The word echoed from the holofeed. The room around Rex exploded into sound. He sat in the middle of the storm of protests and cursing from his men.
"She'd never do it!"
"What the kriff are they on?"
Rex stood up. A few of the men closest to him stopped their shouting to stare at him. They were waiting for his reaction. They wouldn't get one. The turmoil ripping his insides apart was his alone.
Rex made himself walk out of the room. He just needed to get to the small room the boys called his office. He passed other clones as he walked through the barracks, all talking about the verdict. Some called out to him. He couldn't stop. If he opened his mouth he would break. He just needed to make it to his office.
As soon as the door slid shut behind him, he jabbed the lock in place.
Rex leaned on his desk and squeezed his eyes shut.
He was part of this. Part of the guilt was on him. He had called the APB even though he had known it wasn't her.
Fox would have called it if you hadn't. A logical voice inside of him said.
But then I wouldn't have been the one to betray her. He argued back.
A scream was building up inside of him. He scrambled for his helmet, made sure the comm was off. As soon as he was safe, he let out the raw sound that he had been holding back. He clutched at the side of the desk like it was his blaster against a platoon of clankers.
Thoughts ran in circles in his head.
She was caught because of you.
She's alone because of you.
She's going to die because of you.
Rex's breathing became ragged. He suddenly couldn't stand to have his helmet over his face. He ripped it off. He couldn't breathe, he couldn't breathe. His heart thudded, a punch to the chest with every beat.
The logical part of his mind told him he was having a panic attack, something he hadn't had since he was a shiny.
He grasped at the thought and forced himself to take deep breaths. Slowly his heart slowed, his breathing became normal, and he pushed the thoughts away as best he could.
Someone banged at the door. Kriff, couldn't they leave him alone?
He quickly dismissed the thought. His men needed him. She was their Commander too. He had to call on all of his training to straighten up, push away the tears gathering at his eyes, and walk calmly to the door.
It was Fives. He was angry.
"What are we gonna do, Captain?" He asked without preamble.
Rex shook his head.
"There's nothing we can do."
He hated the slight tremble in his voice that he knew Fives could hear.
"There's nothing legal we can do." Fives corrected.
Rex stared at him.
"You're not suggesting-"
"That's exactly what I'm suggesting." Fives said. "How many times has the Commander stuck her neck out for us? How many times has she gone back for us? How many of us would be dead if it weren't for her?"
Rex looked away at the ARC trooper's words. Fives pushed on.
"General Skywalker would have us do it. You know she isn't guilty!"
"We would be breaking the law , Fives!" Rex said. "This isn't just not following orders. We'd be as guilty as they think she is."
Fives grabbed Rex's shoulders.
"They are going to kill her, Rex." Fives hissed. "Just like Krell was going to kill me and Jesse."
Images came flooding unbidden into Rex's mind. His brothers pressed against the wall, hands bound, and waiting for their vod'e to kill them for doing the right thing. Rex hadn't done enough then. He could have done more, but he didn't. He'd been a coward. It was the bravery of their brothers that had saved Fives and Jesse.
Something inside Rex broke. This would not be Umbara.
A flame of hope for his commander flickered into life.
"I can't ask the men to do this." Rex said. "It'd just be me and you, Fives."
Rex and Fives turned around to see Jesse, Kix, and Tup standing just outside the room.
"Didn't anyone tell you that it's rude to eavesdrop?" Fives said, but he sounded more amused than angry.
"We figured you'd get the Captain to do something like this." Jesse said. "We want in. She's our Commander too."
"Five still doesn't give us great odds." Tup muttered.
"We've dealt with worse." Fives said bracingly. "Now, we need a plan."
"We might just be able to do it without being caught." Kix said.
"It's gonna be obvious we did it, Kix." Jesse said with a roll of his eyes. "Armor on or off. The place is covered in cameras."
Rex caught on to Kix's line of thinking.
"But will they know which clones did it?" He mused.
"Yeah, they will." Jesse said. "I don't know if you noticed, Captain, but I've got an enormous GAR symbol on my kriffing head."
"We won't be using our armor." Rex said. "And we won't be going bare. We've got those spare sets of shiny armor."
"No one can tell us apart in those, not even us!"
"We'll still need getaway ships." Tup said.
"At least two." Jesse put in. "One for us and one for her."
"I can get those." Rex said. "General Skywalker has a few, er, unlicensed ships he keeps holed up in a, um, less reputable shipyard."
His men stared at him.
"Why doesn't that surprise me?" Kix muttered.
"Would he be okay with us using them?" Jesse asked.
"We're saving his kriffing apprentice!" Fives scoffed. "Of course he'd let us use them!"
"I'll get the ships. Kix, you're with me." Rex told them. "Tup, go get the armor. Fives, work with Jesse on what we'll be doing once we get there."
He was met with a chorus of "Sir yes sirs!"
"Good men. Make sure no one else knows about this. I'd trust each of the men with this mission, but the fewer people who know about it, the fewer people who can slip up."
They nodded and Rex jogged out into the barracks. His mind was racing with what he knew of the GAR facility Ahsoka was being held at. It felt so good to be doing something about it, he could nearly forget how massively traitorous this operation was.
Rex jolted to a halt as he exited the barracks.
Six clones were hurrying towards him, Cody at the lead.
"Cody!" Rex said nervously. "What do you need?"
He was confused as he realized Wolffe was right behind Cody. He recognized the other four: Boil, Wooley, Boost, and Sinker.
It was Wolffe who spoke.
"General Plo and Kenobi sent us." He growled. "Said to help you break Commander Tano out."
Rex stared at them.
"How did they know?" He stammered.
"General Plo said something about knowing you'd do the right thing."
There was a stab of guilt at the thought that Rex nearly hadn’t done the right thing.
"Fives and Jesse are in my office. They'll fill you in." Rex said.
Cody nodded and the six headed into the barracks.
Rex watched them go. The plan might actually work.
It was as Rex was flying one of the dilapidated crafts back to the rendezvous that his comm chirped. He hesistated, but recognized General Skywalker's frequency.
"Rex here." He said.
"Rex, I just heard the verdict." The General's voice was a grating blend of anxious, furious, and urgent. "I'm on the tail of the real culprit. You need to ge Ahsoka out, now! That's an order!"
Rex swallowed. If it was discovered that General Skywalker had ordered them to break thr Commander out, things could go very poorly for all of them.
"Yes, sir." Rex said.
"Good. Be careful. Skywalker out."
A few hours later, the eleven clones were gathered in front of two ramshackle transports.
"Remember, everything on stun." Rex said. "They are still vod'e . (Brothers)"
"They won't be giving us the same courtesy." Wolffe said.
"The Coruscant guard can't hit the broad side of a Hutt." Fives scoffed.
Rex gave him a look.
"Any injury we get can be used to identify us." He went on. "So be on your guard."
"And don't speak." Wolffe supplied. "We communicate through hand signals."
The others looked at him.
"We all have the same voice, vod (brother) ." Cody said.
"Speech patterns." Wolffe grunted. "Even the slightest clue might give us away."
"Better safe than sorry." Rex agreed. "Probably shouldn't use comms, either."
Fives rolled his eyes, but Wolffe nodded approvingly.
"Are we ready?" Rex asked.
They all nodded. Rex was struck with how ridiculous this was. They were going to attack a highly secure facility with eleven clones. No Jedi, no back up, and barely a plan.
Commander Tano was worth it.
Almost in unison they pulled on their unmarked helmets. They looked at each other. They were identical. Good.
The flight was odd without the usual pre mission wisecracks. Rex had a brief moment again of the sheer insanity of what they were doing. Of course, one could say that turning on your Jedi general was pure insanity, and they had pulled that off. As well as half of the missions the 501st and 212nd went on. Normally, however, they had General Skywalker.
They docked on the exit pipe of pipelines near the facility. Rex grimaced at the grimy water stagnating at the bottom of the tunnel.
He tried not to remember the last time he was there.
This was the easy, if not dirty, part. They never patrolled these pipes. Ahsoka had been one of the first to try and escape through them.
Rex peeked his head through their exit, the same way Ahsoka had come in. There were no patrols nearby. He signalled the others and they all scrambled out. They moved together through the gathering darkness. The spotlights were easy enough to dodge.
It was when they saw their first guard Rex got nervous. He stopped the others with a hand and took aim. This shot, and there was no going back. Rex pulled the trigger.
Kriff kriff kriff !
The startled guard whirled around and was met with a stun to the face. Rex turned to see one of his companions, maybe Fives, with a raised blaster. The trooper made a motion with his arms that clearly said, 'what was that?' Definitely Fives.
Rex jerked the blaster in his hands at Fives. There was a reason he used his DCs instead of the standard issue pieces of scrap.
He let Fives take the lead after that. He hated to admit it, but the ARC trooper was a better shot with the average blaster. They only encountered a few guards patrolling the outside. Each was expertly taken out by Fives. It seemed they expected the Commander to break out, but not for anyone to break in .
Once they knew they were in sight of the entrance cameras, they all straightened up and walked as casually as they could through the doors. No one came to stop them. They arrived at the detention area. The guards at the control desk barely had time to look up before they were stunned.
Rex and two of his companions he assumed to be Wolffe and Cody rushed to the monitors. A few taps brought up the prisoner list.
Rex nodded to his brothers. They saluted and broke off. Each was followed by four of the others. They charged into the halls of the detention center and split off.
Rex waited a moment. They needed time to secure the surrounding hallways and draw away the guards.
Finally he let himself get moving. The diversion had worked. He could hear shots and shouts from nearby, but his path was nearly clear.
Then, as he turned the corner, he plowed into two troopers. His blaster jolted from his hands from the sudden impact and he heard two more clatters. Rex didn't think as he grabbed the nearest clone.
Sorry, vod. He thought as rammed the guard into the wall. The other got to his feet and grabbed Rex from behind. Rex threw himself backwards into the opposite wall, but the trooper held on. Rex slammed himself back again and this time there was a sickening crack against the wall. The guard dropped. The other had grabbed a blaster. Rex tackled him and forced the gun down. He tried to tear it out of the guard's hand.
The blaster went off.
The guard screamed and collapsed.
For a horrifying moment Rex thought the shot had killed the trooper. Then he saw the smoking hole in the guard's thigh armor. Painful, but nowhere near lethal. Rex picked up his own blaster and stunned both guards for good measure. Then he set off again.
He rounded the final corner and skidded to a halt in front of cell B12.
Ahsoka was curled in a corner of the cell, face buried in her arms. She didn't look up when he approached, which worried him. She wasn't scanning with the Force like she normally was.
He tapped the lock and the shield buzzed off. She snapped her head up. Her eyes were wide with fear.
"It's-it's time?" She whispered.
Rex had never heard her sound so broken.
She thought he had come to execute her. The thought made him sick. Rex noticed her pupils were dilated. He'd seen something similar with troopers Kix treated on the field. He frowned. Was she drugged ?
She seemed to have noticed the lack of red paint on his armor because her brow scrunched in confusion.
Rex jerked his head to the side. We have to go . Ahsoka didn't move. He felt a presence nudge against his mind. She was trying to see who he was. It felt odd. Ahsoka had reached for his mind before, but it had been quick, precise. Now the only way he could describe her mental touch was fumbling and sloppy, like she was knocking against his head. He tried to let himself be as open as he could to let her know he was on her side.
He jerked his head again and held out his hand to her. She stumbled to her feet, took a staggering step, and rushed into his arms.
Rex stood stunned as she buried her face into his chest. Her arms clutched at his back so tightly he thought his armor would crack.
For a moment he let himself return the hug. Kriff, if she didn't need it. He realized with a jolt that she was hanging off of him, using him as a support.
She was definitely drugged. Rex felt a surge of anger, but quickly quelled it. There was nothing he could do about it now.
He took one of her arms and slung it over his shoulder. He gestured to the hallway.
"Right." She said.
He was pleased to see her attempt to stand a little taller, eyes a little more focused. But she still wasn't in good shape. Whatever they had given her seemed to have dulled both her mind and body. They needed to get her out before any real complications happened.
Rex helped her back the way he had come. She jolted to a halt in front of one of the fallen troopers.
Rex shook his head hard. He made the hand signal they used for stunned. Ahsoka relaxed somewhat.
They turned the corner and froze. A red clad trooper stood in the middle of the hallway with his blaster trained on them.