“Alpha team in position.”
Fives rubs irritably at the unfamiliar comm jammed into his ear as Rex’s voice echoes inside his skull. Without his bucket he feels blind, deaf and dumb. A nursery droid had dropped a helmet onto his head almost as soon as he could toddle, and he had lived and fought inside of one every day since - every day until he stripped off his armor and followed his captain, commander and general into the unknown two weeks ago. He doesn’t regret it. He just misses his armor something fierce, with its 360 degree view, multitude of sensors, targeting assistance and built in communications system.
Daydreaming about it isn’t going to get it back, though, and he has a job to do. Brothers are relying on him.
Adjusting his visor, Fives replies just a beat too late. “Beta team in position.”
“Skywalker in position. Beta team, blow the doors.”
“Yes, sir.” This part Fives can do. In fact, breaking and entering is among his specialties as an ARC trooper. “3...2…”
After their locks explode in a shower of sparks the automatic doors do exactly what he expected, sliding into their emergency open position with a soft hiss. Tup rolls a droid popper past Fives and into the dark hall before the door in front of them is even halfway open. A few seconds later the EMP grenade goes off with a satisfying crackle, and Fives motions his four man squad past him and into the dim hall. Once again he finds himself wishing for his bucket - this time for its night vision sensors, as he blinks rapidly to adjust to the sudden lack of light.
The battle droids that hadn’t been taken out by the grenade have no such limitations. Blaster fire wings past his head while the world is still a dark blur, almost blinding him with the bright flashes of red lasers. Luckily, even half blind and wielding an unfamiliar weapon, Fives is a better shot and so are his men. Firing by sound and instinct, Fives presses forward and feels his men fall in behind him. They round a corner in a hail of blaster shots and keep going, stepping over fallen clankers along the way. Over the staticky comm channel Fives can hear Rex engaged in much the same situation, a constant murmur of creative swearing that must be Jesse, and Skywalker and Tano bantering back and forth as they cut their way efficiently toward the center of the complex even without lightsabers.
“We’re --” Panting, then swearing echoes down the line. Nobody says kriff quite like Jesse. Whatever his vod was going to say is cut off as Fives hears an explosion on the other side of the complex vibrate through the air half a second before it blasts through the comm loudly enough to make him grit his teeth and clap his free hand over his ear. As if that would help.
He keeps shooting with the other hand, cursing under his breath, “Kriffing hell--”
“The fuck was that?”
“Sith damned hells.”
Too much chatter, too many voices that his bucket would have automatically filtered out, and Fives is biting back more curses and drawing a breath to tell them to shut the kriff up when Rex’s voice does exactly that. Behind him there is a collective sigh of relief at the confirmation that their captain is still alive enough to be grumpy, which means that the rest of Alpha team must still be breathing too.
“They just opened up on us with the heavy guns,” Rex grumbles, as if anyone can mistake the thud-thud-thud of cannon fire in the background. It’s shaking the whole Sith-damned mountain the complex is built under hard enough that Fives is momentarily worried a few thousand tons of rock is about to come down on their heads. “Alpha team is digging in to draw their fire toward our position at the South entrance. Beta, this is your shot. Get in there with the explosives.”
“Roger, roger,” Fives replies breathlessly, skidding around another corner and taking aim at the droids running full tilt towards him. Is it still insubordination to mock his commanding officer if he isn’t actually in the army anymore? The thought will have to wait. “Let’s move, boys.”
The best at navigating without a map thanks to his extra training, Fives leads the way through the next skirmish and into a blessedly empty corridor, his brothers strung out behind him and Tup bringing up the rear. Claxons have begun to blare overhead, emergency lights flashing in time with them and bathing the world in a red glow that makes it easier to sight and shoot the few droid patrols they run into after that. Alpha is doing their job, though, and the further they go the fewer clankers they see. Most seem to be running toward the steadily growing sound of battle at the South entrance.
Stupid machines, Fives thinks, shooting one in the back. The rules of engagement don’t apply when your enemies are tin cans.
All of the fuel, ammunition and manufacturing equipment stockpiled inside a droid factory the size of a small city make for a beautiful explosion. Roaring infernos burst from every entrance, and Ahsoka is far enough away to see jets of flame escaping the vents cut into the remote mountainside. When the ground begins to shake beneath their feet her grin grows positively feral, showing a mouth full of pointed teeth smeared with her blue-tinted blood - an expression reflected on her master’s dirt streaked face as they watch a small earthquake block every entrance to the Sith-damned place. Obi-Wan would be accusing Anakin of passing on his bad habits to his padawan right now, while not even trying to hide the gleeful glint in his own eyes at a job well done and a satisfyingly huge boom - but Obi-Wan isn’t with them, and might never be again, a thought that dulls the smile on Ahsoka’s lips.
Still, she jostles her shoulder against the trooper nearest to her - Echo, she knows without looking - surprised to feel the give of cloth and flesh rather than cold, hard armor even after weeks of adjustment. “Good job, boys. Let’s go home.”
Home is a repurposed slave transport in high orbit, with faulty sound dampeners and entire sections dubbed too filthy for use and sealed off. It’s not the worst place Anakin and Ahsoka have ever lived, and it’s certainly better than any number of places the clones have rested their heads over the course of the war, but there’s something...lacking, about the scratched metal walls and the patchwork technology of the bridge.
Anakin and Ahsoka drop their packs on the dented central console, followed by ten troopers who file out once relieved of their burdens. Rex, Fives, Echo and several of the clone officers stay, upending their own packs and then all of the others to scatter gems, precious metals, and jumbled currencies across the surface. It’s a small fortune, all of it illegal in Republic space and therefore valuable in the outer rim and Separatist systems, where what few credits they’ve managed to scrape together are worthless.
“Maybe we should take up piracy,” Anakin mutters, bouncing a green jewel in his palm before holding it up to watch it refract light. “It definitely pays better than soldiering.”
“What was it you said, sir? ‘Don’t think of it as stealing, think of it as reclaiming illegally obtained assets from the Separatists and doing the Republic a favor in the process?’” Rex replies drily, pulling out a datapad and squinting at the piles that his brothers are neatly sorting from the mess. “I don’t know what half of this osik is, but it’s got to be enough to get us refueled, resupplied, and buy some real weapons. Right?”
For a fraction of a second, the confident and competent Captain of the 501st looks lost, glancing at his Jedi for some kind of reassurance. Every one of them is out of their depth. Out here, floating above a backwater planet whose only occupants they’ve just blown off the face of the earth, there are no orders. No greater plan for advancing the goals of the Republic. The chain of command comes to an abrupt stop at Anakin Skywalker, former Jedi General, whose experience is only marginally more relevant to their new lifestyle than that of the men who follow him.
Mostly, they’ve been making things up as they go along, having hit on the idea of attacking the remote Separatist production plans that GAR command deemed unimportant. They’re the kind of places that hoard resources and churn out endless battalions of droids to cut clones down by the hundreds. With a small army of restless troopers at their back, still eager to do their part to protect the vod they had left behind, it hadn’t been hard to convince them of the plan’s merits and put together a rough list of targets. So far, it’s been a lucrative venture. One that gives them purpose.
“Right,” Anakin finally agrees, his teeth shining white in his dirt streaked face as he flashes a smile at his Captain. He abandons the jewel in favor of a handful of honest to gods flimsi bills, counting them out silently. “This is Hutt currency. As long as no one asks questions about where we got it, there’s enough here to keep us going for weeks. If we’re willing to venture into Hutt space…”
“I don’t think we have a choice, Master,” Ahsoka points out with a grimace.
“I know, Snips. Plot us a course to…”