One of Kix’s best medics, Fi, ruins his day by sliding around the corner and announcing, far-too brightly, that the shinies have arrived.
Normal officers, when on leave, get to experience the joys of Actual Leisure Activities. Maybe a vod will head to 79s, or visit one of the scant few tattoo parlors that will actually barter with them—ink for favors that Kix tries not to think too hard about, a good story, or trinkets from off-world. Maybe, if one is particularly lucky, another battalion’s leave will conveniently line up with yours, and maybe you’ll get to visit a batcher in person. However, a battalion’s Chief Medical Officer—if they’re any good at their job, and Kix likes to think he’s the best of the best—does not partake.
No, the Chief Medical Officer keeps kriffing working. There’s inventory to be done, instruments to be cleaned, requisition forms to fill, procedures to be approved, and so on and so forth. And, on this particular leave, there are brand-new, right off Kamino’s production lines, never-before-seen-actual-combat shiny medics to receive.
“I hate you,” Kix sighs into his bare arms, the sleeves of his blacks pushed up to the elbow.
Fi snorts. Kix will forgive him for the borderline insubordination only because he punctuates the snort by placing a full cup of caf on the table Kix is considering sleeping under. He deigns to open a single eye.
“Stars, you got me Ryl’s?” Right there, in a flimsiplast cup stamped with a little cartoon tooka, is the Holy Grail; artisanal caf from Kix’s favorite Coruscanti cafe, Ryl’s. He cradles the sixteen ounces of pure liquid gold with a reverence reserved only for an actual hot-water ration in the refresher and blowjobs, respectively. “When did you even have the time? How did you even manage to buy it? Wait—kriff, don’t tell me, I don’t care. I just love you.”
“Weeellll, Fives got with this girl that works there and he comm’d a bunch of us to gloat about it, so naturally— ”
“Ugh, why did you have to tell me it was Fives? Now I have to thank his heterosexual ass for this, which might actually break me,” Kix says with a grimace that quickly transforms into the purest expression of ecstasy a vod has ever known at the first sip. “This almost makes today bearable.”
Fi swirls his own drink by the straw—some disgustingly cream-colored caf on ice—and pulls a face. “Want me to stick around? I don’t mind,” he lies. No one wants to de-shiny the shiny medics.
There's nothing more soul-crushing than informing the medics that there are real limits to what they can do—what they're allowed to do. Doctors take an oath to do no harm, an oath of beneficence, and of care. Medics don't. They have one job and one job only in the eyes of most of the GAR and the Kaminoans; keep the product alive long enough for new ones to replace them when they inevitably break .
No one wants to be the one that conveys that message to the shinies. You can't save all your brothers. You won't save all your brothers. Often, you won't even get a chance to try.
“No, s’alright. I need you to go charm the Corrie boys—see if you can get us some extra dermaplasts. We’re dangerously low and the req queue is especially backed up right now.” Kix stands with a sigh, cracking his back as he goes for good measure. He’s spent way too long hunched over this damn desk.
Fi, the absolute bastard, flashes him a smile that has no right to be so damn charming. Kix has no idea where he gets it—a face that endearing has absolutely no business being in the Fett genome.
“You got it, boss. Try not to make ‘em cry this time, yeah?” Fi tosses over his shoulder with a jaunty little wave, his ridiculous dangly earrings flashing under the fluorescents as he goes.
“Better they get it out here than on the battlefield,” Kix murmurs, too quiet to be heard.
Not even the sweet, sweet nectar of Ryl’s can chase down the bitter taste the words leave in his mouth.
Swallowing objectively more caf in one go than is medically advisable—and Kix would know, he is a professional, after all—he re-armors up, bucket under one arm and a datapad under the other, and heads for the main hangar bay.
The gleaming plasti-steel of the shinies’ new kits is a blinding white under the fluorescents of the bay. The sight of entirely unmarked armor never fails to make Kix’s heart sink. Not a single one of them knows. Not a single one of them understands, yet.
And he’s got to be the one to break it to them.
The five shinies snap to rigid attention as Kix approaches. All but one of them have their buckets off and clipped to their belts or held in their hands. Every single one of them was looking around at the ship with slack-jawed awe before they noticed him.
“At ease, men,” Kix says, giving the transfer paperwork a cursory glance. “Sound off. Number and name, if you have one.” He gestures at the trooper at the left-most end of the line, the only one with their helmet still on.
“CT-5843, Sir. It’s, um. Galar. My name.” He says it gah-lar, the Mando'a inflection clear. If Kix weren’t as proficient in Mando’a as he is, he might not have known what it means. But he is and he does.
He nods at the next man in line, who straightens and shoots him a smile that’s all bravado. “O’Nine, Sir. CT-8909.” He looks, in short, like trouble.
(Kix vows to keep him and Fives away from each other at all costs.)
The three remaining men follow, CT-8214, CT-7530, and CT-7079—not a single one of them even has a name, yet. Kriff. The new troops just keep getting younger and younger. Kix makes quick work of introducing himself before rattling off the standard debrief for new troopers. Welcome to the 501st under the command of one General Anakin Skywalker and his padawan learner, Commander Ahsoka Tano. Your commanding officer is Captain Rex, although as medics, you will report directly to me or my second, Medic Tiger. Your bunk assignments are as follows, a copy of unit-specific regs can be found on your pads, etcetera etcetera etcetera.
“That all being said, now it’s time for the hard part,” he begins, switching his pad off and tucking it under one arm. “I’m going to be frank with you. And I’m not saying this to scare you, or as some bizarre hazing ritual. I’m saying this because it needs to be said and I’m the unlucky son-of-a-rancor that gets to do it." He pauses, not for dramatic effect, but because he needs a moment to gather himself for the gravity of what's coming. "Not a single one of you is prepared for this.”
Each man—except for Galar, who remains bucketed—visibly double-takes.
Kix stares their newest batch of shiny-fresh medics in the face and steels himself to break their hearts. No matter how many times he gives this speech, it never gets any easier. "You’ve been trained, sure," he tells them, "But you’re not meant to be doctors. None of us are. We’re meant to be damage control.”
A breath. A beat as it sinks in. Young faces, not quite sharp yet with age, drooping in confusion, frustration, resignation.
“We are medics for a fundamentally expendable army. We may not be droids, but legally, procedurally, politically? That’s exactly what we are; meat droids . There are things you don’t yet know that you should have been told. Things you needed to be taught that you haven’t been. Things you need to be prepared to face, prepared to see. So, as of right now? You aren’t doctors.”
And then, Kix smiles. “But we’ll fix that.”
The essential treatise of the GAR medic does not formally exist.
It isn’t a file encrypted a dozen times over, nor is it a piece of flimsi hidden somewhere no one will ever think to look. It’s kept entirely in secret, memorized by the sharpest minds of the GAR, and passed along by mouth only to those that need to know it. It's an oral code and an oral history, all in one.
It goes something like this:
One; don’t talk about the medic code. The secrecy of the thing is what keeps it intact. Without that protection, nothing is guaranteed and none of us are safe. And when the medic isn’t safe? No vode is safe.
Two; do what you can to save who you can. If this means defying orders? Defy orders, trooper. If this means breaking Republic law? You break Republic law. Our duty is to do what we can to save who you can, always, regardless of the legality of the thing. You are a medic, first-and-foremost, and that means acting like one.
Three; you don’t get caught. You will break laws. You will defy orders. This isn’t a question. So you do it smart. You do it well. You don’t get caught. Because if you get caught, you can’t help anyone.
Four; “I’m fine” is always a lie, especially if it’s from a Jedi.
Five; treat your slicers well. They’re responsible for what we know. From real case studies from premier research hospitals to medical textbooks from Alderaan’s finest universities, they provide us with the tools we need to do our jobs. They know the system inside and out. They know it better than anyone, even the officers. Treat your slicers kindly and they’ll do the same.
Six; consent matters. None of the vode have ever gotten a say about what happens to their bodies. Give them one and make it matter.
Seven; do no harm.
Herding shinies is no easier than herding loth-cats. Medic shinies are only marginally better than regular troopers, simply because protocol dictates that medics join their units a full thirty-hour standard rotation before the rest of the lot. Shinies are bolder creatures when in packs. The larger the pack, the more bold the shiny. Five is a manageable number, all things considered.
Kix ushers them into the small, half-forgotten break-room that belongs to the medbay staff, tucked between their one and only surgical ward (or, as close to a real surgical ward as they’re able to get) and the room which holds their full-immersion bacta-tanks.
The break-room itself is tiny, holding a ratty, navy-blue couch Tiger and Kix pulled out of an alley five mandated leaves ago, a caf machine that came as a gift from General Skywalker after Kix delivered him approximately ten hours of research on the care and maintenance of togruta younglings, a mini-conservator marked “FOOD ONLY” in Mando’a and another marked “NO” in Aurebesh, a sink, a mug-rack, and a conference table meant to seat four. A box of fried, doughy pastries from Ryl’s is waiting in the middle of the table, and Kix resolves to kiss Fi right on the lips for being a gift to the galaxy.
“Go ahead and sit,” Kix says, waving the five medics in the direction of the table and the couch. “One of you will have to take the couch. I’ll stand.”
Galar—who Kix is starting to peg as the odd one out of the bunch—takes the couch while the rest occupy the creaky duraplast chairs. One of the unnamed troopers, CT-7530, eyes the box of pastries with naked yearning. Oddly, Galar has yet to remove his helmet.
“The first lesson I’m going to teach you is how to keep your mouths shut,” Kix says. “What I say in this room does not leave this room. You don’t tell your batchers, you don’t tell your hookups, you don’t tell your commanding officers, you don’t even tell your riduur, if you have one. If that isn’t something you can do, you aren’t fit for this job.”
“What about our Jedi?” CT-8214, as of yet unnamed, but currently goes by Fourteen, asks.
O-Nine snorts, but doesn’t elaborate. Kix raises a brow. “Something to say, O-Nine?”
He shrugs, a far-away kind of look in his eyes. “This isn’t my first deployment, is all. Sir.”
Kix nods. Some Jedi aren’t as good as Skywalker. He’s heard his fair share of horror-stories to know that he doesn’t want to hear anymore. Not unless he’s in a position to do something about it.
“No, not even our Jedi,” Kix tells Fourteen. “Skywalker is good. Great, even. But he’s not vode and he’s still our superior officer. If he knew what goes on here, he’d shut us down in an instant. We break laws, vodike. I’ve done things to help brothers that would easily be considered treason. So the first thing, the very first thing you need to know, is how to keep quiet. What we do happens in secret for a reason. We live and die by secrecy and so do our brothers.”
The group of four exchange a look, save for Galar, who is a picture of unreadable stoicism behind the bucket.
“Galar,” Kix offers, gentle but firm, “You can take your bucket off, here. This is one of those conversations that’s best had eye to eye.”
He hesitates, visibly. But, after a moment, he capitulates. The seal on his bucket unclasps with a hiss and, like he’s ripping off a plast, he pulls his helmet off in a single sharp tug.
“Oh,” 7530 blurts. O-Nine promptly leans over and smacks him in the back of the head.
Galar’s face is mottled with patches of pale white, a stark contrast between the brown skin of any baseline Fett-clone. The largest patch curls like a handprint around his left brow, even coloring parts of his left eyelid. One smaller spot sits like a punctuation mark over his bottom lip. The discolored skin continues in random patches down his neck, disappearing under the high collar of his blacks.
Galar winces, hands twitching for his helmet where it’s resting in his lap, and says, quickly, “It’s not contagious.” He says it with a familiarity that betrays how often he must have to reassure others.
“Of course it isn’t,” Kix jumps in, quick. “Vitiligo?”
Galar shoots him a relieved—and surprised—smile. “Yeah.”
“It affects the pigment of the skin,” Kix explains to the others.
“It won’t impact my performance, Sir,” Galar tells him with a not-insignificant amount of anxiety. “The Kaminoans found no autoimmune triggers or underlying conditions and my marks are all good.”
Little gods, they’re just babies, Kix thinks, cursing the longnecks up and down.
Of course it wouldn’t impact your performance, Kix wants to say. Or, maybe, You don’t have to hide something like that, here. A louder, meaner part of him wants to ask for the names of every Kaminoan that implied otherwise so that he can add it to his growing list of Shebs That Need Kicking. But he stops himself, because what Kix says next is important, could set the tone for all of Galar’s experiences with them going forward, and he won’t kriff it up.
He opens his mouth—
“Is that why you had your bucket on the whole way over?” Fourteen pipes up, soundly beating Kix to the punch. Galar shrugs, sheepish. There’s something hard, resolved, even, in Fourteen’s eyes when he replies, firm as durasteel, “Well, I think it looks cool. It’s kinda’ pretty.”
“Di’kut!” the third unnamed shiny, CT-7079 hisses, “You can’t just tell people they’re pretty!”
“Why the hell not?” Fourteen shouts, throwing one hand out towards Galar as if to say look at him! “Vod’s pretty! He deserves to hear it!”
“Oh my gods,” Galar whispers, slowly sinking further and further down into the couch as if he could simply disappear into it if he willed it hard enough.
Kix snaps his fingers a couple of times, “Alright, alright, Galar is very pretty, let’s focus up.”
“Oh my gods,” Galar repeats, staring hard down at his boots and nowhere else.
“We’ve got a lot to get through,” Kix says, “and not nearly enough time to do it. Can I trust you five to keep your mouths shut? If you don’t think you can do this, I want you to tell me. I won’t punish you. I won’t send you back to Kamino. There’s always another squad to join if this isn’t right for you. So I need to know—can you do this?”
Some of them exchange a glance. Most of them, in fact, do. Only Fourteen speaks without any hesitation.
“If it’ll help us save brothers, sir? Anything", he says.
And once he's said it, n ot a single one of the bunch backs down, each confirming their dedication to saving as many vode as possible, however possible.
“I’ve served before. In the Guard, actually,” O-Nine offers. “I wasn’t originally a medic, but.” He blows out a sigh, his eyes looking far too old for his body. “I know this job is impossible. I know we’re meant to only do so much. I want it to be different. I want what we do to matter.”
Kix clasps a hand on O-Nine’s shoulder, gripping tight for a beat before letting go. “It does. I swear to you, it does.”
“Then yes,” O-Nine says, every inch of him a picture of grim determination. All around him, the various shinies nod their assent.
It’s all Kix can do to look these men in the face—his vodike— and try not to picture the light in their eyes going out. He tries not to remember the heart-broken expression on Fi’s face that first time he failed to save a brother, or the defeat in Tiger’s eyes when a rescue party came back with none of the brothers they were sent to retrieve and with some of their own party missing. He tries not to think of the crack of his own voice when he held a dying brother and lied; y ou’re going to be just fine.
(The truth is, none of them are going to be fine. Medics rarely are. But, maybe, just for a minute, Kix can make himself believe it.)
One minute at a time, he tells himself.
And then, Kix starts talking.
It’s only a week into their next deployment that Fourteen picks up a name for himself. He’s the first of their unnamed shinies to do so, and Kix is already so endeared to his vodika that he practically wants to scream it up and down the bridge of the Resolute, just to be sure everyone knows.
They’re traveling a series of lesser-used hyperlanes towards a Republic post on the Outer-Rim. The post’s predominantly human population is small—a moon called Tord-9 of only three thousand—and they are almost single handedly responsible for mining it for the extremely valuable ore stuck deep under its surface. Recently, the outpost has fallen under Separatist control, and that’s where the 501st comes in.
While the rest of the battalion rolls back in to the Resolute well-rested (albeit hungover) from leave and takes the next week of travel time to train, run drills, or just to rest, the medics are scrambling to get every man on-ship caught up with their vaccinations. Since they anticipate a rendezvous with what remains of the local population, it’s critical that every single trooper is fully vaccinated against any and all of the nasty things that might come up in a hastily-constructed refugee camp.
Initial reports indicate that the survivors are in predictably dire shape—fully droid command structures hardly ever bother taking prisoners because they simply don’t have the equipment to sustain them for very long. So, in between sticking every brother from the bridge to the boiler with the greatest drugs military money can buy, Kix has also been prepping his team to provide aid to the locals.
Which, frankly, would go a hell of a lot easier if the shinies had been given so much as the basics about interplanetary aid and relief. But of course they haven’t, because why would the Kaminoans care? They teach their vode medics to treat vode bodies and nothing else.
Kix is letting Tiger take direction over the shinies for today’s round of vaccinations, but he’s still in the medbay, working on the endless list of tasks that have to get done in preparation for the situation on Tord-9.
When Jessie and the rest of Rex’s complete headcases roll in for their injections, Kix has already managed to tune out most (if not all) background noise in favor of maximizing his productivity, which is why it startles him when Jessie sidles over with a shit-eating grin and says, “So poke , huh?”
Jessie leans a hip—just blacks, no armor, and Kix is pointedly not looking, thanks—against the side of Kix’s desk and drops an arm across the back of Kix’s unforgiving chair. His back is kriffin' killing him. “Poke. One of your shinies. Real cute, very squeaky, ‘just a little poke’?”
Kix stares at him. None of those words make sense in the order in which they've been arranged. “Am I having a stroke?” he asks.
“Oh—Uh, Fourteen got a name, sir,” CT-7079 chimes in helpfully. “He’s Poke, now.”
“When did that happen?” Kix whips back around, staring down Jessie. “And YOU! Why do you know but I don’t?”
“Happened somewhere between the fiftieth and hundredth, ‘just a little poke’s,” O-Nine snickers. Kix continues to have no clue what that could possibly mean.
CT-7530 quickly becomes Kix’s only favorite when he, between hiccupping peals of laughter at the offended pout on Poke’s face, offers a coherent explanation. “He’s been tellin’ everyone, ‘just a little poke’ before he sticks ‘em with the hypo! It’s hilarious!”
“It’s reflexive!” Poke explodes, dark-skinned cheeks a ruddy red with blush. “What, you’d rather I give no warning at all?”
“Well… it is nothing more than just a little poke,” CT- 7530 drawls. His shit-eating grin is shit-eating enough to rival Fives'. It’s truly a little terrifying. Kix can already see Fives eyeing the trooper from where he leans against the wall beside Echo, both of them ostensibly having already been jabbed. Hardcase is practically making goo-goo eyes, even as CT-7530 approaches him with a hypo. Kix makes a mental note to head that mess off at the pass. They don't need three complete shitheads onboard. Skywalker is worth a good five already.
CT-7530's tease sends Poke into a new fit of squeaky-voiced defensiveness. The kid can get surprisingly shrill when he puts his mind to it. Even Galar, as shy as he is, joins in the gentle ribbing.
"You like them," Jesse murmurs, quiet and close enough that only Kix can hear.
"Don't you have things to do?" Kix hisses, jabbing at the exposed blacks between Jessie's codpiece and thigh-plate.
He hums. "Not unless you're currently free, no."
Kix groans. "Get out. Why are you the worst?"
"It's alright, Kixy. I like 'em, too," Jesse says, giving Kix's ear lobe a pull that he would call fond and Kix would call irritating.
Liking them isn't the problem. The problem is keeping them intact through the endless slog of shit that's coming. Kix has known too many medics to buckle under the pressure. Sith Hells, he was almost one of them. This job eats a brother alive. It stings how much Kix does not want to see it happen to this bunch.
He might not get much of a choice, but he'll be damned if he lets them go easy.
"Give me twenty and I'll meet you in the usual spot," Kix whispers to Jesse.
The smug bastard gives him a mock salute and a cheeky, "You've got it, Kixy."
"Don't make me change my mind," he warns, brandishing his pen again and waggling it in the direction of the disaster-waiting-to-happen that is CT-7530, Hardcase, and Fives.
"Wouldn't dream of it," Jesse calls over his shoulder as he departs to herd his own feral loth-cats. Somehow, Kix does not believe him.