Cody isn’t on the bridge when it happens, but he hears about it plenty later on.
Initial reports from the vod are conflicting: General Kenobi’s blaster malfunctioned with unfortunate results, General Kenobi whipped her gun out and threatened to shoot General Windu over commlink if he didn’t let them jump to Kaliida Shoals (this from a shiny who swore up and down he knew how the Force worked), General Kenobi threatened to shoot herself for the same reason. Cody, knowing his men, figures this is all a load of osik and heads down to medbay to get it straight from the source.
General Kenobi is white as a sheet and sweating buckets while Sawbones works on her foot, but she still manages to sound very proper as she tells her Commander, “Officially, my blaster malfunctioned. Unofficially, of course, I shot myself in the foot.”
“You shot yourself in the foot,” Cody echoes, voice flat.
“Indeed,” the General says, then passes out before Cody can ask her why.
He tries to share a comiseratory look with Sawbones—none of the other GAR battalions have to deal with Generals who shoot themselves in the foot (except maybe the 501st), and Cody likes to feel seen when he’s annoyed. But Sawbones only stares back, grim, and jerks his head over at one of the other beds—Waxer, riddled with blaster wounds, hooked up to enough tubes that he’s barely visible in the bed. “If we didn’t make the jump inside of an hour, Waxer wouldn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell. He’s not high priority enough to get a jump order. But the General…”
Sawbones trails off, and they both go back to looking at the General, unconscious on the med cot between them.
“Stars,” Cody swears softly.
“Indeed,” Sawbones agrees, then steps away to check on Waxer.
The General claws her way back into consciousness once on the way to Kaliida Shoals, even paler than when she passed out and looking like she always does when she has a blaster wound—as if she’s keeping from projectile vomiting only by sheer bloody-mindedness—but before she can do something mad like demand Cody bring her her paperwork, Sawbones is there with a sed hypo and she’s down again.
Cody sits by her bedside with his helmet on the floor between his feet and works his way through both their after-action reports for Umbara, steady mindless work that won’t be finished for days, probably weeks, due to the length of the battle. Later, when he’s alone in his bunk, Cody will remember the realities of it—the endless darkness, the long march, how his nerves frayed over weeks with no downtime, no safe quarters to retreat to, how he watched so many of his brothers fall that he stopped feeling it—but now he only has to deal in numbers. Dead men, his men, reduced to figures.
He rubs his bleary eyes, looking over at Waxer and Boil. One less dead man, hopefully, thanks to his General.
A few sections of the General’s after-action report he leaves blank: what happened with Waxer’s platoon, the 501st, General Krell. Cody may be a fighting man born and bred, but he can’t keep a level head like a jedi can. Obi-Wan will have to fill in that part of the story.
He does, however, write up what happened after. Blaster malfunction. Very unfortunate. Could happen to anyone. Will have troops look over all DC-15A blasters to check for defect. He’s under no delusions it will fool General Windu—that man has an osik detector that could sniff out bantha pudu from the next system over, plus he saw the whole thing over commlink—but unless the other jedi master decides to make a fuss about it, it should fool the Senate’s War Oversight Committee.
At Kaliida Shoals, Sawbones disembarks with Waxer, Boil, and the General, and Cody stays on-board the Negotiator to look after the rest of the battalion. From what Cody’s heard, they didn’t take as many losses on Umbara as the 501st, but that doesn’t change the fact that it was one of the bloodiest clashes of the war thus far, and there’s a lot to deal with—requisitions to replace lost or damaged equipment, transport orders for the dead (the ones they managed to recover) to be returned to Kamino, platoons and squadrons to be re-organized to make up for lost men, requests for more personnel that will have to be signed by the General before they can be sent out. There are a good three dozen psych casualties—fighting flesh and blood beings instead of droids always takes it out of the shinies, and some of the older men too—so he sets aside unfinished paperwork to recycle about a third of them out; he won’t know for certain until the shrinks have them for a few days, but that’s usually about the rate of recovery.
He gets a few minutes downtime between rearranging the mess schedule and walks through psych to check on them. Most of the men seem like they might be alright, like with some help from the shrinks and support from the vod they’ll be able to pull themselves together, but one brother’s conditioning has failed completely.
Cody stands outside his room with the 212th’s chief psych counselor, Kubler, and watches as two orderlies try to keep the patient—a shiny too new to have picked his own name—from bashing his head against the wall.
“We’ll pull most of them through,” Kubler says. “Probably not this one. Bic ni skana’din…but there’s nothing I can do. Not here. Maybe back on Kamino.” He looks over at Cody. “You’re alright, though, Commander, yeah?”
Cody nods. He’s alright, as much as it shames him to admit it. He’s watched enough men go to their deaths it barely registers anymore—not even watching a kid who can’t be more than ten or twelve real time try to scratch his own eyes out.
Sawbones comms him on the way out of psych to let him know that Waxer’s in surgery and that the General’s going to be kept for a few days while they regrow her destroyed foot in bacta.
“Shredded all the nerve endings in her toes, di’kutla jetii,” the medic grumbles, but even over comms Cody can hear a hint of gruff, grudging fondness in his voice. “She’ll be limping for a month.”
“Waxer’ll live, though,” Cody says, half-questioning.
“Yeah,” says Sawbones, with a blustering sigh. “Yeah, Waxer’ll live.”
Cody makes sure he’s sitting by the General’s bedside two hours later when the med droids bring her out of sedation. She’s woozy, unhappy about being woozy, and indignant at having been put in a hospital gown while unconscious, but when he tells her Waxer’s out of surgery and in recovery she drops her head back against the pillow and says, “Thank the karking gods.”
“Yeah,” Cody says, though the gods aren’t the ones he’d thank.
He helps the General hobble over to the ’fresher, Obi-Wan hopping on one leg with the bacta bag taped around her injured foot, then turns his back respectfully on the open door until he feels her grab onto his shoulder again, putting all her weight onto him.
As he helps her back into bed—she tries to argue her way into a chair, but he threatens her with Sawbones and she relents—she holds onto him, fingers hooked under the edge of his pauldron, so that Cody has to sit down on the edge of the bed. Her grip on him loosens, but she doesn’t let go. Cody holds very still. He doesn’t want to dislodge her, or make her think that he wants to dislodge her, or even draw attention to the fact that she’s holding onto him, in case it’s escaped her notice.
“If it was any other day,” the General says, in a voice much older than her years. “If it was any other day, Commander, I might not have done it. I’m not proud of that, but it’s the truth.”
Cody watches her mouth twist into a tight, grieved line. He wants to smooth out her forehead with his thumb, but doesn’t dare.
“It was just too much,” the General says. Cody wonders if she isn’t still drugged up. “The 501st, Master Krell, and—you suffered so much, all of you, and after all that, I couldn’t just let Waxer die. Not today.”
“You’re not allowed to shoot yourself in the foot again, sir,” Cody tells her.
“No promises,” the General says. She smiles at him to let him know she’s joking, but she must really be tired, because as soon as the smile appears, it’s gone. And then she pulls her hand away from Cody’s shoulder.
Back when Cody was a tubie no taller than Grand Master Yoda, the Kaminoans sat his batch down in front of a big holo-screen and showed them vids to illustrate concepts like bravery, wisdom, valor. The ones Cody remembers were mostly old holovids of Mandalorians, most likely courtesy of Jango, but nowadays, the way the shinies look at General Kenobi when they first arrive on-board, he thinks they probably show vids of jetii. Of Cody’s jedi.
It makes good sense—if brothers who are going to be fighting and dying under jedi command feel respect and loyalty toward their generals from the get-go, there’s a lot less hazing and headbashing that Cody’s battalion needs to do to get the shinies in line. But there are some odd side effects, like the 212th suddenly being the most coveted posting in the GAR, or Rex joking over commlink that Ghost Company is basically a cult, vode, or Cody going down to inspect the shiny dorms and finding one of them painting the General’s lightsaber on the others’ helmets, under titles like Our Lady of the 212th, Our Lady of Close Calls, and Our Lady of Evasive Maneuvers.
Cody doesn’t like telling a brother how to decorate his armor—they get so few outlets for self-expression—but he also doesn’t like the idea of the General seeing a dead shiny with a karking shrine to her on his helmet. She carries enough guilt already.
“You want that on you,” he tells the shinies, once they’ve noticed him and snapped to attention, “you go to Poke and get it tatted. And not somewhere the General will see.”
SIR YES SIR, the shinies chant.
As Cody understands it, Poke is very busy that evening.
He’s not entirely sure how he feels knowing that some of the vod is walking around with the General’s lightsaber tattooed on their asses, but at least he has his own ’fresher in his bunk, so he doesn’t have to see them.
He asks Rex once, when they’re doing a joing maneuver with the 501st, both their generals off on some jetii mission, whether any of his men have tattoos in honor of General Skywalker. Rex gets a good laugh out of that one.
“We love our general,” he tells Cody, when he gets finished. “Course we do. But you know General Kenobi’s different.”
Cody does know. Of course he does. Some days he even thinks there’s something in their genetics—in all of the vod’s identical genetics—that makes them turn towards his General like flowers turning toward the sun.
Cody’s General is many things to many people—’The Negotiator’ to the Holonet, Master to General Skywalker, a tool and a convenient scapegoat more often than not to the Jedi Council. She’s almost a foot shorter than every brother but on Coruscant the recruiting stations project her face 80 meters high in blue holos; she flings herself into Force jumps that take her sailing hundreds of feet over the heads of droid legions one moment and stands demure in front of the Council the next, hands tucked into the sleeves of her robes, silently accepting each admonishment, each added injury. She is, parts of her, something that Cody will never fully understand, something almost supernatural, a being with access to power that he can only stand in awe of when he’s not scared witless by it. But to him, to Ghost Company and the rest of the 212th, she’s aliit, which means none of the rest of that pfassk matters.
There’s a distance, still. There has to be, since she’s their commanding officer, since she’s jetii. Cody understands that, but for all that he tries to keep out of their snooping, he doesn’t like it any more than his men do, so he keeps an ear to the vod gossip via Sawbones and Kubler.
The men don’t have a lot of resources at their disposal, but they’re observant bastards when they want to be. The rumor mill inside the 212th churns very effectively, augmented by a healthy symbiotic relationship with the 501st and complemented with the occasional shore leave binge with Plo’s Bros.
So they know that General Kenobi has a certain reputation among the jedi.
The jetiise think she has a stick up her ass, one of the 104th reports. Total stickler for the Code.
She was the first jetii in a generation to kill a Sith, from one of the more starstruck shinies in the 327. And General Secura says she’s the youngest Master ever given a seat on the Jedi Council. She’s basically a legend.
Jaro, from Kix in the 501st. Totally karking jaro, but she pretends she’s not.
MASSIVE HYPOCRITE, General Skywalker tells them himself, very loudly and extremely inebriated. She’s always telling me not to karking do stuff that she’s done a hundred times. Don’t fight a Sith by yourself, Anakin. Don’t jump off that building, Anakin. Don’t go to bed with foreign dignitaries, Anakin—snorting—as if she doesn’t know that I secretly know that she secretly knows that I’m secretly married.
That causes a ripple in the men, not because of Anakin’s revelation (half the GAR knows he’s married, even though none of the jedi seem to have caught on), but because for all that they’ve seen their General flirt with everything that breathes, the 212th has never directly observed her follow through, and none of them much like the idea.
Cody doesn’t like the idea either, but he still puts an end to that line of gossip with extreme prejudice. The General’s personal life is her own. If she wants to go to bed with half the senate—well, that’s her decision, not Cody’s, and not the vod’s. Obi-Wan is starved enough for happiness as it is. All of them are.
She’s tired—Cody can see that well enough on his own, probably better than the rest of the brothers can. They’re all tired, too, they’ve each and every one of them been tired for years, but not all of them are carrying the weight of every dead vod on their backs. Not like she is.
Cody would wonder how she processes it all, except he knows she doesn’t, really. For his General, meditation and denial are the name of the game.
There is no ‘tired,’ there is only peace, the General is fond of telling him, when he nags her to get some rest.
Cody tells her that’s a load of osik, but the General only smiles serenely, in direct contradiction to the dark bags under her eyes, and goes back to her cross-legged hovering, which is not the same as sleep, damn it.
He worries about her, even though he knows logically she’s more than capable of taking care of herself, and the rest of the 212th does too—especially Waxer, Boil, and Sawbones, who get to see more of her than the rest of them. They watch her come back from jedi missions with more bruises than skin, watch her throw herself into sparring with General Skywalker or Shadow Vos, on the rare occasions they give him a ride, or with twelve vod at once, fierce and silent and tight-lipped, like she’s trying to prove something to herself, to her own broken bones. The third watch reports that the General can be found haunting the halls at all hours of the ship’s night, Healy the cook reports that if she’s eating, she’s not doing it in his mess, and Kubler knocks on Cody’s door late one night, like an enemy informant delivering stolen information, to tell him that Kenobi’s displaying all the classic signs of combat fatigue, like he doesn’t already kriffing know that, like they aren’t all in some stage of combat fatigue.
“It’s worse than all that, sir,” Kubler confides.
Cody, half-naked and bleary with sleep, drags a hand over his face and asks, “What?”
“Some men, they seem like they’re coping alright—all nerve burner right until the very end, sir. But they get so deep in the war that when it’s time to come out they don’t know how anymore.”
Cody squints at him. “Vod aren’t meant to come out.”
Kubler nods. “I know, sir. I’ve been reading some jedi texts, from their mind healers. Ross—that’s the counselor with the 91st—he slipped me some flimsi the last time we had a joint maneuver. He’s been keeping a close eye on General Windu, you see—“
“Vode,” Cody interrupts, too tired for the mental health lecture. “What do we do about it?”
Kubler frowns. “Do about it, sir?”
Cody resists the urge to hang his head. Kubler might have enough emotional intelligence to wrangle 800 men, but he tends to lose the basics when he’s wrapped up in a tricky psych problem. “How do we help the General?”
“Right,” Kubler shuffles, awkward. “Well, sir, I’m not sure there’s much we can do. Not while we’re still in it, I mean. We can…make sure she gets downtime. Make sure she knows she can let her guard down, when she’s on the ship. The jetii texts are all keen on rotating people away from the frontlines, but…”
“Yeah,” Cody agrees. “Alright, Kubler. Thanks.”
Cody tries not to think about the fact that he’s always going to be in it. That even if the war ends and his General goes back to being a full-time peacekeeper, he’s not going to go with her. She’s going to be going alone.
That, at least, is a problem for another day. It’s not like this gods-damned war is going to end anytime soon.
Meantime, the vod falls a little more in love with their General every day.
Via Gregor and Wooley she manages to mastermind the installation of a nuna ball court in their transport hangar, on the advice of Kubler that it’s sometimes better for men who are cooped up in space for a long time to have something other than fighting and kriffing to get their energy out. Cody never finds where she hides the funds in their requisitions, and when he asks her how she pulled it off she says, easy as anything, “It was my own credits, Commander. Completely above-board. Best not tell the men, though, I don’t want them getting any ideas about having to pay me back.”
Cody knows lots of jedi are good to their men, that very few of their generals treat them like the cannon fodder they objectively are (Krell, of course, being the exception), but he likes to think that his jedi loves her men better than most. Or she’s more willing to count herself among them, at least—more willing to trust them as much as she trusts a fellow jetii, to bump elbows with them and mess with them and even, on one occasion that proves very educational for some of the shinies who’ve never seen a picture of a naked woman before, make use of their communal showers. Cody’s intercepting startlingly detailed pinup drawings of his General for a month after that, and he’s almost glad when they pull frontline duty again, because it means the General doesn’t have time to unintentionally harrass his men with her bare breasts, and he doesn’t have to think about whether she’s really got a birthmark shaped like a mythosaur skull on her right ass cheek.
He’ll just have to add that to the long list of things he doesn’t think about.
The revolution starts like most revolutions do—as an idea that Obi-Wan is barely brave enough to articluate to herself.
It’s just a seed at first. A tiny, niggling doubt. The wrong forms end up on her desk one night and when she brings them back to Cody she asks what they’re about, total pounds of biomass for return journey, and he says, casual, “Oh, that’s our dead going back to Kamino.”
Obi-Wan feels like she’s been hit by a speeder, but she’s too professional to show it, so she only thanks him and leaves him to it. But in her quarters that night she thinks to herself biomass, remembering those cold clinical hallways the Kaminoans showed her through what feels like eons ago, and no amount of determined meditation is enough to wipe her mind clean.
She starts with innocent questions, disguised as simple curiosity in her missives to Master Ti.
General Kenobi of the 212th requests 30 additional units to replace losses on the last two campaigns. Oh, and Master Ti, while I have you—might you answer a few questions for me? What funerary practices do you use for the dead returning to Kamino? I thought I might implement something similar for the vod we’re not able to recover. Cheers, Obi-Wan.
Funerary practices? Master Ti writes back. I’m not sure what you mean, Master Kenobi. Used biomass is the property of Kamino and thus is recycled into the cloning process.
Recycled. Dear gods.
Obi-Wan has nightmares, after that, about her dead men coming back to her all mixed up in the shinies. She deletes Master Ti’s message, has Arfour burn the datachip it was stored on, but it doesn’t help. All she can think is that even after everything, after giving their lives, her boys still don’t get to rest—they just get recycled back in, again and again, forever. She tries to push it to the back of her mind, because she knows that she can’t do anything about it, that it’s not her choice, that if she could choose she wouldn’t choose this war at all, but then she’s sitting in medbay at her dear Commander’s bedside after a battle, covered in soot and sweat and who knows what, and she’s struck, watching him rest, bacta patches stuck to his chest and neck, with the realization that if one of those cuts had been an inch lower he’d be dead, and she’d be sending his biomass back to Kamino for recycling, and she barely manages to dive for the sink before she’s vomiting up all the ration bars she’s eaten in the last day.
No, she thinks, when she straightens back up, wipes her mouth, makes her hobbling way back to his bedside. Cody’s not biomass, none of them are biomass, they’re people, they’re her people, and damned if she’s going to go along with anyone who says otherwise.
So that’s how the revolution begins—with dead brothers, but not the way you might expect.
Obi-Wan takes it before the Council. She tries to, at least, as much as she can without showing her hand, but most of them have developed tunnel vision over the past few years of constant warfare, the ideals of the Jedi Order giving way to the more urgent needs of the Republic. They argue that they’re saving more lives than they’re taking, since the Separatists field an army made mostly of droids, and when Obi-Wan points out that they send hundreds of men to their deaths every day in the name of peace and prosperity, not even Master Windu or Master Plo seem to support her (reserved, if not quite respectful) indignation.
“This is what the clones are made for,” Master Windu tells her, not without sympathy. “It’s what they’re conditioned for. It’s all they know, Obi-Wan, if you took a clone out of the war, he wouldn’t know what to do.”
That’s a load of bantha pudu, but one thing Qui-Gon taught her—in a do as I say, not as I do sort of way—was when to stage a tactical retreat, so she only inclines her head, says, “Thank you, Masters, as always, for your wisdom,” and departs.
Qui-Gon told her once, in a drawn seriousness that was rare for him after a Council meeting, The jedi way is not always the same as the Jedi Code, dear one. Nor is the jedi way dictated by the Jedi Council. If the Code and the Council some day conspire to prevent the jedi from following the way, as I fear will happen, it may be necessary to do as the ancient Master Kōng did, when he sensed the corruption of his Order.
What did Master Kōng do? Obi-Wan asked.
What should any jedi do, when the will of mere beings begins to override the will of the Force? Qui-Gon returned, never one to pass up a teachable moment, even packed in back of a public transport, heads bowed under the hoods of their robes, speaking quietly like spies who feared discovery.
Obi-Wan frowned, gazing at her own reflection in the transport window. She remembers that even now—how she had looked, thirteen and painfully solemn already, hard unhappy eyes inside a face that was still losing its baby fat. She’d tried to recall Master Kōng from her readings in the créche, and couldn’t, and had not yet been with Qui-Gon long enough to know that he expected her to answer for herself, that there were no readings about Master Kōng, that the right answer was in her heart, not her head.
I don’t know, Master, she said at last, after long patient minutes. If we weren’t talking about the Council, then the jedi should follow the will of the Force, obviously. But doesn’t the Council know the will of the Force much better than I do?
Qui-Gon smiled, in that borderline-condescending way he had. Master Kōng, when he believed he could no longer act rightly in concert with his Order, set out to act rightly on his own. His disciples, who later left the Order to follow him, record that he once said he would settle himself in a drifting derelict if he could no longer act rightly in the settled worlds. The transport shuddered as it changed traffic lanes, and Qui-Gon steadied Obi-Wan with a big hand on her shoulder. All a jedi must do, padawan, is follow the Light. The rest is window dressing.
Window dressing, Obi-Wan thinks, is an interesting way to phrase complete moral bankruptcy and the total abandonment of the Order’s neutrality. It rather fits, though. And if the Order can no longer see its way to following the Light, Obi-Wan will have to do it herself.
Master Windu does raise one salient point, however: the clones’ conditioning.
Obi-Wan might already be thinking of a sort of revolution, she might not be there yet, but either way she figures that her men ought to be allowed to make their own decisions without innate programming to follow her orders—or anyone’s orders. So she goes looking for the late Master Sifo-Dyas’ personal effects in the quartermaster’s archives, and manages to dig up his private logs. They’re all in Minashee, so Obi-Wan has to learn a new lexicon and a new language before she can read them without the spotty aid of a translation slicer, but that’s alright—another of Qui-Gon’s lessons was how to survive on an hour of sleep per day for months at a time, and she was sleeping three hours on average before.
She learns to read Minashee in a month and a half, and though sometimes she thinks Cody has noticed a change, noticed that she’s not sleeping, she puts bacta on the bags under her eyes and drinks an extra cup of tea in the morning and gets away with it.
Well, mostly gets away with it.
“I thought even jedi needed sleep,” Bail says behind her.
Obi-Wan glances at him over her shoulder. “Good morning, Bail.”
“Morning? Barely, Obi-Wan.”
She smiles softly. “Who says I didn’t sleep?”
“I was in the bed, I think I would’ve noticed.” He shuffles past her into the kitchen, rubbing sleep from his eyes. His silk blue robe is hanging from his shoulders, leaving his chest bared with evidence of last night’s activities. Obi-Wan doesn’t feel anything but friendship and a weak echo of satisfaction, looking at him. She didn’t feel much more than that last night, either. Bail knows what he’s doing, but whenever Obi-Wan shares his bed, even when Breha joins them, it feels like trying to scratch an exogorth-size itch with a toothpick. It’s not Bail’s fault. He’s only one man. Obi-Wan needs more hands on her than that.
Bail starts his pot of caf and sets the kettle back on at a nod from Obi-Wan. “Are you going to tell me what you’re doing with my Senate transcripts, or do I have to guess?”
“Guess,” Obi-Wan says, only half paying attention.
“Hm,” Bail hums, pretending to think as he fixes his cup of caf and comes over to join her in the sitting room. Obi-Wan pauses the scroll of the Senate transcripts in front of her and turns to look at him. She’s been reading since shortly after Bail fell asleep, her eyes feel fogged over—and they slide closed in low, easy pleasure as Bail sets his caf down and slides a hand up the inside of her thigh, under her borrowed robe.
“Are you basking in the brilliance of my two-second statements?” Bail asks, voice low.
Obi-Wan tries not to gasp as his thumb finds what it’s looking for. She doesn’t like gasping, it’s too girlish, but her lungs aren’t on the same page as her brain. “No,” she manages to say. “That’s not it.”
“Hm. Checking up on your padawan’s secret wife?”
“Ah.” Bail looks thoughtful. Almost offensively thoughtful, considering what his fingers are doing. “Well, I’m all out of guesses. You’ll have to tell me.”
Obi-Wan fixes him with a look that’s probably not as haughty and teasing as she wants. “Will I, now?”
Bail’s fingers do something that makes her head fall limp against the back of the couch. “Maybe later,” he says reasonably.
“Later,” Obi-Wan agrees, as her legs fall open. “Definitely later.”
The caf gets cold and the kettle squeals for long minutes before they manage to pull themselves together enough to attempt breakfast again. When they’re both a little more awake and a little more clothed, Bail rejoins Obi-Wan on the couch and says, “So. Tell me. Maybe I can help.”
Obi-Wan smiles sadly. “I don’t think you can, Bail.”
His teasing, post-coital ease turns abruptly serious. He sits forward. “Try me.”
Obi-Wan considers him for a long moment. Of all the senators she knows, she certainly trusts Bail the most—trusts him as much, if not more than she trusts some of her fellow jedi. But this is not something that she’s said out loud to anyone yet. Not even to Cody. She supposes part of her always figured, even though she didn’t think about it directly, that Cody would be the first one she told. But sooner or later she’s going to need allies—allies in the Senate, and maybe even in the Order. Knowing what she does about Bail, about what kind of man he is, she figures she may as well start here.
She looks him in the eyes, hoping he’ll see the truth of what she’s saying, the rightness of it. “Every day I send men to their deaths,” she starts. “My men die for a Republic in which they are not citizens—a Republic that doesn’t even grant them the Universal Rights of Beings.”
“Yes, Obi-Wan, I know. You’re reading my own transcripts back to me.”
“The issue of granting them citizenship has been raised before, but it’s always shot down before it can come to a vote.”
Bail sighs, shakes his head, but meets her eyes again when he’s done. “The Senate wouldn’t be able to stomach this war if they had to violate the Universal Rights to do it. This way, they feel like they’re keeping the moral high ground, even when our enemies are mostly sending inanimate machines for us to blast apart. It’s bad reasoning, it’s wrong, but those of us who see that are outnumbered a thousand to one by those who want to stick their head in the sand and wait for the war to pass.”
“I can’t wait for the war to pass, Bail,” Obi-Wan says softly. “I won’t.”
He holds her gaze. “What are you saying?”
She swallows, finds her center, then says, “I’m saying I’m going to steal the GAR. All one million clones—or the ones who are still alive, anyway. And I’d be eternally grateful if you’d help me do it. Or, at the very least, look the other way while I do.”
Bail stares at her for a long minute, silent. Then he says, “Well. I definitely wouldn’t have guessed that.”
The call from the 501st comes, as most terrible news does, in the middle of the night.
Jesse pings Cody’s personal code at an emergency frequency that keeps it beeping over and over until Cody wakes up and answers. It’s not until he’s already said, “Gods, Jesse, what the hell is it?” that he remembers General Kenobi is with the 501st. This is about his General.
“It’s not good, Cody,” Jesse says, though Cody can tell as much through his voice. A harsh throbbing heartbeat fills Cody’s head as he sits up, and he barely hears the next words out of Jesse’s mouth. “We lost contact a few hours ago. We can’t find them.”
In the General’s absence, Cody is in charge of 800 men, a few million tons of steel, and theoretically a quarter of the GAR.
He’s ashamed to say that from the moment Jesse calls until the moment he claps eyes on the General in the Negotiator’s medbay, beaten and bruised but undeniable alive, he has no cognizance of anything except her. Since the rest of the 212th is in the same boat, he doesn’t think anyone notices.
“I’m fine, Anakin,” she’s insisting to General Skywalker, as Cody approaches, slowing from a run to a walk so he doesn’t alarm her. “Honestly, I’ve had worse shocks from that droid of yours, and it’s hardly the first time I’ve been a slave—I’ve told you about Bandomeer, haven’t I?”
“Once or twice,” Skywalker says, in a voice that means a million karking times. “Listen, Master, just let Kix and Sawbones look you over—“
“Need I remind you who here is the padawan and who is the Master?” Obi-Wan mutters, sounding irritated and disgruntled but also looking like a strong wind could take her out for a week. “I’m going back to my quarters, Anakin, go fuss over Ahsoka.”
She starts to get out of bed, General Skywalker watching with his jaw tense.
Cody, who’s been hanging back until now, never quite sure of his welcome when the two jedi are together, gets kicked in the ass with a sudden burst of protective fury and steps forward to say, “Your feet hit the floor, sir, and I’ll have Sawbones sedate you.”
The General freezes with her toes an inch above the tile. “Commander,” she says, “I’m—“
“You’re not fine, di’kut,” Cody snaps. He presses her back into bed, picks her legs up for her, and presses her down by the forehead when she tries to sit up to tell him more lies. “You’re covered in wounds, you’ve been held in god knows what conditions, and you haven’t been sleeping for months—Don’t give me that look, General, you think third watch doesn’t talk to the rest of us? We’re onto you.”
The General, for the first time since Cody’s met her, looks slightly cowed. Or at least—she doesn’t try to get up again, and General Skywalker, as he moves to go check on Rex, claps a hand on Cody’s shoulder and says, “Commander, I’m impressed. I’ve been trying for twelve karking years and I’ve never gotten Master Kenobi to stay in a med cot. She’s all yours.”
Cody reminds himself that General Skywalker doesn’t mean it like that, and nods. “I’ll look after her, sir.”
“I’m right here, you know,” Obi-Wan says tiredly, but it’s the last complaint out of her for hours, so Cody lets it slide.
Later, when Sawbones has come and gone, dressing the harsh red electrical burns on the General’s torso with bacta and leaving them both with instructions that she won’t be allowed out of the medbay until she gets at least eight hours of real sleep, Cody drags a chair up to her bedside and says, “You know, you never told me about Bandomeer, sir.”
The General is sitting up in bed. She insists, always, on sitting up. Bad for morale for the men to see me laying down on the job, she’d joked once, half-delirious, when Cody, covered in her blood, had called her a jaro di’kutla jetii about it. He’d call her the same thing now, except Sawbones’ attention has clearly left her in pain, a thin, pale sort of exhaustion compounded on top of all the rest, and with most of the lights in medbay on low for third watch, it’s almost peaceful—he almost believes she might actually go to sleep, so he doesn’t want to antagonize her. Instead he waits, while she musters up a charming smile for him. “You know,” her voice sounds watered-down, “I think you’re right, Commander.”
Tidbits about the General’s past are rare, and ones she offers up herself even rarer still, so Cody listens intently as she tells him how none of the Masters wanted her as their padawan after she got in a fight with one of her fellow initiates, how she was sent to the AgriCorps and happened to get tangled up, along with Master Qui-Gon Jinn, in some drama involving Qui-Gon’s former padawan, a darjetii, and an evil company called the Offworld Mining Corporation. “So you see,” Obi-Wan says, like she’s finishing up a lecture instead of relating a childhood trauma, “it’s hardly the first time I’ve been temporarily enslaved. That’s not what was bad about this mission.”
“What was bad about this mission, then?” Cody asks.
Obi-Wan gives him a private, rueful look, as if to say, Caught that, did you? She doesn’t answer him outright, because that would be too easy. Instead she says, “It’s a good thing you weren’t with me, Cody.”
“What do you mean?” Cody asks.
The General shakes her head. “Nothing, Commander. Nothing.”
When Sawbones comes by an hour later and interrupts their game of sabacc to threaten the General with sedation, she requests politely that she be allowed to go sleep in her own quarters, provided she lets Cody supervise her. Sawbones clearly doesn’t like it, but once he extracts from her promises to return first thing in the morning well rested—and not on any stims, General, I’ll karking know—he discharges her with a scowl and a dismissive wave.
Halfway down to her quarters, the General takes a wrong turn and says, “You can go, Commander.”
Cody stops in the intersection of the hallways for a long moment, to give into the overwhelming urge to sigh and hang his head, then turns on his heel and goes after her. “General,” he calls after her, voice over-loud in the hush of third watch. “General, I will let Sawbones sedate you.”
He catches up and grabs her by the arm, which he figures is only because she wants him to grab her by the arm, otherwise he’d be flat on his back, so he goes ahead and grabs her other shoulder as well, so he has a firm grip on her. She has to look up at him. She always has to look up at him, but when they’re on the bridge or on the frontlines it never feels like she does—it always feels like they’re of a height. Now he’s intimately aware of how much smaller she is, how slim and insubstantial her shoulder feels under his hand. It’s not doing much to get rid of his protective urges.
She stares at him for a long moment, searching his face, then looks away and sighs. “Alright,” she says. She pats his hand, pulls it away from her shoulder, surrendering. “Alright, Cody, come on. I’ll show you.”
Confused, belly exposed by the use of his name, Cody trails after her.
The General leads him to the laundry room just under the vod’s barracks. He opens his mouth to ask any number of questions, but before he can get any of them out she shoots him a quelling look and he quiets. He follows her past the low rows of churning sonics, the steady chum-chum-chum of the machines like a heartbeat in his feet and in his ears, and when she pulls aside a rack of vacuum-sealed undersuits in the back corner of the room to reveal a hammock slung against the interior wall, it takes him a long minute to even understand what he’s looking at.
Even when he registers what it is—it’s a hammock, a hammock in the kriffing laundry room—he still doesn’t really understand. “Sir?” he asks.
Obi-Wan gestures vaguely overhead. “Their Force signatures,” she explains, awkward. “I can feel them in all the way my quarters, of course, but it’s much stronger here, and it’s easier to sleep when I know the men are alright. When I can…feel that they’re alright.”
Cody swallows thickly, alarmed to find that he’s near tears. Chum-chum-chum go the washing machines. Obi-Wan tucks a stray strand of hair behind her ear, looking at the place where the wall meets the floor, clearly expecting him to leave her to it, but that’s not going to happen.
Cody gets it, is the thing. He grew up surrounded by vod, packed in twelve of them to a room before they graduated from the créche to the training barracks, where they slept two to a bunk in assigned sack rotations in a room that housed eighty-four. He has his own quarters now, having been promoted as much as he has, and though he’s enjoying having his own space for the first time in his life he sometimes slips down to the barracks to sleep with the vod, after a bad battle or a rough day. He understands the comfort of a hundred brothers breathing around you in the dark. He understands wanting to be able to reach for people in the middle of the night, to have people reach for you. He understands being one small part of a much bigger whole.
It’s never occurred to him before now that his jedi has never had that.
“You’re not sleeping down here,” he tells her, when he manages to swallow down the lump in his throat. “There’s plenty of empty bunks upstairs.”
Obi-Wan shakes her head. “No, Cody, I couldn’t possibly. The men don’t want their commanding officer intruding on their space—“
“Maybe let the men decide that for themselves,” Cody snaps, and then, when she glares at him, softer, “You’re vod, sir. Aliit. I know you don’t—You might not know what that means, for us. But trust me, alright? The men don’t mind.”
Obi-Wan stares him down for another moment, eyes red-ringed, humming with the same frazzled energy as a trapped loth-cat driven to the ultimate end of its rope. And then, like a dam giving way, too tired to fight anymore, she nods.
Cody’s half-worried one of the shinies with Our Lady of the 212th tattooed on his ass is going to be sleeping butt naked right inside the door, but for the first time in a long time, luck smiles on him. Their entrance must wake one of the vod near the door, because by the time Cody picks his way through to where he usually sleeps—where Waxer and Boil sack down together every night—a quiet air of reverence has crept through the room. He doesn’t spot any vod watching them, not outright at least, but he can tell that every brother in this barrack knows the General is in the room. He only hopes that Obi-Wan can’t tell, that she’s somehow exhausted enough not to have noticed. Waxer wakes up as they approach, and nudges Boil to wake him too, and together they push two of the bunks together so the General can lie down close to them, which she does, stretching out on the bed like she’s cautious of her own limbs. “Sir,” Waxer murmurs in greeting, and hands her the edge of a big blanket, and Obi-Wan melts under it like all she’s been doing, all this time, is waiting for someone to give her permission.
Her head hits the pillow. Cody starts to climb up into one of the empty bunks above, fully intending to stay awake all night to make sure she doesn’t escape again, but before he can make it, he feels a hand on his ankle. He looks down. It’s not Obi-Wan, it’s Boil, but he jerks his head over at Obi-Wan and Cody sees that she’s watching him with something tight and resigned behind her eyes, so even as she looks away he climbs back down and slides into the bunk behind her, covering her back, closing her off from the open air of the barracks. None of them says anything. It’s not the sort of thing you talk about. But both of Obi-Wan’s hands are clasped tightly in both of Waxer’s, her face tucked hidden in a pillow that smells strongly and not all that pleasantly of vod, and Cody slings an arm over her waist and curls around her spine and presses his face against the back of her hair, and they fall asleep like that, all Cody’s brothers tangled together like the roots of a great tree, and Obi-Wan sleeps for a long time.
Cody and his brothers were raised with a very pragmatic view of sex. The Kaminoans, as he understood it, had considered growing them as eunuchs, but thankfully Jango brought them to their senses by pointing out that decreased sex drive equalled decreased aggression equalled if you want them to fight, you better make them hot karking blooded.
So the clones had cocks, millions of identical cocks, and when they started to be a problem around real-age fourteen the Kaminoans marched them through a series of excruciatingly awkward sex ed classes with rendered holos of human anatomy, gave them practical medical tests in effective self-maintenance, and instituted a sack schedule where each night, every vod was paired with a brother from the same batch, assigned a bunk, and left to either kriff (with standard issue lube, of course) or settle in ass-to-ass and go to sleep.
In the GAR, there are no assigned sacks, but some of the battalions have voluntary lists for vod who still like the rhythm of sleeping with a new brother every night. The 212th doesn’t have one, Cody and Kubler polled the men when the war first started and no one seemed very interested, but Cody knows there’s enough unassigned activity going on in the barracks to scratch the battalion’s collective itch. There are those who sack down with the same partner every night, like Waxer and Boil, those who stick to self-maintenance in the communal showers (another reason Cody’d nearly had a heart attack when someone told him the General had been in them) and those who’ll have a jolly tumble with whoever’s willing.
And then there’s Cody, Kubler, and Sawbones, the poor sods who are too high up in the chain of command to sack down with anyone but each other. Luckily none of them are too keen on it—each one thinks the other two are right ugly bastards, and though they do manage to link up with the high-ranking officers in the 501st and 104th sometimes, Cody is at this point in the tour very well acquainted with his own right hand.
Still, even though he can’t partake, he knows it’s good for the vod—and even better when they’re doing a joint maneuver for a few days with the 501 and the brothers can mix up who they sack down with and trade tricks. When the only people you’ve ever kriffed are men who look exactly like you, a little bit of novelty is a hot commodity, and judging by the mood in the mess the morning after the battalions split, the brothers in the 501st learned a lot on their last shore leave.
Which is all well and good, until Cody finds Crys, Gearshift and Longshot hunched over an anatomically correct diagram of the female form.
He has to stand still for a minute, white-knuckling his cup of caf while his brain bangs around inside his skull like a transport shuttle that came loose from its deck clamps during the jump to hyperspace, because what the kark are they doing with that kasava fruit?
“Uh,” says Crys, when Cody barks the question out loud. “Some of the guys in the 501st sacked down with women last shore leave. We asked them to give us some pointers. You know. In case the General ever…”
Cody’s brain is about to explode out his ears, but he manages to order, “Get rid of that osik. I catch you with it again, you’ll be on ’fresher duty for a month.”
SIR YES SIR, the brothers chant.
Cody’s under no illusions that they’re actually going to listen to him, but as long as they’re diligent enough to hide it from him, he figures they’ll be diligent enough to hide it from the General as well, and that’s what he really wants.
Well, no. Not what he really wants. But that’s never gonna happen, so he’ll settle for the General not walking in on three of her men learning how to finger-kriff a kasava fruit in her honor.
He’s having some trouble suppressing the incident himself, haunted every time he lies down in his bunk by images of red, juicy fruit and that noise he heard his General make through a closed door one time when they were giving Shadow Vos a jump to the next system. He can’t help picturing what Crys was doing with his fingers, and how warm she would be, and how nice it had been that night after Kadavo, to have her asleep in his arms, even with Waxer and Boil snoring a few inches away. And how she had woken up before he did, but still stooped over to press a kiss to his forehead as she climbed over him out of the bunk, murmuring a quiet Commander, how she’d been straddling him for just a moment and how she’s taken a half dozen blaster bolts meant for him and how her mouth hooks a little at one corner when she smiles. Cody tries to stop thinking about it—about his jedi in his bed—but it’s a hard track to get off once he’s on it, and all it really takes to get on it is a ping with paperwork from the General or even a very mild breeze from the ventilation system on his naked chest.
And it certainly doesn’t help when the General summons him to her quarters in the middle of the night.
It’s hardly unusual, needing to deal with business during third watch, but when he gets her ping he’s in the middle of a sweaty and very pleasurable dream and he has to take a tense and mortifying minute for self-maintenance before he goes padding down the hall in his blacks and his bare feet to knock on the General’s door.
She answers in her full jetii robes, looking grim. “Commander,” she says. “Come in, close the door behind you.”
Any ideas Cody’s libido might’ve gotten about that statement are banished the second he gets a read on the room. This isn’t about another campaign, another assignment. This is serious, and not the same sort of serious as the rest of the war effort. So he settles down at the General’s kitchen table and lets her make him a cup of tea, even though he’s not all that fond of her fancy teas. He knows it calms her to put the kettle on.
The General doesn’t meet his eyes while she pours his tea. She has her hair down, an uneven red chop that ends at her shoulders—she had Poke cut it last month when it was getting too long, and having never had occasion to cut a woman’s hair before he hadn’t done too great of a job. The effect is almost childish. Cody can imagine this is what she looked like as a padawan, sixteen and weedy, tucking her hair behind one ear like she always does when she’s thinking—and thinking hard—as she comes to sit opposite him at the table.
Cody knows his General. He knows she’s loyal to her Order, loyal to the Republic, and loyal to the war effort, so he’s not sure why he gets the sense, sitting here in silence with their sturdy plastiseel cups of tea, that they’re about to commit treason.
“What I’m about to say isn’t going to make a lot of sense,” the General says, after a minute. She picks up her tea, blows on it delicately, then seems to decide mid-cloud of steam that she doesn’t want to drink it after all, and sets it back down. “In fact it’s not going to make any sense at all. I’m sorry.”
Cody’s stomach ties itself in a knot. He holds his cup harder to resist the urge to reach out for her. “General?”
“I need you to take it on blind faith, Cody,” his jedi says, meeting his eyes. “I’ll explain everything later, but first, right now, I need you to do something for me. And I can’t tell you why. And it’s not pleasant. And I’m sorry, but I need you to do it.”
Cody just stares at her. He thinks he might have left his brain back in his bunk, asleep and dreaming of kasava fruit.
“This isn’t an order,” the General says, as an afterthought. “You can say no.”
Cody nods. “But you’re asking me to say yes. Without knowing what I’m saying yes to.”
“Yes,” Obi-Wan agrees, with a quick smile that Cody knows is entirely for his benefit. She wants him to feel safe here, and easy about this. She wants him to look past the fact that her whole being, in this moment, seems to be riding on his answer.
She shouldn’t want that, though, because it’s her fear that decides it for him.
“I trust you, sir,” he says softly. “I’ll do it. Of course I’ll do it.”
Obi-Wan holds his gaze for another moment, still afraid but more solid now. Cody’s right there with her. He watches as she gets up and goes to get something from the kitchen cabinet—a small vial that she tips into his tea. “Drink it,” she says. “It’s a sedative, and an anesthetic.”
The tea’s still scalding, but he drinks it in one go.
She guides him out of the kitchen into her dark, cool bunk, where she guides him down to lay on the bed. The sheets smell like her. The pillow, under his head, smells like her. She has him lay on his left side, with his back to her, facing the bulkhead. He does it without a word. She helps him, and he can feel that her hands are shaking shere she presses them into his shoulders—just for a split second, before they’re gone. “Very good, Commander,” she says, her voice very soft, and he feels the weight of her setting down on the thin plastic mattress behind him, and then he’s out.
Fast sed, he thinks vaguely, drifting. It’s his last thought for a while.
When he wakes, Obi-Wan is leaning over him on the bed, her arms braced on either side of his head, hair tied back, face streaked with blood. His skull throbs dully. There’s a bandage around the base of it, behind one ear, over his neck, and he can feel bacta working with the deep, slow ache that means it’s putting bone back together. He has no idea how long it’s been, but it must still be third watch, since they’re both still in here and no one’s banging on the door.
“Hello there, Commander,” Obi-Wan says.
Cody feels strange in a way that’s difficult to pin down. He tries to sit up, but Obi-Wan presses him back with a hand on his chest. “Don’t get up. I’m not sure what sort of balance you’ll have just yet.”
“This is quite a role reversal, sir,” Cody grumbles, but lets her push him down anyways.
She reaches over him to a shelf, where he spots a wad of bloodied gauze and a tray with field surgical instruments, and picks up a tiny glass jar to show him. He takes it. In the bottom there’s a tiny, bloody piece of flesh. It looks rigid, almost like cartilage. “What is this?” he asks.
“An inhibitor chip,” says Obi-Wan.
Cody feels the hair on the back of his neck stand up. “Can you explain yet, sir?”
Obi-Wan nods, but she takes a moment to answer, tucking her hair behind her ear. “I’ve been reading the notes kept by Master Sifo-Dyas, the Master who commissioned the clones decades ago. Because of the secrecy of his mission, no official records were kept, but he was a very thorough personal chronicler. He wrote down almost every step the Kaminoans took in the development process. One of the steps was this—“ she nods to the jar in his hand “—the inhibitor chip.”
“What is it?” Cody asks, feeling like he’s missing something. Like there’s something in his brain that should be kicking in and handling this conversation, but it’s offline. “What’s it do?”
“It overrides sentient thought. It robs you of your free will. Turns you into a droid, essentially.”
Ice rushes down Cody’s spine. “But you took mine out?”
Obi-Wan nods. “I couldn’t tell you what it was beforehand, in case the chip had some sort of failsafe to prevent you from acknowledging it. An automatic order could have gone through to make you—“ she stops, swallows. Her hands are trembling again. “You would’ve had no choice but to obey. Attack me, or hurt yourself, or…”
She trails off, jaw clenched, and looks away from him for a moment, huffing out a short, sharp breath to center herself. “I’m going to take the chips out of ever soldier in the 212th,” she says, in a stronger voice. “And I need your help to do it, Cody. If you’re willing.”
“Of course I’m karking willing,” Cody says, still reeling.
“Before you agree,” Obi-Wan says, reaching for her personal pad, “you should know that’s not quite the plan in its entirety.”
“Well then, sir.” Cody shifts up onto his elbows. She’s right—his balance is shot, the Negotiator feels like it’s doing barrel rolls, but he’s lying flat in a bunk so he figures he can’t hurt himself too much. “You’d better tell me the whole plan.”
She looks up from whatever she’s typing on the pad, and smiles. Her mouth hooks up at one corner.
Hours later, at the beginning of firstwatch, when Cody emerges from the General’s quarters and slips back to his own for his armor, his head is buzzing like a hive of bees—and not just from the impromptu brain surgery. When the General found time to lay the groundwork for a scheme of this size, he has no idea, but she did, she’s been working by herself this whole time to make sure that he and his brothers get out of the war, that they get an after; he already knew that she loved them as much as they love her, but this is a whole other level. The sheer size of what she’s going to do for them, what she’s already done, humbles him in a way that makes him want to fall to his knees at her feet. It’s not going to be easy—it’s far from easy, and there’s a lot of work still to do, but the General’s done the hard part. She made the jump from thought to action.
Cody pauses halfway through putting on his armor, a stray though fizzing past on the edge of logic. The chip didn’t have any control over this part of his brain, he doesn’t think, but suddenly he feels a lot freer to look directly at the thought, to follow the train of it. To wonder, Why the hell not?
He doesn’t find who he’s looking for in the mess, so he heads down to the auxiliary barracks where they’ve been bunking the overflow. Technically the men are supposed to report to morning mess by 0600 ship’s time, but Cody figures if they want to skip breakfast that’s their business, so he never takes disciplinary action unless they’re later to their post than 0630. It’s 0618 now, so most of the troopers on first watch are out of bed, but there are still a few moaning and groaning their way to consciousness as he walks through the barracks. He tries not to stomp, but with a rank as high as his it’s hard to go unnoticed, so a few brothers are watching him as he crouches by Crys’ bunk and wakes him. Crys clearly thinks he’s about to be punished again, by the way he mumbles his Yes, sirs and shuffles after Cody into the hall, and Cody doesn’t disabuse him or anyone else of the notion until they’re standing alone in the hall.
Then he says, “I want you to teach me.”
Crys blinks at him, still half-asleep. “Sir?” he asks.
Cody’s glad he’s wearing his helmet, because he’s pretty sure he’s blushing the same hotrod red as the General’s astromech. “That stuff you learned from the 501st,” he says stiffly. “I want you to teach me.”
Understanding dawns on Crys’ face. “Alright, sir,” he says, very seriously. “But we’re going to need a kasava fruit.”
Cody gets Sawbones and Kubler on board first. He and Obi-Wan decide together that it’s best if he talks to them alone, so it doesn’t seem like it’s an order, so there’s no long arm of the jedi looking over their shoulder. Once the two medical officers have their chips out, courtesy of Obi-Wan’s tender surgical mercies, Sawbones sets about devising a simpler, non-invasive way to disable the chips, and Kubler gets to work on the clones’ conditioning, which isn’t easy, considering his own conditioning. Obi-Wan does what she can to help him with the Force, when she has the time, but she’s never been much of a mind healer—medicine was always Qui-Gon’s area, not hers—and though she’s reluctant to admit it, she has rather a lot on her plate. There’s the war, and her missions for the Order, which she has to handle as usual so that no one suspects anything. There’s her work with Bail, the bill for citizenship for the GAR that he’ll introduce on the Senate floor when this all goes down, and the work she’s doing on her own to find a planet she can disappear a starting batch of 1600 vod to and then erase from every starmap in the galaxy.
The plan, in its essentials, is this:
Once they’ve removed all of the inhibitor chips from the 212th and the 501st, the Negotiator and the Resolute will disable all comms and navigation and make an unscheduled, simultaneous jump to a planet known as GY-77, far on the Outer Rim in an uninhabited star system. Obi-Wan has systematically erased GY-77 from every starmap in the Jedi Archives, Bail has done the same for the Senate, and with millions of stars and billions of worlds in the galaxy, they’re confident that, even if the Council and the Senate had any knowledge of GY-77’s existence, the chances they’d check it for their missing flagships is slim to none. GY-77 is not the most hospitable planet, and Obi-Wan chose it for that very reason. There are acid swamps and quicksand bogs. Some of the local flora is carnivorous. There are sandstorms that make the area around the equator inhospitable and ice storms that do the same for the poles. If Obi-Wan were looking for somewhere to hide an army, she wouldn’t hide it here, which is why she chose it.
Theoretically, it’s not permanent. Bail is going to introduce the bill in the Senate the second they’re gone. The speed will serve a dual purpose—it will let the Jedi know that this isn’t some Sith plot, and it will hopefully discourage any disciplinary backlash against the rest of the GAR, for this to look like a legitimate protest, instead of kidnapping and blackmail, which is what it is. Bail will point out to the Senate that if they want this army to fight their war, and don’t want to wait ten to twenty years for the Kaminoans to produce an entire new one, they’ll vote the bill into law. Otherwise the rest of the army will go AWOL, like the 212th and the 501st, and the Senate will be left to fight the Separatists with sticks and stones and maybe, gods forbid, draftees from their own planets. Not so good for the old approval rating, Bail will remind them. So why don’t you just sign on the dotted line to give the clones citizenship and rights and their own planet and a couple trade agreements and two Senate seats, and they’ll all come back.
In an ideal world, the Senate will bitch and moan and eventually vote yes on the bill, the clones will return on a limited and temporary basis until they become civilians at the war’s end, and Obi-Wan will take her expulsion from the Order with dignity and a kriff you attitude befitting Master Kōng.
But of course, because Obi-Wan has the worst karking luck in the entire galaxy, that’s not what happens.
“WE NEED TO GET TO HIGHER GROUND!” she yells, through the wind and the driving rain.
Cody nods gravely, face hidden behind his helmet, and starts barking orders to his men unloading the Negotiator’s cargo bay. The water has flooded up to waist height even back here in the ass end of the ship that’s still floating above the surface, and the men hauling crates of rations and weapons onto the transports are fighting through a whitewater rush, taking three or four men to do what would normally be the work of one.
They’re not going to make it out with enough equipment, Obi-Wan thinks. Karking monsoon season.
“MASTER!” Anakin bellows, somewhere behind her.
She whips around. The Resolute managed to land in a mountain range a few klicks away, and his men have been helping haul hers up the sheer cliff face away from the raging river, but now he’s standing on the edge of the ridge, pointing toward the horizon, where a massive wall of water is racing towards them with a noise like a stampede of rabid gundarks.
There’s no time. Obi-Wan looks back at the Negotiator, ninety percent submerged, her men still working to pull transports and crates from the open hangar deck, Waxer and Boil wrestling with one of the transport’s malfunctioning deck clamps, Cody putting his gun away and wading over to help them, and she knows there’s no time.
She shucks her soaked robes, and with a swell of the Force leaps onto the only part of the Negotiator still above water—the stern engine. The metal is slick under her feet, and she has to catch herself on her hands and knees. She feels a spike of alarm in the Force, Anakin pushing a vague What the kark are you doing that hits her like a slap, but there’s no time to reassure him.
Obi-Wan gets her feet under her, turns to face the wave with her hands out, and closes her eyes.
During an unplanned teachable moment, Qui-Gon once used water as a metaphor for how an idea spreads.
Once it begins flowing it never stops, he mused, sitting cross-legged beside her in what had, a moment before it started pouring rain, been peaceful meditation. It might be redirected. It might be frozen, become stagnant. Each of us can pick some up and take it with us. We can drink it, incorporate it into ourselves, change it, brew it as tea and serve it to others. Though the basic character of the water changes, the fact that it is water does not.
An idea percolates, Obi-Wan understood her Master was telling her. It rushes to fill all the spaces and crevices that it can, in any way that it can, even if it begins as a small, modest trickle.
She hopes that the ideas Bail presents to the Senate hit them like this wave. Not like a trickle.
Unfortunately, she won’t be around to see it.
The last thing she feels before she gives herself over to the Force, letting it rage through her unfettered to hold back millions of tons of water while her men evacuate, is one last wild scream of MASTER! and a sick swoop of regret, that she didn’t stick around long enough to get to reap the benefits of no longer being bound by the Code.
That’s silly though, some distant part of her thinks, as the raw power of the Force squeezes her mind out of her body. She’s almost certainly attached already. After all, she just committed high treason and kidnapped 1600 men. Whether the kidnapping was voluntary or not is rather beside the point.
Later, Anakin will tell her that she held the wave for nearly five minutes while Cody got their men out of the Negotiator. That he grabbed onto her with the Force when he sensed she was about to pass out, that Ahsoka helped bolster him, and that’s the only reason that they didn’t lose her completely under the river. That Cody dove in with half his armor still on, and that when neither of them came back up all of Ghost Company started to go in after them, until Anakin and Ahsoka managed to pull Obi-Wan and her Commander, half-drowned, up onto the ridge.
All Obi-Wan remembers is gasping awake around a mouthful of water in the pouring rain, the mud thick and deep underneath her and Anakin staring down at her with wide, wild eyes.
She turned and saw Cody, eyes closed and skin gray, and thought No. Then she was gone again.
The next time she wakes, it’s to Sawbones muttering Bic ni skana’din, jaro jetii and Kix saying back Udesii, ruug’la vode, and she lets herself drift on the careful, melodic tide of Mando’a, understanding even if her mind’s not awake enough to translate. She almost slips back into unconsciousness, but then she hears another voice, Cody’s voice, weak and raspy.
She isn’t sure what he’s saying, but she wants to see him. Her eyes flutter open. None of them notice.
They’re in the medbay on the Resolute. The lights are dimmed to third watch. Cody’s in the bed next to her, stripped to the waist, sitting up and facing away as he talks quietly with Sawbones and Kix. There’s a steady, unrelenting drumming sound somewhere far away, white noise on the edge of Obi-Wan’s awareness, but she can’t identify it and it doesn’t seem important right now, anyways. Cody’s thick black hair is curling around his face, over his ears like it does when he’s had a real-water shower, and for the moment that’s the only thing that matters.
“Cody,” she says, barely more than a whisper.
Conversation stops. They all look over at her. Cody’s out of his bed before Sawbones can warn him not to be, crossing the distance to her cot to press her back down even as she tries to sit up. “Easy, General,” he says. “Take it easy. You did a real number on yourself.”
Kix is there with a cup of water. Cody helps her drink. Halfway through swallowing she’s struck with the sense memory of being crushed under the wave, tossed like a ragdoll while water flooded into the tiny branching pathways in her lungs, and she chokes and starts coughing, and Cody has to soothe her through it, rubbing her back and murmuring, “You’re alright, sir, you’re alright,” until she can breathe again.
“Sorry,” she says, when she can.
Cody’s mouth is a tight line. “Nothing to be sorry for, sir,” he says.
Obi-Wan huffs, still leaning against his bare chest. “I didn’t know this planet had a monsoon season.”
“It’s alright, General Kenobi,” Sawbones cuts in. “The vod are used to a little rain.”
That gets a ragged little laugh. “I guess you’re right,” Obi-Wan says. “I hope it doesn’t remind you too much of Kamino.”
Sawbones smiles at her with a mix of sadness and overwhelming fondness. “Doesn’t remind me of Kamino at all, sir,” he says.
Obi-Wan gazes at him for a long moment, tears welling in her eyes, then nods gratefully and blinks before they can fall. Cody notices anyways. His hand comes up to the back of her head, in her damp hair, holding her against him. “Sir—“ he starts.
“Don’t call me 'sir,' Cody,” Obi-Wan interrupts. “Please. Not here. Not anymore.”
Cody looks down at her, and she doesn’t worry that she seems small and weak clinging to him, that this is terribly unbefitting of a jedi. Maybe the first time in her life, she’s not thinking about the jedi at all. She’s only thinking about the vod, about aliit, about how here, being held by Cody, she feels that she is being held by all of them.
“Obi-Wan,” says Cody, with only the faintest hint of subservience.
Sawbones clears his throat. Obi-Wan looks at him over Cody’s shoulder, but Cody doesn’t look away from her face.
“There’s some people outside who’d like to see you, General,” the old doctor says.
Obi-Wan’s expecting Anakin and Ahsoka, maybe Waxer and Boil, some of the boys from Ghost Company. Instead, Cody helps her hobble out into the hallway, and she steps into a nearly silent sea of clones.
Wooley’s nearest to her. As she pushes out of Cody’s arms to stand on her own two feet, the shiny pulls her into a careful hug. Obi-Wan’s so struck by it, by the light, grateful feeling of his arms around her, that she barely knows what’s happening before Waxer and Boil are crushing her between them, muttering, Vor entye, and then the next man, the next, the next, Captain Rex holding her face between his hands while he looks her in the eyes and says, “You’re one jaro jetii, General Kenobi, and I know what I’m talking about—I work with Skywalker,” pressing a gentle kiss to her forehead and then letting her be floated over to the next man, the next, all of them laying reverent hands on her, murmuring words of thanks, Vor entye, vor entye, moving around her like the air moving around a humming ’saber as she passes down the hall, down the ramp into the hangar bay, where there are more, all 1600 men from both battalions must be gathered in the Resolute, out here waiting for her, and the thought of it steals her breath away, and she reaches back, briefly, to touch Cody, and he’s there, right behind her. He follows her up to a stack of ration crates, and helps her climb up onto them when it’s clear that’s what she wants, standing by her right hip so she can steady herself on his shoulder.
The murmurs of the crowd fall quiet. Obi-Wan stares out over the ocean of faces, strangely hyper-aware of the quality of air on the roof of her mouth and the back of her throat, like the silence is drying her saliva. Cody is solid and unwavering under her hand.
For the first time, without the burden of having to release it to the Force, she lets herself realize that she loves him.
She loves Cody. She loves Anakin. She loves Ahsoka. She loves Bail, and Quinlan Vos, and Qui-Gon, still, even though he’s gone. She loves the 212th, and the 501st, and all the vod. She loves them, and she does not release it.
She raises her voice as best she can, having recently drowned. “Whatever happens now,” she says, “you are free men. You’re not bound by the Senate, or the jedi, or even your own minds. Tayli’bac?”
Silence follows her question, so she repeats it, shouting, fingers digging into Cody’s shoulder, “TAYLI’BAC?”
OYA, the vod chants back.
The wave of cheering and stomping that follows is loud enough to drown out the drumming sound from outside, which she now realizes is—in Qui-Gon’s voice, for some reason, with Qui-Gon’s borderline-condescending intonation, The rain, dear one.
Much later, sacked down next to Cody in the Resolute’s overcrowded barracks, Obi-Wan asks the question that she’s been putting off since she woke up in medbay. “How many did we lose, Commander?”
“Cody,” he corrects softly, rolling to face her in the dark. “What do you mean? Lose when?”
“In the wave,” Obi-Wan says.
Cody looks astonished. “None,” he says. “None, General. Not a one.”
“Obi-Wan,” she whispers.
“Obi-Wan,” he amends, and even in this low light she can tell that he’s blushing to call her by her first name.
She reaches out and puts a hand on his stomach, warm under his blacks. He breathes out just a little, stomach contracting under her fingers, then reaches out and pulls her in against him. They fall asleep like that, curled together like nesting birds in their too-narrow bunk, the vod sleeping all around them, the Resolute one tiny spot of light and warmth on this vast inundated planet that appears on no maps, exists in no records, safe from everything except the wind and the rain, with no one to answer to but each other.
The Senate, being the Senate, rejects Bail’s proposal out of hand.
Obi-Wan fights down a boiling wave of rage as she makes the trek back down the mountain from their makeshift comms station. How anyone can think that the vod aren’t people, she’ll never understand—she’s never understood, but she’s also never felt this far from the Order or the comforting balance of her jedi peers, and it’s a struggle to gather up this feeling and release it to the Force. She has to stop halfway down the mountain for a quick five minutes of meditation, gritting her teeth and hovering with angry rocks spinning all around her, before she heads down to the basecamp.
They’ve been here a month now, building out the landed Resolute into something like a frontier outpost. The ship is surrounded by draped awnings and tents, breakwaters that they’ve built against mudslides that come rolling down the mountain any time it rains, small wooden huts with sloped roofs and rudimentary drainage systems. It took Obi-Wan, Cody, and Jesse most of the first two weeks to work out a radial pattern so the whole camp didn’t get washed away every time there was a rainstorm, and now, from above, the Resolute looks almost like a stylized star.
As she hikes down to the edge of camp, mud caked all the way up to her knees on the outside of her leggings, she starts to cross paths with vod coming down around the other side of the mountain with logs braced across their shoulders. She smiles at them and returns their greetings with sly teasing and tries not to let it show on her face that she’s just received news that could upend their entire operation.
Cody sets down the log he’s carrying as he sees her approach. He’s got his armor on from the waist up, mud-waders they fashioned from tarps from the waist down, and even in the chilly air his hair is wet with sweat. Obi-Wan wants to lick his neck, but she registers the urge and catalogs it with an almost clinical calm. She’s been having more and more of these random sexual urges lately, all of them about Cody, and she figures it has something to do with her new ‘kriff it’ mentality. Stuff she’d normally block out has been leaking through. Stuff like wanting to suck on Cody’s tongue.
“Bad news?” he guesses, when she’s in range.
She nods, stepping in close enough that they can’t be overheard. Cody swears quietly, shaking his head. They don’t lie to the men, that’s not how this new life is supposed to work, but she doesn’t see any reason to alarm them until they’ve had some time to figure out what to do next.
“I don’t know why I thought it would work,” she says. “I know the Senate better than that.”
“You’re an optimist,” Cody teases.
She gives him a flat, unamused look, then sighs. “I’m not sure where we go from here. Bail will try to game the vote. He might be able to get a few more planets on our side, but that’s a very, very long game. Maybe I should go back and try to help—“
“No,” Cody says.
She looks at him in surprise. He’s not looking at her. His jaw jumps, tense. “Look,” he says. “Your friend said, when he proposed the bill, that if they didn’t accept it the rest of the GAR would come join us here. They probably think we were bluffing, right?”
“Right,” Obi-Wan says slowly.
“So, show them we’re not bluffing.” He looks back at her, with that almost nervous expression he’s worn every time they’ve argued over a decision since they got here. “That message we got from General Secura. If we can sneak a few men into the 327, we can show them how to disable their inhibitor chips, then jump them out here. Shouldn’t be too hard. After all, all the brothers look the same.” He smiles a little, shrugs. “And anyway, this planet isn’t too bad.”
Obi-Wan looks pointedly down at their mud-covered legs.
“Maybe a little muddy,” Cody allows.
Obi-Wan shakes her head, squinting out at the horizon, but she’s not sure why she’s disagreeing. She thinks she’s been expecting this all to come crashing down on her head since the idea formed, what feels like ages ago, and now that she’s here, now that they’re all here, she’s looking for a reason to leave, because it will satisfy her sense of paranoia. Her constant anticipation of tragedy. She was never expecting to be able to stay.
“Stay here,” Cody says, like he can read her mind. And he can. After all these years at her side, he can. “You got us here, sir—Obi-Wan. Now let us get everyone else here. The vod can handle it. Just stay…stay with me.”
“Cody,” she says, almost breathless. And then, “Come on. Let’s get in out of the rain.”
The Resolute’s hangar bay has been turned into a massive mudroom, their janitor droids too overtaxed to keep up with all the muddy footprints in the hallway. They leave their boots on the rack, Cody stepping out of his waders and hanging them where they’ll be hosed down, and Obi-Wan peels off her leggings, leaving her legs bare under her short tunic.
Cody swears under his breath while she does it, and when she straightens up and turns to him with a questioning look, he turns bright pink and says, like he’s ripping off a bandage, “You know you’re giving the men a free show, don’t you?”
Obi-Wan laughs. “What, you think I ought to charge?”
“I think you ought to keep your pants on,” Cody says, but falls into step as she heads out of the hangar, toward her quarters.
Obi-Wan’s not totally oblivious. She notices the vod’s eyes on her in the halls, she knows about the Our Lady of Crazy Stunts pinup mural in the communal shower on deck four—Anakin had come to her, spluttering, when he found it, like he expected her to be surprised or something, but Obi-Wan has been a woman for going on forty years now, so that sort of thing doesn’t surprise her anymore. And coming from her men, oddly enough, it doesn’t even bother her.
It especially doesn’t bother her to know that Cody’s watching her legs as she lets him into her quarters. His gaze is heavy, proprietary, like a physical touch on the backs of her thighs, the insides of her knees. She closes the door behind him and turns to face him.
Rain thunders on the outside of the hull, but in here it’s warm and quiet.
“Cody,” Obi-Wan says. Her voice sounds overly loud.
He puts a hand on her waist, slides it around her side to her spine.
She sucks in a breath. “Cody. I told you once that it was a good thing you weren’t with me on Kasavo. Do you remember?”
Cody frowns. “Of course I remember.”
“It’s because,” Obi-Wan starts, then realizes with some alarm that she’s crying, tears choked in her throat. “Because if they’d hurt you, if they’d laid a single hand on you, I would’ve—Cody, I would’ve done anything they wanted. Anything.”
The last word comes out in a broken whisper, but it doesn’t matter, because Cody pulls her in and kisses her. She makes a grateful noise against his mouth, pressing her whole body forward against him, and he wraps his arms as far around her as they’ll go, lifting her up off her feet so they’re eye to eye. Mouth to mouth.
After a minute Obi-Wan breaks away, her hands tangled in his curls, breathing hard over his lips. “Cody,” she says, feeling like she needs to tell him something more. Something urgent.
“I know, sir,” he says. His voice is very gentle, but his hands are firm as he picks her up and carries her to the bed.
She says his name a hundred more times, begging and laughing and moaning and pleading and laughing some more while he learns the differences between a kasava fruit and actual human anatomy, while he moves between her legs, and Cody has always been a hands-on learner and a fast one at that, but this, she tells him breathlessly, is really some exceptionally hands-on, exceptionally quick learning. Cody laughs low and rumbling against her throat, says Thanks, cyare, and rolls his hips again, and she hooks her ankles behind his back and presses his face in to her neck and says his name some more, so he doesn’t forget it.
“Kasava fruit?” she asks, when they’ve both come, lying tangled and sweaty in the sheets.
Cody hides his face in the pillow with a groan. “It wasn’t my idea.”
“Really?” Obi-Wan asks, delighted. “Whose idea was it, then? I’ll have to shake the man’s hand to thank him—“
Cody shuts her up with a dark, heated look. "He's not the one doing this, is he?" he points out, and slides under the sheets.
“Oh,” Obi-Wan gasps, a moment later. That’s not his fingers, that’s his—oh, the tip of his nose, his lips, his tongue, hot and wet and perfect as he mouths over her. “Cody. I’m not sure…I’m not sure I can come again.”
His head comes up, chin propped on her stomach. “You taste better than the fruit,” he informs her.
Obi-Wan runs her thumb over his slick lower lip. He sucks it into his mouth. It sends a spear of wobbly heat straight between her legs. Her abdomen twitches under his chin. “Okay,” she says, breathless. “Okay, yeah, I can come again.”
“That’s what I thought,” he says, and ducks back down.
That evening, when all the vod gathers in the hangar bay to vote on a name for GY-77, Obi-Wan will be able to feel the ghost of him inside her, and the light chafe his five-o-clock shadow left on her upper thighs. She’ll glance over at him standing beside her, his arms behind his back, still standing at parade rest even though none of them are fighting a war anymore, and he’ll meet her eyes with a private little smile, and it will thrill her to know that they’re going to go to bed together again. That she’s going to come apart on his fingers or his mouth or his cock again tonight. That they’re going to fall asleep together, wake up together. That they’re going to do that, theoretically, for the rest of their lives, even though they haven’t talked about it. She’ll wonder if she’s betraying the Force, feeling this depth of attachment, or just betraying the Order, but Anakin will say, Master? beside her, prompting her to start the vote, and she’ll look out over the faces of the vod and it won’t matter.
Morut, they’ll name the planet. Haven. Stronghold.
Eventually the guilt will arrive, and the nightmares, and also the 327th, guided by Aayla Secura and accompanied by Senator Amidala, her face clean of makeup, her hair in a simple braid, as casual as Obi-Wan’s ever seen her and several months pregnant. Obi-Wan, standing in the opening to the hangar bay with her hands tucked in her soaked jedi robe, will look at her padawan with his wife and Master Secura with Bly, her Commander, and try to imagine forcing them all apart, telling them that their attachment is too dangerous to be allowed to exist. She won’t be able to stomach it. All a jedi must do, she’ll remind herself, is follow the Light. The rest is window dressing. This, she’ll think, must be Light. Love, and trust, and respect. And waking up next to a man she loves, instead of waking up wondering what the hell she’s still fighting for.
Master Secura will come bearing official expulsions for herself, Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Ahsoka.
Cody, reading the missive over Obi-Wan’s shoulder that night, will remark, “Shot yourself in the foot again, huh?”
“Indeed,” Obi-Wan will agree, content. “But. I never promised I wouldn’t. And it was still very, very worth it, my dear.”