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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 prevent 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. At least beyond the already cautious standard for the GAR's troops. 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 lekku 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 lekku 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 lekku 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-


"Sorry, General," 


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."


"Yes, General."


“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. 


They stared.


“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.”


“--presence detected-”




“Blast them-” 


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.” 


“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. 

Chapter Text


Kamino was won. Not as easily as it should have been considering they knew the attack would happen in advance. But the CIS forces were slinking away, beaten, and the GAR was stumbling back to its feet. Bloodied, dazed, and wounded but… picking itself back up. 


By chance, Cody met Bly’s gaze over the war table in a brief lull. His batchmate was slumped, weight braced on his hands, head ducked, glancing askance at him with eyes aching from the same soul-weary grief that Cody felt in his own breast. They both knew how high the casualties were, though neither would know who exactly died until the full casualty list was compiled. For now they had the estimated body count which was wrenchingly high, only clumsily ordered by class but already indicating a devastating loss of STs and a heartbreaking number of CTs. Then there was the tiny yet astonishingly high number of Jedi confirmed slain, each a massive blow to the war effort despite the fact that Cody could count the number lost on one hand. 


The day was won. He had to tell himself that was enough. 


Cody frowned minutely at Bly, letting their gaze hold in silent acknowledgement for a beat before inhaling and looking down at the holographic pips, each representing the GAR’s ships dragging themselves back into order. 


He had been waiting for the next ping for his attention. Follow-ups with his captains, orders from the Admiral or a General, something new that required his attention. So he answered the new blip of an incoming alert immediately. 


A hologram flickered to life in front of Cody. Cody stared at the fully armored trooper for a beat too long, thrown off by how familiar the trooper was without being instantly recognizable. 


As a rule, one of the first things the Vode learned outside of flash training was how to pick out individuals from a sea of identical faces and homogeneous armor. To the majority of outsiders the Vode pretended to not be able to recognize each other, pretended there was no need to pick out an individual because there were, of course, no individuals among clones. Cody often went out of his way to list out full serial codes for specific troopers to further that same illusion. But the truth was, Cody could clock one of his batchmates in full kit from fifty paces at a glance.


But it did take effort. They were clones. Cody and his brothers had to categorize rank, paint, scratches, speech patterns, and body language to identify and know each other. Without paint, Cody could recognize Bly by the way he moved, his posture, the odd weight he carried his upper body with. But Bly was similar in that way to Bacara--it was Bacara’s accent that gave him away. He knew Fox by the absolute silence of his steps and Wolffe by his odd stomping gait. They were better than anyone but Jedi at identifying their own by leagues, though, and typically far outstripped their Jedi at IDing a vod when they couldn’t use the Force to cheat. 


Cody didn’t instantly recognize this vod, so his eyes snagged on the shape of the vod’s rank pauldron, the pattern of paint in a simple stripe down the fin of the helmet, over their brow, tracing around the eyes to join at the nose and continue straight down the chin, his brain picking up speed as those details registered in his mind because there was only one thing those details could mean-  


“Marshall Commander,” the vod greeted. Bly’s head whipped up, his eyes wide. 


A deep bass voice, deep enough to make the vocoder buzz and shake but not as strongly as it could have. There was warmth and approval in the vod’s tone. Recognition clicked fully into place and Cody snapped to full attention, shock thrilling through his entire body. 


“Captain Fordo!” Cody blurted. 


“Sir,” Fordo replied, tipping his head. Then he continued, graciously ignoring Cody’s informal fumble with a dash of amusement in his voice, a gentle reminder of who outranked who, “Tipoca City is secure. Awaiting further instructions.”


“Acknowledged,” Cody managed, voice unsteady, “How many ARC units were deployed?” 


“All units, sir.”


The longnecks must have been fucking terrified. 


“Take control of squadrons as you see fit and remain on standby for allocation,” Cody instructed. 


Fordo tipped his head with a curt, “Visk,” before the connection cut. 


A moment of silence passed. Then Bly whistled, long and low. “I never thought the Kaminoans would do it.”


“Does that mean they finally caught a clue,” Cody mused, “or that they’re stupider than we ever conceived?” 


Bly smirked meanly, indulging in a brief cackle. Surrounding vode here and there in the dim light of the bridge picked the laugh up, the lot of them chuckling like a pack of strills on the hunt.


“I’m pleased you are unharmed,” Lama Su stated smoothly, gesturing elegantly to the space across from him. As his long hand moved, a spoon shaped seat descended soundlessly from the ceiling to provide her customary seat whenever they met. 


“Thank you, Prime Minister,” Shaak replied, taking the offered chair. 


There were already refreshments laid out. For the first time Shaak decided to partake, nodding when Taun We wordlessly offered to pour her a glass. 


“I imagine,” Lama Su murmured as Taun We slowly poured him a drink as well, “you have many questions.” 


“About the ARC troopers, yes,” Shaak nodded with a diplomatic smile. The water offered tasted good, though it carried a faint metallic crispness to it. She drank deeply of it-- it was the first refreshment she’d had since the assault. 


The Prime Minister nodded gravely. “I will answer your questions to the best of my ability.” 


All of their conversations started this way.  She took care to keep the draw of her lungs soundless and her face unmoving from its polite position before asking, “Why were they kept in stasis?” 


Lama Su blinked. “As per our previous conversation,” Shaak twanged with annoyance, “they exhibit greater inclination toward their donor’s personality and independence. That makes them willful and less amenable to control.” 


Finishing her glass and setting it down on the tray, Shaak took a deep breath. Taun We nearly teleported across the room to refill Shaak’s glass. “I was hoping you would elaborate on that. What traits specifically?”


His head cocked minutely. “Well… Have you ever met Jango Fett, Master Ti?” 


“No, I never had the pleasure,” Shaak replied, lips twitching before she could school them. 


“Hmm… Yes.  I hear his reputation precedes him, particularly in Jedi circles.”


“Indeed. The Jedi Killer,” She murmured, taking another drought of water, “Have you found anything regarding why Fett was chosen to be the template yet?”


Lama Su shook his head, sipping delicately at his own beverage less fastidiously than he normally did. Certainly worn out from the day as well. Honestly, Shaak was surprised that the Prime Minister had been willing to meet with her so immediately after the battle. 


“No, we have not. I remain doubtful that there is anything to uncover. Has the Senate approved an inquest to further investigate the commission for the army?” 


Shaak tongued one of her fangs. As always, Lama Su was very good at polite dismissals. 


“No, they have not yet.” 


“Then we shall have to wait,” he murmured, setting his glass down carefully before turning to face her fully, “Now. I believe you were inquiring after the template. Jango Fett was… Shall we say, a volatile, intense man. On a personal level, I found him to be gruff and exceedingly practical. Quiet. Private. He also seemed... inclined toward paranoia. But I found many of the Cuy Val Dar hired by Fett and the specialists hired by the Republic to be much the same. I cannot say whether that is a noteworthy trait for someone of his profession.” 


“Then the ARCs are much the same,” Shaak concluded. 


“Very much so. They also have a tendency to be even more paranoid than their Prime.”


Hm. That could mean any number of things coming from the scientists. Lama Su’s head bowed to watch his own fingers stroke along the bowl of his chair, his spade shaped upper lip tucking in minutely. It wasn’t often he telegraphed thoughtfulness, and she suspected it was a quirk he picked up intentionally. Lama Su was nothing if not deliberately cultivated. So Shaak allowed him a moment to mull over whatever thought that tempted him, busying herself by quietly feeling the currents in the force and her own place in it. She’d had a feeling that something was… important... about these gigantic beings. The anticipation in the air could be her imagination, but… She was very motivated to hear him speak frankly for once.


“I am compelled to elaborate further on the topic,” Lama Su began hesitantly, “given that the Alpha class troopers were taken out of stasis under duress at my suggestion. We were not able to discuss the ramifications of their deployment fully at the time.”


Oh? Shaak’s senses blanketed throughout the room contracted with anticipation. “Please, speak your mind.” 


“When I say that they are volatile, do keep in mind that I am quoting observations that were noted in their files by the engineers who oversaw their development. I also had occasion to observe them myself, moreso than I was able to interact with later generations. The ARC troopers that made it through the rigorous training process are the best of their batch. We filtered out the ARCs that were too independent. Those who would not serve their purpose were disposed of.” 


“I have no doubt your vetting process was rigorous,” Shaak replied. She had to be careful to keep the majority of the scorn out of her voice. 


“Just so,” Lama Su agreed, missing her sarcasm, “Therefore, I can say with certainty that the product you are receiving is still top quality, as promised. They are fit to fight in your war, they are obedient enough to have passed through their training, and as you can see from this confrontation, they can be trusted to rise to their purpose.”


Shaak was almost disappointed. Was that all he was going for? Another sales pitch? She pursed her lips, stroking a hand over her left lek as she adjusted it to a more comfortable position on her shoulder. 


“But..?” She questioned slowly, playing along.


“But,” he agreed, “They are… more likely than any other type of trooper to disobey orders.”


Shaak’s brows knit. “I gathered as much per our earlier discussion.”


“Mm… But that isn’t what I am getting at, Master Ti,” he intoned, his upper lip poking out as he chose his next words with a fascinating amount of care, “… should your ARC troopers decide to disobey, they will be very, very hard to reign in if they don’t want to be.” 


“Is that so?” she murmured, bringing a knuckle to her lips in her own display of thoughtfulness. 


“Yes. The entirety of the Alpha class batch was put into stasis because they were proving… difficult to control. For the most part, like I said, they follow direction well enough. But before the army was claimed, there was an incident that led us to realize how formidable our creations are.”


“Ah. I was going to ask about what led to their containment.”


Lama Su nodded and took another elegant sip of his drink. He only continued once he had fully set down the glass and returned his arms to their resting position.


“One of the units, Alpha-30, murdered one of the trainers hired by Fett.” 


Shaak’s eyebrows flew up. “Do you know why?”


Predictably, the Prime Minister cocked his head and blinked. It was a mannerism she recognized from familiarity; he did that whenever he was caught off guard by a question, whenever he couldn’t understand why Shaak cared about something. 


“I do not,” he said simply, “The unit slew a trainer and was subsequently decommissioned.”


“....” Shaak chewed her lip for a moment, “Was the trainer disliked?” 


“Near universally,” Lama Su replied earnestly. She had to restrain a startled laugh. 


“I see. So you’re concerned they may turn on us?”


“No, not necessarily. As per-” dank farrik, this again- “my earlier assertion, they are loyal and motivated to perform their function. But… there is a possibility, yes. Moreover, should a unit disobey it… could cause massive amounts of destruction. You’ve seen how imposing they are--the Alphas are our finest soldiers. Decommissioning Alpha-30 was... an ordeal. The unit was unbothered by sedatives and nearly tore Tipoca City apart before it was put down by one of the Cuy Val Dar. Most of the Alpha class clones that were previously decommissioned were not fully developed at the time of decommissioning. That was the first and only occasion that a fully matured ARC was ever removed from service, and it was an eye opening experience for everyone.”


“I see…” Shaak murmured, her stomach roiling. Oversized children put down in their sleep. A man fighting for his life before being put down like a strill without trial or compassion. “How did you get the rest into stasis?”


“They went willingly,” Lama Su provided immediately, surprising her, “Once they were in stasis, we debated decommissioning the entire batch, but… We held onto them in case the Jedi wanted to risk using them for their impressive capabilities. It would have been a waste of resources and a shame to completely destroy such achievements.” 


Having met one of them, she already sympathized with the Alphas. It was easy to infer their perspective to each grain of information given by Lama Su. She couldn’t imagine feeling anything but sympathy for the disenfranchised men. It was no question whether or not she would vouch for them. The Order would offer these eldest sons what little protection they could offer. A chance to find themselves. If they chose to slip the leash, chose to disobey… then Shaak couldn’t find it in herself to blame them. 


“Well,” Shaak Ti said, leaning back and clapping her hands, “Regardless, the tooka is out of the sack. There isn’t any putting them back into stasis, now. I appreciate the information, Lama Su.”


Lama Su inclined his head, “Indeed. We shall see what comes of their release.” 


Cody outranked every man inside the barracks he stood outside of, but even still he almost hesitated to step in. He wanted to tap the frame to ask for permission to enter. He dared not, though, because he was Marshall Commander and the denizens of this space would look unkindly on such cowardice. Instead he strode in and stopped a few feet inside, just far enough that the doors closed behind him.


The barracks were like any other rest block. It was dominated by a broad wall of sleeping tubes, most tucked away flush to the wall, some extended out. Lockers to store gear. Benches for dressing. However, the entire room was scaled up threefold. Each sleeping pod was roomier than most escape pods, and they were all square, arranged to rest on the ground so the floor could aid in supporting the occupants' massive weight. The lockers towered over Cody’s head, and he had memories of needing a running jump to sit on the benches as a cadet. There were fewer beds in this bunkroom, tucked away from the rest of the facility.


Around the room, the grand majority of the surviving ARC batch lounged as any vode would on their off time. Cody recognized many of them-- Muzzle sat on the floor so he could use one of the benches as a work table to clean his weapons on. Fordo and Colt lounged like lazy cats on an open sleep pod. Bly was already tucked into the cuddle pile with them beaming happily. Nate was doing slow stretches on the ground nearby. Alpha-17 was sprawled out on another bed, hands behind his head, eyes cracking open when the door opened to admit Cody. Blitz and Valiant were sitting together pouring over a datapad with Havoc resting against their legs. Spar was digging through a locker, frowning. 


There were far more that he didn't recognize immediately, all lounging like gigantic felinids here and there. The rest were likely sleeping tucked away in the walls or roaming Kamino reuniting with their brothers.


All of them as one turned to look at the door, the room utterly quiet. Cody flicked a simple hand sign to them immediately, a terse ‘All clear.’ 


The ARCs relaxed immediately. Smiles were offered. 


Cody strode up to Alpha-17, hooking his bucket to his belt. The ARC was already swinging out of his bed to stand to his nearly ten foot height, towering over Cody. 


He’d heard enough complaints to know to be careful climbing an ARC while wearing boots and being as heavy as CCs were. Alpha also knew what he wanted-- he bent a knee for Cody to plant his boot on his thigh, hooked a hand behind Cody’s leg, helped boost Cody up so he could grab the back of Alpha’s thick neck and tentatively press their brows together in a nervous tap of a keldabe kiss. 


Several deep voices chuckled. Someone cooed, “Awww…” 


Alpha’s cheek bent in a crooked smile. Then the gigantic man pressed back in return, accepting the intimate gesture. Cody exhaled shakily, then breathed in, lungs filling with the strong, musky, almost metallic scent of his favorite training officer. Alpha reciprocated, letting Cody brush their noses together ticklishly, nuzzling back with his paw of a hand holding Cody close by the back of his neck. 


Then Cody tipped his head and kissed Alpha ardently.


“Oooh, get it Kot’ika,” Someone wolf whistled as the chuckles erupted again, louder this time, interspersed with jeers. 


Alpha grinned, wet teeth against Cody’s lips, ruining the kiss. Cody would have bitten him if Alpha hadn’t schooled his amusement away quickly enough to kiss back just as deeply. As they kissed, Alpha hooked his hands under Cody’s thighs. Cody wrapped arms around his shoulders to help support his own weight as their tongues caressed. 


“You’re fuckin’ heavy, Kot’ika,” Alpha growled into his mouth.


Kote scoffed, “Heavy to you, vod? Stasis made you soft.” 


He fully expected to be dropped for his sass. He let himself drop, bouncing back with a huff and a smirk. Alpha leaned his shoulder on the wall, eyeing him with a faint smile. 


“You filled out nice, Kot’ika,” Spar commented, slinking over to prop up the wall beside Alpha-17.


“Thanks, sir. But I am here on business. We need to catch you all up,” Cody asserted, “And to get you placed into the GAR. I’m not gonna let your assignments get pulled out of a hat like ours were.” 


That sobered the room quickly, and within seconds the barracks were dead silent with their rapt attention. 


Cody took a breath. 


“First thing; I got confirmation this morning that A-99 is still alive.”





Alpha-17 said goodbye to his brothers that morning. Many of them were gone before him-- Valiant and Tavo to Coruscanta to join the Guard, Muzzle and Havi to join the Fourth Outer Rim Army, Acklay to join the 104th and Valk to the Third Mid Rim Army. After them, Nate, Spar, Havoc, and Maze were joining Bly to integrate into the 2nd Sector Army. Then Alpha, Fordo, Bruce, Bee, and Lovey boarded the Negotiator for the Third Systems Army. 


Alpha-17 wasn’t amused when Kote gave Alpha his own direct assignment. Because the little bastard put him into the 212th under him and  his own Jetii General. Because of course he did. 


Alpha was even less impressed when the brat introduced them to their new Jetii. 


It was the chatty redhead he met in the assault, of course. 


Kote was hovering attentively at the pretty Jetii's side like a loyal, well trained strill. Alpha-17's regard was hidden under his helm but Cody knew what Alpha saw-- his vod'ika's jaw jutted out stubbornly. 


Ori'buyce, kih'kovid. Mir'sheb could claim that Alpha’s assignment was only practical all he liked, but Alpha-17 knew him. When Kot’ika decided on something, he locked his jaw and bore down so hard that killing him was the only way to stop him. When Kote loved, he loved irreversibly with every ounce of his soul. There had been plenty of occasions Alpha had looked down on Kote, a hand around his skinny neck, and thought he might have to kill him this time before he fucked up the rest of his squadron with his destructive tendencies. He hadn’t grown out of those habits a single fucking bit.


Alpha-17 could already tell Kote was utterly smitten with his Jetii.


Kote loved Alpha-17 very much despite Alpha's best efforts.


Kote knew damn well that Alpha-17 and Fordo were close. Kote also knew that Lovey, Bruce, and Bee were Fordo's favorites, his protégés. So all of them had to come along too. 


Kote was hoarding all of his favorite things, apparently. 


On a private comm channel, Fordo sighed audibly. Bruce and Bee chuckled. 


Cody stared at Alpha head on, eyes hard. Stubborn. Last Alpha-17 saw him, nearly two years ago lost in the space of a blink, Cody had been young, headstrong, and uncertain. Alpha could tell at a glance that now his best trainee had earned his rank as Marshall Commander. Kote had finished settling into his own skin. He moved with lethal confidence and his sharp eyes missed nothing. Even still, he was no different from the cadet Alpha remembered. Alpha was as proud of him as he was annoyed with him. 


“Greetings gentlemen,” Kote’s Jedi said once he met them halfway, smiling pleasantly. He had to crane his head back to look at them. Then he paused, eyeing Alpha-17 thoughtfully for a moment before his gaze brightened. “Oh, you’re the ARC I met during the assault. It will be a genuine pleasure to work with you.” 


That tripped him up for half a second. ARCs kept the markings of their armor standardized on purpose to throw off recognition. Alpha glanced at Kote, who was already flicking hand sign behind the Jetii's back. 


‘Situation normal,’ Cody’s hands advised, ‘Jedi shit.’ 


Hmph. That meant they wouldn’t be able to swap places without getting caught. Annoying. 


“Ready for duty, sir,” Alpha-17 replied simply. 


The Jedi didn’t acknowledge the noncommittal answer beyond a flicker of a grin that spelled nothing but trouble. “Please, introduce yourselves.” 


“A-77,” Fordo replied.


“A-17,” Alpha-17 murmured. 


“A-31,” Bee chirped. 


“A-88,” Bruce said, then gestured to Lovey, “A-89.” 

At his side, Lovey hand-signed his number and nodded. The Jetii smiled and his small hands replied, ‘Acknowledged, A-89.’ Lovey brightened, his head swiveling to telegraph his pleasure. Alpha resisted the urge to throw something at him. 


The Jetii beamed at him, his eyes twinkling, ‘Can you read lips?’ 


When Lovey nodded, the Jedi copied the nod with one of his own. Fordo tapped a ‘well done’ to Lovey in dadita. The Jedi made no move to acknowledge the taps of Fordo’s boots or Lovey’s tapped out laughter out in return. That didn’t mean he hadn’t understood, though-- they couldn’t be sure how good his poker face was yet. But Alpha-17 was betting it was very, very good. They would have to keep testing him to see if they could get a reaction in dadita, then clone didi. Cody’s willingness to sign behind him meant the redhead likely couldn’t sense the handtalk happening outside of his sightline, but Alpha wasn’t trusting that assessment just yet. It was important that they knew what they could and could not hide around their new Jetii. 


The redhead continued addressing the group. Now, however, when he spoke his hands flashed to mirror his words with thoughtless confidence. 


“Excellent. It’s a pleasure to meet you all. If you have other names you would like me to use, please let me know. For now, though, I am Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi. Welcome to the Third Systems Army.” 

Chapter Text




“Now,” Durge said, “where are your pet clones?”


“Getting the drop on you,” replied Alpha-17. 


Durge had only seconds of warning before a bdow sounded and Alpha’s shot pierced straight through his eye and out the back of his helm. The shot should have killed him, but he merely stumbled back with a choking noise. Durge was about as tall as a CC and wore heavy metal armor so comprehensively that Alpha suspected he might be some kind of high class kill-droid. The spray of oddly watery pink blood supported the theory that Durge might be organic, but Alpha frowned when the bounty hunter merely laughed with an angry edge to his voice, “For that, I’m going to rip off your head and carbon flush down your throat.”


General Glaive swung a fist that hit the hunter’s chin with Force enhanced strength. “You’re tough and nasty, I’ll give you that,” Glaive retorted, booting the hunter in the stomach with a metal clang, “But so am I.”


Alpha ignored the theatrics-- his own Jetii was slopped in the corpse-filled mud, struggling under his smothering robe trying to get back to his feet, not dead. Instead of risking friendly fire to get a hit in, Alpha-17 plucked Kenobi up, lifting the small man out of the sucking mud completely. Kenobi hung from his careful grip like a lothkitten, his limbs slow and uncertain for a long moment as he caught his breath. 


“You alright?” Alpha-17 asked, tipping him onto his feet. Kenobi’s tiny feet sunk into the mud and he struggled more than he had previously to muscle his way through the thick slurry. Alpha let the Jetii take hold of his leg armor to steady himself, hovering one hand over the curve of Kenobi’s mud-caked skull in case of a stray shot. 


There was a pause as his Jetii wheezed.


“No,” Kenobi said eventually, voice tight, “I think he cracked my skull.”


Probably-- Alpha-17 could recognize the careful, stiff way that the Jedi moved. 


“You should be dead,” Alpha commented, punctuated with a taptap to the brow of his own bucket, “you’re wearing a helmet next time.”


“Just help me find Anakin,” Kenobi coughed.


It took only moments before the entire mission was certifiably karked. Super battle droids began marching into the swamp pillowed by a choking gas that spelled nothing but trouble. General Glaive made no progress on the bounty hunter--the bastard only mocked them with every breath. Thankfully, Kenobi and Skywalker were performing well enough despite head injury and inexperience respectively. 


A stray shot from a super battle droid punched through the chest of one of his standards and Alpha-17 spat, “We should fall back, General. We've lost the element of surprise, and we have no intel on this new weapon.” 


“I agree!” Commander Skywalker cried, “Master, we should warn the Naboo, maybe evacuate Theed!” 


“Don’t let your emotions rule your mind,” Kenobi responded solemnly, his sabers moving to deflect with ease despite how carefully he held his neck. Another one of Alpha’s vode stumbled, knocked back by a shot clean through his skull because the dikut stood up in the middle of a firefight, “this ‘Durge’ mentioned hostages. Take 17 and find them.” 


Alpha-17 struggled to swallow down his frustration as he fired another shot, taking out another super battle droid, “Dividing our forces is a tactical error. The hostages are acceptable losses.” 


“Not to me. You will rescue them. That's an order.” Kenobi snapped before leaping straight into the fray.


For the nth time in Alpha’s life, he swallowed his objections and responded simply, “Visk.”



The explosion flung Alpha-17 off his feet and tumbled him, but it didn’t even momentarily daze him. But he hadn’t missed the heavy, metallic footsteps of Durge. So Alpha let himself sway, let himself make noises of pain, did nothing to steady the frantic pounding of his heart. 


“You ruined my mission-” Durge snarled, swiping a metal fist through the air. Alpha shoved back out of the way, barely dodging, and the bounty hunter’s voice broke off in shock. 


Alpha hadn’t had a long time to observe Durge. He was a completely new, unknown element discovered scant hours ago. In that time, Alpha could already tell that the bounty hunter was overconfident to the point of practically begging to die. His footsteps had not been heavy because of his cumbersome armor; hed not been bothering to conceal his presence. Durge was just as fast if not faster than Alpha judging by everything he’d observed so far. But he’d taken a swipe at Alpha completely unprepared for any meaningful opposition and was too late to stop Alpha from snatching his wrist. Even caught flat footed, Durge didn’t lock down anywhere near hard enough to fight Alpha dragging him to the ground. Obviously, he was under the impression he would still be able to win if an imposing man like Alpha got a good grip on him.


Even a novice warrior knew that taller beings had higher centers of gravity and were, therefore, easier to trip. Jango had made sure every single one of the Alpha series had been trained extensively in wrestling and CQC to make up for the obvious handicap from the day they were old enough to walk. The ARC clamped hard on him, grimly satisfied. For all that Durge boasted that Jetii were easy targets, the man was falling into the exact same pitfalls that Force users were prone to. It wasn’t often that any ARC enjoyed the convenience of being underestimated. 


Durge’s upper body swiveled to catch his fall with a hand with spineless flexibility. Alpha’s leg was too long, so he settled for kneeing him full strength in the head. The metal of Durge’s helmet tolled like a bell and caved in against the starship plating of Alpha’s knee. Durge blurted a startled noise of pain. Alpha finished dragging him to the ground and pounced to sit on him, locking legs around his torso, pinning the metal man with his greater weight and surface area.


The bounty hunter was no species Alpha had even heard of. Normally Alpha-17 could sense another being’s heartbeat in his teeth when he bit, in his fingers when he grabbed, could hear the thud in his ears the same way he could sense the draw of lungs from those around him. Instead, all Alpha could sense was an odd creaking vibration in the bounty hunter’s body. Without lungs, without a heart, Durge met each grapple with tireless energy, writhing below him with unnatural flexibility and speed, all of which was already intensely frustrating for Alpha, who punched the dirt where Durge’s head had been hard enough to leave a small crater and make his knuckles creak. 


When Durge somehow made himself smaller within his armor, Alpha made an educated guess and snagged him by the head to keep the hunter where he wanted him. Once Durge got over his surprise when he couldn’t out-strength Alpha, and Alpha’s sucker punches were endured, Durge gave up on escaping and renewed his blows. 


Endless though his stamina seemed to be, Alpha only grunted when his hits landed. The blows would have turned any normal being to paste and wrecked most machinery but didn’t come close to even bending Alpha’s bones. He would be horrifically bruised, but he could endure until the fight was over. Ideally, sooner rather than later. Perhaps the bounty hunter’s cockiness wasn’t as foolish as Alpha thought if he could take that many newtons of force so many times in a row to his skull.


Durge also had seemingly endless tricks up his sleeve, but none were meant to slay an ARC. When a vibroblade slashed out from under a gauntlet, thanks to his body glove and the toughness of his skin, Alpha’s neck was carved a deep gouge but his jugular was nowhere near endangered. In response the vibroblade was snapped off with a twist of 17’s fingers and flung into Durge’s ropy neck. Durge didn’t seem to care-- somehow his body rejected the blade, forcing it out of his flesh hard enough for the metal to ping off of Alpha’s chestplate before spinning into the landscape. Completely unharmed, Durge merely switched on what looked like a flamethrower from the same gauntlet. The hunter swung the new guttering flame and the jagged end of the vibroblade toward Alpha’s side. 


Alpha ignored the metal fist and vibro-splinter that slammed into his ribs, ignored the rapidly growing heat of his kit. He reached around and caught Durge by his elbow and pulled. 


Alpha-17 had been pulling living creatures apart since he was a cadet. There were tiny seams in a being’s body, folds and joinery that popped and strained and stretched when pulled with enough persistent force. Removing the bounty hunter’s arm felt nothing like it normally would. He felt no bones disconnecting on their hinges, not even the wet tear of flesh. Just muscle and sinew stretching and snapping. Durge wailed in pain and fury as his arm snapped apart strand by oddly colorful tubelike strand, spraying both of them with that pink fluid. Alpha flung the smoking appendage away then gasped when Durge twisted, pointed the stump of his arm like the barrel of a blaster, and shot fibers of his own body at Alpha’s exposed underarm, strands punching through Alpha’s body glove and into his chest. His diaphragm spasmed and locked.  


“You’ll have to do better, clone -”


Skywalker was still there, though. A lightsaber sliced through the worming strands, freeing Alpha from the invasive assault. Seconds later, just as Durge was rolling away from Alpha-17 to escape, Skywalker slammed the hunter’s own electric bolas straight into his faceplate like clubs. Durge roared as the shocks pulsed through him. Alpha barely felt the shocks in his own body.


“Get up, Alpha!” Skywalker ordered, slicing off the bounty hunter’s second, clawing arm, flinging the armored appendage away with a tumultuous clanging. 


Alpha sat back on the bounty hunter’s chest and locked his legs around his target. The shock duration on the bolas was short, but just long enough to delay Durge growing back his limbs more than halfway, long enough for Alpha to rear back and begin slamming his own metal fist into the bounty hunter’s helmet again. His frenzied hit made Durge’s helmet ring again like a gong, deepening the dents already there, pressing it flatter and giving the persistent regeneration of his body less and less space to regrow.


Durge shrieked and flailed, his limbs growing in distorted bulges that broke against Alpha like waves trying to fling him off. But Skywalker cut through the roiling lengths of those odd limbs before they punched much into Alpha’s body so the pressure remained low, something Alpha could ignore, something Alpha-17 could ride out and muscle against. Still the writhing monstrosity howled obscenities as he slammed over and over into him. Alpha’s fist connected again with a ring of metal and a deeper snap-pop of Alpha’s bones giving under the demand his own strength. Even as Durge’s helmet began to press more and more flat, the waves of flesh and howls didn’t stop.

Durge was trying to wrap around him, too, trying to smother Alpha in the folds of his flesh. Skywalker was slicing through the creature’s limbs with single minded intensity, his eyes closed, panting open mouthed, sweat rolling down his face. He wasn’t succeeding entirely-- those ropelike limbs had already enveloped Alpha’s lower body, but Skywalker was ensuring he still had mobility in his arms. But the constriction of his bodily fibers was merely annoying. Durge’s armor was long gone, dead limbs laying in discarded shells on the muddy dirt, his jetpack already collateral damage from Skywalker’s frenzied slices. The flesh of Durge’s hacked away limbs reached sluggishly out for their core, but Durge was too distracted trying to pummel Alpha to collect them.


For once since the battle had started, Durge didn’t have a single cute thing to say. 


“Aauuckh!” Durge gurgled, jerking and spasming. 


“Run out already, you bastard!” Commander Skywalker panted, “You can’t do this forever!” 


Alpha’s breaths came in short huffs of exertion as he reared back for an elbow drop to spare his fingers. Then he paused. Apparently, Durge decided that he was finished trying to foolishly grapple an ARC. The body of the being unwound suddenly from around Alpha’s legs and lower body, and he started pushing at him, squirming away instead of trying to envelop him, fast as quicksilver. A17 wasn’t interested in letting him go, though, and fought through the rippling bands of muscle, clawing through to get a thumb into an eye socket for a better grip, hooking through the shattered visor to dig in-


Once the bounty hunter was done screaming, he spoke. 


“You can’t kill me,” Durge gurgled, his body nothing sinew and winding flesh, actively trying to heal around Alpha’s digging fingers, “I’ve burned for sixty years straight. Nothing you can do can kill me.”


Alpha adjusted his hold on the blaster in his free hand, straining against the tides of flesh trying to push him away even as Skywalker slashed through those roiling bands desperately.


“Then it sounds like I need to make you want to die,” Alpha replied evenly. 


Durge’s beady, reptilian eye met Alpha’s gaze properly for the first time through the crushed faceplate. 


The Count of Serenno stopped mid-sip. Then he finished the draught and set his wine glass down on his desk with a nearly inaudible clink. 


“I beg your pardon?” Yan queried, his undivided attention trained on the figure projected from his holocom. 


His assassin’s image was scowling, looking utterly wretched with mud and filth. Her face was a mottled mess of bruises dark enough to show through the low resolution of the long distance com.


[I said,] Ventress growled, [Durge is dead.]


Dooku scoffed, “Are you sure about that? He’s Gen’dai, they’re indestructible.”


Ventress bared her teeth at him. [Are they? Are they impervious to being beheaded and used as a screeching blunt weapon against Sith assassins? Are they impervious to being cut into pieces then tossed into active starship exhaust ports piece by piece like campfire fuel?] 


It took him a moment to breathe past the spasm of fury in his breast. 


“Why,” Dooku thundered, “did you allow that to happen?”


[I was busy dueling Kenobi and some padawan girl.] 


He looked down at her image disdainfully. “And Kenobi’s status?” 


[I left him alive, as requested. Barely.] Ventress replied petulantly. 


With the gasses in the air he would be handicapped adequately enough for the likes of Ventress to best him, Dooku supposed. “Then you have not completely disappointed me. We shall see if Durge scrapes himself back together. If he is truly dead, then your failure on his mission is staggering and I will be forced to reconsider your eligibility as a Sith assassin.” 


Ventress jolted as if struck. [I was under the kriffing impression that the sith damned Gen’dai could handle a single clone and one padawan!]


“Which padawan? Skywalker?” Dooku demanded. Perhaps Sidious’s obsession with that Skywalker child was not as foolish as Dooku thought if he was powerful enough to take down a Gen’dai such as Durge. 


Ventress paused for a moment. “... Yes, Skywalker. Though it was the clone that was swinging Durge’s head around like a club.”


Yes, Dooku would have to watch Sidious’s whelp much closer than he thought. He sighed through his nose. “Return at once,” he commanded, “and we shall reevaluate your future.” 


Kenobi made soft little grunting noises as he roused, his injured leg twitching with discomfort under the thin sheet of his toy-sized medbay cot. Alpha-17 loomed over him, arms crossed, waiting. His head lolled to face Alpha with uncanny accuracy before he was even fully conscious. Eventually the man’s pale eyes cracked open. He squinted.


“Alpha…?” Kenobi croaked. 


“Su cuy'gar,” Alpha-17 rumbled. 


Kenobi blinked at him. Alpha waited. 


“... Hello to you too,” Kenobi replied wryly, the fuzz of sleep draining away rapidly as he woke. 


That was enough confirmation for Alpha; their Jetii understood Mando’a. Cody was a fool for believing otherwise. Alpha wasn’t about to tell the idiot, though-- Kote would have to figure that one out on his own. 


“Alpha, what-?” the redhead slurred.


“The mission was completed successfully. Far more casualties than expected,” Alpha began, “but the situation was salvaged as well as it could have been.” 




“Commander Skywalker is fine. General Glaive is dead, and his padawan has been recalled to Coruscant.”


Kenobi’s gleaming eyes were big and soulful with sorrow. Alpha knew the man was overwhelmed and struggling to regain his bearings, slopping through the remains of unconsciousness as he had struggled to resurface from the decay-filled mud of Naboo. Alpha pressed on anyway, “The sith assassin that got you escaped, but the bounty hunter she had with her is dead.” No need to tell Kenobi how, exactly, the hunter had been neutralized or the part his padawan played in the process. 


Kenobi frowned minutely. “Well. I suppose that will work. Thank you for letting me know, A-17.” 


The Jetii’s voice was slow and careful, still hoarse from medbay and sleep. He knew something was off. It didn’t take a Jedi to sense that. Alpha wasn’t exactly being subtle.


“The poison did a number on your lungs and epidermis. You’ve been in bacta for a week,” Alpha advised him. Kenobi simply looked tired as Alpha spoke. “In light of this, I’ve ordered you a set of armor-” 


The last vestiges of Kenobi’s sleep-fog evaporated and he went on alert, brows drawing in, “That is unnecessary, A-” 


“Entirely necessary,” Alpha boomed. As big as his lung capacity was, it took no effort at all to completely and wholly overwhelm a natborn’s voice without actually shouting. Kenobi fell into startled, faintly alarmed silence but the stubborn tilt of his brow only deepened. Alpha continued after letting the silence linger a moment, long enough to ensure Kenobi was actually listening. “Armor is non negotiable. You, Skywalker, Glaive, and Xiss were wholly compromised by the poison gas. None of the men were thanks to their armor. There will not be a repeat of this.” 


General Kenobi watched him quietly for a moment. Then, “A-17, I appreciate and understand your point but armor will only slow me down and hamper my ability to fight. Moreover, it would be inappropriate-”


Alpha barked a mean laugh. “Frankly, sir, I don’t care about what's appropriate. I care about not losing Generals because you lot are indispensable to the war effort. I care that my standards aren’t left with their deeces out when their best line of defense is wheezing on the ground from a preventable head injury. I care that we aren’t left cleaning up after you.”


“... Do we have a problem we need to be discussing, A-17?” Kenobi asked, voice hard and crisply formal.


Alpha smiled full of teeth that were engineered sharp. “Not at all, sir. I’ve already resolved the issue. Once you are out of medbay, you and I will meet in the salles to determine what modifications your armor will need to work optimally for you. Then it will be ordered, you will wear it, and we won’t have any problems.” 


The redhead closed his pale eyes and sighed, long and slow. “A-17, the political ramifications of a Jedi in full battle dress are far more impactful than I suspect you realize. 


Alpha-17 studied his Jedi for a long moment, during which Kenobi only regarded him tiredly. Alpha crouched in lieu of even trying to sit on any of the nearby seating options-- at best he could fit part of an asscheek on one of the nurses stools, and he had learned long ago that most fixtures were incapable of holding his weight. Instead of breaking the furniture, Alpha rested his elbows on his thighs and met Kenobi’s gaze evenly.


“Tell me,” Alpha bid him. 


His Jedi breathed in before donning a diplomat's polite friendliness, “During the last Sith war, Jedi served as soldiers in the Army of Light. We were, as you said, instrumental to the war effort. The people of the Republic did not forget that when the war was won. In order to not be chased off by our terrified allies, the Jedi signed our loyalty to the Senate so they, and therefore the people, could keep us in check.”


“Bad move,” Alpha observed. Obi-Wan merely smiled humorlessly.


“... and one of the many laws to keep the Republic calm was to officially ban Jedi from ever taking military roles.” 


Alpha blinked slowly, eyebrows raising. Kenobi’s smile widened but remained utterly humorless in its false cheer. 


“Technically, it's still illegal for Jedi to serve in the military. We were brevetted rank when we were conscripted. So we could perform military duties without, actually, having any authority. To keep us from getting any ideas.”


Alpha pinched his brow and swore, the low simmer of hatred in his gut boiling higher than normal. “Then Yularen only listens to you because-?”


“Because we’re all pretending. Yes. It’s all very polite.” 


Alpha massaged his temple, breathing evenly to control his impotent rage. 


“... So. Wearing armor would draw a lot of unpleasant attention,” Kenobi concluded gently. 


Alpha scoffed, “You sure about that? Sounds like the Republic needs a reality check.” 


At that, his Jetii laughed genuinely, a ha-ha of laughter with a broad smile that crinkled around his eyes. The mirth faded quickly as his amusement jerked his still healing body, the redhead falling silent with a whimper. Alpha tsked. Kenobi shot him with a petulant moue. 


“No, A-17. I think I would prefer for now to avoid having the Republic more afraid of us than they already are,” Kenobi murmured softly.


Alpha regarded him for a moment. Then he nodded seriously, pausing halfway to his feet. Kenobi didn’t flinch away when Alpha reached for him, seeming merely confused until Alpha tapped a knuckle under Kenobi’s tiny furred chin. The touch was gentle, mindful of Kenobi’s injuries, and full of amused fondness that 17 hadn’t expected to feel when he’d started the day. Kenobi’s pale skin flushed. 


“We’ll just have to get you armor that can fit underneath your robes for now.” 


Kenobi squawked. Alpha offered him a long smirk as he turned to leave, already planning on what resources to tap so he could fact check Kenobi’s words.

“And you’re still wearing a helmet.”


“A-17, don’t you dare-”