Upon reflection, Master Yoda wished Knight Kenobi’s holo message had been more tainted by rain or interference. Bad enough to garble the message, bad enough for them to claim plausible deniability and send a Master to Kamino rather than report directly to the Senate.
Instead they had a report laying squarely on their laps which Yoda instantly hated.
An army commissioned by the Senate. An order carried out by a Jedi Master. Sifo Dyas, one of the order’s most powerful oracles. An oracle made unstable and paranoid by his visions, singled out by the Senate to carry out an openly illegal commission. Discovered, conveniently, right as the Senate debated on the merits of having an army during talk of a secession.
The whole thing reminded Yoda of crechelings who asked him for permission to eat a sweet while already unwrapping the treat.
The clone army should have caused outrage and censure, perhaps even prevented the transparent attempt to block peaceful secession. Instead, the Seperatist army was discovered and Yoda was sent with a heavy heart to Kamino. As one of the eldest, highest ranking Jedi, Yoda was the obvious choice. So he went to claim the Grand Army of the Republic, an army that had been illegal days before. An army made up of cloned beings that were still illegal by the Republic’s laws. All while slavery was also still illegal on paper.
… To wish and daydream for a different sequence of events was foolish. Obi-Wan had done his duty, and so had the Council. It wasn’t as if they could hide the information gleaned, not with entire armies loitering around, not with Separatists so eager for blood judging by the execution they were being dispatched to prevent. But Yoda felt that at his age he had the right to some foolish dalliances from time to time. Hopefully they would be able to intimidate the CIS down successfully.
“Appreciate your assistance, I do,” said Yoda gravely.
The young man barely paused but Yoda could sense the beat of uncertainty and awkward surprise in the Force easily.
“Sir,” the trooper replied with a crisp salute.
Yoda watched the youthful being, still a child by the standards of most species, barely older than a fetus by Yoda’s, turn and march down the orderly lines of more painfully young slaves. Already a Commander. Already an adult judging by the sense of his soul in the Force.
Oh, Yoda did not want to claim this army. But the Order had been burned before for opting out of a war. Besides-- conscientious objections would not help these boys-yet-men who did not have the luxury of opting out.
As the old master watched the Commander go, his head suddenly cocked and his ears perked.
Being as short as he was, Yoda considered most species giants. He barely registered height anymore. But watching the young man wade into a thicket of CT class troopers, he realized that the Commander towered head and shoulders over the rest of them. Which was unusual for humans and could not be an accident among clones.
… Hm. Strange to be sure, but he didn’t have time to ruminate much on the phenomenon.
The CIS ship they had boarded capsized abruptly mid-battle, listing violently to one side. Obi-Wan immediately snapped his lightsaber off, tipped his feet, and leaned, hoping to slide along the floor of the ship until he could find something sturdy and horizontal to land on. But even still his boots skidded and began to lift off the floor as the angle steepened. He might have recovered with the aid of the Force, but moments later he heard a clang as Cody slipped, slamming a knee into the floor before he came careening toward him and the other men.
“Make way!” Cody roared as he fell.
Obi-Wan landed with an oof onto his belly but he ignored it, flinging out a hand to catch Cody with the Force. But Cody slipped through his grasp when, instead of the weight of a nearly eight foot tall man that he was prepared for, his mental fingers grasped with inadequate strength around a much heavier, denser man.
“Oooh-” Obi-Wan blurted, right before Cody slammed into him like a wrecking ball, knocking his lungs empty.
“No no no no-!” Boil wailed.
Someone screamed right before Obi-Wan and Cody crashed into them. Thankfully the bodies of his men were a bit softer to land on than the durasteel would have been. Seconds later, the droids they had been shooting joined them.
Belly up on the pile, Cody was their only line of defense while the rest of them lay dazed. The Commander punched clean through the B1 droid that clattered onto them and ended up wearing it as a bracelet, then kicked the Droideka that followed hard enough to dent the metal and send the heavy thing flying before it could impact them. It landed on the transparisteel windows but thankfully didn't break through. Then a few of the boys that hadn't been caught in the dogpile shot the thing until it lay a sizzling mess that didn't get back up.
The squadron groaned and oozed under Cody’s weight and someone whimpered. Cody immediately tried to shift off of them, to spread his weight and try to worm off.
“Ohhh, sir… You're so heavy,” Dogboy wheezed.
“You’re welcome,” his Commander groused. Despite being crushed within an inch of his life, Obi-Wan had to bite back a laugh. Easy, given how little room his lungs had to expand.
“Hold on,” Obi-Wan wheezed once he regained some of his breath, “I’ve got him.”
Cody was truly absurdly heavy for even a man his size. But this time Obi-Wan was ready, and he levitated his Commander off of them. The men breathed a communal sigh of relief and rolled out of the sloppy pile they'd been rollicked into… but not until they crowd surfed Obi-Wan off of them, depositing him in front of a trooper who Obi-Wan swore he’d overheard being called Lieutenant Coochie. Not many of his men had shared their names at all, but with monikers like that perhaps he could understand why. He was glad they felt comfortable enough to even utter their names in his presence, though he took care not to use them without permission. He didn’t anticipate being granted use of Coochie’s name anytime soon.
Wrongfooted, Obi-Wan shot a smile at the Lieutenant, waving off his offer for assistance belatedly, having already sprung off of the men as fast as he could.
It didn’t escape him that they had prioritized their Jedi over themselves without thought as usual. The least he could do was offer his hand and the Force to every trooper struggling to their feet in return.
Squash twisted in Obi-Wan’s Force hold like a cat, easily righting himself to stand on the transparisteel window with taps of his boots.
"Sir, you almost sent us straight into the black," Squash complained.
"Next time I'm gonna let the rollie hit you. Aruetyc mir'sheb. "Cody groused, shucking the mangled droid off his arm to the ground.
Obi-Wan suspected they didn't know Obi-Wan was fluent in Mando'a. He wanted to reveal his knowledge, but he feared such a reveal would spook them rather than relax them. So in the interest of leaving them any avenue to speak plainly, Obi-Wan kept his face carefully blank and asked instead, "Why are you so heavy, Cody? I might have caught you earlier but I didn't expect your... density."
"The General just called his ass thick," someone mumbled, nearly inaudible. Obi-Wan suppressed a smile and pretended he hadn't heard.
Cody whipped a droid arm at the mumbler who yelped and danced away. Cody snapped, "Gev!"
"It's alright, I don't mind a little levity," he hurried to say.
"Of course, sir." Cody replied in a tone that made it clear he would not drop the unnecessary formality an inch, "Perks of Command, sir. They made us with denser, hardier materials than the CTs. Stronger, faster, better healing..."
"Pure Command Juice," Waxer whispered reverently.
"Waxer, you'll be scrubbing the barracks tonight." Cody continued evenly, "Apologies for the interruption, General. But Command enhancements aren't that impressive."
Aayla wheezed as some sort of structural brace was lifted off of her back. She was still well and truly buried, however, and grateful for the assist.
The size of the hands clearing debris off of her betrayed her helper's identity before he spoke.
"General Secura?" Commander Bly asked worriedly, "Are you conscious?"
“Barely, Commander,” She replied tightly, “Would you be so kind and carefully lift that--that stone there? It's on my lek and I can barely think.” She’d already tried wiggling it away, but lekku had more strength to coil than lift.
She hadn’t known the man long, but already he impressed her with his strength. He likely hadn’t been brought down by the rubble-- she’d watched him stand planted, batting away everything that fell while she braced the building’s structural integrity with the Force. The commander had even tried to shelter her with his arms until a stray brick knocked her down. Her memory then failed her for what she hoped was a short time.
He was so much bigger than her. Her gut thrilled with alarm when he cleared the rubble off of her head tail. Each stone shifted was handled and set aside with the utmost care, though, and he cradled her damaged flesh carefully when he moved her off of sharp stones underneath.
“Is that better, sir?” he asked.
“Yes,” She breathed, “Much. Thank you. Now… lets see about unburying the rest of me.”
Her lek coiled unintentionally around his fingers. He froze, a swirl of uncertainty and wonder radiating off of him. “Oh, um…” He waffled, holding her bruised appendage with the air of a nervous youngling holding an infant for the first time.
“Apologies,” a laugh coughed out of her. A moment’s concentration was all it took for her to unwind from around his wrist. His dinner plate sized hands were incredibly gentle with her tender flesh as he laid her lek down. For all his size, he could stroke soap bubbles without breaking them.
He was similarly careful while they worked together to free the rest of her. Between the two of them and the Force, it didn’t take long. The commander held out a hand for her to take, ever polite, and she smiled gratefully for the leverage.
“Alright,” Aayla huffed once she was back on her feet, “Do we know how badly we're surrounded?”
“We have droids there, there, and there. You did a good job cocooning us, but they’ll muddle their way in eventually,” He answered quickly, pointing out each location with brisk gestures.
“Another problem,” she mused, “is that I’m not sure if I can move the rubble without burying us.”
There was a gap in the rubble far above them set at an angle, revealed to her by a curtain of sunlight that caught on motes of particulates in the air. He noticed it the same time she did.
“Do you think…?”
“Through the gap, yes.”
“I can throw you through.”
Aayla blinked at him, surprised, “From here?”
He nodded, “Easily.”
A boost wasn’t strictly necessary. A force enhanced leap was easy enough to perform. However, a boost could make the maneuver easier. She could devote her energy to make the maneuver faster, to go further…
Well. It was an interesting proposal. And temptingly fun. Plus Bly would feel helpful- she wouldn't be leaving him waiting to get carted around by the Force. To a man, the GAR seemed to have the fatal Mandalorian need for action and fussing.
“... Alright. May I…?”
“Yes, sir,” her Commander replied, kneeling in a smooth motion and holding his hands out.
She’d never had the occasion to climb another being before. Nor was she entirely sure exactly how he intended to accomplish the unorthodox maneuver. Given that she was an adult woman with the fitness of a Jedi Knight, she wasn't exactly light or small. The logistics were a lot more complicated than she initially thought--she had no idea where he wanted her feet, how he intended to hold her, how he even intended to toss her. She hesitated.
But Bly seemed to know exactly what he was doing. They also didn't have the luxury of time. So with a low "Excuse me, sir," he… very politely manhandled her where she needed to be. He spun her around and lifted her by the waist, careful not to hold her where she had any obvious bruises, his grip light-
He was big enough to hold both of her feet in one hand. She knelt instinctively, braced a hand on his shoulder as he angled his body to the side, angling her, to best utilize momentum. Her left knee protested the bend, already swollen and taut, but she ignored it and folded anyway.
"You're fine, Commander," she huffed as he stood, swaying with the shifting of his weight to make his ascent easier.
He had definitely thrown another person before. He knew exactly how to plant his feet and his wookie-like strength meant his arm didn't even shake.
"Ready when you are, General Secura."
Aayla smirked, a little giddy despite everything.
She tightened her sore muscles, mind empty to everything but the Force, waiting for the cue to leap-
She was careful not to enhance her jump so much that she shattered all of the bones in his hand.
Aayla felt quite at home in the air. Ataru was her love interest, and she was proud to be one of the best aerialists in the Order. She blurred through the gap right in time to bat away the missile meant to kill them both, knocking it right back at the machine which had thrown it. She hadn't even known a heavy assault was there. But, well. It wasn't there anymore.
Blaster bolts peppered around her, but she spun, reversing her direction, threading herself back into their impromptu shelter. Before she could twist to land on her feet, Bly caught her, moving with her momentum so the impact into his armor was minimal. The landing still rattled her injuries, of course, and she fell against him in startled pell-mell, forcing him to juggle her limbs to compensate for her flustered clumsiness.
"Are you alright, General?" he demanded.
"Ah- yes. That worked very well. Thank you," she huffed tightly, "If you would be so kind as to toss me again..?"
"Yes, sir. And you can jump off me with more strength, sir. I barely felt you jump."
She blinked, unsure how much of that was bluster. "Well, in that case, we should practice more maneuvers like this."
Bly straightened, a bloom of satisfaction wafting from him, "That would, uh, be fun. Sir."
Aayla righted herself in his arms, unable to help her mischievous grin.
"Alright, lets try that again Commander."
“Cargo Platform C-22… Captured,” Lama Su intoned grimly.
A long, pale grey finger tapped the screen, switching the security footage to different scenes throughout Kamino. All depicting desperate battles, of troopers fighting for their lives and their home while huddled behind a broken LAAT-i...
“Security sector six… Overrun.”
… or troopers slumped motionless in the halls while one of her Jedi kin sat with a broken arm, a super battle droid leveling its blaster at his head…
“Central armory…. Invaded.”
… and rooms full of brave men lying dead without a living soul in sight.
“Level nine-- Lost. We are being overwhelmed, Master Ti...”
Lama Su craned his long neck so his head could meet his palm halfway, rubbing his face in a rare display of stress. Shaak knew his reasons for distress differed quite a bit from her own, but even still she lay a hand on his shoulder to offer comfort. He recovered from his Kaminoan faux pas of a display quickly and turned to regard her with his large, glassy eyes.
“If the droids reach the interior labs, the newest generation of clones will be destroyed. Or worse.”
“We haven’t lost yet, Lama Su,” Master Ti soothed, “While Jedi still breathe, we will not abandon Kamino.” Even as she spoke, Shaak could feel the bloody grit and determination of the beings defending Kamino. She had not sensed the life of the disabled Knight from the security footage snuff out yet. She knew he was still fighting to the bitter end alongside the troopers.
Lama Su nodded. “Then you won’t fight alone,” He intoned, “We do have one last line of defense…”
His long fingered hands typed at the terminal. The image on the screen flickered and shifted to a different part of the facilities, one Shaak had never seen before. Dominating the screen were tubes that resembled bacta tanks.
By happenstance, a trooper guard was passing by the view of the camera. The man served as an unwitting size reference for Shaak... and he was tiny compared to the tanks and the men floating suspended inside them. If her eyes weren’t deceiving her, the clones in the tank were a fair bit taller than the Kaminoans, who were renowned for their unusual height. Not only that, but the men looked perfectly proportional and well balanced despite being even more broadly built than the average CC. Which made them literal walls of muscle and sinew.
Shaak’s jaw dropped.
“What…?” She breathed, horrified.
“ARC troopers,” Lama Su explained calmly, “Advanced Recon Clone troopers. They were trained by Jango Fett himself for the most critical missions.”
Shaak turned to stare, not bothering to hide the incredulous hardness in her gaze.
“But you keep them in stasis tubes? Are they dangerous?” Shaak demanded. She knew the answer already-- Literal giants trained by the Jedi Killer himself? Of course they were dangerous. But she wanted to hear his answer.
“They display some of Jango’s personality and independence. This has made them… unpredictable. If released they will fight to protect Kamino. But after the battle…”
That sounded… less than ideal but not as bad as she feared. Kaminoan standard for ‘willful’ behavior was woefully unforgiving--she had seen perfectly reasonable outbursts slate good men for decommissioning before. If their worst sin was independence and they could be relied on to rally, then...
“Why are they so… big?”
Lama Su blinked at her with that wide eyed, innocent expression Kaminoan faces seemed to so naturally fall into, “They were the first experimental batch we perfected genetic enhancements on. They are the upper limit of our achievements at the time but not efficient on a grand scale. We only made one hundred ARC troopers for that reason. From them we perfected and modified the enhancements to be more… Feasible… in the Clone Commanders. Then we scaled the enhancements down even further in the Clone Troopers to be more cost effective for the bulk of the army.”
Well. That explained the mystery of the Commander's odd height. In retrospect, though, they weren’t actually all that impressively large.
Shaak hesitated before speaking, flipping through the security footage scene by scene, pausing on an image of troopers protecting a small group of cadets, beset on all sides. She had… more than a few doubts about unleashing what would surely be monstrous force upon the galaxy. But without them…
“I’m confident the Jedi can keep them in line,” She said after a beat.
“Then we are agreed,” Lama Su murmured softly, “I only hope it’s not too late.”
Shaak touched the security screen, “... Show me to the children.”
Elsewhere on Coruscant, Chancellor Palpatine paused halfway through sipping his evening tea. But he hesitated only a beat, not long enough for any of the senators in the meeting to notice.
Slacker had not been warned that the Alphas were being roused. The only indication he got was a sudden, deep electronic thrumming from all sides. Given that Tipoca city was under attack and their defenses were failing, it was only natural to assume the room was about to explode or clankers were about to pour through the ceiling.
His first instinct was to sprint to the nearest control panel to try freeing his elder vode. He’d guarded their sleep since the war had started and Slacker had never approved of their stasis in the first place. He remembered the Alphas. Keeping them in stasis was a waste. He wasn’t about to leave them to die, wasn’t about to leave Kamino to fend for itself, to fall, when so much death could be prevented by them.
A lightheaded rush of relief and Slacker could breathe again. He needn’t have bothered. Because, according to the terminal he half fell into, the longnecks had enough sense to initiate the wakeup sequence themselves.
So Slacker waited.
Around him the walls vibrated as the long-dormant machinery sluggishly came to life. Slacker monitored the panels on each of the tanks. He had no idea what the lights meant, had deliberately been taught nothing of the stasis tubes or how they worked. But he could infer that the steady appearance of green pips on their control panels meant their inhabitants were passing checkpoints, and could watch the lights flash as each stage processed before shining steady and sure. There were just under one hundred Alphas in stasis and all of them were being roused.
One by one the ARCs roused in a cascade. Hands twitched. Muscles jumped here and there. Toes curled and faces scrunched under breathing masks. Eyes opened and blinked, drowsy and hazy. One alpha came awake all at once on a full body jerk. Another stretched languorously. Several began stretching and rotating their limbs as much as they could in their containers. All of them yawned.
They quickly noticed each other, exchanging nods and smiles, flickers of ARC sign language. A pair of alphas lean toward each other and gently butt their brows against the glass of their tanks, the closest thing they could manage to a Keldabe kiss yet. They also noticed Slacker, of course, and Slacker stood in parade rest, carefully ignoring the calculating gazes.
Slacker stepped forward, drawing the gazes of the alphas nearest to him. His hands flashed through the ARC sign language, a brisk Sir.
The response was instant. Report.
Slacker signed back: Kamino under attack.
Eyes narrowed, faces went grim. It took only a moment for one of them to heave up and wrench the tank lid off prematurely with a squeal of metal.
All around him, Beauty’s ori’vode died one by one. There was no cover for them to hide behind, and they had been surrounded from the start. So he, Tricky, and Bad could only hide behind their protectors and pray.
Beauty flinched when a shot pinged into the ground right next to his leg leaving a sizzling mark on the ground, followed by a cry and yet another body collapsing to the ground. The older trooper wasn’t dead, only wheezing as he clutched a shot leaking black smoke at his throat. Bad skittered across the floor, bumping into him as they stared up into the advancing wall of B1 droids. Then the catwalk above them creaked loudly.
Beauty’s eyes automatically flicked up to the noise despite the blaster being leveled at his head.
Help had come, impossibly, but he only had seconds to live for it. Flash training claimed B1 battle droids were stupid. So in a last ditch effort, he pointed up at the monolith approaching from above. Amazingly, his would-be killer already poised to kill him stopped and looked up.
The gigantic trooper landed with both feet on the droid, crushing it into a flattened crumple of scrap, the man’s impossible weight pounding into the floor.
“Stay down,” a voice deep like thunder ordered.
Beauty immediately ducked to hide behind one of the huge trooper’s legs and almost headbutted an armored upper thigh when Tricky slammed into him from behind in an effort to capitalize on the cover too. Bad barely managed to escape from a droid and duck behind his other leg thanks to a gauntleted fist that shot past in a blur to grab the droid by the head. Then the droid was then lifted and swung around to swipe at two other droids, their cheap construction falling apart under the blow and, in the case of the droid-cum-improvised weapon, flying pieces from the strain of being whipped through the air so fast.
The massive trooper had a heavy repeating blaster in one hand, a weapon normally used in bunker emplacements or mounted on combat vehicles, and seemed to have no problem using it as a club. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it took the trooper only a minute to clear the room of hostiles.
Beauty stepped away from the protective shelter of the vod’s kama and gaped up at him. He could only be an alpha, a batch of clones that Beauty had only ever heard of.
“You saved us,” He stuttered, overwhelmed.
The alpha straightened. Looked down at the three of them.
“You could have saved yourselves,” He rumbled.
“You’re not defenseless,” Their elder vod continued, tone scalding in its flat disapproval, “You’ve been trained for this. Grab the nearest weapon and get ready for-- incoming!”
Droidekas spun into the room, already firing. But their blasts plinked off the trooper’s armor, leaving scalding black marks and not slowing the giant an inch. The cadets dove behind him on instinct, but Tricky dove for a blaster as the vod had initially ordered. Their protecting mountain had to kneel to get low enough to snatch Tricky up by the back of his shirt and half fling the cadet behind the cover of his body, laying one handed cover fire as he did.
There was only so much sustained fire that a droideka could handle but only so long a heavy blaster could fire before overheating. As the spinning muzzle of the gun in the alpha’s left hand began to turn cherry red and as Tricky carefully leaned around him to blast them, a voice suddenly spoke from behind them-
“Keep your heads down!”
General Ti vaulted with a flutter of robes right over their heads and over the alpha’s shoulder, batting a blast out of the air and eeling into the protective bubble of the droideka’s shield to slice it in half. As she did, the alpha shot a whistling bird out of his gauntlet that caught the second droideka in the face right as it’s shields faltered.
The man turned to the willowy form of a Kaminoan, calling, “Lama Su! Where is the Prime clone?”
“Dead,” the prime minister replied simply, “And the cloning facility has been compromised.”
The alpha's sigh crackled through the speaker of his helmet. He was still kneeling, leaning to check nearby fallen vode for signs of life. The last vod that had fallen, the man who had taken a shot to the neck, was nudged by a huge hand, manipulated as easily as a doll. He coughed a tiny rasp of a noise and the mountain paused only a moment before scooping him up and tossing him over his shoulder with no apparent effort, easy as slinging a bath towel. Beauty, Bad, and Trick exchanged speaking glances just as he stood and nudged them with his leg with a curt nod toward Lama Su.
They didn’t need further prompting and the three of them fled to the open doorway behind the Kaminoan, passing the longneck right as the blasterfire picked up again behind them.
“This is far from over, we must get the children to safety! Hssk, More battle droids!” General Ti warned.
“Get the cadets to the lower level!” Barked the alpha as he and Ti blocked blasts and returned fire.
Elsewhere on Kamino, standard troopers stared as the ARC finished twisting a super battle droid in half with his bare hands. Then the pieces, still jerking and sparking, were tossed off the side of the landing platform, discarded into the ocean below like a broken toy. It was far from the first clanker to receive the same treatment.
With the chik of a grenade, the alpha calmly advised in a voice that Ti could feel in her sternum, “We should run.”
She didn’t expect him to grab her by the back of her robes and fling her clear across the room before diving after her. Landing on her feet took a twist in the air with assistance from the Force. She puffed, lekku swinging, managing to not stumble when the floor hiccupped and hot air wooshed past her. She skidded into the room that Lama Su and the cadets had retreated into and realized the alpha had used his body to shield her from the blast when she saw the steaming back side of his armor. Shaak sensed no pain from him, though, only discomfort and the bitter surrounding tang of the pain from the battles around them and the man cradled in his arms.
The gargantuan man was lucky that Tipoca City was built with Kaminoans in mind-- he didn’t need to duck much to get through doorways and his head had a good foot of clearance from the ceiling.
“What now?” Lama Su asked softly.
“Evacuate the cadets,” he bit out, “Here, take this injured verd, drag him behind you. Find anyone with first aid training for him, a paramedic cadet, I don’t care. Leave him behind if you must.”
The children stared wide eyed at their elder but obediently accepted the injured trooper, hooking their arms under his his and grasping for handholds on singed armor. Lama Su’s split upper lip stuck out in consternation.
The alpha ratcheted his gun, “I’ll protect the latest generation. The confederacy must not find them.” Then he turned and left without waiting for a reply.
“I’m coming with you,” Shaak called, rushing after him with her lightsaber still drawn.
“Suit yourself. I’m adaptable,” her companion replied easily.
His hurried pace was, of course, truly ground eating. For every four of her steps, he took one. For the first time in a long time, Shaak considered girding her loins to keep up. He seemed uninterested in talking, which suited her just fine. He was completely obfuscated to her senses, well shielded despite being about as force sensitive as a particularly inert rock, which was interesting.
“Where are we going?” She asked eventually as they streaked across one of Kamino’s many catwalks headlong toward a squadron of droids.
“To the cloning labs. Stay close.”
Leaning around him with a wave of her hand, Shaak murmured, “I’ll handle this.”
Shoving the droids off the edge was simple enough. But the alpha clucked his tongue, and she knew she was meant to hear it through the vox of his helm when he followed up with, “Nice work, but throw them harder next time. With enough force they’ll fall apart like toys. This will finish them.” Some variety of grenade was thrown down after them, and the droids seized and squealed before falling quiescent.
They would defend Kamino, indeed. So far the man was cooperative and certainly impressive, if blunt. Shaak didn’t mind. “I’ll be sure to do so,” She replied easily, then on a hunch asked, “What was that?”
And, true to her theory, his deep reverberating voice replied, “Reverse-Polarity Pulse Grenade. Overloads all of their systems… but it also disrupts my armor’s sensors.” He knocked against the brow of his helm to punctuate his words.
He was a teacher, then. Either from previous experience or natural inclination. Interesting.
“We don’t have that long,” She observed as yet more droids interrupted their brief conversation.
The ting-ting sound of blasts hitting his armor jogged her memory, and Shaak realized his armor was made of the blast plating used on small starships. His flight suit must have been made of a similarly heavy, durable material, because he truly didn’t seem to care if they shot at any part of his body. He didn’t seem to mind her sliding behind his prodigious bulk, either, so she didn’t feel bad about doing so. Having cover such as he to hide behind was already proving to be incredibly beneficial.
The alpha stopped, startled, when the blur of a lightsaber spiraled through the droids accosting them.
“Just some friends,” Shaak assured him.
The lightsaber slapped into Padawan Skywalker’s hand as he and his master turned the corner. They both stopped, startled, when they laid eyes on the ARC towering over her. Kenobi’s eyes blew wide and he took a step back. Skywalker did so as well, but he punctuated the move with a low whistle, which earned him a dirty look from his master.
“Obi-Wan, Anakin, it’s good to see you both.” And it was-- she had no idea what the pair was doing here when they should have been part of the air defense. Though, perhaps, it was no wonder given the pair’s tendency to destroy every ship they ever laid hands on.
Obi-Wan recovered quickly, trotting across the room to join her and exchange a brief embrace. “Likewise. The facility is being overrun. I was beginning to fear you were dead.”
“She will be soon if we don’t keep moving,” The alpha snapped, his huge voice curt, cutting straight over any conversation with ease.
“He’s rude for a clone,” Padawan Skywalker observed, trying ineffectively to posture at a clone easily quadruple his size.
Shaak could already guess what the ARC trooper’s opinions would be but, true to Skywalker’s accusation, he surprised her by having no problems voicing them.
“And you’re complacent for someone who may be on the losing side of a battle,” The alpha shot back, “I have not worked with Jedi before, but I was led to expect… more. The droids aren’t standing around talking. We shouldn’t be either. Follow me if you want to do some good.”
And... there was nothing to do but to nod and agree.
Elsewhere in Tipoca city, a B1 battle droid stopped, bewildered, when a gigantic hunk of fallen machinery started moving towards them. The unidentified machine had been knocked down by a misfired rocket not long ago. Since its downfall, it had served as annoying shelter for Republic forces and an obstruction to the CIS push to invade.
“Uhhh… Uh-oh. Um….” The B1 squeaked, pausing.
The B1 ran a swift calculation in their head. Replayed the memory of the machinery falling. The unidentified machine must have weighed tons, and by all rights should not be advancing on them. There could only be one cause.
“Jedi,” the B1 decided, “Jedi presence detected.”
“Jedi,” Another B1 agreed, “Jedi presence detected.”
Before they could rally, a Republic Clone Trooper appeared out from behind the cover, a blaster lifted to fire, striding confidently toward them.
The B1 paused again, sensors snagging on the Republic Clone Trooper’s size compared to the machinery still grinding and wailing toward them. There must be something wrong with the B1’s optical array, their depth perception was all off.
“Uhhhh…” The B1 buzzed, gun half lifting, the small cameras that acted as its eyes flexing in and out of sync to try and gauge what they were looking at. Beside the B1, another B1 vanished, blasted hard enough to knock it completely out of sight.
The trooper was holding a heavy blaster in one hand. That was a very large gun. The B1’s scale was completely off-
The B1 shattered when a correctly sized Clone Trooper leaned around the advancing machinery and blasted it in the chest.
“Amazing… this is a single generation?” Anakin breathed, looking up at walls covered floor to ceiling in millions of pods containing fetuses in spiraling, endless columns. The unborn children shifted, squirmed, and twitched in their busy sleep.
“Yes. Now pick up your jaws, Jetii, and cover me.”
“Whatever you’re doing, do it fast-- We’re about to be overrun,” Master Ti warned.
“I only need a few seconds."
The alpha had to bend nearly in half to reach a panel on one of the cloning tanks.
“What are you doing?” Obi-Wan huffed, arms moving in smooth precise movements to block blast after blast, “Raising a shield, sending a distress signal?”
“No. I entered the self destruct code.”
It took her a moment to understand. When his words registered, Shaak whipped around to stare at him, hand moving without thought to block a blast that would have hit her in the face, “You did what?”
“Jango’s orders,” He said, the growl of his gun momentarily blotting out all other sound until the wave of droids calmed long enough for him to stop firing and finish his sentence. “We can’t allow the clones to fall into the wrong hands. They grow up loyal to the Republic, or they don’t grow up at all.”
There was… So much to unpack from that.
“There has to be another way!"
“There is no other way. Unless…” A finger maybe as wide as two of her own pointed at the wall, “Use your powers to tear open the transparisteel. Do it now before the next assault reaches us!”
“Y-Yes of course!” Skywalker blurted.
“And drown us all?” protested Shaak.
“No,” The alpha replied with faux patience, “You’re going to hold back the ocean.”
Of course Obi-Wan saw nothing wrong with this plan and merely stepped between her and Skywalker, a hand already raised, palm flat, “Focus, Anakin. Let the Force flow through you. If we must, we all work in unison.”
All things were possible in the Force. Shaak sighed through her nose, and lifted her hand alongside theirs.
Size mattered not. Only the Force.
Shattering the walkway to the cloning labs was simple, particularly with Obi-Wan and a powerhouse like Anakin working with her. Shaak found it easier to focus on the air, pushing it against the looming weight of the ocean, and in her focus she barely noticed the droids flush into the ocean.
“I hope we didn’t just commit suicide,” Anakin commented brightly.
“We need to close the tunnel,” Obi-Wan reminded them.
Under their touch, the stump of the tunnel curled back, folding back in layers with popping glass and squeals of mental bending.
“It's working, Jedi,” The alpha thrummed.
Until, finally, the tunnel crammed tight into the doorway, letting only thin spurts of water to slip free.
“... What now?” Padawan Skywalker asked, stepping closer to examine the steady leak.
“First, I deactivate the Self-Destruct before we’re all blown to Corellia. Then we hold this position until the battle is over… or we’re dead.”
“The block will hold,” Skywalker decided, “but it won’t stop the room from slowly flooding.”
“Or our oxygen from depleting,” Obi-Wan added cheerfully, “unless the lab has independent environmental control. Which I certainly hope it does. An underwater facility would be silly without.”
Shaak came to stand beside their guide, her voice pitched lower, head tipped back to look at him, “Thank you for saving them.”
“Hn,” The alpha harrumphed, “You’re welcome. But I didn’t do it for you. I was only following Jango’s orders.”
JANGO, YEARS BEFORE
“What the fuck?” Jango spat, aghast.
There were babies inside of jumbo-sized decanting tubes. Babies as big as his chest.
“We improved them,” The incredibly tall, potentially biased, Kaminoan replied.
Now, Jango had no illusions about his own height. At five feet seven inches, he knew he was considered by many to be short for a (mostly) human man. It had never bothered him-- it was the small warriors you really had to watch out for. They were fast, with a lower center of gravity, and just as capable. But even though he had no problems with his height, he couldn’t help feeling a little bit offended.
… Training and feeding the big bastards was going to be a pain in the shebs.