Chapter 1: I Woke Up in the Wrong Bed
Fox rolled over, grabbing at the blankets. There was a little sunlight landing right on his eyes and that annoyed him, so he tried to duck his head. His bunk bed was so soft...! He honestly couldn't remember the last time he'd ever thought that that thin excuse for a mattress was soft, but he sure did now! He pawed at one of the blankets again and mumbled something, not wanting to get up. Fox cracked one hazel eye open. That was...odd. Where were his brothers? Where was Crys? Why wasn't Jagger snoring in his ear or Contrails babbling in his sleep? And where the hell was Kote?! Fox scrambled up, looking for his vod'ika. He blinked his eyes for a few minutes and scrambled around under the too soft blankets, getting way too tangled up in the process.
With a cry, he rolled off of a couch and smacked into a carpeted floor. Another inch and he would have brained himself on the caff table. Fox started breathing heavily, not exactly sure where he was. He had a strict policy of not going home with his lays and he didn't think he'd forget it, no matter how drunk he was. Fox grunted some, clawing his way out of the blankets. A quick examination revealed that he was dressed in his all-blacks and his lower armor, so that meant he hadn't gotten naked. And, weirdly enough, he did not need a shower. Fox groaned a little bit and tried to feel out just how deep he'd stepped in it. He didn't think he was still drunk, but he did know that he wasn't in the barracks and Master Siju was going to kill him for being late.
Again. Because this wouldn't be the first time that Fox had come staggering back to the barracks needing a shower and aching in places that he didn't need to ache. And no wonder he'd caught the bouncer bolt just under his ribs. He'd been too sore from a Besalisk General (may the Force help his troops, poor bastards) to really move like he needed too. Kote, however, had gotten enough of his inhaler and capsules to last another month or two. That meant that Fox could take a week or two off from hitting the streets. Fox groaned loudly and picked himself up. Maybe working three shifts in a row wasn't his brightest plan, but it was all the plan he had. What else was he supposed to do? Let Kote die?
And that was another depressing thought. Kote's hut'uun di'kut of a brother had forgotten that he didn't get rations like the rest of them did. Sure, Alpha-79 was decent about slipping Fox the leftovers, but it was bound to be past 0600 hours. Breakfast would have came and went. Kote was probably huddled in their bunk, sick and scared, hoping that no one would hurt Fox.
"Are you up yet?" Senator Padme Amidala padded into what looked like a living room, holding a plate of food. Fox's belly growled, reminding himself that he hadn't eaten since sometime earlier that night. And that had just been a ration bar and some water. Fox tried to pick himself up and looked somewhat decent, but that failed when the blanket tangled around his legs again and he almost fell flat on his shebs. Again. "How do you like your caff, by the way?"
"Do you have cream?" Fox kicked himself as soon as he said it. She was a pfassking Senator! And a fripping Queen! Of course she had freaking cream in her freaking refrigeration unit! Fox grabbed the blanket and almost threw it across the room. He rubbed his mussed up dark hair, not sure of what to say. The Senator looked like she'd just gotten up, clad as she was in a loose shirt and loose pants. Of course, she didn't have hair that was spiked up in every possible direction. No, her hair was caught up in a very nice braid and Fox pinched his other arm to stop those thoughts in his tracks. "And... I'm sorry for crashing on your couch last night. It won't happen again, I'll make sure of it."
"It's my fault for making you stay out so late." Senator Amidala passed him the plate of food and Fox attacked it. He almost moaned, not used to the flavors and textures of fresh food. Eggs, some sort of fluffy bread drenched in syrup, meat on the side, a little bit of fruit... It was so good that Fox finished in about five minutes and started licking the plate off. Senator Amidala freaking handed him (him! A clone trooper!) caff with fresh cream in it. Fox drained that quickly and wiped his mouth off on the back of his wrists. "And Ahsoka wasn't kidding. She said that clones ate more in one sitting than most people eat in one day."
"No offense, but ration bars suck shebs." Fox tried to clean off the rest of the crumbs. That meal was too good to waste, okay? He got up quickly and carried his stuff to the sink. "Look, I would help you clean if I could, but I'm already in deep poodoo for being out so late. I don't want my Jedi to get any madder than he already is." He shuddered some, not wanting to make the Chagrian and angrier than he already was. Fox grabbed at another bit of offered food and ate that, too. Padme, he noticed, did look a little bit concerned.
"Are they not feeding you?" she slowly asked. Fox shrugged some and looked over at the rest of his food. He needed to get out of here before he got in any more trouble than he already was. The last thing he needed was to get in more trouble. He was on thin ice as it was: Siju was just plain tired of him and his troops didn't trust him. He showed up drunk and reeking of sex too much, but what was he supposed to do? He had to take care of his little brother. He couldn't just let him go hungry. "Do you need some of that for later?"
Fox nodded, not believing his luck. "That...that would be awesome. Please?" He watched her with his hazel eyes, not sure if he was really seeing straight. Was a Senator really making food for him? Fox rubbed his eyes some, but he took the container of food with a nod of the head and started running to get back to the barracks. As far as he knew, he hadn't been sleeping around. He'd just been so tired that he crashed out on the couch. That was all. He was allowed to get tired, right? Fox really did hope so. He dashed into the barracks, went running for his bunk, and went headlong into a very pissed Master Siju. Fox tried to stop himself, but his boots weren't treaded right (they were too old) and he plowed into the man anyway.
Siju yanked him up with the Force and threw him a few feet. Fox landed with a grunt. "Where were you last night?! I thought that guard duty would keep you out of trouble, but clearly I was wrong!" The Chagrian pulled himself up to his impressive height and his horns seemed to bristle with every second he looked at Fox. Fox gulped. "So. Who did you sleep with this time?"
"No one." Fox gulped some. He was getting the bad feeling that Siju didn't believe him. "I promise, General! I worked three shifts in a row and I passed out, okay?! I passed out!" He knew he was yelling at his General, but he didn't really care. "I didn't sleep with anyone, but Crys and Fixer owe me credits, so I would like to collect." He shuddered some. "And Kote. General, please... I need to feed Kote? If you're going to punish me, can it please wait?"
"You were guarding that Senator." The General crossed his arms. "Did you frip her last night? Finally decided to start being a man and not let others take you? Or do you stupid clones like that more? And what are you carrying? If that's more stimulants, I'm going to have to report you to Kamino, Fox. Your own men don't trust you and you're a waste. We should send you to the front line where you'll be out of my misery."
"Vodie!" Kote came running into the room as best he could and threw his arms around Fox. The clone was about fifteen, but years of sickness and bad nutrition had stunted his growth and his mind. The smaller clone scrambled into Fox's arms and coughed harshly, his thin chest heaving from that small effort. Kote nuzzled his cheek gently, his eyes closing slowly. Fox kissed his brother's cheek. "Missed you, vodie. Why'd you leave me again?"
"I was very tired," Fox softly said. He sat down at one of the battered chairs and ignored the Jedi in the room. "Look, I brought you breakfast. Real food." He opened up the top and let Kote dig in. He tried to ignore the Jedi, but he knew this was a bad idea.
Siju cleared his throat. "This isn't over, clone."
"Yessir." Fox knew it wasn't. He just hoped he wasn't transferred to the front lines this time. He tried to ignore the dread in the pit of his stomach as Siju marched off. Fox looked back to Kote and reminded himself that it was worth it. It was worth anything to care for Kote.
Chapter 2: The Wrong Side of Heaven
Fox rubbed his face some, trying to figure out where he went next. Dealing with Padme, as nice as she was, seriously cut into his time when he could be out hitting the streets and looking for money. The GAR had told Fox up front that he was going to have to care for his little brother. Fox didn't mind it. He would never be able to forget that scared child, looking up at him from a shivering squad of defective cadets. He would have taken all of them if he could. But something had called him to Kote and so he'd hidden the cadet in his barracks. That was, until Master Windu found out. It hadn't gone very well for him, though the Korun could have been much harsher with him. These days, being spoken down too and lectured would be so much better than losing Kote.
He sighed a little bit and rubbed at the stubble before getting up to shave. Clones were not paid. They didn't get any money other than what they could scrounge up or bum from their Jedi. Kote couldn't afford to not have his medication. Fox could only bum so many credits off the Jedi before he was sent away. Working extra shifts was okay, but he rarely got paid. He had to have twenty credits a week. That meant he had to have two partners at the very least. Fox glanced over at the ad'ika sleeping, still wrapped up in his blankets. Siju would never send him away. He was too good at what he did for that. Now transfer him over to a general who hated him? That was clearly a possibility. It might happen or it might not
Sevs sneered as he walked into the refresher. "Whatcha doin here?" The cocky ARC was fresh off of Kamino. The only reason why he was the Coruscanti guard was that he had failed his final training course. And the only reason why he wasn't dead was because Shaak Ti had seen fit to stop killing clones for minor things. The burly young clone snapped a towel under Fox's shebs, making him jump and yelp. "Thought you would be out on the streets, doing that sort of thing. They done the thing to you so you can't have kids yet? Cause you're dealing with that Senator?"
Fox rolled his eyes some. "It's called shaving. I'm old enough that I have to shave every morning so my face doesn't get rubbed raw. You'll understand it if you live long enough." He dodged the next popped towel and grabbed the data tablet to listen to the audio file for the day's commands. He was back on guard duty, Sevs was leading a patrol down the Crimson Corridor, looking for some Nautolan terrorist, Ace and Crazy Legs were dealing with the Jedi (guard duty for them! Yay!), and it seemed that Bust-Up was shipping out with the 786th. Fox wished the older clone luck with that. Bust-Up was good at what he did, but the 786th was known for taking a lot of causalities. General Taysume was not known for being careful and the Togruta's men paid for that with their lives.
Fox swiped two ration bars and two bottles of water from the kitchens. He ate and listened to the news, letting Kote snuggle up with him. After he was done, he kissed his little brother good bye and got ready for another day of guard duty. Fox wondered if he could go to sleep under all the armor and if anyone would even notice. The man huffed out a small sigh as he walked. He looked around some, making sure that no one was looking, before he jacked a stim into his arm. Fox groaned some as the rush hit him. He hadn't gotten much sleep last night. Nerves and dreams of that Senator he was guarding. Jerking off was one thing, but jerking off to the face of a Senator and a queen? That was a surefire way for Fox to get put down if he ever heard of one.
He showed up ten minutes early and stood beside her door. People tended to try and kill VIP like her, so it was in the Jedi's best interest to keep the VIP safe. And that was where Fox came in. It was his job to help her and make sure that she wasn't killed. Fox might not have been the best, but he wasn't going to let that get him. He had a job to do and he was going to do it. The man waited some, shifting from foot to foot. He could deal with this. He could watch over her and make sure that she wouldn't be hurt or killed. Padme didn't want to mail order a Mandalorian bodyguard (he would be a slave and sexually available to her), so the Jedi needed to provide security for her.
The red armored clone waited and set up his guard. He was okay with doing this all day if he had too. It was far better than getting shot at. So he waited and he stood, making sure that he would keep himself calm, but waiting. The clone knew what he was doing. He put his game face on and made sure that he would be ready for whenever she came out. Fox figured that he wouldn't get breakfast again. It had been a fluke, a one time thing. But after five minutes, the door opened and Padme slipped into the hall. She did look a little worried. Fox stayed still and hoped that she would let him do his thing in peace. He liked her, and he was clean, but he didn't want to explain what he picked up from a Trandoshan bounty hunter several years ago.
The Jedi didn't have to bother with a sterilization procedure. A STI had taken care of that two and a half years ago, Kix had confirmed it: Fox was fertile, but he was at less than half for a clone. That meant three quarters for a human. You got used to it.
"You're here early," Padme noted. She was wearing a blue and gold gown with some white bodice work. Fox allowed himself to admire it some before slipping inside. He took his helmet off and stood at attention. He needed to go on and get this over with. "Breakfast?"
"You don't have to feed me," Fox mumbled. He touched her hand some and tried to imagine what it would feel like to be able to touch a woman because he wanted too. Not because he was forced to do things to take care of his brothers. But Fox smelled something warm and sweet. The ration bar would keep him going, but it wouldn't fill his belly. He would usually just deal with it and get lunch from a friendly or two, but he could deal with the hunger. He'd dealt with it for years on Kamino, after all. "I'm okay, Senator. I've dealt with worse. It's my job to keep you safe."
"And you can't do that if you're hungry," Padme challenged. She handed him a frosted donut and a small tumbler of caff. "You have cream in there, too. Since you like it so much." She flashed him a little bit of a dry smile. "I figured that you would be used to eating this."
"I'm used to eating on the run." Fox bolted the food down and felt bad that he couldn't share it with Kote. But first things first: he had to protect this Senator with his life. If he messed this one up, he was going to get put down. Kote would either follow or starve to death. There was a lot riding on his shoulders and Fox squared them as he walked out. He could do this. He had to do this. For Kote.
Chapter 3: Mister Obvious
The caff really made him feel good after he took the stim. He was almost seeing double, he was so alert. Fox tried to keep it together. This was almost the end of the line for him. That actual end of the line would be Skywalker and Fox didn't think he could survive more than a few months under Skywalker's "leadership" or lack thereof. Why he didn't get more good men killed was beyond him. Fox just tried to keep it together. Maybe drinking the entire thermos of caff in one sitting was a really bad idea. Not only did he have the jitters times then thousand, he also had to piss. Probably like a fatheir. That would not be a good idea, especially if he had to walk out on her. He was supposed to go before, not during.
Fox really couldn't do anything right, could he?
He watched the Senators and their staff with hooded eyes, trying to remember if he had ever met any of them in a back alley. Zam Wessel? Yes. She had shifted into something that was barbed and taken him just to watch him scream and writhe. Then again, she also paid so well that he'd been set up for three months. And that was with buying pizza on every Friday. Orn Free Taa was built like every male Twi'lek down there. His pretty little assistants weren't slaves. They were bodyguards. Fox knew from personal experience that those ladies packed a punch and knew how to use it well. He didn't know much about Senator Amidala, so he listened to her audio file and tried to soak things up. He needed to know as much as he could about her.
At some point during the break, Skywalker showed up. Fox took the chance to use the refresher. Yes, he got some looks. Yes, he also knew that most of the Senate saw clones like living furniture. Not really men. Just droids made of flesh and bone that were created to die. Yeah, Fox hated people like that. But what could he say or do? It wasn't like he could hope to get in a fight with them and not get destroyed. He finished up, washed his hands,and waited for them to be done making out in an unused classroom. Skywalker had a new spring in his step as he walked out. Fox tried to ignore it, but he didn't like the way that the Senator's eyes were a little glassy as they went back to the Senate chamber.
Maybe it was being forced to listen to boring speeches all day. Fox was pretty sure that would do it to anyone. He just wanted to take a nap, but that was out of the question right now. So he stood behind the Senator, ignored the hands that touched his groin plate and his shebs, and tried to keep things going smoothly. Until he walked across Alpha-17 and Obi-Wan Kenobi making out in the halls. It looked like Alpha had Obi-Wan pinned to the wall and was actually making the famous Jedi Master shout as he did whatever he did. Naturally, Fox had a good idea what he was doing, but that didn't mean that he wanted to get an eye full. On second glance, they weren't just making out. Obi-Wan's trousers were lowered and Alpha was buried to the hilt.
Alpha gave Fox a low growl. "Either join in or go away. I don't want an audience."
"You were the one who chose this corner. Not me. I'm just trying to get Senator Amidala caff." Fox shook his head some and tried to ignore the needy whimpers coming from Obi-Wan. From the sounds of it, the Stewjonian was almost out of it. "Good luck explaining that one to Skywalker!" He darted out of sight before Alpha could throw something at him. Force, but that had made him hard. Thankfully, the groin plate covered up the evidence. But that didn't mean he wanted to walk around the Senator like that. That meant a quick trip to the bathroom, a firm right hand, a very long hand washing session, and Fox being slightly late with the caff and the cookies.
Padme gave him a look. "Did you get lost?"
"Nope." Fox bent down so he could whisper through his helmet mike. "Just ran into Alpha fripping Master Kenobi in a corner. Like they were both horny teenagers, not grown shebs adults." He rolled his eyes some and wondered what this galaxy was coming too. Kenobi had to have more self respect than that. Yeah, sure, the entire Council knew those two were fripping, but Alpha made it obvious at times. Part of that was just Alpha's nature and the rest was Obi-Wan showing that yeah, he liked clone troopers. A lot. And he wondered why half the Council hated his guts. It wouldn't do to have a Jedi Master taking it from a clone, now would it? "You want me to call the tabloids or do we keep this on the down low?"
"I think we should use this as blackmail." Padme sipped her caff and invited Fox to sit with her. He did and he also removed his helmet. When he was younger, he'd been punished for taking food from someone without permission from his mongrel officer. He'd been starved for weeks. That just meant that he tended to wolf his food now and he eagerly took the offered cupcakes. "Did you take pictures?"
"Yup. And I'll send them to you over a secure encryption." Or he would have a brother who could read do it. Fox couldn't read. It got annoying, but the helmet GPS was at least ninety percent right.
"I would like that." Padme gave him a smile that didn't quite meet her eyes and looked through him. Fox didn't like this. He knew he looked like a mess right now, but he was supposed to be taking care of the Senator. That meant that he needed to make sure she was okay. In the galaxy they lived in, that could imply keeping her safe from spells, too. Padme looked over at him. "Why are you looking at me like that? Do I need to fix my makeup?"
Fox just shook his head no. "Sorry," he lied. "I was just thinking."
"Alright." Padme turned back to her work, but Fox still had the bad feeling in the pit of his stomach. He just wished that he could put his finger on it, though.
Chapter 4: I Made a Mistake
Fox hurt all over and just wanted to go home. But he needed another ten credits before he had enough to pay for Kote's medication and have enough left over for a few things that he needed. He couldn't keep going to Kix and ask to be patched up for the third time in a row. Modern antibiotics killed most of thosethings, but you still had to be careful. Fox tried to have a barrier on all of them, but there were nights that he'd do anything for an extra five credits. Tonight was looking to be one of those nights, too. The bar'ves out there weren't in the mood for a clone on the street corner when they could go to a cantina and get a pretty little Twi'lek. Might be twice the cost, but you were paying for quality, too.
His stomach clenched. Fox had managed to find oil and mascara to highlight his already stunning (if you asked him) features. Some nights, it worked like a charm. Other nights he was getting no response. His belly clenched as he patrolled up and down his little patch of street. If he stayed here too long, he'd be chased off by the ones who actually owned this place, but he would work here while he could. Fox had already worked enough extra shifts to fill up another week of work. But even that wasn't enough. He needed credits. Needed credits to take care of his little brother and himself. A little bit of extra food would go a long way if you asked Fox. He didn't ever think that his belly had been full.
The ginger clone trooper tried to make himself look as appealing as possible. He smiled, said all the right things, and got himself enough to finally go home. He felt filthy and he needed a shower, but that was the price of doing business. Fix tried to ignore the scraped up knees that he had or the scratches on his palm. The clone took a deep breath as he walked and tried to slip through the busy streets. The clone really did feel horrible about himself and what he was doing. Fox forced himself not to think about it. Kote didn't know what he was doing and he never needed to know. Fox bit his bottom lip as he walked and forced himself to look at the pavement as he walked. The sooner he got back to his rack and his shower, the better. Right now he would kill to get in the wash.
The clone jumped and looked around, trying to figure out who was talking about what. Fox looked around. He finally saw Senator Amidala and he noticed that he'd wandered into one of the restaurant districts. The man swallowed some. The last time he was here, he got chased off by one of the locals with a broom stick. That was after he was harassed by the local law enforcement and just before he was run out of this part of town. Fox swallowed some and tried to explain all of this in his mind. The body oil. The mascara. The bloody scratches on his knees and the fact that he'd just ripped the knees out of his last pair of civvie trousers and the fact that his hair was mussed up and it looked like people had been grabbing it.
Because they had been. Maybe he could get away with lying, saying that his throat was sore (well, it was. It had been a long time since he'd done some of what he did), and just get the hell out of dodge.
"Senator Amidala." Fox tried backing away and looking for a good exit. She fixed him to the spot with a sharp eyed look. Fox swallowed. Oh. He was dead. He was so, so, so dead. She was going to figure out what he did on the weekends and she was not going to be happy. Fox knew from personal experience that a lot of the Senators liked playing that their aides were either virgin or inexperienced enough to pass for one. Fox could play act that, if she liked. "What a nice surprise! I was just getting back!"
"What's on your face?" She walked closer to him and smudged some of it off.
Fox yelped. "Hey! Don't do that! Do you know how long that takes me to get right?!" He heard the slight laughter and then he noticed that she had friends. Oh. Well then. It looked like they had an audience. For a brief second, he felt like turning on the other persona he had, but he didn't know if he was clean right now and the last thing he needed to do was get caught kissing a Jedi's girlfriend. Force only knew how that would go over with the rest of the GAR. Somehow, Fox was getting the feeling that the rest of the ARCs would not only pop his shebs in the shower, they would try to get some in the shower. Hey, classmates but not batchmates Fox understood, but he wasn't interested in the vode that way.
"If you wanted help with makeup, you could have asked me," Senator Amidala said. Fox tried to keep from projecting. He really did want to go back, but his traitorous belly let loose a grumble and she looked up at him. Fox swore he felt himself melting under those soft brown eyes. "Are you hungry, Fox? You do look a little pale." Amidala's head cocked some. "And are you wearing body oil?"
"I was at 79's and I needed to get home," he lied. Fox felt a little bit horrible about it and he hoped that Senator Amidala didn't know that that particular dive bar was on the other side of town. He leaned against one of the duracrete walls, knowing full well that the too-tight shirt was going to strain across his muscled form. He tried to flash her a flirty smile. "Got a little drunk with the brothers, we had some fun, I don't have enough credits to buy a cab, and could you get me a ride home, please?"
One of Amidala's friends, a Nautolan woman with feathers all in her lekku and a strange spiral of a dying star tattoo on her left arm, frowned. "79's is on the other side of town, trooper."
"The name is Fox and I must be more drunk than I thought!" Fox replied. He tried to shake his head like a dog and silently prayed to Murphy and all the saints that he got out of this without getting taken to the drunk tank. Again. Especially when he hadn't had a drop to drink tonight. Because this was a work night and he really didn't need to get soused when he had credits in his pockets. "I mean, we've been out for several hours already and Ox was really hitting up the booze! Same with Sirty. I mean, I guess I thought I could drink them under the table, but silly me, ya know?"
"You're not drunk, trooper." The Nautolan pinched the bridge of her nose. "Can we find a place with a salt pool while you sort this out? My skin is getting dry."
"They actually do that now?"
"Yes. If you don't go to dive bars where there are wampa heads hanging from the ceiling and drunk pirates starting gun fights," the woman sharply replied.
"Touche." Fox rubbed his face and tried to figure out what he was supposed to be doing now. Getting home was great. "A cab home would be great, Senator. Or even just me borrowing your comm so I can call Ox and cuss him out about leaving me and then call Lightning so I can get home before Dawn Shift tomorrow. Sound about fair to you?" He really hoped that it did. Because the last thing that he needed was to get stranded out here. Just not a good idea, if you got his drift. He needed to get home and the sooner the better.
"You're coming with us," Senator Amidala decided. She took his hand and started pulling the clone to a fancy looking place that, judging by the picture in the windows, sold fish and nerf steaks. Fox's mouth watered at the smells coming out of there. Maybe he could con people out of their dinners and doggie bags if he was smart about it? "So just what are you doing out in this district? And please don't lie to me, I'm not an idiot."
Anyone who was willingly dating Skywalker counted as an idiot in Fox's book, but he kept his mouth shut about that one. The ginger man shrugged some. "Like I said," he lied, "I got drunk with my brothers. Good and drunk."
"Then why don't I believe you?"
Fox had no answer to that and he tried to grab and stuff rolls in his mouth before she could expect him to answer.
Chapter 5: Busted
Fox had never eaten food as good as this. Well, not that he could really remember. Clones usually got some kind of nutrient goop with the odd ration bar tossed in for variety. The food tasted horrible, but you could eat it and it would keep you from dying of hunger. So that was decent.Fox moaned a little as the green bread almost melted in his mouth. It was just the right blend of salty and nutty, with these really nice little lumps baked in that made it so nice to eat. Well, it was food with texture and clones didn't always get to eat food with texture. He chewed it up pretty quick and grabbed at a roll. Well, he did that until Padme put her hand on his wrist and cleared her throat. That, coupled with a dirty look, was enough to make him draw his hand back.
"Do you mind?" he grumbled. "That might be mold green, but at least it tastes good!" And he wasn't used to food that tasted good. He was usually just expected to eat and put up with it and he did that, but good tasting food was something he really wanted to get more of. Padme shook her head. Fox gave her a little bit of a confused look. "What?! What did I do this time?"
"Let's see... you show up in this fancy district looking like a cheap whore and then you said that this bread was mold green," she replied. Padme leaned over the table and Fox got a good look at her face. She wasn't done up like she usually was. Just her plain, simple clothes and some eye shadow. Maybe a little lipstick, probably a little blush. Nothing like the dramatic stuff clones tended to do if they got a hold of some makeup. Fox had played with it a few times, but it got old quick when you started sweating it off under a bucket. Padme shook her head some. "I'm not stupid, Fox. I know you might not think very highly of me, but I'm not stupid. Is someone hurting you? Do I need to call the internal affairs people? If someone is forcing you into prostitution, that's a felony offense. And if you have a good lawyer, you might even be able to get a decent settlement."
Fox rolled his eyes. "First of all, I chose this, so frip off with trying to run my life. And maybe I like to look pretty!" But anyone could hear the lie in his words, so he tried to flash his most stunning smile. This was the smile that had gotten him out of so much trouble with the local cops. There was nothing like giving some hotshot rookie a crappy blowjob and watching him come undone. Fox sighed. He didn't bother looking at the menu that the waiter brought them. Fox got another stink eye, which he ignored. "And besides, I need money. There are only so many extra shifts that I can work until I drop dead from exhaustion. That and if I keep jacking stims, I'm gonna be tossed in the slammer and I'd rather the fripping be on my terms, if you get my drift."
Padme's mouth narrowed into a thin line. "Why do you need money?"
"Because my little brother is defective and I have to keep him fed, clothed, and have his pills. He's supposed to have them thrice a day, but we've had to stretch the pills out to once a day." Fox shrugged some."You can thank that blasted Bull Rathtar political party for that one. Not sure what they did, but whatever it was, I'd like to smack them in the face! They're killing my brother and it's all I can do to keep him going for this long." He sighed some and rubbed his short red hair.
"What would you like to eat?" Padme softly asked. She showed him his menu. "You do know how to order at a restaurant, right?"
"Can't read, so why would I even bother? Why don't you just pick something for me and I'll eat that," he muttered. Fox glared at the rude waiter, again, who took the bread and left some kind of tea in his wake. He snatched that up, took a sip, and then made a face. "Gah! What is that?!"
"That was my sunspot sparkler that you just drank out of," Padme retorted. She sighed softly. "Do you know what you like to drink at least? I'm not sure if you've ever had some of this stuff, though..." She looked through the menu. "Ahh! You do like blackberries, right?" Fox nodded, still a little wary. So he liked berries? Was that a federal offense now? Padme nodded again and bit her bottom lip. "So a caffeine free blackberry soda for you, another sunspot sparkler for me, and we'll split a plate of seafood pasta because that's my favorite and you don't know what you like anyways. That sound fair?"
Fox reached for the abandoned drink and took another sip, right before he made a face. "I really don't know why my brothers say they like this skanah! It's like it's gonna burn when it's going down, but then it all tastes sour in your mouth!" He gave the colorful drink a sour look right before he dove right back in and had it down in about three seconds. He ignored the slightly horrified look on Padme's face as he slammed the glass on the table. And maybe the crack that shot up the side had been there all along. This place looked all fancy and kriff, but they really needed to start taking care of their stuff. And hey, who was the sheb'urcyin of a waiter to say that he broke the thing? It wasn't like he had the money to replace it. Maybe he'd get the guy off right under the table if he pressed the issue too much.
"Are you clean?" Padme suddenly asked. She made her order and cast him a sharp look. Fox sighed softly. He wasn't going to get out of this, was he? The clone grimaced some as Padme touched his hand. "I need to know since I'm working with you and I don't want to get sick. Especially if I pass it on to Ani..."
"I'm clean," he assured her. "Or, well, the last test I had was a month ago, but my deece hasn't been burning and my shebs aren't bleeding or dripping stuff." He ignored her horrified look and took the soda with a murmured thanks. Huh. That tasted so much better than the other thing! He sipped that one slowly. Fox shrugged a little bit. "I'm not gonna make you sick, Senator. That's not my MO, I don't do crap like that. I'm just a poor man trying to make a semi-honest living." And that was the truth. Well, most of it anyways.
Padme shook her head. "It's money you need, right?"
Fox nodded. "Yeah. The pills are about twenty five to thirty credits a month. Clones don't get paid, ya know, and I gotta buy food for him, too. So that's another thirty or so." He gave her a tired shrug. "Stuff's gotten expensive after the war and you gotta go what you gotta do."
"I'll pay for it." Padme gave him a fiery look. "And I'll pay you for your work. This exploitation has got to stop and I only put up with it because the alternative is so much worse." Fox figured she was talking about Kamino threatening to destroy the clones when the GAR hadn't wanted to pay up. He hadn't been around for that, but Ox had, and he said that a few batches of brothers had actually been destroyed before the Jedi paid up. Padme rubbed her face some. "I wish Ani had an idea about what to do, though..."
"Ori'buyce, kih'kovid," Fox snorted. He started digging into the best plate of food he'd ever had, barring the bread, just before Padme could ask him what he meant by that. The clone hadn't ever eaten something with real meat in it and he was going to enjoy this before he got grilled again. The offer to pay for the meds was a nice gesture, though. Even if he knew she would never really do it.
Chapter 6: You Weren't Kidding?
Fox wasn't quite sure what he was supposed to be doing with this food. Again, clones were used to getting food that was soupy or ration bars. Not food that you had to cut up with a knife or use a fork and spoon to eat. And just what was it with the spicy sauce and the weird little bits of meat in the shells? Now, this was the best food he'd ever eaten and he was inhaling it, but he had no idea what it was or why he was eating it. Padme called it "frutti del mar" or something like that. Some fancy, old sounding word that wasn't in Standard, that was all he knew. It wasn't Mando'a, either. Fox was many things, but multi lingual he was not and he did struggle with trying to understand words in Mando'a.
Alpha, bastard that he was, spoke it perfectly and often used it with brothers who did understand it. Like Thorn. Even Hardcase understood more Mando'a than Fox did and it got very annoying to talk with him and all of a sudden have him slip into some other language to say who knew what else.
Padme made a face as he started grabbing the noodles with his fork and his hand. Yeah, he was getting sauce all over him and it was so good that he didn't want to waste it, but what else was he supposed to do? Fox had no idea how to eat this food. It was too big for him to just jam in his mouth and he was too hungry to care what it made him look like. Besides, he was already done for the night. This was Hutt Cartel territory and the last thing he needed was to be crosswise with one of the fat slugs. Again. Like it as not, he was going to make them mad when he was working with the GAR, but no one knew who he was outside of that bucket, anyways. As he'd told Gordo, he really did have "one of those faces".
"What are you doing?" Padme asked him. She sounded a little strangled as she grabbed at her glass of booze. Fox noticed that the sunspot sparkler really was a pretty drink. It was all red and gold with little bits of purple floating around. He wondered of those were some sort of berry. Maybe he could fish those out and try it later? Fox had a taste for plum currents and he really did hope that those things were plum currents. Padme rubbed her face again. "Fox! What's going on with you? Where is the man who guards me?"
"Well, he's hungry and he doesn't like fighting with his food." Fox wiped off his hands, trying not to feel like a dolt. Why couldn't the GAR have taught him how to eat with people? Because it was looking like there were rules for such things and, guess what, he didn't know the rules. Fox shrugged again. He really needed to comb out his hair. It was getting all ratty and tangled. He might not have time to comb it out later. "Clones are used to getting ration bars and universal nutrient glop. It's not exactly Tutti Frutti del Mar, or whatever this thing is. It tastes good, though. Real good." Then again, Fox had been hungry and he'd happily eaten trash before. There was one lady who was in the habit of feeding clone troopers, but he didn't think that he could visit her all that often.
Padme rubbed her face and pulled his plate over to her. Fox stopped himself from grabbing it back, just narrowly. The Nabu woman made quick work of cutting it up to him and sliding it right back over. Fox hung his head in shame as he scarfed the rest of it down. Not only had he humiliated the Senator in front of her friends, he'd just made himself look like an utter di'kut in front of her. What sort of man didn't know how to cut his food? Was it because he was a made man, that he was half a man if you asked most of the galaxy? Fox didn't know what she was thinking about him, but chances were that it wasn't all that great. And he had to work with the woman. Wasn't that lovely?
The Tyrian woman leaned over and touched his hand. "It's okay," she quietly said. "I'm from Ryloth, where we put everything on a flatbread or a kebab. You aren't the only one who didn't know what to do with noodles. And when Twi'leks put things over rice, we mince it up fine, too. We don't have to bother with eating knives and from the sound of it, you don't, either."
"Thank you, Lady...?" Fox forced a smile. The woman, dressed modestly (for a Twi'lek) in a simple golden jumpsuit with a flowing train and gauze, did look nice. But she wasn't Padme and she wasn't the woman Fox thought he was starting to like.
"I go by Kesaah," the woman replied. Kesaah took his hand and gently squeezed it. "By the way, thank you for helping save Ryloth. I don't know what we would have done if the GAR hadn't chased the Seppies out."
Fox blushed some and ducked his head. He didn't quite know how to handle praise. It showed, too. "You're very welcome," he managed. At least Lady Kesaah was kind to him and not abusive like some of the university students were. He managed to smile at her. "It was all in a day's work, ma'am. Clone troopers are bred for doing things like that."
"You're very lucky." Kesaah pointed her fork at Padme. "Not everyone gets to talk to heroes on a daily basis. Did I tell you about my little niece, Numa? Well, she's all grown up now and she's pushing for a diplomatic marriage with those two troopers who saved her, Boil and Waxer. I think that would do wonders for the Republic and foster further support for our rehoming plan. Once the war is over, the clone troopers are going to need a place to go and a pension or job training. It would be much easier to push for such a thing if we had a few high profile marriages. Don't you agree?"
Padme nodded. "That's why I'm going to bring Fox and his little brother to the forefront. Not only can I buy the medication that young trooper needs, I could also see about reversing the disease instead of letting him waste away in some barracks."
Fox managed to keep the stunned look on his face as he tried to eat. Oh, sweet Murphy in his stars... Fox didn't know what he'd done to deserve this and he didn't know what he could do to properly thank both women.
Chapter 7: I Could Get Used to This
Fox didn't know what to say. He kept on stuffing his face, trying to think about what he needed to say or do. He was too tired to keep turning tricks for her and he couldn't exactly give her the credits in his pockets. It wasn't like he could just "get a job", either. He was a clone trooper. He didn't have an identification chip, nor did he have one of those little flimsi cards that you were supposed to have. They also used DNA when you applied for one, so he figured that one was out. He didn't want to be like Slingshot and get taken for reconditioning because he applied for a card. Force, he hoped that his friend was okay. Slingshot had been a pretty good trooper, though, so maybe they just punished him good. Fox was under no illusions that he would get that same treatment.
If he was lucky and the Republic needed troops that day, he would get his mind wiped and be sent out to the front. If he wasn't lucky, and he didn't have that much luck, he would get killed and his body would go for the meatship. Fox figured that they fed rancors or fathiers off of the stuff. Quite a few good men had gone into those ships and never came out again. Fox had heard that they didn't even care if you were still kicking before you got ground into meat slop. He shuddered softly. The clone trooper felt like he'd be slightly sick if he kept that up and this meal was good enough to keep him going for several days. He needed this food. Fox couldn't exactly afford to toss this all up.
He slumped over the granite table and ignored both of them. Padme and her friend were talking about all sorts of things and all he cared about was the fact that they wanted to care for his brother. His little brother was finally getting the medical care he needed. Fox rubbed his face some and swore when he looked at the foundation that was starting to rub off. It was getting late. He needed to get back and make sure his little brother had enough food before he finally turned in. Kote liked helping Fox put his makeup on and there was more than one time when he went on the streets wearing clumsily applied makeup. But Kote liked it and Fox wasn't going to deny his little brother anything.
Padme got up after a few minutes and cleared her throat. "Fox. It's time to go. You're still with me, aren't you?" The woman sounded slightly concerned. "Do I need to get something and wake you up? Do you need a sober pill?"
Fox shook his head softly and struggled to get up. He'd never been this full before and it was making him start to feel funny. He felt... sated and tired. Like he wanted to get a big blanket and curl up and sleep it all off. He swore under his breath. The clone trooper didn't know what he was supposed to be doing, though. Fox was very tired and he just wanted to take a good nap. The trooper forced himself to get up and walk with her. He was starting to feel a little... exposed with the clothing he was wearing right now. It was light and lacy, the kind of clothes you wore when you were advertising. And Fox was. Well, not really, but he would be happy enough to get some extra money. And because he liked Padme, he would do it behind a screen or something else.
"I'm just... really full?" he softly said. Fox shook his head and shrugged. He didn't exactly know what he was supposed to do right now. The man sighed a little bit as he trailed home. He could really do with a good brandy right about now. Or even a vodka, even though he hated the stuff. The trooper followed her to a car and accepted the proffered jacket. It was really nice inside. Really soft. Shiny. He rather liked it and it was all he could do to not rub his face on it. He had a feeling that Padme didn't want him to rub his face all over it. Then again, the jacket was probably worth more than he was. It was lined with some sort of silk and the outside was fur. Fox liked the fur, so he turned it so that was on his skin.
Padme led him into her apartment and let him get a shower. Fox stood under the spray for a full twenty minutes, just watching as the water sluiced over his skin. There was something amazing about cleaning yourself and watching as the water carried the dirty away and left smooth, sometimes perfumed skin behind. It was like being reborn, but without all those weird rituals that clerics seemed to think were required. And besides, not all of them liked clone troopers very much. Fox had ran into a few of them. They weren't exactly the nicest creatures to ever walk the galaxy and some of them even thought that he was evil because he was a made man. To be honest, Fox didn't quite know what to think.
She was waiting for him when he got out. "You needed to tell me what you were doing. I could have helped you."
"It's not like I can pick up a job on the side," Fox sighed. He shrugged some and toweled off his bright ginger hair. "Clones can't get hired anywhere and trust me I have tried." He searched around for a comm and finally gave her a tired look. "Can I borrow your comm, please? I need to talk to Ox. See if he can get Kote fed or not."
Padme handed him her comm. He noticed that she was still staying in the room with him, but Fox felt like he deserved that. He sighed and settled on her couch. The trooper truly was tired and he didn't think that he could tell her to get out of the room. Not only was that rude, she was also a free person and he was very much property of the Republic. As much as Fox hated it, she had to stay. He tucked his legs under him as he dialed the number. Ox should still be up. And he didn't like to call the other man, mostly because he knew full well just how busy Ox was. Ox covered for him. Fox couldn't abuse that. He got far too few free things in life just to mess it all up.
"What is it this time, 1010?" From the sounds of it, Ox was mostly asleep. And it was late, so Fox understood.
"Did you make sure Kote ate?" Fox softly asked. He didn't want to make Padme any angrier than she already was. After all, he was going to be crashed on her couch for a little bit. "I'm not going to be back until tomorrow and you know how I worry."
"Yeah, he ate," Ox yawned. "Now get some rest and watch those credits."
"Yessir." Fox put the comm down and curled up as best he could. At least a couch was far softer than his rack.
Chapter 8: Getting Kote
Fox woke up after a few hours and turned around. For a second, he was a little surprised that he wasn't sleeping in his rack, but he was in Padme's apartment and he still had his leather baggie of credits. The man smiled softly as he got up. He was actually feeling much better and his belly wasn't screaming from the lack of food. So he scrambled up, ready to see if he could get something to eat. As far as he understood, Padme wouldn't be mad if he went through her food. And besides, he only really needed some eggs or something. Or even toast if he was feeling really fancy. The trooper wrapped the blankets around his shoulders as he got up and wandered into the kitchen. The tile was cool under his feet. Fix decided that he liked that.
It just felt good and he wanted to feel good. He was tired of serving the GAR and not even getting paid. Fox would have been happy with a credit a day. That would have given him enough credits for Kote's medication and some left over for him to save. Fox opened the unit and glanced around. It looked like Padme was quite the health nut, but she did have a case of eggs. He pulled those out, got a pot of water, and started hard boiling his breakfast. This was going to be a treat for him. Especially if he got to add mustard or something like that. He hummed happily as he found the rest of what he needed. Once the little timer dinged, he was draining the water and shelling his food. At least the GAR had taught him his numbers.
Then again, that was because he needed to read things of his helm and not because they wanted to give him an education. So he huffed out a tired sigh and started getting things ready. He needed to go thank Ox. Maybe he'd bring him a few of these as a gift. His older brother did need the protein. So he set aside two of the eggs and wrapped those in towel so he could get those to his brother. Fox ate the other four as he wandered around the kitchen. Thank the Force that he had something that looked like his all-blacks so he could get home without getting harassed by the local cops. It really made things dicey when they realized just who you were and Fox did not want a repeat of that experience.
Fox dressed quickly and left a voice note on the counter for Padme. She would understand. He just knew she would. Fox hurried down the stairs and was out the front door before anyone could stop him. He grimaced softly, just ready to get this all done. Fox knew that he would have to carry Kote through the city and he couldn't exactly use his money on a cab. So he walked as fast as he could and even took a few short cuts before he was ducking through the back entrance of the Jedi Temple and looking for his little brother. Fox just saluted the brother who was on guard duty before he ducked into the kitchen. Maybe those eggs hadn't been the best idea. Especially not if he was going to run around like a crazy man.
He entered the kitchen quickly. A few brothers looked up at him, but no one said anything. That was okay. That was normal. Fox had stopped feeling the sting of rejection some time ago. He just ducked into the barracks and almost had a heart attack. Fox put a hand to his mouth, looking around wildly for Kote. Where was his little brother? He whirled around as best he could and almost collided with Ox. The other trooper held up his hands quickly and looked around like he was going to get a whipping for doing this.
"Where's Kote?" Fox tried to look demanding, but he couldn't quite pull it off. It might have been that he was slender like a normal trooper when he was actually a commander. It wasn't quite the same as being an ARC, but it meant that he wasn't just another chunk of cannon fodder. "Where's my ad'ika?"
"Settle down," Ox hissed. He grabbed Fox's hands and started dragging him towards a small room. "I had to hide him. Krell was coming through and you know that he doesn't want the defects around."
Fox winced. And this had happened. He'd almost got his little brother killed. He swore under his breath and wrenched the door open. With a cry, Kote sprung into his arms. Fox wrapped him up close and simply pressed kisses all through his hair. The little boy had been crying. Tears streaked his face and he just grabbed his older brother. Fox managed to pass Ox some of the food he'd taken for Padme. He already had a stitch in his side from racing across town, but he didn't care and he just needed to get his brother safe. He murmured a few soft words to his older brother. Fox took off again, wrapping his brother up in his arms. They needed to get out of here.
This time, Fox paid for a cab. The Dug gave him a long look, but he took the money and he took the two of them to the Senator's apartment. Fox gave him more credits than he wanted to think about. Nothing mattered, though. Nothing mattered but keeping his little brother safe. Fox kissed his face again and tapped the code that would let him into the apartment. He had to keep Kote safe and this looked like the best way to do it. Fox was desperate, he knew, and he also knew that Padme held the cards.
For all intents and purposes, he belonged to her.
He must have scared her, because she yelped and came racing towards them. Kote let out a scream. He hid his face, shaking and bawling. Fox looked up. He didn't know what he was supposed to do. For all he knew...
Padme sat down and rubbed her face. "I was expecting an older trooper. Not... a child."
"I'm sorry," he softly said. Fox edged his way back.
She shook her head. "No, you can stay. Just...just let me thing about this, okay?"
Fox nodded and sat down. What else could he do?
Chapter 9: She Likes Me
Fox swallowed. He didn't know what to do. He didn't know what he could say or do that would make Padme actually accept his vod'ika. He had basically lied to her by omission by not telling her that Kote was a child. A little over ten years old, if he was thinking correctly. Kote coughed softly and pressed his face into Fox's side. Fox soothed his short, dark hair as he shifted the little boy from hip to hip. The tension was so thick that he could cut it with a knife. Fox cringed softly as he watched the warring emotions in the woman's eyes. Padme finally sat down on the couch and rubbed her face. Fox didn't quite know what to do, but Kote was getting heavy, so he put the boy down and moved to sit by her.
"A child. He's just a child," Padme softly said. She looked up a him with tired eyes and made room. Beside them, Kote grabbed a pillow and pressed that over his belly. The boy smiled softly as he played with the tassels and the beading. Fox had seen his vod'ika smile so few times that his heart melted. This was his little brother. The one reason that he would whore himself out and break Republic law. Fox blinked back tears as he watched the little boy sink down to his knees and start playing with the crystal and calcite guarlaras she had on her coffee table. Padme looked over at him and smiled. "You like the pretty guarlaras, don't you?"
Kote nodded and drew a little white foal close to his chest. Fox groaned softly. This was going to go so well, wasn't it? The boy gave Padme quite the look and finally settled back when he saw that she wasn't going to get mad at him. He nodded slowly and smiled some. "Yeah," Kote whispered. "They're pretty. I like them. I like the way they look like they're running and they don't get sick."
"When it's time for me to go back to Naboo, I'll show you a real guarlara," Padme promised. She got up quickly and rubbed her face some. Fox followed her to the kitchen and watched as the Nabu woman started going through things. She didn't have to do this. She didn't have to help them. They were just clone troopers and he did know that she didn't want other troopers made. Padme said that it was opening the Republic to being accused of war crimes. Fox hated to say it, but he didn't blame her. The GAR had done nothing but hurt him. And that wasn't counting the troopers who had been destroyed. Fox cringed as he thought of the times the Kaminoans had "accidentally" flushed an entire chamber of embryos into the Kaminoan ocean.
Yeah, like that was an accident. Fox totally believed that. He had some beachfront property on Tatooine he was going to sell you if you truly did swallow that codswallop. As Stone said, you could pull his other leg. That one played Jingle Bells, or whatever that annoying song the Courscanti started playing around Life Day. It was the sort of song that you could hear and then have it get stuck in your head six months later. Fox shook his head wryly as he sat down. H didn't know what he was going to do. He had Kote safe, yes. But how was he going to pay Padme back? He couldn't really ask her to care for a sick clone trooper... He just couldn't. A clone trooper couldn't ask a citizen of the Republic to do anything for them.
Much less care for a defective clone trooper.
"I can't believe that they were going to kill a kid." Padme slammed the refrigeration unit door shut. He could tell that she was very angry. Fox tensed. He didn't like it. It was starting to scare him, the fact that she was angry and he was a clone trooper. He couldn't do anything to her. He couldn't do anything if she decided to slap him or hit him because he was angry. Fox tried to keep the fear out of his eyes and his face. "That's what they were going to do to him? Kill him because he has a genetic defect?"
"They killed most of his batch," Fox murmured. He didn't know what else to tell her but the truth. She was going to be angry, but what else could he tell her? The GAR did whatever it wanted. If they wanted to kill some defective cadets or make them organ donors, there was nothing the troopers could do about it. Hell, the cloners made stem cells by the gallon and used that to grow organs for those injured in battle. Or they parted out wounded troopers who weren't going to survive anyways. The Jedi didn't seem to know. The Jedi didn't even seem to care. They just let the cloners do whatever they wanted to do. Fox quietly took the offered mug of caff and drank. He so rarely got to drink this.
"Animals," Padme hissed.
"I noticed you didn't call Mina Bonteri that," Fox countered. "Not after what she said." His lips curled as she thought of the woman. And what she wanted. Didn't that woman understand that the troopers had no choice about who they were going to kill? That they just followed orders and they were the true innocents in this war? Fox had never asked to be made and yet... yet she was treating him like dirt under her boots.
"She lost her husband and nearly lost her son."
"Point taken." The things Fox had said after his brothers were killed... And he didn't want to think about having to see those people and not being able to do anything about it. He winced softly and drained the rest of his caff. "So what are we doing today, Senator?"
"I'm taking Kote to the doctor," Padme replied. She sat beside him and they both drank some of the caff together. This just... felt good. Like he was cared for and people actually liked him. Not like he was another Slick or Dogma. Fox gave her a shy smile. Then he risked taking her hand and ducked his head some. He felt like a younger brother again, like he was asking for an older brother to touch him and care for him. He grinned a little bit. Padme didn't slap him or send him away. It was then that it hit him.
Padme liked him. Padme Amidala really did like him. Him, a clone trooper. Fox didn't know what he was going to do with that information beyond crowing it to the galaxy.
Chapter 10: Back On Duty
Fox needed to get back. He would have loved to go with Kote and he thought that it might have helped him more than having a relative stranger take him places, but duty called. He still had to deal with the Chancellor and the rest of the two bit politicos who wanted to make his life hell. He gritted his teeth as he started walking down the streets of the Galactic City. He couldn't infringe on Padme's kindness too much. He was still able to take care of himself. At least a little. The man sighed as he walked down the streets. He stepped over the massive cracks in the sidewalk and tried to ignore the rats as big as cats that scurried around. The massive, dark grey walls had been covered in spray paint and glowing slime that dripped from every crack and pore in the duracrete.
He ducked under a flaking metal support and looked around for directions. Fox needed the closest way back to the Jedi Temple and his barracks. That was looking to be harder than he thought, too. Fox cursed under his breath as he traced the fading, drooping map. It had yellowed with age and most of the lettering had simply dropped off. The city hadn't bothered to put up a projector. That, or they thought it might get stolen. This was one of the heavy alien districts, after all. The clone finally threw up his hands and decided that he was going to take the subway. He had enough credits to do that much, at least. That and he had a subway pass he'd lifted off a drunk party girl a month back.
The sex with her hadn't been great, but she had paid well. And she was human, which meant no "interesting" biology to deal with. Fox knew that a lot of clones took knots, especially from freed Zabrak slaves, but he didn't think that they would take some of what he did. Fox shuddered as he thought of it. He needed to keep his wits about him here. Thank the little gods that his armor would keep him safe. Well, mostly. He descended down the worn tile steps, almost slipping several times. The brown tile might have been designed to be slip proof, but centuries of neglect had all but destroyed the stairs. The safer parts were actually concrete. Fox shuddered and avoided the brown, slimy handrail.
Stars only knew what had happened there and they likely wanted to forget.
Fox squared his shoulders as he walked into the dark, dimly lit tunnels. The lights overhead had long since lost peak efficiency. They sputtered and gasped, sending out weak pulses of blue light. The white tiles had become streaked with grime and paint. Fox pushed his way past many people and tried to avoid the dangling steam tubes. He could hear the rumbling from the engines and smell the hot grease used to keep them going. The clone grinned to himself. The stories he could tell the shinies. If they even bothered to listen to him and didn't treat him like their older brothers did. Fox held out the pass and swiped it. Apparently, he had five hundred credits left on it. Finally! A stroke of luck!
He found the right train, thanks to a helpful droid, and he settled into the worn seats. The colorful cloth, long since worn grey and dingy, complimented his worn and battered armor. If any of the others thought there was anything off, no one said anything. Apparently, clones riding the subway was something they saw on a regular basis. The clone closed his eyes, trying to get some rest. It was a fifteen minute ride. He wasn't going to crash, but he could get some rest. He had done worse, after all. When he was still deployed, he'd been up for weeks at a time. And the brass wondered why troopers stole and drank cans of Ripit-ol like it was going out of style. Fox snorted. He hadn't tasted that poison in years.
The car rattled and shook as he rode. The could have cooled the thing, but Fox wondered if the heat from the engines and the third rails kept it from doing any good. His nose wrinkled as he tried not gag on the scents of stale bodies, hot grease, and hot air. It was dank and musty in there, just perfect for spreading sickness. He thought he was deep enough underground that sickness wouldn't spread. Well, he would have thought wrong. The man sighed softly and rested his helmeted head on the windows. A Twi'lek gave him a dirty look, but he ignored her. The trooper really wasn't in the mood for much. He just wished the karking air filters worked for more than poison gas.
Fox quickly got off at his stop and shoved his way through the crowds. He needed to get to the Chancellor's place and fast. All he was doing now was wasting time. He swiped out, collected his bill, and hurried up the Senate steps. The usual crowds of protestors ringed the place and people started yelling at him. Some threw rocks. Others pelted him with rotten produce or rags soaked in stale urine. Fox gagged. He was going to have to rinse off before he went to work. He dodged the protestors and headed inside. One quick wash and dry later and he was on the lift to guard the Chancellor for the day. Thire must have gotten tired of the man, because he quit in the middle of the night.
That was, he blew his brains out suddenly. The brass thought he couldn't take the strain, but Fox wondered if there was something more. A lot of troopers had strange dreams about fighting Jedi. Most thought it was stress bleeding over to the dream world. Others weren't so sure. Fox didn't know where to come down on it. For all he knew, the clones had been made to kill the Jedi. That was what the holonet said, anyways. He shook his head as he got out on the Chancellor's floor. He buzzed himself in, made sure he looked decent, and bowed before the man who basically ran the galaxy. Palpatine was creepy, in a slick sort of way, and Fox really didn't like him.
Then again, who cared for his opinion?
"Clone Commander 1010 reporting for duty, sir!" Fox snapped a quick salute and tried not to cringe at using his number.
Palpatine nodded and gestured to his screens. "Commander, I think we have a problem."
When Fox saw the bubbling riot, he couldn't have agreed more.
Chapter 11: It's All Going to Hell
So it turned out one of the Jedi had gone and messed something in some planet. Fox really wasn't sure what and he really didn't think that most of the crowd did, either. And, honestly, most of them looked pretty young. It looked like the local rabblerousers down at the cantina had gotten riled up by some speaker. This one was saying that the Jedi were secretly vampire creatures who drank blood and that was why they were stealing children. They got midi-chlorians by drinking blood and that was why they liked to have so much war. Fox had heard better theories in his time (the best being that the Palpatine was a lizard creature from another galaxy), but he had to admit that the blood drinking thing would get the crowd in a fury.
"So who started it this time?" Fox asked. He sat down and scrolled through the video feed. The clone bit his bottom lip, trying to get an idea on how to handle this. Riots in the Galactic City weren't uncommon and his squad was pretty well equipped to dealing with this sort of thing. He scanned the crowd and groaned softly. Yup. There she was. Letho Supnin. She was one of the major players when it came to stirring up trouble. She hated the clone army and thought that it was slavery, but she also hated Padme. Supnin blamed everything on Padme, too. There was rumor that she had been behind a plot to actually kill the woman. Of course, there wasn't any evidence and she was cleared. Supnin turned that one into a long winded rant about how the Republic hated anyone that didn't fit into her view of the oppressor class.
That woman was more obsessed with skin color than the ancient Sith Empire and one of the ways they determined "blood purity" was on the color of the Pureblood's skin. Yeah, Fox would rather not deal with her.
"Letho Supnin. She got in a scuffle with the Jedi Knight Rala Kloegan. Kloegan said she was trying to picket a bank and punched a customer. Kloegan got in the middle of it and it turned into a street wide brawl." Palpatine made a face. That just made him look like that much more of a creep and Fox really wished that he wouldn't do that. He already didn't like the man. This was going to make his life that much harder, wasn't it?
"And have you deployed any troops?" Fox asked. He hated to act like this, but there were times when the brass needed to act like they earned the stripes they had. Fox gave Palpatine a long look and manipulated the feed a little bit. He could see the crowd. Some of them were starting to chant and wave flags around. Others had what looked like weapons. Fox groaned and leaned his head back. This was all going to hell, wasn't it? He was getting the idea that Palpatine had just let this thing brew so the clones could take care of it. Fox unclipped his helmet and set it aside so he could really focus. Seeing a screen through a screen tended to make clones throw up.
"I thought I would wait for you," Palpatine muttered. The man shuffled on his feet and cleared his throat. "Senator Mothma suggested that it would help me communicate with others better. Apparently, I pontificate too much and listen too little. So, I left this for you."
"Yeah, tell her she can stick it up her shebs," Fox replied. He grabbed his comm and called up a picture. "Hey! Longshot! Thorn! Skillet! Get the squad and half a battalion. We got us some trouble brewing on Thirty Fourth and Colton." He sent out the coordinates and waited on the other clones. This was going to be fun, wasn't it? He got the feeling that at least one of his troopers was hung over. "Get the riot gear. Nonlethal dispersal agents only--no tear gas. Get the stuff that smells like a feeding pit at high noon and the water blasters."
"You can have the pleasure of dealing with the smelly gas," Thorn replied. "Now me? I'll get my boys and the water blasters. The others can get the shields." Thorn turned around and yelled something off screen. "I think we'll have this little group all wrapped up in a jiffy." Thorn closed the connection. Fox got up and rubbed a hand over his face. He grabbed his helmet and started walking down the stairs. He needed to meet his own troops before they spooked. Fox was getting the feeling that the clones wouldn't be treated well by the crowds. Knowing some of the younger clones, they were going to spook the second they got pounded with rocks. And if they killed a protestor...
Well, Supnin might have a point.
Fox met his men by the point and got on the transporter. Vine looked like he was about to hurl in his helmet and Veritas was playing computer games. Fox took the little toy and shut it down. The last thing they needed to do was get distracted in the middle of a mission. Fox tried to keep himself calm. This was going to go so badly, wasn't it? He was just getting that feeling. Fox grabbed his own stink gun and got his men fanned out as soon as they were on the ground. Fox took the riot shields on his armor up and turned on the air filters. The crowd was starting to get rowdy. Someone started yelling as soon as Fox and his men fanned out. Fox just started tuning them out.
They would only use the weapons if people started getting rowdy. Throwing rocks and punches counted as rowdy. Chanting and waving signs didn't. Pretty soin, Fox started hearing all the insults he was used to hearing, along with a few new ones. "Copy-pasted bastards" was good enough to make him chuckle. He was going to borrow that one and throw it back at one of his more annoying brothers. Supnin must have seen him, because she started turning towards him and preaching about the evils of the Jedi and how Fox was helping prop them up. If he wanted to save himself, he would help her kill them. Violently. Probably with a lot of blood. They had to save all those children, right?
Fox pulled his brothers closer to him. They had the weapons at the ready. And then someone did it. A fist sized rock went sailing through the air and struck Typo in the head. The clone grunted and his helmet was cracked. Fox signaled on the comms and all hell broke loose. Fox let the stink gun loose. The air was filled with blue gas that utterly reeked. Someone yelled and started choking. The crowd, most of them being human, broke and ran. Supnin screamed on her little soap box and the next thing they knew, she drew a small blaster and started shooting at him. Fox rushed her. He'd never seen eyes so filled with hate before. A bolt caught him in the shoulder. He grunted, his eyes wild. Fox had to get a weapon, so he picked up a rock and hurled it at her.
The next blast caught him in the shoulder, knocking him on the ground. Fox realized that he was in bad shape, right before Letho Supnin started aiming for his head.