Chapter 1: Meetings
“How did the Kamino decide that Atin would be the one to come with me?” Rex asks, once he has all six tiny, impossibly precious children tucked up safe in the ship and the ship is safely set to travel without him at the helm.
“They think – thought – Atin was the obedient one of us,” one volunteers shyly. No learner’s braid on this one, and his hair is a little longer, fluffing out around his head like a dandelion puff. Two of his brothers giggle at that, and Atin sticks his tongue out at them.
“They’re wrong, though – that’s Four. Atin’s just quiet a lot, so they miss him planning.” One of the gigglers adds.
Rex’s chest hurts at the sight. His jedi, and oh gods, he is responsible for them now, for feeding them and teaching them and soothing their hurts, all six of them, so bright with life and innocence.
The littlest – three inches shorter than his brothers, a break in conformity that must have made the Kamino twitch – crawls into his lap and hugs him. “Don’t be sad.”
Rex manages a smile. “I’ll try not to be. What are your names?”
“JCK-046. Cuyi,” the one in his lap confides. ‘I exist’. A fearless, reckless statement from a clone who didn’t match his brothers. A defiance, and no wonder this little one is so bold, with that as his chosen name.
The one with dandelion-puff hair ducks his head. “I’m JCK-044. I haven’t chosen a name yet, but my brothers call me Four.”
“We’re JCK-041 and JCK-042,” the two laughing brothers say, gesturing between themselves. “Dral and Racin. We’re the oldest.”
“By three months!” Cuyi scowls. “Three months isn’t anything.”
The last boy is silent – he tugs at Atin’s sleeve, and says something into his ear, too soft for Rex to hear. Atin wraps his arms around his brother, and introduces for him, “This is JCK-049. He’s called Whisper.”
Whisper meets Rex’s eyes and reaches out with his mind as Atin had. Soft curiosity brushes his mind, tentative and hopeful and Rex stills, waiting.
After a long, long moment, Whisper nods. His voice is barely a breath in the air. “I dreamed about you.”
Chapter 2: Lingering Scars
Take a clone off kamino...
“It’s raining,” Whisper announced, voice rasping, one bright, sunny day a few weeks after Rex had taken them from Kamino.
Atin winced and looked up from his datapad. “It’s not raining, Whisper. Not right here, anyway.” Sometimes Whisper hallucinated, and there wasn’t much he could do besides help his brother hide it.
Whisper scowled. “Raining.”
“Stop it!” Atin glanced around, looking to see if anyone was watching from the little house Rex had brought them to, or the hedgerows of the surrounding fields. Nobody around but their brothers, off in the distance. “You can’t say stuff like that, you’ll get caught.”
“It’s raining,” Whisper repeated stubbornly, crossing his arms. “Still.”
“Whis, please. Not now.” Not when they were finally off Kamino. But Whisper didn’t understood stuff like that. He never had, and Atin had always been the one keeping his secrets. “If they find out you’ve got a defect -”
Whisper sighed, his hurt confusion swirling in the force like ink spilling across paper.
“Sorry,” Atin muttered, looking away. “But we have to be careful. Rex wants us, we can’t ruin that.” He shifted to the left, opening up a space between himself and the tree in silent invitation.
It was several minutes before Whisper finally joined him. Atin swallowed down his guilt. This was for the best. When they were older and could take care of themselves, it’d be safe for Whisper to be different. But they were still small now, and Cuyi was as much deviance as the Kamino had ever tolerated. Better for his brother to be hurt than sent away, or worse, culled.