Star Wars belongs to LucasFilm.

Warning for suicide mention; nothing graphic though :)


"Very good, trooper, you are fully functional. You may return to duty." The med droid dismissed him brusquely.

Four-One didn't mind the droid's bluntness. He hopped down from the examining table and pulled on the top half of his body glove. He exited the booth and the next trooper in line went in for his post-action check-up. The remainder of the company were stacked two deep in the corridor outside. All the priority triage cases had been attended to, now it was time to double-check that everyone else was still 100%.

A woman's voice rose suddenly above the quiet hum of activity in the medbay.

"Get your mitts off me, you slimy barve!"

Apparently even the civvies were being checked over. He'd had enough interaction with civilians to last him a lifetime. If it weren't for their dithering and delaying over stupid things like luggage, the rest of his squad might've made it back. Even after the company had beaten their hasty retreat off-planet, it looked like that he was still being dragged into their noise and mess.

Four-One flattened himself against the wall as a couple of security clones went past at a trot, heading for one of the med booths. The woman's yells rose in both pitch and volume, peaking shrilly. He sighed in relief as the noise cut off abruptly. He wasn't the only one. One of the clones waiting in line mimed wiping his brow in relief, getting a scattering of low chuckles. Four-One would've put odds on it that the med droid had finally gotten close enough to trank her.

At the moment, food was on par with sleep as far as he was concerned. After spending a week on field rations, he was looking forward to hot chow. Never thought I would be lusting after the shipboard goop. Still, standard operating protocol was pretty specific on post-action activity: first make sure you and your kit are in piece. Eat, hydrate, then sleep. Debrief tomorrow.

He wasn't looking forward to the debriefing. Of his squad, only he and Three-Five had made it back. The Captain was sure to grill them thoroughly about every detail of their mission and he didn't much feel like dissecting every decision he'd made, wondering if he could've changed the outcome if he'd done this or that differently.

==o0o==

He was on his way to the mess hall when he came across a woman standing in an airlock. From her clothing, it looked like she was one of the civilians they'd managed to evacuate before the supernova had roasted the planet. Still, civilians were supposed to be on deck 9 - where they could be contained. Not here.

"What are you doing?"

She jumped at the sound of his voice but didn't turn around. "What do you think, genius?"

He tried to keep his tone neutral, to not rise to the challenge and contempt in her tone. "Sucking hard vacuum without a suit is a very bad idea, ma'am. Step away from the control panel and I'll escort you back to your section."

"Why, thank you for your input, Captain Obvious. Now, piss off!" she snarled at him.

Stay calm – don't spook her – don't snap at her.

"Ma'am, that's not my rank or name. In any case what you're asking is against regulations. Civilians are to stay in designated areas. This isn't one of them."

She turned to face him, black eyes boring into his. "Sarcasm isn't your forté, is it, mate? Go. Away. In a few minutes, you won't have to worry about a civilian in this part of the ship." She crossed her arms and swivelled away from him stiffly, waiting for him to leave.

He sighed inwardly. Seriously? Why him? All he wanted was his rack time. Now he had to deal with a frakking suicidal civvie. Plenty of opportunities for her to get killed earlier but no, she made it as far as the ship before deciding she wanted out, instead of doing the decent thing and letting someone else take her place on the larties.

If he was in his armour he could've just opened a com channel and gotten a tech to disable the air lock controls. He sighed. If only. Now that he'd seen her, if anything happened it would be his shebs on the line - he would be the one filling out reams of flimsies. He smothered his growing irritation.

"Ma'am, are you going to leave, or do I have to drag you?"

"Like you even care."

Ohhhh! The self-pitying tone in her voice snapped the tenuous control he had over his temper. Fine, he'd warned her. He strode through the hatch before she could recoil and grabbed her upper arm, jerking her off balance. He marched them both out of the airlock, closing the door with a clang.

"Lemme go!" she yelled at him.

She squirmed, trying to get free. He obliged, releasing her so suddenly that she stumbled, almost falling before she got her balance.

He rounded on her ferociously. "Look, ma'am, a lot of my friends didn't come back from that planet. I'm tired, sore, and I have a powerful urge to eat sometime this week. So if you could quit it with the histrionics and go to the med bay like a good little civvie, I'd appreciate it!"

He wasn't familiar with the expletives she used, but the tone was far from complimentary. As was her attempt to knee him in the groin. So be it. He grabbed a hold of her arm again and headed back towards the med bay with her in tow. She didn't make it easy, snarling and fighting him for every meter. Luckily, he ran into ship's security half-way there.

"What's going on here?" The two troopers trotted towards them.

"This trooper is assaulting me!" she yelled at them.

The gall of it! He tightened his grasp, and she yelped and shut up.

"Well, trooper?" One of the troopers asked Four-One.

"CT-16/841." He snapped to attention, as much as he could when he was holding onto an uncooperative civilian. "I interrupted her attempt to throw herself out the airlock, and was taking her to med bay for sedation," Four-One explained. "I could use a hand though."

The trooper turned to the woman, "Ma'am, is this true?"

She was silent and that was all it took for the other clones to decide whose side they were on. "Alright, we'll take her from here, trooper. You'll need to file an incident report though."

Four-One saluted. "Yes, sir. I appreciate your help."

The woman burst into loud and noisy sobs, sagging into him as she realised that the troopers weren't going to help her.

"Why won't you let me die! I just want to die! There's no reason for me to go on! They're all dead! All of them! Dead!"

The troopers peeled her off him and towed her away, still weeping. Four-One was left alone in the corridor, the sound of the woman's sobbing echoing around him and reverberating through the empty hole in his heart where his squad used to be.

Surely this was why the clones were different, were better. Because they had the strength to carry on when everyone around them had fallen. After all their friends had died. He was a professional. Dedicated to his job because... well, that was all he had.

That was all there was... right?


Virtual cookie to those who spot the Firefly reference. All reviews or comments welcomed :)