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Cody was a simple man. You had orders, they made sense, you obeyed them. If they didn't make sense, you didn't obey them, but you pretended you did.

General Kenobi's orders sometimes only made sense in General Kenobi's mind, by Cody had worked with the man long enough to make sense of those. Commodore Mitth'raw'nuruodo, on the other hand, did not make any kind of sense, not even Kenobi sense. This entire mission to Mandalore made no sense. The Duchess -- star ravens watch over her soul -- was dead. For whatever reason Commodore Mitth'raw'nuruodo was convinced she was alive and a hostage to Death Watch.

And so Cody was on the way to Mandalore and its system alongside Commodore Mitth'raw'nuruodo while General Kenobi made his way to Utapau. Cody had taken the mission gladly -- he knew how much it would hurt the General to have been offered hope only to lose it again.

Not to mention Mandalore. When he rescued her, the Duchess might grant Cody -- and his brothers -- citizenship. Jango Fett had been Mandalorian. Boba Fett was Mandalorian. It made no sense that the sons of the former and the brothers of the later were not. It had nothing to do with the ache in his chest at the idea that he had no home in the galaxy save the Grand Army of the Republic. One could not make a hope in an army once the war was over.

"Commander," Mitth'raw'nuruodo said.

Cody snapped a salute and stood to attention. "Sir."

"You know Mandalore," Mitth'raw'nuruodo asked.

"Yes sir," Cody said. He dropped the salute but remained at attention.

"It's the home you've never had. You know it better you would have it had been your home." Mitth'raw'nuruodo had such a glint in his blood-red eyes that Cody felt like he was back on Kamino being examined in every way possible to assess if he was worthy being a Commander. Like on Kamino, he had no idea what Thrawn saw.

"If you say so Commodore Mitth'raw'nuruodo," Cody said. He fixed the bulkhead over Mitth'raw'nuruodo's shoulder.

"Call me Thrawn." It was more an order than a friendly overture.

Cody nodded.

"Say my name," Thrawn said.

"Thrawn." Cody raised his chin in defiance of Thrawn's aggression. "Clones know the value of names, sir."

"I think I like you," Thrawn said. He smiled. His smile had too much teeth, even for a Chiss. Thrawn really was quite attractive.

"Knowing what you know, where would Death Watch keep a hostage?" Thrawn asked.

"You're asking the wrong question," Cody said. That Thrawn had not known – or had pretended not to know, which would be worse – how much clones valued names was still festering under his skin and irritating Cody's nerves.

"You are smart." Thrawn had no right to be that surprised. Cody had been bred and born for command, hadn't he? Of course he was smart; the genegineers of Kamino would not have it any other way. Thrawn continued, "Where would Bo-Katan hole up with her sister, then?"

Cody gave it some thought. Concord Dawn was the obvious choice, but it was too obvious, obvious enough that Maul would know. Cody proposed an alternative.

Thrawn nodded.

He told the bridge to plot their course and Cody to inform Senator Organa. Cody went, because that was an order that made sense.

Senator Organa was elbow deep in reports on Mandalore, half of which Cody had directed him to himself. The Senator asked Cody what he thoughts were. Cody gave them. the Senator listened. It was good to be appreciated, but Cody couldn't quite stop himself thinking, for the briefest of moments, that it was nicer when Thrawn did it.

Cody returned to the bridge. He went to stand at Thrawn's right hand. It was unusual for a mission like this to not only not be helmed by a Jedi, but not involve the Jedi at all. It'd grown more common in the later years of the war, despite the Chancellor's effort. Truth be told, and all due respect to Thrawn, Cody didn't like it. It felt almost like the Jedi were being replaced or shown to be obsolete. Cody was no fool; he knew his brothers would not be treated different from the Jedi by the wider galaxy. They were one and the same, all cogs and gears in the war machine that was the Grand Army of the Republic.

They were five hours out from the Mandalore system when every clone on the ship, Cody included, froze in the middle of what they'd been doing. Then, having ascertained there were no Jedi nearby, they went back to their work. All told, it had lasted less than a second.

That was enough for Thrawn to notice.

"Commander. A moment of your time." It was the kind of request that was only a request so long as it was answered positively; anything else and it would become an order.

Cody took the two and a half steps in would take to come within respectable distance of Thrawn. He did not put his helmet back on, no matter how much he wanted to; Thrawn despised delay of any sort. "Sir."

Thrawn turned on his heel and walked away. Cody suppressed a sigh and followed him. Thrawn led them to the nearest empty room. He waited until the door had finished closing before he spoke.

"Commander. You and your brothers stopped, all at the same time. Would you care to explain?"

"Orders," Cody said.

"What orders?" Thrawn sounded more offended than anything.

"I..." The bottom dropped out of Cody's world. He had orders, he knew that much, but what those orders said, he didn't know.

It had something to do with the Jedi.

Next thing Cody knew, he had his blaster pointed at Thrawn. Thrawn hit the side of his wrist with one hand and grabbed the blaster with the other. He tossed the blaster away.

"If you're going to try to kill me," Thrawn said, "have the decency to do it properly."

Cody twisted on his heel, jabbing his elbow at Thrawn's ribs. Thrawn replied by a kick to the knees. Cody's armour withstood the blow. Cody swiped Thrawn's leg out from under him. Thrawn backflipped away.

Damn. No way could Cody in his armour compare to that kind of flexibility. He took two steps back, placing himself firmly out of Thrawn's reach.

"Apologies, sir," Cody said, standing at attention again.

"What orders?" Thrawn repeated.

"Good soldiers follow orders." The words came out of Cody's mouth before he could even think them.

Thrawn frowned. "Go to the medbay. I want a full bill of health by 0800."

Cody snapped a salute and left for the medbay.

He wasn't alone in the medbay. More than one of his brothers had noticed what they were now all calling "the glitch" and they were trying to figure out what it was. The medic was a non-clone humanoid.

"There's a chip in all of you," she said. It came out sounding closer to 'alayouze' -- Outer Rim accent. "I'm doing more tests. Should I send the report to Commodore Thrawn or you, Commander Cody?"

Cody appreciated her loyalty to him and his brothers, even as he disagreed with her view of the chain of command. The chain of command existed for a reason. Orders had to come from somewhere and good soldiers had to obey them. If he was nothing else, Cody was a good soldier.

"Just me," he said. "I'll bring it to Commodore Thrawn myself."

He was a good soldier, but he was not stupid. The chips were a sign that the clones might be compromised. Thrawn could do terrible things with that information.

Thrawn had Cody's full bill of health at 0800 exactly. Cody remained standing as Thrawn read.

"I know you're lying," Thrawn said. "This report has clearly been edited -- by yourself. Doctor Tréhouart would not be so careless."

"I have no idea what you're talking about," Cody said. He knew Thrawn was fishing for information. Tréhouart had not been careless, but neither had Cody edited the document. It was perfectly accurate, save that it lacked any mention of the chips. Since no clone health report before had any mention of them, it was not possible for Thrawn to know what was missing.

Thrawn stood. Even from the other side of the desk, he loomed. It was a good look on him.

"What aren't you telling me?" Thrawn walked around the desk to circle around Cody -- "It cannot simply be that you find me attractive."

"Why not?" Cody turned around to face Thrawn. "Why ever not? I've been said to be a man who likes orders and order too much." Granted, it had been General Skywalker saying that, so it didn't mean much, but still. "Is it really so surprising that I would object to fraternising, then? Even in myself."

"Especially in yourself." Thrawn reached out at touched Cody's scar; it took all of Cody's willpower not to flinch away. "You're a fair man, Commander. I, however, am not." He slammed Cody against the nearest wall and kissed him.

Cody kissed back.