something to be said for kamino: if i had died in the days where i was stuck there, i would never have noticed. there was just that omnipresent white, and the paralytic working its way out of my body, and the low thrum of pain - it took me three days as it was to realize that i wasn’t strapped down anymore.
( that was when the medical droid came in, impartially tested my blood and turned me over like i was an inconvenient rug it needed to sweep over. it cleaned up where i’d pissed myself, and left again. i realized that it had turned me over, and also that there wasn’t a bedpan there anymore - i hadn’t had anything but nutrition injections or an iv for months now, so my body didn’t have much to give up, anyway. )
even after i realized i wasn’t strapped down, or paralyzed anymore, it took me even longer to actually move again, like my body had forgotten. why bother struggling, when it got you nowhere, only brought more pain, and there was no dignity to it?
( i tried, of course i did, some of the worse days, but all i could ever manage was rocking from side to side slightly and trying to cross my arms over my chest to no avail. )
( i figured that i might’ve become dar’manda anyway, for what i had done. maybe i didn’t even have the right to fight back against it anymore, didn’t have the right to try and be mandokarla or claim that i was trying to stay true to being a trooper or mando’ad by fighting back. it doesn’t make sense, but nothing really felt like it did, then. )
the first thing i managed to do was roll onto my stomach, and almost an hour later, prop myself up with my arms a little, before i collapsed and just lay there. it felt like i was having to learn to walk all over again - pushing myself into a crawl, using the wall to slowly stand up, and eventually being able to stagger across the room.
my body didn’t feel right. it still doesn’t, not really. like they took something important out and jumbled up everything inside and tossed in a few pieces of their own - it’s not my body, anymore. i just happen to be here.
( maybe it’s because i was supposed to die. maybe like the jedi and the mando’ade believe, my body and my spirit-soul, the thing that makes me me had already seperated, and the kaminoans just forced us back together unnaturally. )
one of my vod’e asked me how i didn’t just go crazy in there.
i’ve got two answers for that, really:
one simply being that i’m not sure i didn’t.
the second being - they wanted me to. if i showed that i was completely unfit for the field, they could override skywalker and rex’s executive order of sorts to draft me back into torrent eventually and just send me back to the donors. so i couldn’t.
let me describe the room to you: it was sterile and white, like the rest of kamino, except a small third of the room done in silver, with the ‘fresher - a toilet bowl and a showerhead that would extend out twice a day for me if i wanted to. the entire room was about fifteen paces by twenty paces, the silver part being twenty by five of it. i counted. there was a small mirror built into the ‘fresher wall. there was a small rack on one wall that served as a bed, and two doors and three rayshields set up between me and out.
i showered twice a day. i was given nutrition injections once every three days. the sink slid out from the wall every - two hours, maybe? so i could hydrate if need be. every two nutrition injections, they’d take my blood, do a vitals check, leave again - the medical droid, pressing the needle into my arm, the stethoscope to my chest, and then leaving, was the closest thing i had to contact or socialization. sometimes it would even respond to me, and even if it was just to tell me ct-5381, please remain still or some variation, it was about the only thing that made me feel real, sometimes.
i don’t know what they did, there, but there was something they rubbed into my hair, shaving it short, and over my fingernails, every two sessions the droid checked my vitals, and - my hair, my nails, didn’t grow. it burned like all hell, but i think it was for convenience’s sake. they didn’t want me anywhere around something i could use as a weapon, either against them somehow, or to off myself - they were fine with me dying, of course, but only if they had control over it.
still, my nails were long enough to draw blood.
( i found that out, too. )
there’s only so much you can do to stay grounded, to convince yourself you’re real, when there’s no contact with the outside world and you can’t see time pass on your face or with any chrono or anything like that, and i suppose i found my way. they didn’t care if i tore my arms or thighs up - my nails weren’t sharp enough to really do too much damage, so it never bothered them. if anything, for them it was a victory, a sign i couldn’t go back on the field.
( i’ve spent the last few months learning about psychology, and i know that it’s stuck around in part because it’s an addictive habit, and it’s not really my fault i’m having trouble breaking out of the pattern, but that doesn’t really help things in the end. it doesn’t even convince me, really. )
so there was that to do. i’d sleep when i could, when i was exhausted enough that i didn’t care anymore what would show up in my dreams. i’d be tired enough that i’d roll to sleep and he’d be looming over me again, in the cell next to mine, and laughing, and i’d just lie with my back to the wall and sleep again.
i’d talk, just - saying everything i’d committed to memory. some of the regs they made us read every day, the names of all the brothers i knew, the vode an, every swear word i knew in mando’a, fives’ speech up against the wall, the terms of my sentence. just words, to fill up the space and the silence - even if it all came from me, sometimes i had to have the noise, or i would have lost it. it gave me something to do.
there was my pacing and measurements - see how long around the ‘fresher bowl is in pointer finger lengths, how many paces around the room, how many palm-lengths the sink was, and if i could double-check that before it slid back into the wall.
there was exercise, sometimes - the room was too small to jog in, but once my stitches had healed some and i’d learned to ignore the burning pain in my spine, i started doing sit-ups, push-ups, jumping jacks, planks, until my body would give out under me again.
sometimes i’d talk to myself.
yeah, i know how that sounds. but i wasn’t … really talking to myself. the one thing about being a clone is that if you squint hard enough at the mirror, or stare for so long unblinking that your eyes water up and blur, it could be any one of your friends or family looking back at you.
tup. and telling him that i was sorry, and that he’d been the best of our batch all along. kix, asking him how the different wounded were doing since umbara, and what the shinies had gotten up to lately. cody, asking about some of the escapades of his general recently. rex, and telling him i was sorry. crease and nine-eight and pip, asking them what they would have done if they survived - if it should have been them that lived this far, not me.
and jango, sometimes. i never met him, not really. but i’d ask if he was - it would depend on the day, but i’d either ask if he was proud of me or ashamed.
of course, it’s not like they answered. i don’t know whether that’s for better or for worse.
you know, i wanted to kill myself, then. though i’m not sure how much that’s changed - the first couple of times i tried were before i was even brought back to kamino. credit to my medic for me making it here. i think kix guessed it was a possibility for me. fiddled with all the guns in a fifteen-room radius, replaced the heat packs with stuns.
did you know that if you press a gun loaded only with stuns under your chin and pull the trigger, the barrel of the gun still needs to heat to fire off the shot, and as a result, the metal barrel leaves a circular burn, as well as knocking you out cold? i do, now.
( it feels like anyone, looking closely enough, could tell that my life is only very tenuously connected to this plane. )
there were a couple people who i would occasionally meet, who would come through my cell. two droids. one was called eefi ( their number was e-51493s2, but it’d been nicknamed eefi by the vod’e ) and the other dv-921. eefi was … almost friendly, for a droid. it would stay a little longer and talk, seemingly knowing that it was good to just hear something that wasn’t my own voice. dv wasn’t - it would give me the nutrition injection or take my blood and be gone as soon as it came.
there was a vod. i only saw him twice, and he was reconditioned - there was a terrifying blankness behind his eyes, and he moved like a machine. i asked him what his name was, and he gave me a number without expression, continuing in his work.
i won’t say his number here. it’s not important. our numbers aren’t people, and i don’t want to reveal who he might have been before they took that away from him.
and of course, there was nala se - she’d only ever be visible through the door, jotting down notes impartially, having sent in the medical droid to prod at me and scrolling down a checkup list on her holo, before leaving. she didn’t come often, but i think … she found me distasteful. a waste of limited resources, now that i wasn’t even a donor, wasn’t even helping the war effort with the last shreds of my body.
little gods, what else did i do?
i’d talk - not to anyone, but i’d say everything i remembered. as many of the regs as i could, the different mando’a chants we’d learned in history or to help ourselves concentrate, the fett clan family line, the words of the vode an, every speech we’d been given by the alpha arcs, just anything i could do to fill the silent space up with words and kill some time. it got to the point where there were a few times i was just lying on the floor saying the alphabet to myself over and over because i didn’t want to succumb to the silence.
when they took me out, i thought i was just finally going to my execution, you know?
they cuffed me, and there was a guard of six brothers with nala se, and i was led into a small - not room, even, just a door off the main hall. no one spoke to me. no one told me what we were doing or what they meant to do to me, and i was resigned to it being my death. they strapped me down to a stretcher, and nala se removed a hypo and pushed it into the side of my neck with a calculating expression.
my body started to go numb, and my eyelids felt heavy, darkness slowly beginning to wash over my field of vision, and the last thought i had was that dying this way wasn’t as bad as i could’ve gone.
and then i woke up, with my hands uncuffed, lying on a stretcher in medbay - they’d just sedated me to move me back over to the resolute.
i didn’t move. it’s going to sound ridiculous, now, but my first thought was that this was the manda. marching far away, after all. wouldn’t it make sense that in the fight continuing, it would be the same equipment, the same medbays, that we’d been used to in life? and i had to be dead. that was the only thing that made sense to me, then. for some of what i had done, i deserved it, and in the eyes of the republic, for the thing i’d done i didn’t regret, i deserved it even more.
the republic doesn’t care about our lives or us as individuals. everything i’ve known was telling me that i should be dead. i was an inconvenience at best, and a traitor at worst.
and kix walked in, and said hello nonchalantly, picking up a stethescope, and i asked him how he’d died.
he asked me if i was hallucinating, which, all considered, was a reasonable question. genuinely, i’m not sure if i ever started, on kamino - there were times when i’d see my face in the mirror really as jango or as tup or so on, or when i didn’t fill the silence, my brain would start to make up noise to fill it anyway. so i’m not sure that me hallucinating was that big a jump in logic.
me: i guess i’d have to be. i’m seeing you, after all.
him: you got pardoned, dogma. welcome back to torrent.
me: i suppose i am hallucinating.
he reached over and pinched my arm, and asked if that felt like a hallucination, and i told him that i wouldn’t know, i hadn’t ever really hallucinated before, and he looked - he gave me that medic look, like you’re just on the verge of rolling your eyes, but you have to be patient for your patient.
me: you’re at least a convincing one. you act almost like the real kix.
he was offended by that, i think. crossed his arms and raised an eyebrow and told me he was the real kix, and i didn’t have the energy in me to tell him that had to be impossible. just sagged and lay back down on the stretcher. he didn’t leave, though, and after a few minutes of silence, i told him that i should be dead.
just that, just that simply. ‘ i should be dead. ‘
i couldn’t really see him from where i was lying, but i could hear him sigh, and he walked over to me and smoothed my hair down, and told me to get some rest.
it was like flipping a switch in me, somewhere. it was a simple gesture for him, but it was the first human contact i’d had in - what, eight, nine months? a solid year? he touched my hair, and something small and curled up in my chest screamed like a wounded animal, and i just started to cry, leaning into the touch like a stray dog. i guess i never really understood the expression ‘touch starved’ until now, but then i understood it viscerally.
like a man who’d gone without food for a month and a half and was on the brink of death by starvation, so used to being hungry that his body doesn’t recognize food when he’s given it, doesn’t recognize anymore that it is hungry, because that’s just the state of being.
i was lonely, and i craved touch, and that hadn’t really hit me until kix touched me, simple and fleeting, and the dam burst.
i don’t really remember what happened in between, just that kix was suddenly there, cradling me like a lost cadet, and i was sobbing so hard that my lungs ached, that i couldn’t breathe except in short, shallow gasps, and i was holding onto him like a life preserver. i was afraid that if i let go, he would leave, and i would be brutally, suddenly alone again. and i think i knew that if i was, it would kill me. that sounds like an exaggeration, but it would.
but he didn’t leave. he stayed and just held me, chin propped to the top of my head and arms wrapped around me, and i didn’t understand. when i had left, you see, the fact that i had been the one to shoot krell was still incredibly confidential. only rex, fives, and jesse knew, and that’s because they’d been there. in everyone else’s eyes, i was still just the traitor who’d led that firing squad.
that had changed, but i didn’t know that. couldn’t know that. and i didn’t understand why he’d hold a traitor.