Chapter 1: Chapter One
A Different Type of Soldier
In a period of civil war, the Empire pushes the Rebel forces towards the outer reaches of the galaxy.
With the Jedi Master Van Hohenheim captured and the Rebel forces stretched to their breaking point, there doesn’t seem to be any hope for them to take down the Empire.
But a forgotten insignificant clone might be the answer the Rebels were looking for.
Captain ED-0001, the newly appointed leader of Green Lion Company, took a huge breath as the transporter he was in skidded across the lush green landscape of the small green planet Resembool. Looking out the window he could see rolling hills and lush grass, all that he never saw before in the Officer Candidate School that he was stuck at for one whole year now. During the six and a half years he had been alive, he had never seen so much green so up close, only getting small looks at passing planets from the space station he had been locked away in for such a long time. Black was a reoccuring scenery when trapped in the confines of space. Now he got to work here of all places.
The small planet was nothing to get too excited about. It had little trade and no major cities. It was mainly a farming reserve for the lonely farmer and their family to live in peace and quiet. However, it was anything but insignificant especially to the Central Empire. Spaceships trapped in deep space needed to feed their troops somehow. Using harvesting planets was the only way that the Empire could keep their troops fed and alive. Resembool itself fed an entire Legion of the Vainglory Corps which recruited most of the army’s active infantry. Without it as a food source, the soldiers would surely starve. Resembool has been under the Empire’s control now for nearly thirteen years which is why ED-0001 assumed that they became so lax with defending it. No battalion or company in the Vainglory Corps was stationed on the miniscule planet. Everything was left to the Extravagance Corps, soldiers who specialized in transportation and supply. Even if they were top notch soldiers, one small battalion could not protect an entire planet no matter how small and barren. It seemed that the Central Empire held little concern over their food crisis.
The Captain was only a little upset to be in charge of such a small company. He couldn’t care too much since a clone, even an officer, was not one to question orders. However, if he were to have one complaint it would be to not literally farm his career away on agriculture. It felt like a lifetime imprisonment to him and it wasn’t how he wanted to be spending the last few years of his childhood. He was the good half of seven years old now and his body appeared of that as an eighteen-year-old. He was nearing the age of maturity for a clone but was not quite there yet. Clones and Storm troopers usually aren’t done training until they are ten years old and definitely don’t get high leadership positions until they are at least twelve. However, with all of the stuff he has been through in his eight years of existence he could definitely say he at least earned the right to command a small insignificant outpost.
ED-0001 sighed as he returned his thoughts to the landscape of the planet. It was very flat, aside from a few mountain ranges in the distance. An enemy could be spotted from miles and miles away. So could many of the small villages. As the Captain peered out of the window he saw the far away thatch roofs of cottages. The village was small but beautiful. ED-0001 would have enjoyed picturing a nice walk through one, but he couldn’t. Not with the plume of black smoke out of it. The closer they got to flying over the small village the more clear Edward could see the flames. The town was on fire.
“Hey, pilot, what’s going on down there?” the Captain asked, an unsettling feeling slowly grew in his stomach. The pilot only took a half interested glance to the town below them. No amount of concern was found in him.
“The troops are getting their latest harvest in from the villages. Sometimes the villagers are a little too reluctant to give up their crops. You are coming in right after the last harvest of the year. It will give you time to learn the ropes-“
“I think I learned enough already,” he muttered as the smoldering remains disappeared over the horizon but not out of his mind.
It took a few more minutes to reach the outpost of Green Lion Company. It was located far away from any of the local villages and was surrounded by a strong gate incase there were any incursions. The ship stopped in motor pool of the small outpost and the Captain hopped out of it in his plain white armor. Rank and position was usually signified by color and white was the lowest of enlisted. A Captain’s uniform was striped with yellow, a Commander’s position was marked by a red pauldron. Having come fresh out of training, he was not yet assigned his new uniform. It was at the unit and he was quite too eager to pick it up. With how fast clones grew, he was a little too cramped in his.
He ran a bit to give the ship room and waved him off, the pilot kicking the ship in gear and taking away his only way off that tiny planet. Yeah, it felt more like imprisonment every second he was there. The Captain pulled himself together and straightened out a bit. If he was going to meet his new troops he better at least look the part of a Commanding Officer.
The outpost looked barren and he couldn’t see a soul in sight. So much for a grand entry. He glanced at his watch and saw that it was already lunch. Everyone would be in the dining facility by then. However, though he could guess where they were, he had no idea where the place was. The Captain made it a little ways into the building not able to find a single speck of life at all on his walk. In fact, the only thing he imagined himself as was lost. Just as he was debating on whether to turn back and wait for someone out in the lobby, he heard rather loud voices coming from the other hallway. They sounded rough and he heard scuffing of some sort, making him pick up his pace to see what it could have been. He rounded the corner just to find himself in the back hallway of what seemed to be the locker rooms. Two groups of soldiers were circled around a fight as one private was kicking a little white lump on the floor. ED-0001 recognized the poor fella as a Cadet by the small insignificant white pauldron on his shoulder. The Private was standing menacingly over him, getting ready to give another kick. A green striped Sergeant was trying to hold him back but no one else was doing a thing to stop the fight. The Captain felt his blood boil as he stormed towards them, pushing some of the soldiers roughly out of the way who were just gathered around. He knew what this fight was all about, but he was angry that anyone let it get this bad.
The Central Army was made of a mixture of recruits who were taken as children to be trained as soldiers and clones who were specially developed for the military. The recruits were called Storm troopers as the military was originally supposed to be named while the clones were just summed up to be called Clone Troopers. Though they worked in the same force they had rather discriminatingly different names which caused even more trouble amongst the troops. Everyone thought that clones got it easy because they were bred for their work while Stormtroopers had to train for years on end for the status that they got. Fights would constantly break out within the military and it caused a rift between the troops that no one could ever fix. However, the Captain would not have that rift there.
“What’s going on here?” he yeld and silence took over the hallway stilling the crowd. The Private stepped forward, disregarding his prey and glared at him as if challenging him to interfere.
“That filthy clone wanted to flag me for not exercising the transports when I did them yesterday-”
“You d-didn’t record them! You need to fill out the-” the Cadet tried to defend himself but was cut off by the other soldier.
“It doesn’t matter, you test tube freak. I did my job!” the soldier growled and pushed passed the Sergeant trying to get another shot at the Cadet but the Commander stepped in front of him stopping him in his tracks.
“Making sure your work is done, and done correctly is his job. If I am not mistaken he is an officer so you should treat him with respect,” he scolded the man.
“He’s a clone that just get’s programmed to do the easy work. We Storm troopers have to train and learn all by ourselves just to get told by a defected half human creature how to do our jobs!” ED-0001 frowned and glared at the soldier through his helmet. He knew that there was always soldiers who didn’t like clones, they were afraid of them, they couldn’t understand them, but he wondered what the last commander was doing to let the fighting get this bad, this physical. The Commander straightened himself out, making himself stand a little taller as if to size up the other soldier who was years older than him and admittedly quite a few inches taller.
“What is your number, Private?” he asked stiffly. His voice was authoritative but not cold. Often when taking leadership positions soldiers get those confused.
“RD-9999,” the man answered. “But people call me Redd.” It was common for clones in small units to receive nicknames to make communication easier. To say a series of numbers continuously would be tiring in every day conversation. However, in units more associated with the high command like in training schools or special forces where he had spent most of his life, nicknames were rare and very strange. The Empire hated individuality and tried to discourage it all they could. ED-0001 had received his own nickname only once, but he had stopped using it long ago.
“Very well, Private Redd, remove your helmet,” he ordered him, which undoubtedly made the soldier look around stupidly. By Central Army regulation they weren’t allowed to remove their helmets unless in their barracks, eating lunch, or ordered to by a higher officer. Since they weren’t doing any and the Captain wasn’t issued his pauldron or new armor yet, the Private just chuckled stupidly with a malicious grin on his face.
“Who do you think you are you little ass hole? I could drop kick you to the moon if you try pulling tricks on me you little runt.”
“How about I break your legs off and stick them to your head and then we will see who’s taller,” the Captain yelled at him. “I would have liked to see a little courtesy when talking to your commanding officer.” The man froze and he heard whispers pick up around the hallway and the Captain spotted a couple soldiers sneak away as they didn’t want to be objectified to so much tension. Even the private under question seemed skittish however before he could imagine to do anything the Captain grabbed him by his chest plate and pulled him down to his level and spat, “I am Captain ED-0001, the Commander of Green Lion Company of the Avarice Battalion, and your superior officer. Now, I order you one more time, RD-9999, take off your helmet.”
The soldier faltered, conflicted with his sudden fear and obeying the orders of his newly arrived Commanding officer. Flustered, he lifted his hands up and pulled off his helmet to reveal a face that barely saw the light of day having been hidden behind his helmet all the time. He was an old looking soldier with burning red hair and a face full of freckles. That was probably how he had gotten his nickname, either that, or his temper. By the tired lines under his eyes, the Captain had to guess that he was nearly thirty five, though he wasn’t too good at judging age. However, he was questioning why in the world the man was still a private at that age. He looked like he was trying to keep a straight face, but his cheeks were red with embarrassment and anger while his eyes succumbed to his internal fear. To the Commander, it was a hilarious thing to see as it nearly made him look constipated.
“Yes, let’s see here,” the Commander muttered as he stared at him, not letting his amusement get the better of him. “Two eyes, Two ears, a nose, a mouth, and a body, which we all could see works pretty well from how you were dealing with the Cadet over there.” The Private frowned at his observation. He did not really understand what he was getting at.
“Yes, there doesn’t seem anything special about you, nothing that would deem you abnormal,” ED-0001 continued after a pause. With an accepting nod of his head after one more thorough study, the Captain reached up and pulled off his own helmet. The ogling eyes of everyone around froze on him and he saw the Private’s face go pale as he looked him over. Everything from his golden hair to his golden eyes seemed to be a punch in the face for them, but ignoring the stupefied looks on their faces, he continued.
“I have two eyes, two ears, a nose, a mouth, and a good working body just like you,” he announced. “We are the same. Exactly the same. We are people. The only difference between us is that you came from a mother and I came from a father. That is it-”
“But you can't be a clone, they don't make clones like you-” Redd stumbled accusingly and the Captain glared even harder at him. He could understand the man’s confusion. The Empire’s leaders, out of concerns for the inconceivable idea that clones go rogue, never liked to make clones that resembled the majority of their staff. All the clone variants had dark skinned and hair of some sort to distinguish them from the normal Imperial population, but not ED-0001 who was as pale and blond as one could get. With golden hair and piercing metallic eyes, he nearly looked like the Emperor himself. He was able to use this resemblance to his advantage on many occasions and scaring Privates was one of them.
“Check again,” he seethed, pulling down his collar to show the intricate emblazonment on his neck. All clones were branded with elemental symbols, different for each variant of clone. It was a way to record their programming and creation. Though all soldiers, both storm and clone, had chips in their left wrists for identification and record of orders, clone development was something too important to hold in a file. If it fell into enemy hands the Central Empire feared that the rebels would try to copy it and make their own forces. So, in this way, it was coded and with the individual at all times in case of malfunction in the programming. To be branded with a hot iron was excruciatingly painful and left the individual with a raw burn for several weeks. Everyone knew what the marks looked like, and all knew what they meant, they weren’t normal. Though, the Captain liked to try and convince people otherwise.
“We are all the same,” the Commander said, straightening himself out and pulling his collar back up over his scars. “We all look the same, we all talk the same, we all think the same, we are all trained the same. When we put these uniforms on, we are all the same. We need to work as a unit not in parts of one versus the other. Our duty is to protect this outpost and feed the legion. We can’t do that if we are fighting each other about who is who or what is what. When we put these uniforms on we must work as a unit, as a family. If we can’t do that we are dead.”
The hallway was eerily silent and the Captain looked around at where everyone stood dumbfounded. Even the Cadet who was dawning a bloody nose and a black eye, as his helmet was knocked off in the scuffle, was silent in his sufferings. The Captain tucked his pony tail up and placed his helmet back on his head before turning to RD-9999.
“Put your helmet back on and return to work,” he ordered him stiffly. “Next time remember your place with those who out rank you. We earned these positions like anyone else.” The soldier quickly fumbled to but his helmet back on and gave a tight nervous salute before racing down the hallway with all of the other Privates in tow. The place was quickly emptied and the Captain felt the tension alleviate now that they were gone. All he wanted was a normal first day’s introduction. He let out a tired sigh and rubbed the back of his neck before turning to the Cadet who was still on the floor.
He held out his arm for him and the man grabbed it and stood up, accidentally letting out a little groan as his sore body seemed to be kicking itself even more than Redd did. He was a little surprised to see how tall he was, towering over him like a building. For a clone, he was extremely tall. The Captain, who constantly reminded himself that he was still growing as he was only 6.5 years old, had to bend backwards to even look at his subordinate. His hair was black and curly though it was cut short, making the Commander guess that if it went unmaintained it would have been a bushy mop. It sat on top of a perfectly tanned head which held few lines from wearing age. He was fully matured for a clone, so ED-0001 had to assume that he was probably quite a few years older than him.
“So, what’s your number?” he asked him gently as he watched the soldier put on his helmet, hiding his broken face from view.
“Uh, Cadet PT-3149 sir,” he mumbled.
“Captain ED-0001,” he reintroduced himself. He was glad to finally be able to get an introductory without ordering it from them and sending the person running away. However, from his little scene before hand, the Cadet seemed very nervous to even be standing next to him despite their height difference and the fact that he could probably squish him like a flea. The Commander cleared his throat awkwardly and tried to continue the conversation, which was heavily one sided.
“You were getting your ass kicked, weren’t you ever going to fight back?” The Cadet just looked away as if he was ashamed and the Commander sighed in defeat. He wasn’t going to get anything out of him now.
“Well, just be glad that the Sergeant here and I stopped him.” He turned towards where the young Sergeant was still standing. “What’s your number?”
“Sergeant First Class DD-9980, Sir,” she said to him stiffly. “My men just call me Sergeant Desden. I oversee Second Platoon, sir.”
“Desden?” he questioned. “Did you pick it yourself or-“
“Yes. Everyone wanted to call me DeeDee and I hated it, so I made an alternative,” she said, obviously with a smirk in her voice. “Could you imagine a leader with the name DeeDee? I would rather consider treason before getting stuck with a nickname like that.”
“Well, Desden’s a great name,” the Captain chuckled at the woman’s disdain for the name. “PT-3149, do you have a name?”
“I don’t have one, sir,” the Cadet admitted.
“You don’t have one?”
“No. I don’t really care what I am called, sir. Many people have different names for me,” he told him.
“Very well, I will come up with something soon enough right?” he chuckled lightly. The Cadet nodded his head in acceptance and the Captain frowned slightly. He bet that not all of the names people gave him were very nice at all. The Cadet needed to earn some confidence in himself. But first things are first.
“Well, Cadet, let’s get you to medical. I think a good ointment would be in order for that eye, or at least a tissue or something for your nose, if it isn’t already broken,” he said, giving the man a light pat on the shoulder but the Cadet flinched and yelped as he aggravated his wounds. The Commander quickly apologized and lead him down the hallway with the Sergeant behind him.
“Sir do you even know where to go?” the Cadet asked as he had to pull the Commander in the right direction when they turned the corner.
“No. I am completely lost.”
The Commander sighed as he straightened out his pauldron on his shoulder. He finally got his new uniform after dropping PT-3149 off at medical. It was comfortable unlike his other one which was too tight and he was glad for the change. The supply sergeant in the office said that his other sets were going to be sent to his room from the armory where they were stored.
“You get your own room at the end of the male hallway,” she said typing in a few digits into her transfer pad. The Captain held out his wrist for her to scan the access codes into his imbedded chip. It took one painful burning second and then it was over.
“My own room?” he questioned curiously. It was not strange for higher ranking officers to get their own rooms, but that was usually in units bigger than their small outpost and was rarely a treat for a clone. Their building was small for a growing company, and even the Captain had concerns finding a place to sleep. For him to get his own room, was odd.
“Major PN-0150, the previous Commander who…. Well, you know-“
“Ran himself over with his own speed cruiser,” the Captain said plainly. The unfortunate demise of the previous Commander was the only reason why he was able to claim the now open position. It seemed like a cruel way to get promoted, but it was better than being stuck in holding ship for another spot like clones often were. However, with the rare circumstances that lead to the Major’s death as well as everything that he seemed to be doing previously, the Captain had not ruled out the idea that the man was horribly intoxicated. It did not show up in the man’s records, but someone might have let it slip their mind when typing up a report.
“Yes, well he made sure that the Commander always had their own space. Some of the other barracks were condensed and-“
“Let me see the plans,” he ordered. He held out his hand and her tablet was relinquished to him. The rooms were simple. Each had space for two soldiers to live in rather close but not uncomfortable confines. There appeared to be kept to normal capacity except for when it reached the end of the hallway. There were two rooms crammed with three and four people, which from experience the Captain knew was barely livable. The last two rooms stood empty. One of them was his new quarters which the Major stayed in previously. The other was vacant for an unknown reason.
“Why is this one empty?” he asked, pointing across the hall. The Sergeant took a quick glance at the screen.
“That was where the Commander kept all of his things,” she told him. The Captain growled to himself as he realized the Major was using someone’s sleeping quarters as a second closet. The only thing that soldiers were supposed to have on them were their uniforms and personal hygiene items. Of course in many units, they would hold onto odd nick knacks that they valued, but there could never be anything personal in the life of an Imperial soldier. He could only imagine what towns the Major had to ransack just to need another room for storage.
“Sergeant, what’s your name?”
“SP-0982, most people just call me Supply because that is what I do,” she answered.
“Very well, Supply, I am going to ask you not to get offended when I say this. Your previous commander was a fucking idiot,” he said flatly. He couldn’t see a smile underneath the Sergeant’s helmet but he could assume that there was one there with the small chuckle that escaped her. “Open up that other room, and move those two unfortunate soldiers back in there. And for god’s sake, give me a roommate. I don’t care who as long as it is within normal boarding procedures.”
“Yes, sir!” she said and gave a quick salute. The Captain lazily returned it and turned to leave being sure that the Sergeant would carry through with his orders. He lazily walked back to the main offices to finish his immense pile of paperwork for his assignment to the unit. After what he heard about the previous Commander, he only feared that his amount of paperwork was going to grow. There were obvious signs of poor leadership and the Captain already had to make drastic changes to fix it only a fraction of it. He could only foresee what would happen when he started to learn how the unit ran.
After turning in his paperwork for nearly everything on the face of the earth, he was given directions towards his room and then dumped in the hallway. He growled tiredly as he shook the aches out of his hands from writing for so long. He hasn’t done anything like that since his initial training lessons. He quickly pushed the reoccurring memories back into his subconscious before they surfaced. He was getting a new roommate and didn’t know who it was yet. He begged that he didn’t just get himself stuck with the worse roommate of all time. Maybe he should have kept the single room. However, he disregarded that thought when he saw the hallway to the barracks flooded with a group of soldiers running from room to room. The last few rooms were open as the few lucky soldiers moved into their new lodgings. They moved about with both excitement and relief, their stuff already fully unpacked in their quarters. Giving his soldiers livable conditions was nothing to be sour about.
As he entered the hallway there was a sudden shout that called the entire place to attention. The soldiers who were unlucky enough to be out of their rooms when the order was called stood as stiff as a board against the walls to give him the most room possible to pass. The Captain rolled his eyes and waved them off but they continued to stand like they had a stick up their butt. He passed down the eerily silent hallway and only got halfway through before he found himself being driven insane.
“Geeze, I said at ease. Go about your business. I just want to get to my room!” he exclaimed. “If you stopped for every time I moved you wouldn’t get anything done!” The soldiers glanced at each other and after a hesitant step forward by one of the braver of the few, they cautiously returned to their low conversations. As he continued down the hallway there were several shouts of gratitude to him for the room changes and he just growled back at them in return. The Captain reached the end of the hallway to room 310A with little effort after that. He scanned his left wrist by the door and it opened to his identification, sliding to the left. As the door opened he was smacked in the face with a pillow that someone seemed to be using as a projectile at that very moment. It hit his helmet and fell uselessly to the floor like a sack of potatoes. Silence filled the hallway as if an act of blasphemy just occurred, but he ignored it as he bent down and picked up the fluffy thing.
“Sir-” he heard the familiar voice of the young Cadet exclaim in shock as he moved into the half-used room.
“If you are planning on fighting rebel soldiers you are going to need more than a pillow,” he sighed as he tossed it back in the Cadet’s face. It smacked on target and then flopped limply to the man’s lap.
“S-sorry sir,” the clone muttered. The Commander rolled his eyes and took off his helmet, setting it gingerly down on the desk. The Cadet looked a bit confused as to what he was doing but he didn’t seem to want to ask.
“So, you’re my roommate. I was wondering who I was going to get stuck with.”
“Sir, thank you for allowing me to share rooms with you-“
“You were in the four-person room I am guessing?” he asked with a smirk. The Cadet quickly nodded his head in confirmation and the Captain let out a small laugh. “Yeah, I could only imagine living there. You were probably crammed. Here isn’t going to be much luxury either. Just to give you a fair warning, I read.“
“Uh, read?” the Cadet questioned, not sure why the Captain was warning him about a habit like that. He nodded his head and smirked as he examined the desk he was standing at a little bit. It was small, but he could picture long nights there.
“A lot,” he hummed as he tore his eyes from his desk and looked at the Cadet. His dark figure was stark contrast to the bright white walls around him. He still bore a rather nasty bruise around the rim of his nose from the fight and a couple scrapes but other than that he looked ready to fight, which brought the Captain to his next question.
“So, what were you throwing pillows for? Practicing your aim?” he asked as he flopped down on his bed and relaxed a little bit. The mattress was hard, but a lot softer than the ones he was used to up in space. The Cadet turned away, an obvious pout on his face as he didn’t want to answer. The clone might have been several years older than him, but he still seemed to act like a child.
“Is it about that fight earlier?”
“I didn’t say that!”
“You didn’t say no.”
“I didn’t say yes!”
“You’re showing all the signs of denial,” the Captain sang tauntingly.
“Maybe it’s cause you’re too short to see my expression, sir,” the Cadet retorted dumbly to a higher-ranking officer. The Commander quickly grabbed his own pillow from underneath his head and chucked it at the man’s head. It hit and fell to the Cadet’s lap uselessly on top of the other one.
“I am not short! I am only six!” he argued. There was a moment where they just angrily glared at each other but before long the Cadet rolled his eyes and slumped down on his bed pitifully. The Captain frowned as he watched the poor display and he slowly laid back down on his own bed.
“Why didn’t you fight back earlier?” the Commander asked gently cutting right to the chase.
“Did you see who I was up against, sir?! I couldn’t win against that monster!-”
“So you gave up-”
“It was a choice of getting beaten to a pulp or getting beaten out of existence if I fought,” he told him honestly. “Private Redd is a hot-headed idiot who doesn’t understand anything about orders but unfortunately I am not any good at fighting.”
“And running wasn’t an option because…” the Commander pressed, and he saw the Cadet grow a little red in the face and he turned away from him as if to hide it.
“I was born too tall. My legs did not develop right and now they lack the strength to run. It has made me a horrible coward. Good cowards at least run away,” the Cadet told him. “I can’t fight Redd, but if I had a blaster…”
“Nope, no shooting your coworkers,” ED-0001 laughed watching the man's false disappointment cross over his face. “How did you pass the academy if you can't run?” There was a moment of silence and the Cadet frowned.
“I.. I did not pass sir,” he admitted. “The Empire just needed more men sir, after the massacre on Ishval. They… didn't care. They just decided to stick me here and transfer someone else out in my place. Resembool is like the dump yard for the defective.”
“Defective?” the Commander asked, sitting up on the bed. The Cadet nodded his head numbly. “You are far from defective. You’re just different. In fact, anyone who thinks otherwise, they are defective.”
“And what do you know about it?” the Cadet retorted, sitting up himself to face him. He was determined to stay depressed. “You are perfectly fine. Probably passed all of your classes with top grades with a fitness score to match. This is probably your starting unit to get a little hands on experience in being a commanding officer before heading back out to a bigger and better place. Isn’t that right? So, what do you know about what it is like to be me?”
The Captain glared at his subordinate. The sound of the man’s bitter and damned words reverberated off of his ears and he didn’t let them in. There were many things he wanted to say to the Cadet but none of them were within a censored vocabulary. He closed his eyes and gritted his teeth for a moment trying to plan what he was going to say in retort. He had to choose his words carefully. However, he came up with none. He had not one words to say to his subordinate. Instead he reached down and slowly pulled off his left boot.
The angered look in the Cadet’s face quickly changed to astonishment the more metal was revealed from beneath the armor. The cool silver metal spread down the Captain’s left foot, creating flexing digits and a solid leg. It was automail, a completely robotic prosthetic to replace what he never had, or rather what he had lost. He wiggled his toes for a second as he stretched, even though he could not feel it. The Captain hopped up off of his bed, his glare still firmly fixed on his subordinate.
“S-sir,” the Cadet tried to stumble but he stopped him before he could even begin.
“This is my unit now,” the Captain hissed at him, “So forget everything that anyone has ever told you before. It is impossible for anyone to be defective. Leave that for the droids.” Without wanting to wait around for any further argument, the Captain quickly slipped his boot back on and snatched his helmet from his desk. He dropped it over his head, before quickly making his exit. The door slid closed behind him and the Captain was out in an empty hallway of the outpost. He was standing tall with his chest puffed out but it only took a few seconds for the wind to get knocked out of him. He slumped his shoulders and rubbed the back of his neck tiredly making his whole six years of living feel like a lifetime. Yeah, the previous commander definitely left him a lot to clean up. He first needed to start on his soldiers.
Chapter 2: Chapter Two
ED-0001 encourages the Cadet to become a leader.
A Different Type of Soldier
“Sir, if you don’t stop trying to find a nickname for me I will smother you in your sleep,” Cadet PT-3149 threatened.
“May the best man win, Patrick,” the Captain mocked lightly, just earning a light kick to the shins from his subordinate. He knew it would have been a rather gruesome glare, but it was hard to see facial expressions when your face was concealed behind a helmet. PT-3149 returned to his work and snipped a frayed wire on one of the harvesting droids. He was showing one of the Privates some simple mechanics so that they could get more people working on the damaged robots. It seemed that the Cadet had a secret talent for fixing machines that no one in the unit knew existed. He called it a hobby, but Imperial troops were not allowed to have hobbies.
The Captain caught sight of some movement and he looked up to see the farmer who owned the droid standing in the corner. The man was taut and watched them with cautious eyes as if they were vipers ready to strike. He was watching over them to make sure they didn’t sabotage his droid, but also to make sure that they didn’t shoot him in the back. The Captain felt that fear grow in himself as well.
After discovering the extents of the destruction in Liore after their unit’s latest harvest, he made up a rather large convoy to provide some aid. Nearly half of the buildings were destroyed in the fires and many of the farmer’s tools such as the droid were damaged. He didn’t question his soldiers about what really went down in the town. He frankly didn’t want to know. With the level of animosity there was between the citizens and their troops, it couldn’t have been good. The instant they stepped foot on the town’s soil they were already trying to be killed. Luckily, he was able to diffuse the situation before a fight broke out. If that happened, there might just be nothing left in Liore.
The Cadet stood up and allowed the Private to take over for him in finishing the job. The Captain motioned for him to follow and they quickly left the foundation of one of the few remaining houses in the village. The day was warm but not over blaringly hot which made the Captain grateful since he could only imagine running around in his armor in the desert. Across the town he saw figures of white armor racing around to help with anything that needed to get done. Large tactical tents were being set up in the fields for families whose houses no longer remained. The Captain had convinced the Supply Sergeant into lending him ten of them from the storage room. They were kept on hand for field training which they never did so he decided that they were going to be put to good use. Until the houses in the village were fully repaired, the homeless families would stay in them. They were very comfortable tents with solar heating for when the nights got chilly but they were no replacement for a house.
“Sir, did you get permission from higher up to do all of this?” the Cadet asked him nervously as they walked down the streets of Liore.
“Pfft. No,” the Captain chuckled at the Cadet’s simple question.
“B-But Captain!” he exclaimed, almost tripping over himself with the shock of his answer, “when General Greed finds out he’s going to decommission you for not following orders-“
“And what orders were those? To rape and plunder a defenseless village? I don’t think I remembered that being written in my files,” he replied sarcastically. “I am doing this because I want the General to find out. When he does, I am sure he will agree to changing up a few standards of operation.”
“You can’t change the General’s mind! You’re just going to get this entire company put under! We can’t tell a higher up how to do their job! They will kill you,” the Cadet argued. The Captain growled and grabbed the Cadet’s shoulder to stop him in his place. The street was busy, but wide, so there was space for their quiet conversation.
“You are going to be an officer in this unit so you need to learn how to act like one,” he said stiffly. “What do you see when you look at the people in this town?” The Cadet held his head like he was confused but the Captain motioned for him to look around the small village of Liore for a moment. The man took a small disinterested glance and then shrugged.
“Farmers, common folk, nothing to get killed over.”
“That’s where you will fail,” the Captain scolded him. “Our job is to feed the legion right? With food planted by these people. Without them we have no crop. We need to take care of our suppliers, or else they will stop supplying. If we keep ransacking the villages, the farmers will be less willing to give what they made. When that happens, there will be rebellion and the Rebel Alliance will win even if they aren’t here.”
“Who would ever side with those blood thirsty thugs?” the Cadet asked but that only made ED-0001 smirk.
“With what we did to this village, blood thirsty thugs doesn’t look like a bad option. If General Greed isn’t compelled by humanitarian efforts, he might like the idea of preventing rebellion.”
They continued their walk down the street and checked up on all of their platoon leaders who were in charge of different tasks. Everything seemed to be going as smoothly as it could be though the villager were still untrusting of them. With the progress they were making, the Captain imagined them to be finishing for the day within a few hours. Nearly all of the tents were set up and he saw some droids buzzing around the town again. Things were turning out well. However, as they started to near the fields where Desden was supposed to be discussing the next harvest, the Captain saw a rising commotion with one of the civilians. He recognized the man as the village leader. He was not one to cooperate with them, especially after everything their soldiers had done to them before. It was difficult for the Captain to talk his way through the fists the man tried to throw at him. Now it seemed there was more trouble stirring up at the scene.
“It won’t work! There is no way we can make two harvests! Even then I am sure that you are going to just steal that from us too! No matter how much we make, every year we starve!” the man yelled at his subordinate.
“Sir, I am sure that we can get our quota in without draining your food supply. It will have to be a quick season but the average crop grows-“
“These are all ifs! The frosts come early here and cut our season short. This won’t work-“
“Uh, excuse me, what’s the issue here?” the Captain asked, butting in gently. The leader turned to him, his face red and growing redder by the minute. He seemed to only yell for the sake of fighting them in any way he can. The man stepped forward, pushing Desden roughly out of the way just to get to him.
“I’ll tell you what’s going on! There is no way we can keep giving you food as we starve during the winter. This woman’s trying to make us do twice the work for two harvests which we don’t have enough time for! The frost comes too early. Then we would have no food and no seed.” The Captain looked at Desden who was standing there very unsoldier like with her arms crossed over her chest. She looked aggravated from having to argue with a thick skull for the better part of an hour. He motioned for her to step to the side for a minute so he could talk to her.
“Is this true?” he asked, knowing that while PT-3149 was a mechanic hobbyist, Desden liked botany. She knew agriculture like the back of her hand and as word of several soldiers in the unit, she was the only reason why they kept their harvested crop from rotting.
“I compiled harvesting plan for each village so that we know how much we need from each town to get our quota. There were often times where some villages were reaped dry while others were untouched. We would need the better part of a year’s harvest from every town leaving not much left to feed everyone else for the year. There could be a plan for the villages to pull in two harvests for us to get our quota and for them to have enough food, however there are too many variables to guaranteed that the crops would actually grow,” she told him, shaking her head in dismay. “But it’s the only thing we can try. There just isn’t enough time in one summer.”
The Captain frowned, and he closed his eyes in aggravated thought. He hated it that she was right. No matter what they did here, they still would be robbing a village of most of its food supply and sending them into starvation year after year. Looking at how thin the townspeople were, he knew that was already the case as well. However, as much as it looked like they couldn’t win, he didn’t want to accept failure. There was always a way. Like when the Empire was on its last limb of soldiers after the battle of the planet Ishval, the army dropped far below sustainable number. But they didn’t give up to the Rebel forces. More clones were made, like PT-3149 and they won the battle though the war was still raging. Crops were different than people but there still needed to be a way. They just needed more time. Or…. A thought occurred to as he slowly opened up his eyes and glanced down at his hands. Or they just needed to be faster. The Captain quickly spun around in his place and returned to the forgotten village leader.
“I have a solution. Give me one pound of seed for each type of crop you sow and I will give you three harvests a year,” he said.
“What? That’s impossible!” the man scolded him slowly like he was a child.
“You don’t need more time in a season, you just need the crops to grow faster. I will engineer the seeds to do that-“
“Impossible,” the Captain finished for him with a smirk. “No, it’s not. I am only six years old, yet I have grown a fair amount already.”
“You still look short to me,” the leader huffed. The Captain felt a sharp spike of anger fly through him as the man blatantly insulted him. He sucked in a silent breath to choke it down however. With everyone as on edge as they were, a heated argument would only end in guns.
“I am still growing, mind you,” the Captain hissed through his teeth as he relinquished his anger to the wind. “If I can grow this fast, I am sure I can make simple seeds grow faster.”
“I don’t want contaminated stunted seeds! I don’t know what you are planning, by doing all of this, but I want no part in your Imperial cloning voodoo. You can keep that stuff to yourself!”
“And everyone else in the village?” he asked him. The leader froze not really understanding his question. “By not accepting this proposition, are you willing for your entire village to starve when you already know your second harvest as is will fail? I am sure a pound of seed is no sacrifice for you to make.” The man’s face turned burnt red and he held his hands up in the air like he wanted to choke him, but the energy was in vain. There was an instant submission as the leader realized that it was his only option.
“Someone get this monster some seeds!” he called out to the gathering farmers before storming off to brood. The Captain was glad to see some farmers fetching a couple sacks for the seeds to go into. He turned around to consult his two subordinates just to find them staring at him. He believed that underneath their bulky helmets that their faces read dumbfounded.
“What?” he asked.
“Sir, how the hell are you going to clone seeds! We don’t know anything about it!” Desden cried. “You just walked everyone into a bloody corner.”
“I have a correction to make on that statement. You don’t know anything about cloning,” he retorted snidely. This comment got PT-3419’s attention.
“Wait…. You know how we were made?” he asked him, his voice was filled with disbelief. Though clones had their process encoded on their backs at all time, they themselves did not understand it and were not allowed to. The Empire did not give them any books or knowledge that wasn’t heavily regulated. ED-0001 knew he was a very large exception for that.
“Self-taught I guess you could say,” he waved off. “I know the basics. Any more information I need is on our backs. Once decoded I can create a process designed for plants with Sergeant Desden’s help. You know a lot about botany, Sergeant. I am going to need anything you can get on the crops that these farmers have been planting. Cadet you will help me make the growing environments for them.”
“This is so farfetched. It’s science fiction and you know it,” PT 3149 yelled at him. “How do we know it will work? How will we get it done in time?” That only made the Captain laugh as he rested his arm over the Cadet’s shoulder. He looked very pissed off that he was acting so casual to the crisis but made no move to brush him off.
“How very little you think of me,” he chuckled. “But since I will be spending nearly all of my time on this, I am going to need another officer to step up and help me run the unit. Cadet Peyton, we are going to make you lieutenant material. You can start by coordinating the convoy back to the base.”
“That’s not my name!” the man cried in aggravation as he then brushed his arm off of his shoulder. “I feel like you just love pushing your work off on me.”
“That’s only one benefit. The other is seeing you get your stripes. Come on we have a lot of work to do. I need to prepare for the completely unexpecting call from the General.”
“Let’s just hope its General Greed and not Lieutenant General Lust that finds out what you are up to.”
The Captain sat on his desk chair after their long day in Liore. He had plans to send more men out by platoons the following days to continue fixing the village but now they needed to rest. They did well and deserved to relax even for a few hours. The Captain got himself a nice steaming hot shower to ease his muscles and to help his body recline. He still felt the now cooling drops of water drip down his bare back to release the tension he held. It worked to all but his mind which was racing now more than ever. He could not stop thinking about his plans for the seeds and grew aggravated the more he realized that it would take time to develop them. If he could make them tomorrow he would to keep the villages from suffering another winter hungry but alas, he couldn’t. And he feared there never would if he didn’t come up with a convincing speech to tell the Generals why he took off with several of the units supplies, made an unauthorized visit to the local villages, and was planning returning trips of similar fashion. It wouldn’t take long for the logs to go up and reach their ears. The only thing he could do was to wait and plan for the storm to come flying in.
The pen in his hand tapped angrily against the journal that was laid open in front of him. The binding was old and worn. He had it since he was only two, and was filled with odd thoughts or constructs, few of which would help him in this newest pet project or any other situation he was currently stuck in.
“Sir,” the Cadet moaned as he turned over in his bed. He was trying to get his well earned sleep especially after the completely chaotic trip home. The Cadet needed practice planning a convoy or at least reading a map. They got lost three times on a route that they must have driven a million times over. It was only the tired groan in his voice that made the Captain look at his clock which read one in the morning. With an early wake up the next day he knew that he already was missing a lot of his sleep.
“Please, go to bed,” the man begged.
“I can’t,” the Captain sighed as he continued to tap his pen against his desk.
“You can’t get anything done tonight. You can start tomorrow with your code-“
“I will feel more comfortable if I had it written down tonight,” he hummed tiredly. His eyes were sore from staring down at the blank pages in his journal as if ink would suddenly appear there and give him a divine revelation. He rubbed them with exhaustion in every twitch of his muscle before he returned to tapping his pen on the table. There was a sudden screech of mattress springs and before the Captain knew it his notebook was being torn out from underneath him without anything of a warning. As he turned to try and rip it back out of his subordinate’s hands, he found that his pen also was missing within seconds of him taking his eyes off of it.
“Sir, you aren’t going to go to bed until you have something are you?” the Cadet asked more like a statement than a question. His voice was weary and deep. Looking at the bags beneath his subordinate’s eyes made him instantly regret staying up so late. However, even after the few weeks they roomed together, the Cadet knew him better than most people. He knew that he wasn’t going to rest without progress.
The Captain nodded his head tiredly but didn’t turn around, so the Cadet could sketch his burns. The scars from the coding burns ran all the way up from his low back to the nape of his neck. He didn’t know many of the details of what they looked like because he only had a few encounters with a mirror and not enough time to study them. The brands on a clone’s back were an intimate thing. Burning metal inscribed every little detail about what you are and how you are made into your skin. For another person to even look at the design that made them unique was a rather personal endeavor that the Captain didn’t think many appreciated. He himself was uncomfortable with another person looking at his back to intently. Sure, many people caught him at a glance when he was changing his shirt, but few people really inspected it. The ones that did were mostly those who had put it there to begin with and the memories of that event was something every clone was too willing to forget.
The Cadet was patiently waiting so that he could go to bed. The man was tired and the Captain knew it, but his hesitation was growing longer and he knew he would have to make up a decision. Whether he wanted to or not, he knew his project could not continue without his branding code. He had to get them and their every detail no matter what. However, when he was making this plan he didn’t think about what it would feel like to actually do it.
“Come on, Sir,” PT-3149 gently urged. “I need to go to bed.” With that, the Captain slowly turned around so that the Cadet could start sketching the horrible scars that marred his skin. The anxiety built up in him but the Captain choked it down. He sucked in a shaky breath and closed his eyes as he felt the Cadet’s hand gently brush his hair away from his back so that he could see. His eyes traced the lines on his skin as the pencil started to sketch them down into the notebook. The Captain didn’t like being analyzed even though he had wanted it done to begin with. He needed that information to continue with his project. He needed it better than his own hand could do. It seemed even PT-3419 was acknowledging the tense air in the room and after a few moments of hesitation tried to pick up a conversation.
“Sir, are you alright-“
“Y-yeah, I just don’t like being reminded of the…. Yah know-“
“The alimentation procedures? Yeah, I don’t like remembering them either,” the Cadet mumbled. “Too many needles.”
“Too many men in lab coats,” the Captain concluded with a small smile on his face as he realized that his roommate was able to make the cloning process seem such a silly thing to fear. He heard the scratching of the pencil continue and silence filled the gaps in the room once more. ED-0001 crossed his arms against the back of his chair and nestled his head down into them tiredly. He took a deep breath in to soothe his firing nerves and smelt the soap he had used in the shower not an hour ago. He sighed as he closed his eyes, wishing that the Cadet would hurry up. Sensing his anxiety, PT3149 continued to keep conversation together to distract him. The Captain was grateful for his efforts.
“Sir, do you mind if I ask you a question?”
“Don’t call me Sir, Penelope. We are roommates for heaven’s sake. If I must hear formalities all day and night my ears will fall off,” the Captain sighed, hoping that light hearted fun would get his mind to a better place. It didn’t, but helped a little.
“I will keep calling you, Sir, until I know your name,” the Cadet retorted making the Captain frown. “With all of the time you spend trying to give me a name, why don’t you have your own?”
“I do have one, but I do not use it,” he muttered, as he turned his eyes down to the floor. There was a pause as the Cadet waited him to continue but he didn’t. He hadn’t thought about his name in years. It wasn’t an easy conversation and like his scars, it was one he would rather keep to himself. But his roommate was relentless.
“What is it? You can’t have a name and not tell me. Is it bad? Is it Egor or something?”
“Then why have a name if you don’t use it?” his subordinate asked along with a small command for him to straighten his back. The scratching of the pen on paper continued even as the Cadet argued with him. The Captain sighed and straightened his back, feeling all of the vertebrae tighten in it. He turned his head and looked over his shoulder to where his subordinate was standing in his black under armor the soldiers used to sleep in. The tall clone was staring with full focus on his back to make the careful sketch of his scars. Even with his attention on his work, the Captain knew that he was listening full heartedly into the conversation. He understood what he was going to say and would not take it lightly. He had only been roommates with the Cadet for a few days, but even then, he knew that they were going to be great friends. He would possibly be the first friend that he ever had.
“There is a difference between being completely nameless and just choosing to be,” the Captain told his subordinate slowly. His words were heavy, and the Cadet’s dark eyes flickered up to him for only a short second before returning to his work. “Having a name gives someone an identity, unique to themselves. Even if you don’t use it, it is better to have one so you know who you are. You need a name, PT-3149,” the Captain continued softly as his voice faded to a whisper. Though his words were heavy, they weren’t loud. The weight they carried was enough to carry the point across. He was searching for a name to give the Cadet individuality. He didn’t want him imagining that the only thing he was worth was an expendable soldier in the Empire. They were much more than that, though PT-3149 seemed to have forgotten that fact.
He heard the pen stop for a second and he knew that the Cadet was going to ask why he didn’t use his own name if identity was so important to him. The Captain hadn’t told anyone his name or who had given it to him since he had left for the safety of the Empire’s mother ship for the chaotic mess of the Clone Troops. It was a safe secret between him and one other person who probably forgotten he existed at all. That person was there since the beginning, and understood him far better than anyone else in the universe, even before he was branded. They trained together, lived together, they did everything together until the one fateful day ED-0001 messed up. Now he was millions of miles away on a forgetful planet farming crop for the rest of his life.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” the Captain interrupted the Cadet as he went to ask the question he knew he would. The man instantly closed his mouth instantly as to not look like a gaping idiot. The scratching of the pen picked back up without second thought. “My name was given to me by someone very special. He is the only one that knows it. I would like to keep it that way. We have been apart for so long though, I don’t know if he even remembers me,” he chuckled like it was a joke. It wasn’t. And the Cadet didn’t laugh. Silence filled the room once more and the scratching of the pencil soon halted, and the Captain found his journal returned to him. He looked down to see that the page had a perfect sketch of his back on it. The writing was clear and each line was drawn with the precision of an architect. The Captain smiled back at his subordinate just to find that he had sneaked back off to his bed without a word. His long legs were curled up on the mattress and his tall form was scrunched up into a tiny ball just to fit. Though he appeared to be uncomfortable, he was already fast asleep.
The Captain frowned as he glanced back down to his journal. He glanced down to the bottom of the page where there was a scratchy signature similar to what an artist would put on the bottom of a painting or an architect on the bottom of blueprints. He saw the sharp letters and read them closely, memorizing the name of the man who had made the small piece of work in his journal. Pitt. The Captain grinned and gently closed his book and placed it back on the shelf above his desk. It appeared that his PT-3149 had found his name.