“Well. Damn, Codes. You’ve really done it now,” Gregor said as Cody took his armour off. They were in the senior officers’ bunkroom aboard the Instigator, the flagship of the 212th Imperial Attack Battalion. All the others were on duty or taking advantage of their sparse recreation time, but Gregor had followed a grim-faced Cody from the hangar and stalwartly refused to leave him alone.
“Don’t remember asking for commentary.” He raised an eyebrow and looked at the other clone. “Or company.”
Gregor ignored him. “Everyone’s been worried since word came in.”
Cody did his best to keep his voice calm and measured. “I did my job, Captain. If Darth Erulus has a problem with how I did it, there’s little I can do about that.”
There was a long silence as Cody slipped out of his blacks and reached for one of the folded-up uniforms sitting on the top of the trunk at the end of his bunk.
“It’s just that no one wants to lose you, vod,” Gregor’s voice sounded tight. Fragile. Nothing like the beskar-hard edge an Imperial trooper should have at all times.
Cody stood still. “CC-5576-39, dismissed,” he said, finally.
Gregor got up, and after one look back at his commander, obeyed. His men would be okay, Cody decided. He thought it was likely that Boil would be promoted into his position and Cody was certain he’d be able to handle it. Cody had done his best and he had to trust that the care he’d put into training and leading the troopers under his command would live on after him.
Cody activated the door controls outside the small office the Sith had chosen for his own while aboard. It had surprised Cody a bit that he hadn’t simply taken over General Deviiro’s office, but it wasn’t his place to speculate about that. No answer came through on the built-in comm but the door slid open and he walked inside.
Erulus sat at the large desk that took up most of the room. There were stacks of datapads around him as well as a battered-looking teapot and a small empty cup. It was his first time seeing the man outside of a command briefing or a battlefield and he looked different, Cody thought. Still powerful and dangerous, of course. But also... tired. He hastily pushed away those thoughts and hoped that Erulus hadn’t been able to pick up any traces of them. He still didn’t quite understand how all this Force nonsense worked, just that it did. He came to attention, saluted and stared straight ahead.
The Sith looked up and hummed softly. “I don’t think we’ve been formally introduced.”
“My designation is CC-2224, sir.”
“Cody, isn’t it?”
Cody couldn’t stop from taking a sharp intake of breath. “Yes, sir.”
“Right then, Commander Cody. I assume you know why I called you here.”
He knew he should say something in reply, but he couldn’t. Instead he just nodded stiffly.
“You disobeyed my direct order.”
“Yes, sir.” Cody had had few direct encounters with Sith before Erulus, but his experience with natborns in general had taught him that brief, simple answers were the best. There was no point in trying to explain himself.
Erulus sighed and leaned forward. He poured some of the tea in the pot into the cup, though it was clearly no longer hot. “Care to elaborate on that, Commander?”
“Um, I, uh,” Cody said, floundering at bit at the unexpected request. “I did disobey you, sir. I don’t have an excuse.”
“But surely you did have a reason.” Erulus’ yellow, no, more like golden, eyes clashed with his reddish-brown hair, Cody noticed for the first time, though he thought it made for a rather striking image. Those eyes were glued to the clone, watching him intently.
If the Sith did want to hear Cody’s side, there wasn’t much else he could do but give it. “You were in danger, Darth Erulus. I don’t think… I didn’t think, at the time, that you saw the attacker on your left, coming from behind, so I left my post where you’d ordered me to stay to take care of the threat.”
Erulus took a sip of the tea he’d poured and frowned. It probably wasn’t very good, Cody thought. Cold caf certainly wasn’t. “You were impressively fast. I believe I owe you my life.”
“Sir?” Cody asked, stunned.
The Sith lord smiled. “I’m thanking you, Cody.”
“Ah, that's, I mean, you’re welcome.” Cody shifted, uneasy, and suddenly feeling like the shiniest of shinies fresh from Kamino. “My lord,” he added.
“At ease,” Erulus said and sat his abandoned tea down. “And Kenobi is fine.”
“My birth surname. You can call me that.”
“I don’t that would be—”
Erulus (Kenobi?) shrugged. “Or “general” if you wish since I’ll be taking over from Tasneem.”
“Understood, General Kenobi.” Cody cocked his head curiously, the shock and relief from moments before having finally dissipated somewhat. “Is General Deviiro…?” He knew he shouldn’t ask, but for a natborn, the woman had been a decent commanding officer who made a point of listening to her commander most of the time.
“She’s been given a governorship in the Mid Rim, per her request, I believe.”
“I see. Thank you, sir. I look forward to serving with you as long as you require it.” The formal words slid off his tongue easier than he would have expected.
Kenobi laughed. “You might live to regret that, Commander,” he said, though it seemed to be simply amusement rather than malice in his tone.
“You see, Cody, I intend to become emperor.” He said the words plainly, like someone discussing their plans for dinner and Cody couldn’t detect the slightest amount of arrogance or greed. “I won’t try to force you to stay at my side any longer than you wish, but I thought you should know.”
Nothing in his training on Kamino or after had prepared him for a response to a statement like that, but the man was a Sith. Didn’t they all have that aspiration? “I was made to serve the Empire and the Sith. I won’t be leaving your side unless you wish it.”
“Right, so now there’s just one more matter to discuss.”
Cody waited. This would be when he was punished for his disobedience. Whatever it was, he could take it. It was a gift, seeing as he hadn’t expected to leave the office alive at all. “Of course, sir.”
“You see, I’ve been put in command of the entire Third Systems Army.”
“Oh,” Cody said, confused. “Congratulations.”
“Thank you, but I’ve been asked to appoint a marshal commander and I can’t think of anyone more suited to the job than you. What would you say to that?”
He felt frozen in place, but as difficult as it was, Cody forced his jaw open. “I accept, sir. Thank you.”
“Excellent, let’s set up a briefing for tomorrow morning, but…” The Sith actually seemed to hesitate. Cody wondered what else this astonishing man could have in store for him. “You’re under no obligation, but if you wish, maybe we could get a head start over dinner this evening in my quarters.”
“That… sure. I mean, I appreciate the invitation. I’d be happy to meet with you then, since we do have a lot to go over.”
“Wonderful.” The Sith’s eyes gleamed, and yes, there was darkness there, but there was so much more.