After Odryn, the extent of their losses hadn’t hit Rex until the 501st and the 212th were back in their barracks on Coruscant. On Resolute he really hadn’t had time to think about it in the chaos of the aftermath; they had had to exfil so quickly that no one was with their company or squadron, troopers from the 501st mixed in with those from the 212th; he and the officers on the other transports had still been busy working out who was where and making sure that the troopers on their ships were taken care of. Rex had known that they had taken heavy casualties, but he hadn’t realized how heavy until he was standing in the enlisted barracks on Coruscant, staring around at all the empty beds. Intellectually he knew that it couldn’t be quite as bad as it looked, since most of the wounded had already gone to the infirmary, but still –
He didn’t find out how bad it really was until three days later, when the final reports came in.
Rex was in the officers’ club, along with Fives, Cody from the 212th, and half a dozen junior clone officers down at the other end of the bar. His datapad chirped to signal an incoming message and Rex tapped it to open the file, glancing over it until he realized what he was reading.
“They’re disbanding the Five-Oh-First.”
The words sounded hollow to his ears, unreal. Fives and Cody swung around to stare at him, and Rex read the first few lines of the missive again, trying to force them into an order that made sense.
“Due to losses sustained in combat,” he read out loud, the words catching in his throat, “the 501st Battalion of the Grand Army of the Republic, formerly under the command of Jedi General Anakin Skywalker (MIA), has been disbanded and the remaining troopers will be reassigned as needed.”
His hands were shaking as he put the datapad down on the table. They were going to be split up. His brothers were going to be sent away, scattered through the GAR to fill empty holes in other battalions under Jedi generals Rex didn’t know.
Cody was saying something to him, Fives snaking the datapad out from under his hand to look at the message for himself, but Rex wasn’t aware of any of it. The 501st was gone, as gone as General Skywalker, and Rex hadn’t even been paying attention when it had been killed.
He gathered everyone left in the 501st that evening, even the wounded except for those still in bacta tanks. It was a pitifully small number, Rex realized, looking over them as they sat in the big auditorium usually used for GSO shows. All of them were looking patiently up at him, probably waiting to hear which Jedi general they were going to get as their new commanding officer. Only Fives knew what was coming.
Rex didn’t sugarcoat it. “As of 0800 this morning, the Five Hundred and First Battalion no longer exists. Due to the loss of General Skywalker and the heavy casualties we’ve sustained, GAR High Command has decided that this battalion is no longer combat efficient. We’ll be split up and reassigned elsewhere in the GAR.”
As he had predicted, all hell broke loose. Rex, Fives, and the other remaining officers did their best to sort through it, but there wasn’t much they could do aside from saying that they’d do their best to make sure that squads weren’t split up and they didn’t know when they’d be getting new orders.
“What about General Kenobi?” Fives asked Rex after all the shouting was over and the officers were sitting glumly over their drinks in the club, the officers from the other battalions currently on Coruscant avoiding them as if their bad luck might catch. “Maybe he could –”
Rex shook his head. “Even the generals have to listen to Command,” he said. “I’m not going to go begging to the Jedi.”
Except he didn’t have to, because General Kenobi turned up at the barracks the next morning.
Rex hadn’t seen him since he’d left Resolute upon their return to Coruscant, and his first thought was that the general looked terrible. He was in fresh robes, but from the hollows under his eyes and his haunted expression Rex could tell that he hadn’t been sleeping. He still had one arm in a sling, the deep gash running along his hairline from his forehead to his left ear closed with neat sutures, and the bruises on his face were still a deep bluish purple, as though they weren’t healing properly.
“Captain Rex,” he said. “Can I have a moment?”
“Of course, General,” Rex said, trying to fight down his sudden leap of hope. Fives and Tango, with whom he’d been going through the rosters of remaining troopers, had both stood up and come to attention as Kenobi came in; the Jedi couldn’t have missed their sudden alertness at the words.
General Kenobi nodded to them both, then said, “May I sit?”
“Of course, sir.” Fives and Tango cleared away the piles of datapads and flimsiplasts as Kenobi took a seat at the table; they were in the club again, since the echoing emptiness of the barracks was less evident here. At Rex’s gesture, the two junior officers retreated to the opposite side of the room, where they continued staring at Kenobi anxiously.
“I’ve just come from High Command,” Kenobi said. “I want you to know that I argued against disbanding the Five-Oh-First, but I was overruled.”
Rex nodded, trying to hide his wince.
“But,” the general continued, “I was able to pull a few strings and get everyone from the Five-Oh-First transferred to the Two-Twelfth under my command. Your men won’t be split up. We might lose some of the gear, but no trooper from the Five-Oh-First will be assigned to any other battalion.”
“Sir,” Rex said, overcome.
General Kenobi smiled tiredly at him. “I know it’s not what you were hoping for, but –”
“Sir, it’s more than we hoped for,” Rex said. “We thought – well, we thought that we’d be lucky if we could keep individual squads together, let alone companies. None of us thought we’d be able to keep the battalion together.”
The general looked pleased. “All the paperwork’s been filed and submitted already,” he said. “I didn’t want to risk someone else trying to snag a squadron or two before it could be made official. As of an hour ago, every trooper from the Five-Oh-First is now in the Two-Twelfth. I know it’s rather abrupt, but –”
“Sir, that doesn’t matter,” Rex assured him, and saw General Kenobi’s smile relax into something more natural. He glanced over at Fives and Tango, who’d given up all pretense of working and were staring fixedly at them. “Can I tell the boys?”
“Go ahead, Captain,” Kenobi said, following his gaze. “I’ve got to get back to the Temple, but I’ll break the news to Cody first and send him over. I’m sure that you two can work out the details without my assistance –” He paused, waiting for Rex to respond.
“Of course, sir.” He and Cody had worked together often enough. “Can I ask about chain of command?”
“Cody is the ranking officer after me, but you’ll be second. After that it will go by date of commission and time in grade.”
Rex nodded. “Do you know when we’ll be deployed again?”
This time General Kenobi winced. “Probably fairly soon, unfortunately. I’m trying to delay it until most of the wounded are out of hospital, but we’re stretched too thin on the front for the troops to have the recovery time they deserve.”
“What about Odryn, sir? Will we be going back to look for survivors?”
Kenobi dropped his gaze, studying the scuffed surface of the table, his expression suddenly grief-stricken. Rex knew what he was going to say even before he opened his mouth. “No, we won’t be returning to Odryn.”
Rex shut his eyes for a moment, but all he could do was nod and say, “I understand, sir.”
“I’m sorry, Captain. If it was up to me, we’d go back, but I was overruled.”
Rex nodded again. “Does Commander – does Ahsoka know?”
“If she’s seen the HoloNet casualty reports,” Kenobi said, sounding reluctant. “I don’t want her to find out that way, but I’ve been looking for her since we got back and I haven’t been able to track her down.” He hesitated for a moment, then admitted, “Under normal circumstances the Order keeps track of Jedi who have resigned, but the war has made that very difficult. I’ve put the word out to my contacts; if she’s in the Republic, they’ll turn her up eventually. She deserves to hear about – to hear about Anakin in person.”
“I agree, sir,” Rex said.
“I’ll find her.” General Kenobi pushed his chair back and stood up; Rex did the same. “Let me know if you need anything,” he said. “If you can’t reach me on my private comlink, you can contact the Jedi Temple and they’ll push through the communication, but there shouldn’t be any difficulty. I’ll let you and Cody know as soon as we have new orders. And if anyone tries to poach any of your men or equipment, tell me and I’ll take care of it.”
Rex saluted him. “Yes, sir. And, General – thank you.”
Kenobi smiled again. “It was the least I could do, Captain,” he said. “Anakin would have –” His voice trailed off, his expression going bleak.
Rex would have known what to say to him if Kenobi had been a clone, but he never knew how to talk to Jedi when it came to grief. He’d heard a rumor from one of the clone troopers assigned to the Senate Building that General Kenobi had been spending a lot of time with Senator Padmé Amidala since they’d returned to Coruscant; he hoped it was true. Given that Jedi apparently didn’t believe in admitting that they didn’t have feelings, let alone talking about them, Senator Amidala was probably the only person who had a chance of getting through to him.
“I’ll send Cody over,” Kenobi said after a moment. “Gentlemen,” he added, nodding to Fives and Tango before he left the club.
They joined Rex as soon as the door had shut behind him. “Well?” Tango demanded. “What did he say?”
“We’ve been transferred to the Two-Twelfth,” Rex said.
“How many of us?” Fives asked, tense.
Rex sat back down. “Everyone,” he said. “General Kenobi got the entire battalion transferred to his command.”
Fives dropped his head into his hands, shaking a little with relief. “He came through for us.”
“I didn’t ask,” Rex said.
Tango looked surprised. “You didn’t? But –”
“General Kenobi did it on his own,” Rex said.
“Can we tell the boys?” Fives asked, looking up. “I know we’ve all been worried, but going to the Two-Twelfth – almost everyone will be all right with that.”
Rex nodded. “Go ahead and spread the news,” he said. “I’m going to talk to Commander Cody and we’ll hash out the details. We’ve done enough joint missions with the Two-Twelfth that there shouldn’t be too much trouble integrating the battalions.”
Fives and Tango nodded. “Thank the general for us, Captain,” Tango said. “None of us thought –”
“I know,” Rex said. “Neither did I. But I think General Kenobi understands the importance of brothers.”