Blaster fire rained over his head, hitting the ground and kicking up dust. A group of mercenaries had attacked the ship of the Crimson Corsair when they landed on this backwater planet in the Outer Rim, and now the pirates were trying to drive them away.
Kix was a medic for them, had been ever since he woke up 50 years in the future. They were good pirates, or at least better than most pirate bands he had been familiar with. They helped him get back on his feet after coming out of cryosleep. Gave him a place to stay. Normally he would be kept out of any fighting they did, but Captain Ithano had asked for his help personally. He used be a soldier after all, not just a medic, and they needed all the help they could get.
So he helped. He situated himself close to the front lines. Close enough fight back against the enemy, but also far enough away where he’d be able to drag any fallen crew member to safety and treat them as best he could.
He popped up from behind his cover, squeezing off a few rounds as he sprinted to a pile of crates he’d seen one of the crew go down by. It was a Nikto, one he’d seen around around fairly often. A blaster wound went right through his chest. Dead. He’d seen that same injury on his brothers enough times to know that there was nothing he could do. He couldn’t save this man. Just like he couldn’t save his brothers.
A blaster bolt hit the crates above him, making him flinch. This wasn’t a good time to get lost in memories like that. But he couldn’t help but remember all the time he fought beside his brothers in battles just like this one. He remembered the way his rifle felt in his hand, so different from the blaster he held now, as he shot down droid after droid.
He wasn’t shooting droids now. These were real people he fired shot after shot at. Not kill shots though. These were only disabling shots. He didn’t want to kill anyone, mercenary or not. Not anymore.
It took a lot of concentration, however, to make sure each shot didn’t leave too lasting of an injury and yet still incapacitated each enemy fighter. Maybe more concentration then he was capable of at the moment. He kept getting lost in his memories of the war, of what it felt like to fight alongside his brothers, their Jedi at the front with their lightsabers weaving deadly dances as they cut through enemy forces, any droid missed quickly shot down by the troops behind them.
He should have known better than to get distracted on a battlefield.
One of his shots must not have been enough to incapacitate the mercenaries he realized too late, as he stepped out from behind cover to fire off a few more rounds. All he could do was watch as the bolt from the fallen mercenary flew forward and hit him straight in the gut.
He fell to the ground with a grunt, barely dragging himself far enough behind his cover. His fingers clutched the dirt beneath him as he maneuvered himself into lying flat on the ground, clenching his teeth against the pain. Once he was situated, he strained his neck until he was able to look down at the wound. His shaky fingers skirted along the edge of it, coming away smeared red from his own blood. He let out a broken laugh, wincing at the pain that flooded through him as he did so. Even if someone were to get here in the next five minutes, they wouldn’t be able to save him. The wound was fatal.
How many battles had he made it out of? Too many to count. He had survived through three years of war and capture by Count Dooku, only to be shot down by some mercenary 50 years into the future. He would have laughed if it didn’t hurt so much.
As a clone, it was thought that if you were going to die, it’d be in service to the Republic, surrounded by your brothers. It was a strange sort of irony for him to die in the company of pirates, in a time when the Republic didn’t even exist anymore, alone on the battlefield. Maybe he deserved it after everything he’d done.
“You always were too hard on yourself.”
He looked up at the blurry figure that appeared in his vision. That was strange, it almost looked like… “Jesse,” he croaked out, trying not to cough as he spoke.
“Hey, Kix.” Jesse smiled at him, and he almost laughed again. His mind must have decided to take pity on him, letting him hallucinate that Jesse was really there talking to him.
“You’re not hallucinating,” not-Jesse said, sounding sad. “I really am here.”
He let out a puff of breath that would have been a snort had he been able to get in enough air. There was no possible way Jesse was there. He was dead. Just like the rest of his brothers.
“You’re right,” not-Jesse agreed, sitting down next to him on the ground. “I am dead. I marched away a long time ago, just like you are now. That’s why I’m able to talk with you.”
If that… if that was actually true, then- “J-Jesse,” he whispered, his vision growing even blurrier as tears filled his eyes.
“Hey, hey, hey,” Jesse said in a low voice, one ghostly hand drifting over his face as if wiping away the tears. I’m sorry, Kix thought, not having the strength to speak the words (though Jesse seemed to understand him just fine so far). I’m so sorry. I failed you, I failed all our brothers-
“You didn’t fail us, Kix.” Five more figures appeared on the edges of his vision, mixing in with the black spots forming there until they moved closer. He was able to make them out much faster than he did with Jesse. Hardcase, Tup, Fives, Echo, and Rex, all standing over him. “You tried your best,” the Captain said, sitting down on his other side. “That’s all we could have asked of you.”
But I didn’t warn you in time about the chip, he argued.
“I knew about the chip, too,” he said. “Still wasn’t enough to save our brothers from it.” Rex looked away for a moment, old pain and sadness crossing over his features. “Just… don’t beat yourself up over this, alright?” he asked, finally turning back to him.
Kix swallowed. Yes, sir. He managed a small smile, pleased when he saw the Captain return it with one of his own.
A wave of pain pulsed out from the wound in his stomach and he sucked in a deep breath to keep from crying out. Or he tried to. It turned into a coughing fit almost right away.
“He doesn’t have much longer,” Tup said, kneeling down and grasping his hand. Kix could almost feel the weight in his palm. Tup was probably right.
Fear spiked through him at the thought. He’d always known he’d die someday, you had to make your peace with that during war, and despite knowing as soon as he got it that the shot was fatal, it still scared him, the thought of dying alone.
“You’re not alone, Kix,” Hardcase spoke up, a calm sincerity about him that he hardly ever remembered seeing in his enthusiastic brother.
“We’ll stay with you to the end,” Echo said, both him and Fives kneeling behind the others, all of them somehow fitting in the range of his quickly darkening vision.
And after that? he asked.
Jesse smiled. “We’ll all be waiting for you on the other side.”
The smile was the last thing he saw as his vision completely faded to black.
Kix woke with a start, eyes flying open and sitting up as he clutched his stomach. He looked down. No wound, no pain, nothing. Not even a scar left behind.
“Kix.” He stood up and spun around. His brothers. All of them. Standing right there.
“We told you we’d be here, didn’t we?” Fives said, smirking. Echo slapped him playfully on his shoulder, the motion something he still expected from them both even with Echo having been dead for months before everything went to hell. He watched all of them. Fives and Echo joking with each other. Hardcase, bouncing on his feet with excitement. Tup, rolling his eyes at the three of them. The Captain, gazing fondly at his men. Jesse, watching him with that caring look in his eyes he’d missed so much.
“You’re here,” he whispered, tears springing to his eyes. “You’re really here.” Jesse opened his arms and Kix threw himself into them, sobbing at the feeling of being held by one of his brothers again. He felt the others slowly move in, bracketing him from all sides. He buried his face in Jesse’s shoulder and hugged him tighter.
He wasn’t alone anymore.
He was finally home.