and into one of the gardens below, the droplets of water catching the sunlight and glittering on their way down.
Speeders zipped around the curve of the drive's land-based roundabout, winking momentarily out of sight as they passed under pedestrian walkways that arched over the road. They darted off on different routes to take them further into the maze of buildings that made up the chain of massive buildings that constituted the whole of the convention complex. Civilians from nearby businesses and hotels were crisscrossing the plaza in elaborate clothes and well-coiffed hair, buying trinkets from kiosks and food from vendors, before moving off the duracrete pavement and onto the well-manicured lawns and eventually into the lush gardens that made the sprawling center into a verdant oasis rather than a coolly shining structure of durasteel.
The air smelled like hot duracrete, plants – and food. Some of the kiosks were selling tacky trinkets with "CORONET CITY" written on them in big letters, but mostly there were food carts, selling everything from fried noodles to candied fruits dipped in sweet sauce and some sort of fried dough cake with a month's worth of sugar rations poured on top of it. The smells of barbecued meats, grilled vegetables and fried pastries caught on the breeze and wound their way straight to him.
I am not going to be defeated by an empty stomach, he thought irritably. I've been hungry before. Forty-two minutes.
If he was wearing his helmet, this wouldn't be quite so torturous. The bucket's filters couldn't completely scrub smells from the air, but at least it would have given him some sort of barrier between his nose and the pervasive deliciousness the food carts were emanating. He'd also be able to stand at attention and be able to zoom in on as many of the vendors as he wanted without anyone noticing his interest in their food. But he wasn't wearing his helmet, nor was he wearing his usual armor. Rex was stuck stiffly trying to "act casual" in civilian clothes as he surveyed the crowd and the nearby areas.
The 238th Intergalactic Amity Conference had enough security to keep a small planet on lockdown – and though Corellia wasn't exactly small, the place was crawling with CorSec agents, most of them in uniform, though by the way some of the "civvies" walked and looked around, there were a few plainclothes officers trying to blend in just as he was. Due to the large presence of attendees from Republic worlds, a contingent from the 501st was deployed to provide backup to CorSec.
Rex, along with a few other clones, Commander Tano and General Skywalker, were also in the mix, getting their own read on the gathering. So far, CorSec didn't seem to need any help keeping a lid on any dangerous activities, which left Rex feeling oddly bored.
He still wished he had his armor. But the goal for the day was to try blending in. He was probably doing a worse job of it than the more obvious plainclothes CorSec agents. He shuffled a few steps to the right, trying to look like he was following the path of cooling shade provided by the trees that hemmed in the duracrete plaza.
His stomach growled again and he resisted a wince. Forty minutes. I can last forty – his thought was interrupted by a twisting in his gut rapidly followed by a disturbingly noisy gurgling that quickly dropped into a snarl that sounded a bit like a cranky rancor's warning growl, then up into a weirdly pitched moaning.
When the gurgling finally subsided, he managed a wan smile that faded into a grimace. Maybe it's time to accept my limitations. This is why the General gave me some credits….
The Corellian credit chip had been burning a hole in his pocket all day. Surely there would be enough money on the chip to buy something from one of the vendors? Just enough to keep his stomach from continuing its' rancor imitation.
The fact that the food smelled so good had nothing to do with his decision. It was entirely to stop the noise.
A knot of civilians in what appeared to be tourist clothing meandered their way past him, wafting the smell of baked pastries and…cheese? His stomach began to burble again and he clamped down on it with his abdominal muscles. No more rancor noises. A quick scan of the plaza and estimation of the tourists' trajectory showed they'd come from a vendor with a large, flashing holographic sign overhead that read "KOR VELLA TWISTS" with a multicolored subscript that cheerfully added "They're Delicious!"
There was probably no nutritional value in such food, but it didn't look like any of the vendors were selling anything particularly healthful. Well, if I'm going to try something, I might as well try something I can't get back at barracks….
Tracking back along the tourists' trajectory, he wound his way through the crowd over towards the KOR VELLA TWISTS cart and stepped into line.
Then he tilted to the side to peer forward. There was a harried looking Bith at the front of the line, ordering his pastry while trying to adjust some of the elaborate clothing and layers of expensive jewelry draped around his neck. The vendor, an older Corellian man, handed him his pastry, enveloped in wax paper, and the Bith hurried off, stuffing the pastry into his mouth as he scurried back towards the convention center.
The line moved forward a step. There was a grey haired human woman in front of him in a flowing business suit, tapping her chin as she looked at the holographic menu glowing off to the side of the cart, and Rex frowned. He had no idea what a KOR VELLA TWIST actually was, beyond that it seemed to be a pastry of some kind. Hopefully they tasted as good as they smelled, whatever they were.
The grey haired woman sighed, and, since she was at a bit of an angle, Rex could see her nod once and smile slightly to herself, as though she'd come to a decision. Giving the menu a glance, Rex shifted from foot to foot, tightening his gut to keep it from making any further noises. The menu was short, and featured pictures of the KOR VELLA TWISTS, which were sort of loopy pastry things. Apparently his choices were:
The line shuffled forward another step, and a Nautolan strolled away into the crowd, tearing part of his KOR VELLA TWIST off and stuffing it into his mouth. Rex frowned again at the menu. There were no descriptions of what some of the twists were – BLUE TWIST? Was the pastry blue? Did the CREAMY TWIST have cream on it? Apparently the food was well enough known locally that they needed no description.
The vendor handed over a twist to the human man at the front of the line, who stuffed a corner of it in his mouth and hurried off, his hands full of a load of flimsiwork and a rather intimidating briefcase. The line shuffled forward again. The grey haired human woman was at the front, and he was next, still with no idea of what he was going to be eating, besides some sort of pastry.
The grey haired woman must have been a regular, because the vendor grinned and greeted her cheerfully. "Meia! Good to see you. What'll it be today?"
It wasn't really eavesdropping if they were both in front of him and talking loudly, was it? Rex looked fixedly at the menu, but tuned in to the conversation. Meia laughed lightly, waved a hand and said, "You too, San. Finally got out of the office. I'll have an original, and make it sunny."
The vendor chuckled, "You got it," and, a moment later, produced a KOR VELLA TWIST that had been drenched in some sort of oozing yellow liquid and wrapped in wax paper. Meia handed over a credit chip, San-the-vendor scanned it and handed it back to her, and she headed off with a smile and a wave.
His turn. Rex swiveled back to the San-the-vendor and shuffled forward a step, trying not to stare at the menu too much. He was the Captain of the 501st. He shouldn't be gawping like a tourist at a menu.
"What can I get for you?" San said, sounding friendly and leaning forward against his cart, one arm up on the elevated, glass portion that held the KOR VELLA TWISTS on a spiked spindle.
Rex shot another glance at the menu. Blue? Creamy? Nacho? The descriptions meant nothing to him.
When in doubt, imitate a local. Rex straightened himself up, threw his shoulders back and said, clearly, "An original. And make it sunny."
One of San-the-vendor's eyebrows lifted, and a small smile quirked up one corner of his lips. But he eased back a bit, nodded once, pulled a warm KOR VELLA TWIST out of the glass case with a bit of wax paper, then used a pump attached to the cart to pour the yellow ooze on top of it – just enough to coat the pastry, but not enough to overflow the paper.
"Three cred," San said, and Rex handed over his credit chip to be scanned. A moment later, the credit chip was back in his pocket and the warm KOR VELLA TWIST was in his hand, and it was his turn to edge out of line.
He couldn't stand here, just off to the side of the cart to eat – none of the locals were doing that. So he maneuvered his way through the crowd until he reached his post, then backed up a few steps out of the plaza and onto the lawn, taking advantage of the shade the trees provided.
It was gooey. The goo was definitely a sunny-yellow, and somewhere underneath the goo was the pastry. The goo was, presumably, some sort of cheese. It smelled like cheese at least.
The local food is weird.
His stomach burbled, then groaned, apparently uncaring of the appearance of the food in hand. Well, he'd eaten weirder looking things in the 501st, and the cheese coated pastry couldn't be worse than field rations, since it seemed so popular. No one lined up for field rations unless they didn't have anything else to eat, much less civvies.
Rex braced himself, took a breath, opened his mouth, and bit into the KOR VELLA TWIST.
It was warm. It was cheesy. It was doughy. It was soft on the inside, and slightly crusty on the outside. Instead of sweet, it was savory, with what tasted like bits of crunchy salt under the ocean of cheesy goodness. The cheese was sharp, albeit a little overly processed, and it contrasted nicely to the mildness of the baked dough.
It was the best tasting thing he'd ever had, and he was blinking down at a piece of empty, crumpled wax paper before he realized he had eaten it all.
The local food is weird. But strangely…delicious.
His stomach agreed with a long, low moan. Rex frowned down at the empty wax paper, then a little at his stomach, then at the paper again. He really didn't need a second. Surely a single KOR VELLA TWIST would be sufficient to tide him over until he got back to barracks? It was only thirty minutes now, according to his chrono.
He really didn't need another cheese covered pastry. He didn't.
But he had one anyway.
As it turned out, ORIGINAL TWISTS! Could be covered in cheese or eaten plain, and there were indeed bits of crunchy salt sprinkled on top of the pastry.
CREAMY TWISTS! Were intriguing – instead of having cheese poured on top of the pastry, they were instead stuffed with a white, cream cheese that was less sharp than the yellow ocean of goo that could be placed on the ORIGINAL TWISTS.
SPICY TWISTS! Were ORIGINAL TWISTS that had the ocean of yellow cheese on them, but with sliced peppers dotting the cheesy sea like little green rafts, disturbingly capable of burning his tongue and making his eyes water.
BLUE TWISTS! Were in fact not blue, but filled with a mild, creamy blue cheese made of blue milk (or so San-the-vendor said – the man knew his cheese twists) and were very nice to have after eating a SPICY TWIST.
CHEDDAR TWISTS! Were very much like ORIGINAL TWISTS with cheese on top, except the cheese was on the INSIDE instead of outside. (San-the-vendor recommended getting the CHEDDAR TWIST with cheese on top. CHEDDAR TWISTS with cheese were also very tasty. Rex appreciated the recommendation.)
PIZZA TWISTS! Were apparently the marriage of KOR VELLA TWISTS with another local specialty of some kind. PIZZA TWISTS were also stuffed inside, with a tart sauce made of tomatoes and a pale white stringy cheese that he had to pinch off from his mouth, because it dangled.
NACHO TWISTS! Were less spicy than the SPICY TWISTS but the cheese that ringed the interior of the dough was a lot sharper and hotter than the CHEDDAR TWISTS. Though it had a spicy kick to it, it didn't make his eyes water. The NACHO TWIST came with a dollop of cheese on top with some sort of sour cream and a single hot pepper slice. (The perfect balance between the ORIGINAL TWIST and the SPICY TWIST according to San-the-vendor.)
Rex's stomach burbled again, though this time, not in complaint, but happiness. It was full of warm, cheesy, doughy goodness. Corellians made surprisingly tasty food.
The sound of his name pulled him from his musings over whether he had enough time for one more KOR VELLA TWISTS run or not. "Rex!"
Apparently, he did not have time to go ask San-the-vendor if he could have one last twist with a little bit of everything on it. Commander Tano was weaving her way through the crowd, smiling, one hand up in the air and waving at him.
He held up a hand and waved back, stepping back a little into a more out-of-the-way area beside one of the trees. She reached him a moment later, her brows lifted and her head tilted to the side as she grinned.
"Well, I was going to ask you if you wanted to get some dinner with Master Skywalker and me, but it looks like you ate."
As far as Rex knew, Jedi didn't have a way of sensing people's eating habits, so he just blinked at her once and said, questioningly, "Sir?"
Ahsoka laughed and shook her head, glancing down at his hand that still gripped the most recent cheese coated wrapper, to out over the plaza and the vendors. She looked vaguely thoughtful for a moment then smiled again. "The pretzels?"
Rex frowned at the unfamiliar word. "Pretzels?"
Ahsoka pointed out over the plaza at the KOR VELLA TWISTS stand, where San was doling out another cheese flavored twist of tastiness. "Yeah. Twists. Pretzels. Same thing. Are they any good?"
Rex lifted his brows. Good? The most bizarrely delicious combination of baked dough and processed cheese with salt? He nodded once, gravely. "I like the cheese ones, sir."
Ahsoka laughed again, harder, covering her mouth with a hand. "I can see that, Rex."
At his puzzled look, she made a gesture at his face, and he tentatively rubbed a hand across his chin. Then across his cheek. And his mouth. Yellowy goo came off on his fingers. I've got cheese smears on my face in front of the Commander. Wonderful.
Rex cleared his throat, stiffening, and Ahsoka laughed again, shaking her head. "Come on Rex. You really should eat something besides cheese pretzels today. Master and I found a diner that sells something called shawarma."
Of course he should. It wasn't as though cheese pretzels made an appropriate diet for a clone trooper. "Yes, sir."
And a moment later, they began to wander their way back across the crowded plaza towards General Skywalker and what Rex could only assume would be a more healthful dinner than cheese pretzels.
Unfortunately, it was the cheese pretzels he couldn't stop thinking about the rest of the conference….
This fic-in-three-parts is the very silly result of attending this year's Star Wars Celebration VI in Orlando. There was a panel called The Vocal Stars of Star Wars, featuring Dee Bradley Baker (Captain Rex and the clones), Ashley Eckstein (Ahsoka Tano), Tom Kane (Yoda), Matt Lanter (Anakin Skywalker) and James Arnold Taylor (Obi-Wan Kenobi).
James Arnold Taylor wrote a mini-script for all the voice actors to read, about their characters landing in Orlando during the convention and experiencing all the silliness (and awesomeness) of a Star Wars convention. During the reading, it was revealed that Rex loves cheese pretzels.
So, of course, laloga, LongLiveTheClones, and myself decided that Rex loving cheese pretzels was now canon (Dee Bradley Baker read it out loud! In Rex's voice!) and it needed an accompanying story.
And so we present to you this very silly, very special fic about Rex and his love of cheese pretzels.
(Special thanks go out to the guy cosplaying Rex at the con, who was kind enough to pose for us with a cheese pretzel.)