Author's Note: This takes place in 22 BBY, after the battle of Khorm, which took place after the Malevolence – arc in season 1, and before season 2, episode 9, "The Grievous Intrigue".
He saw the assassin fly through the air, courtesy of the General's application of the Force and found threads of satisfaction course through him at the sight. She had killed so many of his men, even beheading two of them right in front of him. He wouldn't forget that, nor forgive and he thought that a few broken ribs on her part was the least she owed him.
"Commander, the remote." He turned at the sound of General Plo Koon's voice; saw the detonator Ventress had been holding only moments ago and fired. The remote broke apart into charred pieces and Wolffe breathed a sigh of relief. The mine was safe, the Separatists were in retreat; there would be no more casualties suffered at the hands of Asajj Ventress.
A scream of rage cut through the cold air of Khorm and he turned to see the source, blaster raised instinctively. He saw Ventress coming towards him, lightsabers ignited; their angry red flare coloring the snow and making it seem like the ground was covered in blood.
Time slowed painfully. He realized that he was in Ventress' way, the only obstacle between her and escape. In perfect synchronicity, their respective weapons came up to target each other, but she was a Force-user and no matter how well trained he was, he was still only a clone and Human.
One blade came up to deflect his shot, the other painted a glaring red arc into the air, cut through his blaster and bit deeply into the heavily padded helmet of his arctic gear. There was a pain, a pain he never had experienced before: hot and searing, sharp and numbing all at the same time. Later, he would remember the words 'hot poker', but in that moment, as the tip of her lightsaber cut through armor and flesh, all Wolffe could think of was agony and scream and scream as his world went dark….
He woke up with a start; a heavy hand on his shoulder and his first instinct was to lash out in self-preservation. Still in the grips of his nightmare memory, he had a vague sense that it was Ventress, come to finish what she had started on Khorm.
But he realized that his aim was off and that it was not all due because of his still sleep-addled mind.
A kind, but firm hand, grabbed his wildly swung fist and pressed it back to his side. The feel of warm, scaly skin told him who his visitor was, even before he heard the distinctive, deep tones of his general's voice.
"Easy, Commander. You are safe here. There is no need for agitation."
Wolffe turned his head to face his general, only to find a shadow blocking his sight. Correction, blocking half his sight. He turned his head again, more to the right and this time found the form of General Plo Koon materializing before him, as if he had magically appeared out of the shadow. The General was seated, his tall frame looking mildly uncomfortable in the utilitarian chair.
"Sir?" Wolffe asked and found his tongue thick and heavy. There was also an unpleasant taste in his mouth, as if he had just swallowed an entire beaker full of antiseptics. Bacta, he suddenly realized. Bacta and anesthetics. He knew that combination. It meant he'd been submerged in a bacta tank and for quite some time, to judge by the sluggishness of his body.
He twisted again, still trying to get a better view of his general and felt something soft move against his right cheek. He tried to bring his hand up to feel for the material, but General Koon intercepted it once more.
"I would not advice that, Commander. The Kaminoans were quite adamant that the bandages stay on for at least another rotation."
Bandages? He wondered and then everything fell into place: Khorm, Ventress, her escape from the Republic forces. Images of his nightmare flashed through his mind, of the red glow of the assassin's lightsaber, its heat as it pierced his flesh. Except it wasn't a nightmare, but memories.
"Understood, sir," he replied, keeping the dismay his memories were causing him locked behind his trooper's façade. He let his hand fall back and tried to survey the room as much as was possible, with half his face heavily bandaged. The white walls, the utilitarian furnishings and the General's mention of the Kaminoans let Wolffe guess that he was on Kaliida Shoals medical and he expressed as much to General Koon.
"Very observant, Wolffe." The General praised and folded his hands in his lap. "We are indeed on Kaliida. My apologies for not informing you of our destination, but the medical droid was very insistent on keeping you under anesthesia for the duration of the journey. For the pain," the Kel Dor added and Wolffe thought he heard a note of regret in the Jedi's voice.
Regret for what? That he had been in pain? That he had been wounded? Those were the facts of his life, the possibilities he lived with every day. Why would the General feel the need to regret circumstances that were an unavoidable part of a clone's existence?
He could not express these thoughts though, as they would be wholly unprofessional, so Wolffe only gave an acknowledging nod, though the movement caused a mild headache to start up behind his temples.
"I understand, General," he said, then hesitated. "Is there…a situation you would like to brief me about?" It was the only reason he could think of why his general would be sitting here, apparently waiting for him to wake up.
Plo Koon tilted his head slightly to the side and Wolffe felt the full intensity of the Jedi's gaze land on him, though he could not, of course, actually see the Kel Dor's eyes behind the protective goggles.
"Nothing that can't wait, Commander." General Koon said, his voice sounding calm, almost placid. "I am merely here as a relief for the dawn watch."
"Sir?" Wolffe had a brief moment of anxiety where he thought he might have been more seriously injured than he had initially believed, because he found no sense in the General's words.
General Plo Koon must have sensed his confusion, because he waved one hand towards a door recessed into the far wall. "Sinker and Boost were here earlier, waiting for you to wake up. Seeing as they had already stood watch for you during most of your convalescence in the bacta tank, I thought it prudent to offer them the chance to catch up on missed meals and sleep. I assured them that as a Jedi, I would be able to monitor your status quite efficiently."
For a moment, Wolffe had to fight with his feelings, overwhelmed not just with his men's loyalty, but with his general's concern as well. That Sinker and Boost would wait and watch for him while he was vulnerable within the bacta tank was both an honor and a demonstration of their respect for him. But for General Koon to participate in the vigil was unexpected. The Jedi had proven himself both respectful and considerate towards his troops, but this demonstrated a level of concern quite beyond the usual Jedi reserve. Wolffe kept his face straight, though the gesture of support from both his men and his general made his throat work for a moment.
"That is…very kind of you, sir."
Plo Koon waved the words off. "Not at all, Commander. I merely wished to express my gratitude and admiration for your actions on Khorm. I know that working with Captain Ozzel was at times," the General paused, as if searching for the least offending term, "trying."
Now there was an understatement for the record books. Ozzel had been a pain almost from the beginning of the mission; distrustful of both the Jedi and the clones and ultimately a coward. In the end, he had even been willing to betray the Jedi to Ventress in order to save his own skin. And for that he was promoted, Wolffe remembered. From major to captain with the Chancellor's blessing for nearly getting us all killed. The memory was an unexpectedly bitter one, and momentarily banished all thoughts of his injury. Wolffe and the other surviving clones, along with General Fisto and Plo Koon had stood by and watched while Ozzel, preening with pride, had received his promotion from the Chancellor via hologram. There had been no mention of the Jedi's efforts nor of the clones killed during the battle.
Wolffe sternly reminded himself that such resentments were beneath him. He was a clone in the Grand Army of the Republic; he had been engineered and decanted for the sole purpose of fighting and dying for the Republic. That needed no praise. The knowledge of his service, of the success of the mission, was enough.
He turned back towards General Koon, his mind cleared once more, to find the Kel Dor Jedi regarding him with apparent great intensity.
"Your efforts on Khorm are neither overlooked nor forgotten, Commander." Koon said, his voice having gone softer and lower in register. "You have the gratitude of the Jedi and of the people of the Republic, even if they might not understand what it is exactly they owe you."
He wasn't sure what to say to that. Quite frankly, he was a little overwhelmed by the words and the fact that he didn't know the proper protocol to reply to such a statement unsettled him. Telling the General that he and the other clones had just been doing their jobs seemed somehow ungrateful. So instead, Wolffe attempted to steer the conversation onto more solid ground.
"Sir, if I may ask you a question?"
"Certainly, Commander." And the Kel Dor leaned back slightly, apparently wholly at ease with the sudden change of topic.
"If I could ask you for any updates as to my injury, sir? I would like to know what has been done."
"Of course," General Koon said and raised one hand to his breather mask in a gesture that indicated to Wolffe that the Jedi was collecting his thoughts.
"After you were patched on Khorm, the medical droid performed some exploratory surgery, to find out the exact extent of the damage, and to see if some of the tissue could be saved. Finding that the eye had been damaged beyond repair, he removed what was left and sealed the wound in bacta. Once we arrived on Kaliida, you were placed in a bacta tank with the hope that the eye could be regenerated."
Wolffe was about to ask the obvious question, but Koon anticipated his request. "I am sorry to say that the damage was too severe for regeneration. A cybernetic implant had to be installed and you were once more placed into a bacta tank for recuperation."
That would explain the sluggish feel to his body and the taste in his mouth. Two submersions in the bacta tank in such a short space of time taxed the body.
"I see, sir," he said, then almost grimaced at the unintended pun.
So now he had a cybernetic implant? The idea was…disturbing? Uncomfortable? Mildly annoying? He wasn't sure. He had never concerned himself before with his feelings about cybernetic implants, though there were some troopers under his command who had received such replacements for lost limbs. The fact that a part of his body was now essentially a droid part evoked feelings of mild disgust, while at the same time, his mind was already coming to accept the logic behind the implant. Obviously, if regeneration had failed, then the usage of a cybernetic was only the logical next step. He was a commander, highly trained and valuable for his skills. He would be needed back on the frontlines and soon, and an implant was both the quickest and most efficient way to achieve that goal. His own personal feelings did not matter. What mattered was that he returned to active duty as quickly as possible and continue the mission.
With that thought in mind, he voiced his next question. "How long until I am able to return to the front, General."
The General paused for a beat before he answered. "The bandages will be removed in stages, so that you will be able to adjust to the implant's input. I am told that your vision on the right, will now be above a clone's average 20/20 and your mind will need some time to adjust to the change. The implant also has some other features, which the Kaminoans thought would be useful and you will need to learn to control these."
"I understand, General," he said again and for the first time, consciously felt the cybernetic eye move within his socket, as he automatically tried to pay attention both to the General and to his surroundings. It didn't feel cold, as he would have expected. Beneath the bandages, the implant felt no different than his biological eye. He found a small measure of relief flood through him at the realization.
"There will also be a scar," Plo Koon added, though that information had little impact on Wolffe.
"Scars are an expected part of a clone's life, sir."
"Yes," Plo Koon replied slowly. "I am aware of that."
The tone of the Kel Dor's voice implied some other meaning behind his words, but Wolffe did not feel up to the task of divining the hidden layers of a Jedi Master's musings. He had more questions, more immediate to the task at hand.
"So I am scheduled for rehabilitation. How long would this process take?"
"As long as you need it to, Commander."
"I'd like to get back to my men as soon as possible, sir."
"I am well aware of that. Which is why I am making it an order. Take time to heal, Wolffe. The war and I will still be there for you, when you have sufficiently recovered."
The repeated use of his name startled him almost as much as the order. Take his time? To heal? He wasn't even sure how to do that. On Kamino, once a clone was injured, recovery would be planned and executed in the most efficient way possible, to guarantee both peak efficiency within the system, as well as within the clone to be discharged. The General's words seemed to imply something else. It occurred to Wolffe that Plo Koon was expecting him to dictate the rehabilitation process according to his own pace. To tell the Kaminoans when he was in fighting order and not the other way around. His mind raced with the implications, the sudden shift in power in the parameters of a relationship he had thought carved in permacrete. And then, there was the issue of time.
"I'm not sure, sir, what I would do with extra time on my hands." The words slipped out before he could stop them and for a moment, Wolffe worried that he had crossed the line. His words had certainly been unprofessional, if not downright discourteous in the face of the Jedi's generous offer. But Master Plo Koon appeared more amused than offended by his commander's rash statement.
"I'm sure we can find something for you to occupy yourself with, Wolffe."
Wolffe hesitated for a moment, then decided to take a chance. The General was obviously not insisting on a formal interview. Indeed, his tone and words so far seemed to be an invitation to drop the military formalities that marked their daily interactions.
"Sir, if you don't mind, I have another question."
The General gave him a look that, despite the goggles and breather mask, suggested to Wolffe both amusement and curiosity.
"More questions about my age, Commander?"
Wolffe felt his lips quirk up in the suggestion of a smile, before he controlled the impulse and purposefully restored his mask of dignified command.
"No, sir. This would be concerning a mission of yours. To Falleen. And the truth of certain rumors regarding that mission."
"All in the spirit of information exchange and security, yes?"
"Yes, sir." And now Wolffe had to fight even harder to keep a straight face and his tone neutral. "The spreading of false information could have a serious effect on the moral of the men."
"Ah, I see," Plo Koon drawled and settled himself more comfortable in the chair. Steepling his long, clawed fingers before his face, the Kel Dor momentarily gazed at the ceiling, as if collecting and putting into order the threads of his tale.
"Well, to begin with, the actual mission was not on Falleen. I was however, in pursuit of a Falleen. She and I had chased each other for some weeks, before our rather clandestine meeting on Zeltros…"
Commander Wolffe adjusted the pillow behind his head and lay back to listen to his General recite tales of some of his earlier missions. For the duration of a few hours, he forgot about the loss of his eye, the nightmare of Ventress or the bitterness about Ozzel. It was good to do nothing but let your guard down and listen to stories being told.