They were going to decommission Echo. Fives had heard one of their instructors talking to the longnecks about it, complaining about Echo's progress- he didn't talk, and when he did he didn't talk right and he talked too much. He didn't meet their eyes, he didn't sit still when they said. He was lagging behind the other vode. Delayed. Different. Defective.
Fives had subtly unplugged his earphones to overhear what they were saying. He must have made some kind of noise because the instructor was on him in a flash. "What?" Fives pulled off his headphones and feigned confusion.
"Sorry sir. I got startled. What did you want?" The instructor frowned.
"Nothing, cadet. Go back to your sim." He turned back, forcing his shaking hands to go through the motions while he kept eavesdropping. The longneck was telling their instructor that three other brothers were set for decom too, Dogma and two numbers he didn't recognize.
"An unfortunate occurrence," the Kaminoan said mournfully. "But some failure is unavoidable with such a large order. We'll have them taken care of tomorrow."
They moved into the hallway and out of Fives' hearing. He was so busy panicking that he didn't even notice when he failed his sim.
"Don't call me that!" his batchmate hissed back, pulling his arm out of Fives' grasp. Fives frowned.
"Has somebody been getting onto you again?" Echo nodded at the floor, his face reddening.
"One of the Alphas this time. Jerks. Sorry I yelled at you."
"It's fine. But listen, I need to talk to you right now." He manhandled Echo into his pod and shut the lid on both of them. Echo made a face and pushed against him.
"What are you doing, Fives?"
"They're gonna decom you. You and Dogma. We gotta get out of here by tomorrow." Echo froze, terror flooding his face.
"No no, no no, no no..." he muttered. Fives grabbed his hands before they could fist at his head and shook him.
"Hey, Echo-echo. Focus on me." Echo looked back at him, humming under his breath. "Here's what we're gonna do. We'll find Dogma, and then we're gonna sneak out of here and fly off this planet."
"But we're not allowed to leave Kamino," Echo whispered. "If they catch us you'll get decommed too."
"I don't care!" Fives and Echo had been Fives-n-Echo since the day rolled out of their warming units- where one was you found the other, where one went the other followed. When Fives decided to swim instead of climbing Echo jumped in the pool. When Echo said it, Fives assumed that it was true. For four years they had been inseparable. Fives couldn't leave Echo to die any more than he could cut off one of his legs.
And Echo knew that, which is why he didn't bother to argue. "What do I do?"
"Find Dogma during lastmeal. Meet me by the storage bay."
The only reason they were able to escape from Kamino, when they looked back on it later, was because nobody was expected to escape from Kamino. It never so much as crossed their minds. It was forbidden, it was against orders, and good soldiers followed orders.
Kamino being a water world, some things had to be imported to sustain the community and those ships came in, laden with supplies and rumors and glimpses of the galaxy outside, once a week like clockwork. Fives and Echo were four standard, so they already had basic stealth training and Dogma was used to avoiding attention.
Stored away in a dusty corner behind a stack of crates that smelled like spice, their hearts thudding in their ears, they became the first set of clones to ever leave Kamino and live to tell about it.
They slipped out of the ship when it landed at an especially busy port, vanishing into the crowd that clustered around the station to work, beg, and steal. They found refuge in what looked like the fresher of an abandoned store. For the first time since their escape they breathed a sigh of relief.
"So what do we do now?" Dogma asked. He rocked back and forth, running his hands through basic combat forms. Fives and Echo shared a look.
"Now," Fives told them, "we find work. Get money. And then we avoid anyone who so much as smells like a bounty hunter."
The galaxy could be a very cruel place, full of people who would rob you and hurt you and try to take your brothers away. Fives learned that in the year following their escape as he and Echo tried to earn them enough money to leave Morintuur for someplace further from Kamino. It could strip all the hope away from you and tell you that you'd never see your family again.
But it could also be very kind. It could put you in the path of an elderly herdsman looking for help with the spring migration who had more than enough food and supplies for three children, even if they grew too fast.
And then it could lead you to a ship with a captain willing to overlook a lack of certain things (ID, backstory, height) and take you as far as you wanted to go if you could keep moving boxes.
A year after Fives had grabbed his brothers and ran they landed on Alderaan a few pounds lighter and a couple inches taller for a month of leave. "We're never gonna be allowed to get out of shape, are we?" Echo grumbled, pushing a box of ship parts onto an overhead shelf. "Course it's not like we can get any other work. What else can we do? Read and hit things. We're only good for our muscles." It was a familiar old complaint by now. Dogma nodded along eagerly and made a show of flexing his arms.
The display was so underwhelming on his growing body that Fives couldn't do anything but laugh.
Shit. Shit, shit, shit, and kriff. Fives felt himself panicking as he backed up slowly, keeping his eyes on the man in front of them. One month, he couldn't get one stinking month on one of the nicest planets in the galaxy to relax for the first time in a year without something going horribly wrong.
"Easy now," the man said, reaching slowly in their direction. "I just want to know who you are." Next to Fives, Dogma muttered something about no exits, hands flying through his combat forms. Echo hummed lowly as he slipped Fives a piece of rebar. For all the good it would do them. He brought it up in a defensive position.
"Are you here to take us back to Kamino?" It was inevitable. He should have expected this. The Kaminoans valued their products far too highly to leave any of them running around free, especially not defective ones. "Please. Just let us go. We can't go back now."
"I'm not sure what you mean," the man responded. "I don't know who you are." Fives blinked. He... didn't know? How could he possibly not recognize them? "I promise I'm telling the truth. You and your brothers are complete strangers to me." He sounded sincere. Fives shared a quick glance with his brothers.
"Who are you?" The man bowed slightly, making sure they could see his hands.
"My name is Obi-Wan Kenobi. What are yours?"