Armed and Dangerous
"General Skywalker has just issued an all-points bulletin on Commander Ahsoka Tano. She's killed three clones and should be considered armed and… dangerous."
Even as the words rolled off his tongue Rex knew they were a lie; he couldn't mask the reluctance in his voice as he relayed the General's hasty command. But it seemed he didn't have a choice - an escaped prisoner must be captured, and without any credible alternativd explanation for the clones corpses at his feet, Rex had to report the facts as he saw them. No matter how wrong he was sure they must be.
In response to his conflicted announcement, the Coruscant High Security prison complex lit up around him with sirens, lights, and the shouts of panicked guards. Commander Fox bolted after the General, and the 501st Captain was at his heels in seconds, leaping over the dismembered bodies of the brothers that had already fallen. The chase was on, and Rex was at the forefront whether he liked it or not.
The one reassuring factor - if there was such a thing in the midst if this madness - was the General's stubborn belief in the innocence of his Padawan. It was abundantly clear that Anakin Skywalker was no more convinced of Ahsoka's guilt than Rex himself was; there seemed to be an unspoken understanding between both men that while the Togruta Padawan was not to blame, her method of clearing herself was severely flawed. Surely if Ahsoka would comply with a fair investigation, things would become clear, and the whole ordeal would prove to be a mistake.
Although given the nature of the "evidence", Rex had reason to doubt whether any investigation would lead to a satisfying - let alone just - end.
When he and Commander Fox finally caught up with the General, the chase had devolved into an all out brawl. Rex was speechless as they arrived at the edge of the prison courtyard; clones swarmed along every corridor and passageway, while tanks and armored vehicles rumbled across the perimeter of the complex. Despite the General's repeated orders, many of the shots filling the night sky were full power blaster bolts, the urgency of the situation having prompted many of the clones to shoot to kill rather than risk the reprisal of a desperate Jedi fugitive.
"…should be considered armed and dangerous."
But it wasn't the massive show of force that took Rex's breath away - at the center of the chaos was a slim figure, black against the brilliant green light of her lightsabers, fending off a ridiculously overpowered army of men and machines intent on bringing her down.
Even as his stomach churned at the wrongness of the sight, something akin to pride welled inside Rex and he and Fox followed General Skywalker down one of the long gangways. The young Padawan was masterful in her defense; her movements were graceful like that of any Jedi, but the alertness and the strategy behind her every leap and feint were not skills begotten by some Force trick. Ahsoka had indeed taken to heart the advice he had given her so long ago now, and it was her hard-earned experience that now enabled her to survive even while hopelessly outnumbered.
"Come on!" General Skywalker shouted again as he broke off from the main platform, trying to head off the fleeing Padawan. Rex felt his muscles grow taught as they came closer to the battlezone, his grip on his blasters becoming tighter than a hydrovise. Try as he might, he couldn't bring himself to place his finger on the trigger, though every instinct within him protested that he was leaving himself dangerously vulnerable.
"…armed and dangerous."
Dangerous to who? Was it even possible that Ahsoka had committed the horrific deeds that seemed to be unfolding around her? Would the Jedi Commander who had risked her own life for her men countless times turn on them now? And with what sort of motivation?
Rex's gut twisted as he scanned the courtyard; the guards had encircled the fugitive Jedi, with gunships hovering above and illuminating her petite figure with their blinding spotlights. She had lost one lightsaber, and her defiant stance belied the exhaustion that was exerting control. It appeared the pursuit was over, and Ahsoka's desperate flight had come to a sputtering halt. Though ostensibly he had been helping to detain her, Rex felt a strain of hope die within him, a hope that somehow things wouldn't have come to this, that some new intel would have come in, or even that Ahsoka might have escaped capture.
General Pong Krell may have shaken Rex's faith in the Jedi, but even that horrific incident couldn't reconcile the drama unfolding here. Everything about the Besalisk Jedi had testified to a monster wholly obsessed with his own power and glory. Krell was everything Ahsoka was not.
And the evidence of that distinction was stark indeed. As Rex took stock of the situation through his visor he couldn't shake the almost damning reality testified by his eyes and the casualty count on his HUD.
Ahsoka had been labeled a murderer. She had been pursued by men with every intent to kill her. And not one clone had fallen in the chase.
"…armed and dangerous."
But Ahsoka wouldn't have been herself if she didn't pull yet another trick out from her sleeve. Sure enough, even as her Master tried once again to call out to her, the weary Padawan vaulted away from her would-be-captors, and within a few seconds she had carved an opening into one of the sewer pipelines that ran out from the complex. With only the briefest hesitation, she disappeared inside, and the chase was on again.
"…should be considered armed and dangerous."
The pursuit through the sewer tunnels would have been distasteful enough even without the aspect of chasing down his friend and Jedi Commander, but Rex's mind was already far too unsettled to dwell on the liquid filth beneath his boots or the sickening stench that seeped into his helmet. He and Commander Fox kept up a steady jog, both men being experienced enough to know that they'd make better time by keeping a sure footing rather than risking a messy slip and dragging themselves up again. Now they were backtracking, Rex having realized that the General had broken off from the others, and the two clones were now rushing towards the spot where Rex's commlink indicated that Skywalker had come to a halt.
"Damn Jedi whelp," Fox growled as he panted into his helmet, running just alongside Rex. "Think she might have killed the General?"
"Never," Rex replied coldly, making a sudden leap to avoid a fallen crossbeam within the pipe. "The Commander wouldn't dare harm one of her own men, let alone her Master."
"How long are you going to deny the obvious, Captain?" Fox sneered, turning to cast a helmeted glare at Rex. "We have her on holofilm murdering the prisoner, and now a dozen of my brothers are still laying in pieces within the prison."
"I don't have answers, Commander, you know that," Rex answered, his eyes fixed straight ahead as a wash of light appeared farther down the tunnel. "But I know for a fact that she would never commit these crimes. You don't know her, not the way I do."
Commander Fox let out a snort. "Maybe that's your problem."
Rex had no reply, and there wasn't time for one as his eyes settled on two dark silhouettes at the mouth of the tunnel, on the brink of a massive sinkhole that led deep into Coruscant's underworld.
"Commander Tano!" he shouted, and broke into a full run. A hundred horrific possibilities ran through his head as he closed the remaining distance. Could she be threatening her Master? Attempting suicide?
He couldn't believe either option, but by this point Rex didn't know what he believed anymore; he just knew he had to get there first, he had to be there in time to stop it.
He was too late.
Ahsoka was standing at the very edge of the pipeline, precariously perched above the seemingly bottomless pit. General Skywalker's voice was strained, desperate, but Rex didn't hear any of it. His eyes were fixed on the petite figure standing at the edge, with her clothing torn and soaked in sewage, her face cut and darkened with soot. He heard her voice, pained and exhausted:
"…we both know no one else will see it that way. I'm sorry… wish me luck."
She looked out over the abyss, and something about her gaze belied the fear inside. Fear of the unknown, fear of being without anyone to trust, fear of betrayal.
She looked back once more, and Rex felt his body go rigid as their eyes met for perhaps the last time. For an instant he thought she might have been about to say something, or that perhaps he would, but it was too late. She had already pushed herself off the edge, and before Rex could so much as blink, she was gone.
Commander Fox swore quietly, while the General stared in silence into the gaping pit where Ahsoka had fallen. Rex pushed past his fellow clone, catching a brief glimpse of a small dark figure landing upon a bloated elevator ship, before descending into the depths of the underworld and disappearing from sight.
"Commander Fox," the General's tired voice spoke over the whistling of wind rushing past the mouth of the tunnel. "Call of the prison search. Alert the police and have the clones return to the barracks to await further orders."
"Yes sir." The Commander's voice faded as he moved back into the tunnel, giving out orders over his commlink as he did so.
Rex stood beside his General in silence for a long moment, gazing into the dark abyss that had swallowed their mutual friend. "Sir," he finally ventured. "You don't believe she's really behind all of this… do you?"
Anakin shook his head. "No, Rex. Something is terribly wrong here. And I'm going to get to the bottom of it." His fists clenched in frustration, but his weariness had clearly sapped any will to rave about the terrible turn of events. "I will find her," he muttered to himself. "I will get her back."
Rex didn't reply; somehow he knew it was best if he did not. His gaze remained on the gaping pit that led to the undercity, the hotbed of scum and villainy that lay deep beneath Coruscant's glamorous skylines. He couldn't help her now, he couldn't have her six like he had in times before. Ahsoka was well and truly on her own.
"…should be considered armed and dangerous."
A death-defying escape. Impossible odds. A damning casualty count of exactly zero.
"No one else will see it that way."
One man did. Though his opinion counted for nothing in the eyes of the law, Rex knew Ahsoka Tano was not guilty, even if he couldn't account for the evidence of her alleged crimes.
But she was deadly, she was dangerous. She was capable and she had the benefit of years of experience. Rex had done everything he could for her, and now he could only trust that she could look after herself.
He still believed in her, even if he was the last one.
The General turned away, and Rex turned to follow, then hesitated. He recalled her last request before jumping, and turned back one more time to look down into the pit. Taking a breath, he cut his external comm channel, and murmured into his helmet. "Good luck, Ahsoka."
Just had to get this off my head after the last episode. Honestly, that chase scene is second only to Umbara as far as foreshadowing Rex's reaction to Order 66. You will note: he never once fired on Ahsoka. Just saying.
Please review, if it's not too much trouble. :)