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Tripping Forward, Turning Back

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CC-2224 bleeds out in the dirt on some backwater planet in the Outer Rim. He doesn’t even remember it’s name. Doesn’t know why he’s here. Doesn’t care. The sky is painfully blue, the sun is hot, and CC-2224 lays spread eagle in the crater of a blast that had wiped out his entire unit and slips away without ever making a sound.

He’s not even angry. He doesn't have the capacity for it by then.


Cody opens his eyes in the mess hall on Kamino, fumbles a forkful of protein mush all over the sleeve of his cadet reds, and promptly locks eyes with Obi-Wan Kenobi up on the observation deck.

Which should be utterly impossible because Cody remembers the sun and the sand and slick, dark blood spilling over his fingers and, more importantly, he had rather thoroughly murdered his General nigh on five years ago.

What the kriff, he thinks hysterically as the Jedi blinks down at him, short curls plastered to his cheek and his sodden robes dripping all over the Kaminoans sterile white floors.

Cody remembers this.

Cody shouldn’t be able to remember anything.

The moment holds, stretches, passes. Obi-Wan- no, not Obi-Wan, not now, never again- the General tilts his head, blinks, and the connection slips away. He turns and follows Taun We down the hall, out of sight, and Cody is on his feet before he can think better of it.

Alive, alive, he’s alive, and his heart beats a painful tattoo in his chest.

It doesn’t matter if it’s real or if he’s hallucinating in his final moments. It doesn’t. It can’t, because there is no universe, no reality, where he won’t try to get to his Jedi. Not when Cody’s mind is his own, again, after so long. He’s already running through extraction plans, trying desperately to remember the details of their days leading up to the First Battle of Geonosis. The Prime had fled Kamino. General Kenobi had pursued. He knows that much, obviously, because even freshly decanted tubies had heard the tale, but the details—.

He steps away from the table, mentally tracing the path to the armory, and almost misses it when Rex jolts in his seat as he passes. His younger brother gasps and spins in place, snags his wrist with one hand, and drags Cody down beside him before he can twist back out again.

Cody snarls and jerks his arm back, a curse on his lips. It dies an ignoble death when he sees the devastation on Rex's face.

Oh, Cody thinks, and knows, without quite knowing how, that Rex is like him.

“Cody,” he breathes, clutching his wrist like Cody’s going to disappear if he doesn’t hold on, and there’s a bulwark of grief beneath the word.

“Rex,” Cody says quietly, carefully, and, aside from the trainer by the door, the only people left in the room are vod’e but he can’t be too careful. He also can’t wait too long, because every second he spends here is another second closer to Geonosis. “I'll explain later, I swear, but the General—.”

“You remember?” Rex demands sharply, fingers tight enough to bruise as his eyes search Cody’s face, and he understands, he does, but he doesn’t have time for this.

“Rex, I—.”

There’s no warning. No chance to brace. It’s like a concussive blast goes off around them as Cody’s siblings shudder and jerk and snap back into awareness with a suddenness that borders on painful. Cody blinks past the rush of lightheaded nausea just in time to watch Alpha-17, of all people, wrap his arm around the trainer’s neck and wrestle him to the floor, struggling all the way.

The trainers were… are, to a man, singularly vicious, but Alpha’s huge, even for a clone, and he’s got weight and rage on his side. The man goes slack and limp in a way that Cody’s intimately familiar with after half a decade spent as the Empire’s attack dog.

He finds he doesn’t care.

The chaos rising around them is understandable. It's also unspeakably dangerous. Voices call for long-dead batchmates and death cries and medics. Brothers are scrambling around each other to get to their squad mates. Their battalions. Already, Cody can see a handful of the 212th fighting across the hall to each other, Ghost Company at the forefront, and Boil zeroes in on him with startling intensity. He drags a shell-shocked Waxer close to his side and marches towards him like nothing and no one could possibly stop him.

The 212th falls into formation, smooth as the day they were deployed and inexorable as the tide, and Cody shakes Rex off regretfully and rises to meet them.

“Commander,” Boil says simply once he’s in earshot. He looks a little wild around the eyes, a bit harried, and the death grip he has on Waxer threatens to tear the fabric of his uniform.

Though, going by the arm wrapped tight around his waist, Waxer certainly doesn’t mind.

He nods, holds up a hand, and clambers up on the table. Breathe deep, pull from the diaphragm, he thinks, and he’s never actually thanked Alpha for anything but he may have to start now.

“QUIET!” He roars, loud enough that it reverberates over the cacophony and echoes off the walls, and he prays to any god, lucky star, or the thrice-be-damned Force itself that it doesn’t bring the Kaminoans down on their heads.

At least not until Cody can get a handle on things.

The utter silence that descends is gratifying in an abstract sort of way.

“Quiet,” he repeats, eyeing the hundreds of brothers still crammed in the mess hall. There are tears on more than a few faces and he kind of wants to join them. Instead, Cody swallows a hot lump of grief, of shame, and puts it aside for later.

“I don’t know any more than you do.” He says into the ringing emptiness, fighting the urge to put his head in his hands and weep. He flicks a glance up towards the observation deck. “But if… if this is real we've got to move fast.”

There are scattered nods among his vod'e, a smattering of soft ‘oya.’ Alpha just crosses his arms and looms, the body at his feet seemingly forgotten.

For a moment, the corpse on the mess hall floor looks like the crumpled form of a Jedi CC-2224 had once shoved his light staff through.

Cody shudders and fights back another violent wave of nausea.

“But the Jedi-,” one brother starts hesitantly, shrinking in on himself as their collective attention snaps to him. It sparks a wave of questions, each more desperate than the last.

“How could we have-”

“-wasn’t myself-”

“-killed our Commander!”

“The war-”

“What about the chips?!”

“What about the Sith?”

The last two are the loudest, practically shouted on the heels of one another, and as one his brothers turn back towards him.

They still trust him to lead them. After all this time. After all they’d loved and lost and everything they’d ruined because Cody hadn’t been smart enough. Hadn’t been fast enough. Hadn’t listened.

Or maybe, he thinks darkly, he’d just listened too well. And he’d damned them all for it, in the end.

The thought sits like lead in his stomach.

“I-,” Cody starts, unsure what's going to follow, but suddenly there’s a hand on his arm and Rex presses close to his side, a wall of heat and conviction and stability in the face of the storm. He looks unstoppable.

He looks like someone who had never been forced to kill their Jedi.

(Had he known, in the end, what Anakin had become? What he’d done?)

Cody looks away.

“We’ve got to be smart about this.” Rex says, flat, voice rising clear and strong above the hall. “We can’t risk tipping our hand too early. Not if we’re going to win. Not this time.”

He pauses and throws Alpha a furious glance, frowning pointedly at the Very Dead trainer. Alpha, the bastard, shrugs.

“’S what the incinerators’ for, isn’t it.” He replies.

It’s not a question. Colt, who’d appeared at Alpha’s shoulder like he’d walked out of thin air, nods like this is a perfectly reasonable assertion.

What had General Ti been teaching them?

Cody wonders, for an instant, if he could find a wall and just concuss himself.

No, no. No. The General comes first. Then Cody can contemplate brain damage.

Priorities.

“And the General?” Boil asks, cutting off the next semi-hysterical bout of questions. Waxer, still plastered to his side, glanced sharply between his best friend and the upper deck, catching his lower lip between his teeth.

His hand drifts up to rub his sternum, right where the blaster bolt had caught him, and Cody can’t help but notice that he and Rex haven’t quite looked at each other.

Boil tightens his arm, resettles his weight back on his heels, and waits.

Cody had to hand it to him: he’s always been steady under fire. Though, after years at General Kenobi’s side he’s probably reasonably immune to Kriffing Terrible Force Banthashit, so maybe he shouldn’t be so surprised.

The wonders of disassociation.

“We’re going after him, of course. Now.” Cody says simply, hopping down from the table. He’s promptly surrounded by his men and it’s not quite home, not yet, but it’s the closest he’s gotten since The Order came through.

Since he’d been locked, screaming, inside his own head and watched his hand raise and his mouth move and his body give the order to blast his General right off the cliff face.

“Rex—,” he starts, an apology on his lips, but his brother shakes his head. The short crop of blonde fuzz he’s sporting catches the light oddly, flashes white like the endless halls that encircle Kamino, and something in Cody’s chest clenches painfully.

“I've got it. Go get General Kenobi.” He says simply, already turning back to the closest vod’e crowding the table, and those around them step back to clear a path to the door.

His men perk up like Akk dogs. Like there’s blood in the water. Or there’s going to be.

And Cody?

Well. Cody’s right there with them.


The path to the armory is suspiciously clear.

His boots echo oddly on the floor, the once-familiar snap of his heels made loud and foreign without the weight and clatter of his armor. He counts each step, all the way, and the eighty-six paces between the mess hall and the secure door are utterly unimpeded. Cody waves Crys forward and sets guards on each end of the hall just to be safe.

There’s not so much as a whisper of activity. It’s like the facility is deserted.

It’s downright eerie, for all that it’s also plain karking convenient.

And really, Cody doesn’t believe in the Force. Not the way the Jedi did. Not after everything. Not anymore.

Still, he wonders.

Finding the prototypes for their phase one armor is a boon he hadn’t expected, but it hurts, aches like a vibroblade in the gut, to put on such faceless armor again. He’s not willing to overlook it, though, and they change in record time, kit out, and sweep back out of the armory. They follow the gentle, downward slope of the adjoining hall towards the docking stations, heels striking the floor in perfect sync the likes of which only a lifetime of training could produce.

Having a blaster in his hands again is a cold comfort, familiar and horrifying in equal measure. Once, Cody had wielded his weapon to protect his family. His brothers. His Jedi.

CC-2224 had blown a hole between a Padawan’s eyes and hadn’t so much as flinched.

(A short braid swinging behind one ear, just brushing a slim shoulder. Hands that were too small to truly wield their master’s ‘saber. The top of the kid’s downy head had barely reached his chestplate and he’d… Cody had— CC-2224 had—.)

His mind recoils from those memories. Cries out like it's a physical wound.

His hands don't shake, but it feels like they should.

“What landing pad was Fett parked on?” Cody asks quietly, twelve men at his back and Waxer and Boil pressed close on each side.

It’s been a lifetime since he last saw his brothers. Since he felt their living warmth on his skin.

If he’s truly gone insane it’s still a kinder fate than he deserves.

“F-7.” Waxer replies, eyes trained on the approaching door. Cody nods, checks his blaster, and steps close enough to kiss durasteel. His men fan out around them, filling in the gaps, and Longshot belatedly sets his blaster back to stun.

Cody doesn’t bother to change his. He doesn’t care.

“Go.”

Wooley, head still shaved like a cadet, slams his palm against the release. The door slides open with a hiss and the rain that sheets in across his boots is expected. Utterly unremarkable.

Cody blinks and gets a clear look at the landing pad just in time to watch Jango Karking Fett try and blast his General right off the side and into the sea.

Try, being the operative word, because the 212th surges forward like a pack of nexu and surrounds them before he can get close. Cody reaches the General first, by the barest of margins, and spins to put himself between them. He wraps an arm around the startled red head’s shoulders and all but shoves him into Waxer’s waiting arms.

He has absolutely no doubt that he only gets away with it because there’s not a hint of malice directed at the Jedi in the Force. Cody swallows a frustrated scream.

“Secure the General!” He barks, twisting back around to fly past Boil and throw himself at Jango.

He catches him around the waist just before he can reach out and break Crys’ neck. They go down in a tangle of limbs, plastoid crashing against beskar, and Cody takes a vicious sort of satisfaction in tearing his bucket off and breaking his nose.

Jango howls and spits a mouthful of blood on Cody’s breastplate, staining the white shell for an instant before the rain washes it away again. Jango braces his hips, tries to lever himself up off the ground and flip them. He jerks a fist free as he goes and catches Cody in the throat. He chokes as pain explodes across his side, his stomach, and again in the ribs right along the gap between his back and chest plate.

Cody swears and hits him right in the nose again. For science.

Other hands join him, lock around bucking limbs and grasping hands as Jango tries to reach for the sidearm strapped high on his thigh. The man redoubles his efforts, swearing, and the knife that shoots out of his vambrace might’ve surprised Cody when he was a cadet, sure, but in reality, in his reality, it’s been years since Cody has even seen Jango.

He isn’t the same person anymore. Instead of getting his carotid sliced open, Cody, who’s spent a lifetime at war that Jango will never know, dodges the knife and twists to lock his legs in place, hits a nerve cluster in his shoulder with bone-rattling intensity, and presses him harder into the durasteel landing pad.

Jango growls, low and furious, and his eyes narrow dangerously right before Longshot catches him in the face with a blast.

It’s still set to stun, so instead of splattering grey matter all over Cody’s armor Jango’s eyes simply roll back and he slumps to the floor.

Cody stands, swallows a mouthful of blood, and tries to decide whether he regrets it or not.

“Strip and secure.” He orders finally. Gearshift and a handful of others jump to obey. Cody watches dispassionately for a moment before a shout draws his attention back to the ship’s entrance.

Helix, of all people, stomps down the ramp with Boba tucked under one arm and a child sized rucksack in the other. Boba squirms, hissing furiously as he tries to claw his way back down, but for all that Jango’s supposedly training Boba he’s still just a child. He’s probably sixty pounds soaking wet. He’s got nothing on his full-grown counterpart.

Or, well. Maybe not yet, anyway, Cody amends as Boba catches sight of his father and goes still and apoplectic with rage. He kicks out, aiming straight for the inside of Helix’s opposite knee, and when it connects it almost sends Helix sprawling. Someday, he thinks bitterly, and tries not to think about Ponds and Aurra Sing and how Boba’s hands shook when she’d wrapped them around a blaster.

The potential is certainly there.

“You feral little bastard.” Helix snarls, only a little fond, and hits the kid with a hypo before he can get another word—or kick—in edgewise.

Boba yowls, a fair approximation of a particularly scrappy Tooka kit, and makes a good faith attempt at gouging out Helix’s eyes. The medic catches his slim wrists with one hand, sends Cody a long-suffering look, and manhandles the brat back towards the door.

“Someone drag Prime in. Or don’t. I don't care.” He calls over his shoulder. Boba stiffens, all bristling offense. Even his curls seem to tighten with the force of his indignation. It’s almost impressive.

“Don't touch my father you half-baked bantha-fucking son of a—!”

“Should children really be talking like this?” Helix muses over him as the door opens. Boba makes a sound not unlike a tea kettle. Crys, dragging Jango along behind them, snickers helplessly.

“I’m literally older than you—,” Boba snaps, livid, and it might’ve been more convincing if he wasn’t starting to look a little boneless. Helix must’ve hit him with the Good Drugs. Smart. Helix nods, expression flat and disinterested as he hikes Boba up on his shoulder. If looks could kill, the kid would’ve reduced them all to cosmic ash by now.

“Sure you are, kid.”

“I am!”

“And I'm agreeing with you." Helix says, patently patronizing, just before the door slides closed behind them. Cody tugs his bucket off and runs a hand through his hair, or, more accurately, through the water sheeting down his face, and sighs.

“... Right.” A soft, achingly familiar voice says suddenly, rising over the distant roar of the crashing Kaminoan seas, and Cody isn’t the only brother who sways towards the source on instinct alone.

General Kenobi, still bundled in the safety of Waxer’s arms, blinks bemusedly back at them all. “Might I ask what’s going on? Not that I’m not grateful for the help, of course.” He hastens to add. His rain-dark hair sticks to his forehead, deceptively slim hands tucked into his sleeves.

Cody drinks in the sight of him like a dying man, halfheartedly trying to plug the shrapnel hole in his chest. Like it’s the very first time he’s ever seen him. Or maybe like it’s the last.

“... The Prime posed a threat to you, General.” Cody finally croaks, throat strangely tight. “We couldn’t allow it.”

“Couldn’t?” General Kenobi repeats carefully, stepping away from Waxer. His brother makes a soft, wounded noise and sticks close to the General’s side and it’s a new and exciting sort of nightmare because the Jedi allows it, still unfailingly kind even to identical strangers who’d just swooped in and shot Jango Fett in the face.

It’s humbling. It’s galling. Cody’s going to tear the Universe apart to keep him safe.

(He’d promised the same thing last time, too. This time he’ll succeed. Sith Lords and control chips and Separatist armies be damned.)

“Wouldn’t.” Cody amends, utterly sincere, and the General’s shoulders relax, just a fraction, beneath his soaking robes.

Kenobi’s not a small man. Not really. He’s made of muscle beneath those soft tunics. Still, he looks terribly fragile with his wet robes and his dripping beard, bracketed by protective troopers.

He looked small when they murdered him on Utapau, too.

“Well,” Kenobi says finally, blinking water out of his lashes. “Thank you, then. My name is Obi-Wan Kenobi, Knight of the Jedi Order.” He pauses, bows low, and Cody has to bite back a sob. “Might I ask your name?”

“... It’s Cody, sir. Marshal Commander Cody,” he manages, and General Kenobi never liked the strained formality of their training, had preferred their friendship to their deference, but that ship had sailed the moment Cody answered his damned comm all those years ago. Instead he snaps his heels together, straightens his spine, and gives the single sharpest salute he can manage. Tries to pour every ounce of regret and respect he can possibly muster into it.

The men still present follow a bare instant later, something fierce and desperate and broken in the set of their shoulders, the tight line of Wooley’s spine. What did that say about him, he wonders. How did he wear his regret?

“Cody,” the General repeats carefully, sharp eyes flitting around the landing pad, and his pronunciation still slants towards Kote. The first time around, Cody had been too baffled that his Jedi even cared to ask for his name to catch it. Now he just curls his nails into his palms and prays.

Please. Please let this be real. I’ll get it right this time.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Commander.” Obi-Wan Kenobi says finally, gentle and trusting and true like Cody hadn’t killed him for it once already.

And really, Cody’s got a few million traumatized brothers to ride herd on. He’s got a control chip in his head and a Sith Lord sending him to war and more blood on his hands than he can ever possibly hope to wash clean.

He’d helped bring the galaxy to its knees, once, and he’d killed more Jedi with his bare hands than Jango Karking Fett by the time he'd punched his ticket on that no-name planet, starting with Obi-Wan himself.

Still. Still. It smacks of the unfairness of it all that he can’t even bring himself to lie.

“The honor is mine, General.”