When you are a soldier
I will be your shield
I will go with you into the battlefield
And when the arrows start to fly
Take my hand and hold on tight
I will be your shield
'Cause I know how it feels
When you are a soldier
Anyone else analyzing the situation would be quick to observe it wasn't looking so good.
But that would have been a superfluous observation, coming from the likes of Captain Rex. And the veteran clone officer didn't have time for superfluous anything as he dove for the ground and rolled out from beneath a volley of Separatist blaster fire, before coming up on one knee to deliver a heated reply from his twin DC-17s. As he squeezed the trigger his eyes danced between the battlezone outside his visor and the stream of data running across his HUD, the only information sources of any consequence now. The planet might as well have been nameless. The grand strategy behind the battle was a forgotten joke. All that mattered now was to survive, to keep as many men alive as possible, and to try and beat back the droids while he was at it.
"Silo is down!" Kix's voice was stark and urgent as it cut through the frantic comm chatter coming from his helmet. "Jasper too. I need cover to retrieve them!"
His bolts having found their mark, Rex earned a few seconds' reprieve. "Jesse," he called back as he ducked behind a small boulder and tried to get his bearings. "Report, now!"
"We're pinned down, Captain," the Sergeant replied between heavy breaths. "Tup and Helix are with me, we're holding back the clankers at the delta but we can't cross the gap without-"
"Don't. Hold the line," Rex ordered, turning to try and get a visual on Kix's squad, farther up the gulley. Their attempt to sneak through the ravine-laced forest had backfired perfectly, as a droid ambush emerged without warning and began to rain fire down on the Republic strike team. Caught off guard, the clones had broken ranks by squad and took up what cover they could, fighting for survival while awaiting the promised air support and evac.
If they lasted that long. The droid ambush had already been reinforced by additional clanker units at the mouth of the gulley, near Jesse's position, including a squadron of the deadly droideka mobile cannons. If those droids broke through, and an orderly retreat couldn't be made in time, they were all done for.
Taking a breath, Rex began speaking as he rose to his feet. "Kix, when I finish you and your squad break off and retrieve the wounded, I'm going to cut across the delta and draw their fire."
"That's an order, Kix." Rex steeled himself, trying to get a visual on the droid positions above and below the ravine. His blood rushed with adrenaline, his mind with rapid calculations as he mentally plotted the most effective - and dangerous - route. "Once you've got them, everyone fall back deeper into the gulley." His hand fell to the thermal detonators on his belt. "I'm leaving a few surprises for our tin friends."
Silence was the only reply. It was all but a suicide mission, he knew it and everyone else did as well. But being the only surviving man positioned to pull off the diversion, even survival odds were superfluous.
And it wasn't like this was the first time Rex had plunged into the jaws of death.
The diversion worked like a well-oiled heter valve. Unable to resist the temptation of an open and exposed Republic target, the droids above and below began to rain their combined firepower at Captain Rex as he sprinted across the gulley. Taking advantage of each swell of topography for cover, Rex swiftly zig-zagged his way towards the mouth of the gulley, breaking left and right with seemingly at random. His movements were deceptively predictable, keeping a course long enough for the droids' targeting algorithms to catch on before making another sudden change of direction.
Within a matter of seconds, he'd reached the target. The gulley emptied out into a wide valley, mostly obscured in fog except for the flashes of brilliant red that continued to grasp at his every step. The droid line was clearly visible now, and it was approaching fast. In between heavy breaths, Rex repeated his prior orders, trusting his men to fall back as they'd been commanded while he laid a detonator line across the mouth of the valley.
The explosives were in position, the countdown initiated. The droids were even closer, and the blaster fire was becoming blinding in speed and intensity. Rex turned on his heels, squeezing off the occasional returning shot as he began the long, uphill retreat into the gulley.
Every instinct told him it was futile. He had expended too much energy already, and it showed in his aim and his pace. Exhaustion was draining the last traces of adrenaline from his veins, and his steps were erratic as he tried to dodge the pursuing bolts. Utterly exposed, his back to the enemy, deprived of even the rudimentary cover he had enjoyed in his charge, Rex knew he was witnessing the last seconds of his life.
Then a blur of sienna and brilliant, vibrant green swept over him.
She had no business being there. She should have been taken safely off-planet by now, her unit had been evac'd a full hour ago. But she was there, and in all her glorious fury, and Rex found he was too spent from the exertion to try and scold her for it. The blaster fire seemed to melt away as Ahsoka took up a stance behind him, her dual blades thrumming with fresh energy as she shielded his retreat.
She must have sensed him looking at her, and she met his gaze; concern was written over her face, but as his eyes caught her own she gave him a small grin and a tip of the head. You're safe now, her expression reassured him, and Rex found himself unable to help a tired smile beneath his helmet.
The retreat was over within a few minutes. The roar of the detonators, the shattering of a hundred droid chassis, the growl of the evac ships as they swooped in belatedly to pull them out of harm's way all melded into a post-battle haze. It wasn't until they were safely aloft, with Kix's noisy reprimands in his ear and Ahsoka standing quietly by, that Rex had the clarity of mind to think back to her foolish act of heroism, her selfless attempt at his rescue, her quiet, confident smile.
You're safe now, her smile had said.
He'd never felt safer in his life.
Lyrics for this short series are from the song "When You Are a Soldier", by Steven Curtis Chapman.
Thanks for reading; reviews are appreciated. :)