Standing in the dusty arena on Geonosis, Master Thain Dural gazed above the audience stands, into the burning orange sun. He coughed roughly in the hot, dry air that both seered his throat, and stung his watering eyes. But it was not only the arid dust being kicked up by the barren planet's winds that cuased his lungs and eyes to rebel against what and filled them... it was the sight and smell of so many dead.
Seemingly unaffected by the breeze, the stench of death hung low to the ground, as if refusing to abandon the corpses that created it. It's sickly essense kept watch over the bodies, in defiance of the spirits that had already left them. It wasn't just the smell he was trying to avoid. It was the sight of so many dead Jedi that he really couldn't take any longer.
They lay strewn about everywhere, intermingled with the smashed remains of the very droids that had slain them. The chaos of it was almost too much to believe, even though he had seen it all for himself, first hand... from the very center of the carnage.
Forcing himself to face the horrific reality until his mind would except it, the Jedi dropped his eyes again to see the faces of the fallen surrounding him.
From somewhere, off in the distance, he could hear the explosions and screams that told him the fight went on.
But here, he remained. Here... amidst the remains of his fellow Jedi. Here... with her.
After a long, hard blink to clear his vision, the Jedi Master finally let his sight fall upon the body that lay at his very feet. Streaks of dark purple blood covered her once lovely, vibrant face now cold, and covered with blaster burns. Her once vibrant, violet eyes of his apprentice now stared sightlessly through him.
"You should never have been here," he softly admitted to her, and to himself. "I should have not brought you here."
Reaching down, he delicately closed his padawan's accusing eyes. At least, they seemed accusing to him. He refused to look away from the last glimmering reflection of light her eyes would ever cast, as his fingertips slid down over them. When the portals to her soul had been closed at last, emotion almost overcame him. With great effort, he recited part of the Jedi Code... "There is no emotion, there is only peace."
The words of ancient wisdom now sounded hollow and trite to his ears.
Since peace would not find him in this place of death, he settled on a less comforting ideal... despair.
Taking his dead padawans broken lightsaber into his hand, the Jedi Master swore an ominous oath over her now lifeless body...
"I will never train another."
. 'Properties of the Force'
. by: 'voodoogator'
Different... A-typical... Non-uniform...
CT-3033 knew he was different.
He didn't know why he was different, or what was different about him, he just knew that he was not the same as his brothers.. any of them. Each time, the realization sent cold shivers running up his spine. Because the one thing he did know about being different was, that 'different'.. was bad.
Dubbed 'Trey' by his pod-brothers, CT-3033 was a clone. Born in gestation tanks on the rainy planet of Kamino, he and the others like him lived an assembly-line existence. Meals, sleep, and training all carefully scheduled and monitored by the Kaminoans who ran the facility that was his whole world. Under their piercing, intolerant gaze, every aspect of Trey and his fellow clones' physical and mental traits were scrutinized to ensure adherence to the Clonemasters' very exacting standards.
Clones lived under both constant scrutiny.. and constant fear. Fear of failing. Fear of standing out. Fear of being found 'defective' by the ever watchful Kaminoan technicians. Units that failed meet up to the Clonemasters strict standards of conformity were taken away from their brothers to be 'reconditioned'. None of the clones knew exactly what happened to those selected for this treatment, but the few men that Trey knew of who had ever returned, were never the same. The worst thing about being 'reconditioned', was that it didn't seem to make the unlucky clones any better. Not one of those taken away had ever lasted very long in the fast-paced and deadly training that was the everyday existence for troopers produced to be the very best soldiers to ever put on battle armor.
Besides the grey-skinned aliens who oversaw their manufacture, the only other beings the clones had contact with were their Mandalorian instructors. Hard, often abusive men and women with standards almost as strict as the Kaminoans themselves. Mostly human, with a few exceptions, they drilled the clones in the arts of war and survival... and obedience.
Although some were rumored to have soft-spots for favored pupils, on the whole, these warriors were no more compassionate, or forgiving of failure, than the non-human beings they worked for.
It was also rumored that the berthing areas, and even the showers, were bugged. Evaluation tests never ceased for the clones on Kamino.
Wisely, Trey kept his concerns to himself. But always there was the fear.
That his non-conformities would be discovered. That they would come for him before, or after every training exercise. Or, during meal time. Or in the middle of the night... his squadmates would awaken the next training cycle only to find CT-3033's cot empty. No explanation. Nothing. Just... gone.
His fear was for them, as well. If he was found to be too irregular, his entire pod could be taken away. For their sakes, as much as for his own, he would remain silent... and try his best to perform to specs.
Or rather, down to specs. He hated to think of himself as being 'better' than his brothers.. nor any clone for that matter...but he was.
And he didn't know why. All he knew was that he SHOULDN'T be. And that it terrified him.
Aside from the specially-enhanced ARCs, and of course, the downright unruly Null-ARCs... who reigned havoc across the entire facility; every clone was his brothers' equal.
To think of another clone as being 'less' than him filled him with disgust, and doubt.
Fear, his instructors had told him, could be useful. All beings felt fear, they'd told him so. It heightened the senses and sharpened the mind. It could be used to push your body long past its normal limits. But, it could also leave you paralyzed in the face of danger. Learning how to properly use your fear was often the key to victory... and survival.
Doubt, however, was a disease of the mind.
Doubt would cause all the negative effects of fear, but without the benefits. Fear could keep you alive, he'd been taught... but doubt could get you killed.
CT-3033 feared his doubts more than anything else. More than death, even more than being found to be 'different'. That was the worst thing about knowing he was not the same as the others... it filled him with doubt.
And those doubts gave further rise to his fears. That should have made it manageable. He'd been trained to turn fear to his advantage. Instead, his fear thwarted any attempt to bring it into line.. like an un-tamable Null-ARC, refusing to obey its master.
Laying prone in his bunk, Trey raised up and swung his legs to the cold floor beneath him. The darkened artificial lighting of the berthing area told him it was not yet time to begin the day's training, but he could sleep no more. Standing, he made his way as quietly as possible to the communal refreshers at the end of the row of cots. Reaching the lavs, he turned the valve that released hot, steaming water, and splashed a handful on his face.
Lifting his eyes to the reflective surface above the sink, Trey stood for several moments breathing deeply, trying unsuccessfully to banish the thoughts that plagued him.
Would today be the day they found him out?
He swallowed, finding his mouth suddenly dry. Lifting another dose of water to his face, he sipped the tepid liquid, then splashed the remainder to his face again, running his clawed fingers through the turf of dark hair he, and all his brothers, sported... courtesy of their genetic-donor, Jango Fett. Seeing the exact replica of the Mandalorian warrior before him, Trey wondered if Jango himself had ever felt such fear. Catching his own eye in the mirror, he doubted it.
More doubts. More chances to be discovered.
With a heavy sigh, he looked to the large holo-crono on the berthing room wall to see he had a few hours yet, before the next scheduled training evolution began. Knowing any more sleep would be beyond his grasp, he walked back to his bunk and lay awake waiting for dawn... fearful of the day ahead.