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i'll orbit your flickering star

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Cody walks just off Kenobi’s shoulder as they make their way to their respective transports, the men of the 212th around them loading up with a good deal more casual bravado than usual. The commander supposes it’s only natural; many of their assaults are self-supported, but the attack on Geonosis is 4 battalions and 6 Jedi strong, counting the Padawans. Of course the numbers bolster their confidence. 

He switches his attention back to his general. “I wasn’t there for the first attack on Geonosis, sir.”

Kenobi snorts. “Well I can’t say you missed much,” he scoffs, reaching his gunship and stepping inside. “Last time I was chained to a pole and attacked by several large monsters.” A few of the men loading up next to him give the redhead a sideways glance but are silent.

Earlier in his tenure with Kenobi, Cody might have choked on his own spit at such a comment and then struggled for a response that was any sort of appropriate. Now, he just deadpans, “That…. sounds entertaining, sir.”

The general huffs. “It was. For the Geonosians.” The door slides shut and Cody continues to his own ride planetside, ready to drop in and get this over with.

 

***

 

He regrets his previously dismissive attitude as they come into range of the air defenses. Cody hangs his weight off the handrail bolted to the roof, not trusting his legs for anything approaching balance, and scowls as blasts rock his ship. The tanks hanging under them put the ship’s center of gravity significantly lower than where the men are standing, and so the floor rolls and pitches with a different cadence than he’s used to. If anything, the flak is picking up. And they said the drop would be the easy part of this mission. The bird lurches and he steadies a trooper who is flung against his arm. “Get the tanks on the ground, pilot! And then get clear!”

The drop ships do their job and he spills onto the orange Geonosian soil with his squad fanning out under their tank. They come under fire immediately and Cody curses bitterly in the confines of his bucket. It’s clear now that the gunners targeting their ships were waiting for them, and they hadn’t stumbled across some lucky automatic defense system. 

He flicks the comm lines open, first to Kenobi - “General Kenobi! Don’t land, sir, the zone is hot!” - and then to the three 212th companies in the process of landing around him; the clones on the ground snap to attention at his voice. “212th! Let’s get a perimeter set up, tanks and ships on the outside, supply crates in the center! Genie Company on ships, Siren on tanks, Ghost will float. Spread out the ammo so it can’t all go up at once!” 

The troopers spring into action as his earpiece crackles with an incoming transmission. “There's no where else to go! Cody, come in- What’s the-”

It’s Kenobi, but as he speaks there’s a sharp crack and several muffled thumps in the background. Cody hears the jedi grunt as if the air’s been forced out of him, and then “Blast, we’re hit. We’re coming down hot, Commander, we’re going to undershoot your position by at least a k.” 

The comm crackles out and Cody swears again, pulling up field glasses and scanning the sky for the last-arriving transports. He spots the one that must have been Kenobi’s quickly; it looks like the bugs got a direct hit on the cockpits, and without a live pilot the ship is going to ground at a much steeper angle than nominal. He feels tension form itself into heavy dread and settle like silt in the pit of his stomach, overlaying the ever-present resigned horror at his men dying like so much anonymous flotsam. A few seconds later a plume of dust and smoke goes up.

He draws himself back to his present location, forcing in a measured breath. He’s seen Jedi die before, in less dangerous circumstances than this, but Kenobi had always been different. The man had a talent for beating the odds; it seems wrong for him to be taken out by something as mundane as getting shot down during a drop.

Cody realizes suddenly that he very much wants the general to have pulled through the crash, in a way that is more personal than how he’d wanted to keep any of his previous jedi alive: at some point he has unconsciously stopped simply wanting to be paired with a competent general, and grown the assumptive hope that he would work with none but Kenobi until the end, whatever that end may be.  He squints at the plume, trying to puzzle out odds, trying to weigh the risk of sending out a retrieval team - surely he’s alive - while the men guide the last of the troop carriers into their protective circle. 

There is a gradual lull in the oncoming blaster fire; the enemy seems to have taken their advance behind a natural rock formation and Cody assumes they intend to swarm out on either side. His captains are taking advantage of the time to regroup and adjust their perimeter lines. He has a feeling they’re about to be surrounded. General Mundi’s and General Skywalker’s ships are nowhere to be seen and he prays they haven’t been blasted out of the sky. “Cody-Rex, come in?” 

A crackle, and then a staticky, broken up transmission filters through: “Cody! Sorry vo- … -down way outside the rendezvous, saw General Mundi but- … - lotta bugs - … - couple hours.”

The commander huffs in both relief and exasperation: the first because his brothers are still out there fighting; the second because now he has to hold the rendezvous until they’re able to fight their way to it.

“Adan. Slate. Captain’s meeting.” He motions the company leaders over and they gather around the pile of crates at the center of their holdout, where he greets them - and Kipper, Ghost Company’s medic - with grim nods. “Gentlemen. As you’ve noticed, none of the generals achieved the rendezvous, and Kenobi’s ship went down just over that dune with no contact since. I’ve just heard from Rex that his squad got forced down and are trying to fight their way here, but… frankly, it’s going to be a while.”

His captains take it in stride, Adan setting a portable holo down on the crate and flicking it on to display their little pocket of resistance in miniature. “Sir, I sent up a recon drone - looks like these droids are going to pop out from behind those rocks on both our north and east sides within the next ten minutes. Then we’ve got another group of bugs and droids coming at us with tanks from the west. This is going to get ugly.” 

A heavy silence falls as they all stare at the map. Slate finally asks, “Did Rex say how long?”

“The transmission was spotty. But… on the order of hours, not minutes.”

Adan gives a humorless chuckle. “That’s a tall ask, sir.”

Cody sighs agreement, then motions to the hologram. “Send sniper teams out to here and… here. We’ll try to pick off some of the tanks early.”

“Yessir.” Slate pauses. “Are you sending retrieval to the general’s squad, sir? No way a full squad makes it out that far without getting blasted.”

“I was going to send a scout team.” Cody hopes they don’t ask him not to. The training handbook would dictate that he wait to send a team until he got proof of life, but… those are his men and his general. It’s Kenobi .

Thankfully the captains nod. “I’ll send over Waxer and Boil,” Slate suggests, and then more hesitantly, “I… I hope he’s alive. It would be good for the men to see him come back.”

Cody opens his mouth to respond when an enemy blaster bolt flings through their perimeter and hits the dust at his feet, scorching the toe of his boot and making his toes tingle. The clones flinch and he snaps around as their moment of respite comes to an end. “Guess that’s our cue. Dismissed, Captains.” 

The two salute as one and sprint off to their stations as the hoards appear and the battle picks up in earnest. 

 

***

 

After he sends them out with warnings to stay under cover, it takes Waxer and Boil nearly a half hour to reach Kenobi’s downed gunship. Cody makes himself busy helping Kipper set up a makeshift medbay in the most sheltered of their gunships and directing one of his sergeants to get better comms up. He and the medic pause periodically to check the progress of his scout team, Cody scowling as he watches them disappear out of sight just in time for a droid tank to roll by. The return trip with wounded men is going to be hell. “I should have gone with them,” he mutters lowly.

He receives a sharp glare from his medical officer. “You’re needed here, sir, and you know it. Let Waxer and Boil do their job. They would’ve volunteered if you hadn’t sent them.”

The clone commander grits his teeth and stands to make the rounds of their perimeter, ducking in besides each pocket of his men in turn, tapping shoulders, shooting a stray bug off one of his tank gunners, helping a clone with a fresh leg wound away from the blast zone of the perimeter edge. Kipper is right in that his duty as commander is to be here , leading, but it rankles to send his men on a deep retrieval while he stays tucked behind their lines. 

Adan hails him. “Fresh recon, sir. We’re holding ok for now, but there’s more on the way. We picked up their comms for a bit before they sliced us out again and they’re going to call in more tanks and a bomb run.”

Cody takes a measured breath. Tactician he may be, but there’s only so much one can do when surrounded by an endless hoard in what is mostly open desert. “We just have to hold it, Captain. Reinforcements will come.” He deliberates a moment and adds, “Call the snipers back in if there’s a good opportunity to do so.”

 

The captain salutes, returning to his post, and Cody steps back to Kipper’s side as the medic drops his binoculars back to his belt. “They’ve got him, sir. General Kenobi. And… Trapper.”

Cody’s puff of relief is cut short, choked off into a horrified desire to have misunderstood. “Just the two?” There had been 17 men on that ship. At Kipper’s nonresponse he trains his own binoculars on the distance, quickly locating his scouts not so much supporting as dragging Trapper and Kenobi from cover to pocket of cover, slowly making their way back to the circle. 

Another long wait, then. Cody goes back to the lines, instructing the medic over his shoulder to call him when the retrieval group is within a klick, and goes to one knee in the shadow of a tank, trying to find solace in the familiar sight-breathe-fire of a pitched blaster battle. 

 

The bugs swooping toward them make this a more challenging defense than against the usual land-bound droids alone. Even flight-capable droids tend to move with some level of predictability unless they are of the very highest quality, but the Geonosian troops are both fast and random. Cody sinks into the moment, allowing the more animal side of his brain to guide his body, trusting in his instinct and gut reaction to drive his shots home. His logical brain uses the relative reprieve to wander down threads of the futility of this war, punctuated by the obvious realization that not even the Jedi are safe from the statistics governing a soldier’s life. The droids continue to come, an endless flow of destructive machinery, and Cody’s brothers continue to die, and one day the odds will fall against him or Kenobi or any other individual one of them in kind and it will be over.

Unless we cut them off at the source, he reminds himself savagely, remembering why Geonosis was such a priority target. 

His comm blinks to life, recalling him to the moment. It’s Kipper. “They’re about 750m out, sir, but it’s a long run over open ground.”

The commander jumps to his feet, calling a small squad after him and pointing out where he can see Waxer’s helmet bobbing out of a ditch. “Get out there and give them some cover!”

When Kenobi makes it to their perimeter, he’s alive and still has all his limbs. Cody can’t really say much more for him than that; he’s limping heavily, sagging off his escort’s shoulder, one side of his face bruised and bloody.

The commander relieves the scout trooper. “General. Are you injured?” It’s really a rhetorical question; he’s already signalling Kipper to treat for shock as he helps the shorter man to a seated position at his makeshift command center, back against a crate. 

“Nothing too serious.” The red-haired man accepts the first hypo injection with a tilt of his head, although he murmurs, “No painkillers, please,” to the medic after, presumably wanting to avoid any mental fog. “What’s the situation here, Commander?”

Cody gestures at their little circle of tanks and gunships. “Well, sir, Generals Skywalker and Mundi didn’t make it to the rendezvous, as you can see. But we’ve been able to make limited contact with Captain Rex and established that they’re on the ground and trying to fight their way here.”

Kenobi closes his eyes briefly, tipping his head back against the crates, and then offers Cody a tired attempt at his usual cocky smirk. “Well then, I suppose we’ll just have to make sure we’re still here when they arrive.”

His comm bleeps again - Captain Adan. “Commander, sir, got a situation for you.” The man sounds nervous, even over radio. 

“Right there, Captain.” He points a finger at Kenobi, preemptively aborting the jedi’s movement to stand and follow him. “You stay down, sir, you’re injured. You can try hailing the other generals.” 

 

He trots up next to his captain a second later. “What is it?”

Adan salutes shortly and hands him a datapad showing the readout from their one remaining recon droid, which is zipping around somewhere high overhead hoping to avoid detection. “Remember the bomb run I mentioned earlier, sir?” 

Cody sweeps his eyes over the screen, unpracticed at interpreting the shifting lines of data. “ETA? How many?”

“A few minutes, sir. And just one, but… it’s big. We’re not going to be able to take out the shields before it’s on top of us.” 

Cody hears what he’s not saying, which is that his battalion is essentially sitting ducks, and cold furious fear curls through his abdomen. The ships that dropped the tanks are gone, so he can’t get half his troops off the ground if he tried to evac, and even if he could they would be overwhelmed the minute they stopped firing against the land assault currently blasting them from all sides. “Fuck.”

A pale hand lands on his shoulder: Kenobi, having ignored his directive to stay put. “What’s happening?” 

He passes the readout to the jedi. “Bomber incoming. From the southwest. Probably looking to hit us and then move on to take out the other battalions.”

Kenobi looks up, staring into Cody’s visor in a way that makes the bucket feel nonexistent, the jedi’s expression unreadable. He hands the ‘pad back to Adan with a short, “Keep the men’s spirits up, Captain. We aren’t done yet,” and walks towards their southwest line. 

Cody trails after him. He can see the spot on the horizon now, their death creeping closer with every inch bigger that it grows in his field of view. His earlier ruminations on survival seem stupidly abstracted now that he feels how the odds have been falling out of his favor since he left the Negotiator this morning and he hadn’t even known it. “Sir, do you have a plan?” His voice is layered with uncharacteristic desperation, because if it had been anyone else he wouldn’t have bothered to ask, but Kenobi is Kenobi and he’s touched with something like fate.

Kenobi trails to a halt about 5 meters away from their line, staring out into the middle distance through a gap between two gunships. The bomber is big enough now to start to make out individual features. “No plan, commander. Just a hope,” the jedi murmurs, and he reaches out his left hand towards the bomb ship. 

Time slows and the battle sounds fade from Cody’s mind as he watches Kenobi’s hand flex and his fingers curl, tendons straining from his knuckles, and in the near distance the bomber dips and angles to ground. The commander sees it start to go down and his breath catches in his chest as the enemy ship’s engines flare, trying to regain height and momentum for a safe payload drop and for an instant he nearly sees the jetii winning the struggle for gravity, his eyes closed now and his outstretched hand trembling-

He sees the moment Kenobi gives up, not completely but enough , the jedi’s eyes snapping back open blue and bloodshot and his face a mask of ashamed horror as he whispers heavily, “...can’t- I can’t do it-” and his arm is still outstretched but the bomber regains control, banking nearly overhead to come back around and take them out for good from its intended safer altitude. 

Kenobi reels, his eyes unfocused in distant failure, and Cody growls at him, grabbing a shoulder, shaking the slighter man roughly because why not? they are dying. “You have to. You have to! Bring it down, bring it all the way down or they’re going to circle back and kill us all.” Before, Cody wouldn’t have bothered, but now he has been shown possibility and he does not want to die today, not on this most overstaffed of assaults, not going out because of some botched attempt at a manpower-fueled route of a factory .

Blue eyes focus on him more sharply even as the rest of the jedi’s expression closes off into a numb shock, and Kenobi renews his attention to the bomber, grasping at nothing, pulling down, down, down on the already-low right wing of the banking ship. The general is breathing heavily out his mouth, his body curling over on itself even as his gaze and outstretched arm remain trained on the enemy ship, and his other hand comes up to land on Cody’s shoulder, seeking support or stability there.

The clone’s HUD zooms in helpfully on the bomber as it fights for altitude, passing over some rocky bluffs, and so he sees when Kenobi stops pulling down on the right wing and suddenly pushes up. The sudden direction change combined with their own engine power dedicated to regaining control is enough to tip the left wing into the cliffs, engine scraping and then blowing, enough to set off the payload. Their certain death evaporates in a ball of white fire.

Cody turns trancelike to his jetii, who is attempting to stagger into a more vertical standing position. He’s as pale as a shiny’s armor, lending a terrible contrast to the twin streams of blood trickling bright from his nostrils and the purple bruises down his right cheek and jawline. The commander surges into motion as Kenobi’s knees start to collapse, quickly wrapping an arm around the other man’s torso to catch him, which causes the general to gasp wetly - “ribs-” before vomiting on the clone’s boots.

Adjusting his hold slightly, Cody leads his general back to the crates, settles him on the ground with a flask of water, and this time Kenobi makes no attempt to follow him as he stalks back to the perimeter lines, the jetii’s eyes gone wide and distant once more. Cody accepts the wordless relief of his captain’s grasp on his forearm and inserts himself back into the fray alongside Adan and Waxer and Longshot and all the rest. When it seems like they will finally be overrun, he sees the nearly token attempt Kenobi makes to rise and ignite his lightsaber, falling heavily back to ground as reinforcements arrive; sees how he doesn’t so much as stand when Skywalker arrives with all the rest, and sees how he neatly cuts himself out of the edited plans for the next phase of their assault. 

The commander sees how the jedi’s indomitable will seems to have finally fractured, but when concern-fear-guilt whispers out of nothing, he forces it from his mind. He buries the unwelcome emotions under the grey screen of battle fever, the layered voices of his men, the smells of sweat and dust and blood and anger, the piercing clarity of his blaster hitting true. 

They have run the gauntlet and survived once more. Kenobi will recover, as will Cody, as will all those who faced the odds and pushed through. The commander clings to that thought with the grip of a drowning man, because if it ceases to hold true in his mind, he’s not sure he’ll be able to keep leading his men into these endless deadly hells. We will fight, we will survive, we will recover, he thinks on loop, until the mantra simplifies to a haze of we will we will we will.