"No, it is not important to us whether the clone units think, or feel or think about what they may feel. Our sole aim is to ensure our guaranteed standards of quality production. So, if any unit displays evidence of un-programmed or disruptive behavior, it is isolated from the others and reconditioned to meet specifications. If reconditioning is deemed unsuccessful... we simply destroy it. I am quite curious at your obvious dismay of this process, Master Jedi. I was given to understand that your Order operates in much the same way when disposing of unsatisfactory products. Here, they are labeled as 'defectives', and destroyed efficiently. The Jedi prefer to label your defective units as 'Sith', and take action to destroy them with equal efficiency... do you not? I would say the only real difference is our preferred methods of disposal. Seeing as how we Kaminoans aren't most commonly known for carrying our incinerators on our belts as you Jedi are of displaying your lightsabers... that perhaps it is your ways that are the more... how did you put it again, oh yes...'un-civilized'."
- Lama Su, Kaminoan Prime Minister having a 'philosophical discussion' with Obi-Wan Kenobi -
"I'm telling you, Trey... this it IT!" The excitement in Quay's voice came through clearly over the squad's comm channel. Oni, their sergeant, reached over and cuffed the squads' chatterbox on the back of his head. "Oh, yeah?", he ribbed. "So now we've got two troopers who can see the future, eh?", referencing the usual jibe about Trey's 'nose for trouble'.
Almost on-cue, Deuce dutifully chimed in, backing up Oni as usual. "Yeah... watch it, Quay. The last thing we need is for you to start acting spooky, too."
Although they all had been saved more than once by Trey's intuition, Deuce had never seemed comfortable with it. Not jealous, really, but certainly put-off by being subject to a talent he didn't understand. "C'mon, Deuce..." Quay teased. "I know you're itching to let loose some live ordinance!"
Deuce patted his DC-15 lovingly. It was all the agreement he needed to express. "You know me so well, ner vod." The grim smile that laced his voice told of his hopes that soon a real enemy would get to know him that well, too.
Quay slapped his trigger-happy pod-mate's armor, satisfied he was ready for action. Oni tried to restrain their runaway energy. "Since you two are so jumpy to get shot at, I'll be sure to send you charging the first repeater nest we find. Deal?" Undeterred, Quay turned for reinforcement from his closest friend.
"Okay, Trey... out with it. What's your nose telling you? Are we finally going into battle?"
Trey didn't know what to say. The talk of his special skill unnerved him even more than it did Deuce. "He isn't the one that would be taken away for it," Trey thought to himself. Outwardly, he settled for responding with a non-committal shrug.
Without someone to return his chatter, Quay gave in to patiently awaiting orders with a shake of his helm. "Fine. We'll find out soon enough, I guess."
As Trey obediently followed the figures in front of him, his inklings of dis-ease grew. Despite his silence on the subject to Quay, the feeling he was walking straight into terrible danger was on the edge of becoming unbearable. Something was indeed about to happen... something BIG. His whole body nearly tingled with the sense of it. What he needed was 'intel' information.
"Improper intel is like fighting blind," the old saying went. Surely, it was the uncertainty of his current situation that had to be fueling his panic. If he could get an idea of what lay ahead, he hoped... his fears could be allayed. Hopefully, before they ran completely wild... and dragged him along with them.
Keying his external comm-mic with a few quick blinks at the icon on his helmets HUD, Trey stepped closer to the soldier walking ahead of him, intent on finding any information to allay his fears. Reaching out casually, he tapped his 'brother' on the back of his torso-plate. The un-helmeted clone turned back to look at him without breaking stride, his dark eyebrow raised in question.
It was only then that Trey noticed the blue markings on his armor. A Lieutenant...
"Oh, just great!" He muttered under his breath.
"You need something, Private?"
Well, maybe it was a good thing. An officer might know what this was all about. It seemed like a logical idea. However, Trey was stopped short of asking anything.
His fear whispered with urgent warning, "Maybe he does know about YOU!"
The manic thought made his mouth go dry. But, now he had to say something. He had already addressed an officer. To act strangely now would surely help make his nightmares come to fruition.
"Uh... Excuse me, sir " he started awkwardly. "I was just uh wondering um," He needed to come up with something, anything quick. He could see the suspicion growing in his superior's eyes and growing frown. "Uh," he pronounced with sudden confidence, "if my squad needed any special kit for this next exercise?"
It turned not to be that bad of a question, after all. Using the term 'exercise' inferred, he hoped, that he didn't think anything was amiss... just curious. It also may help him in gauging whether this was an event that only the officers knew was coming. And the bit about 'kit' well, all troopers knew that their clone-officers believed in their soldiers being prepared.
The unknown Lieutenant's face dissolved into a more genuine-looking frown, as he replied.
"No, I don't. But I imagine if we all just follow orders, we'll find out soon enough." By his sour expression, Trey figured he probably didn't have any better ideas behind their current situation than he did... and he didn't particularly like it, either. Unwilling to raise the ire of the officer, Trey simply nodded and said, "Yessir". Then eased back to walk again amongst his own unit.
While he listened to his squad-mates... his pod-mates, all... banter over what they thought the unusual muster was about, Trey stayed largely out of the conversation. Now, suddenly felling like an interloper for some reason. As if he were tapping into enemy comms, not joining-in with his brothers'. Putting in a non-committal grunt once in a while to keep his brothers attention focused away from him, Trey attempted internally to get a grasp on the fluid emotions running through him.
With frantic bursts of unthinkable ideas flitting through his brain, he simply tried to remain moving forward... unnoticed. Desperation gave bloom to plans that might grant him escape, but nothing rational came forth. So, into the vacuum crept thoughts that Trey knew could only have been spawned by his many, frequent nightmares. They whispered to him of things that made him afraid to close his eyes, even to blink. Panic was making his breaths come in short and hurried bursts. He tried to force himself to relax, to not over-react.
"This could all be a drill," he told himself, trying to regain his composure. "Just because it's a sudden departure from the normal, regimented schedule doesn't mean anything is wrong." But he just couldn't convince himself that everything was normal. His 'special-sense' kept telling him, in ever louder tones, that tragedy loomed. Again... Fear found its voice inside his head.
"Quay was right... this is it," it said to him. "That's what all this is about. They've finally found you out!"
The specter of deeply ingrained terrors raced through him, stripping away at the calm facade he struggled to present, even under the relative safety of his helmet. Blitzed by fear unlike any he had ever felt, the forecast of inevitable doom gave credence to his already overwhelming sense of dread. Trey's body began to tremble uncontrollably, as he fought to maintain control of his mind.
"This is where they single you out and send you for 'reconditioning'..." it said, urging him to act. "You have to get away, NOW!"
Soon, unthinkable plans sounded more reasonable.
"I could steal another clone's armor " his mind seized upon, "pretend to be him. The Kaminoans wouldn't be able to tell us apart not before..." The idea was quickly dismissed. Even if it did work, highly unlikely as he realized the plan to be... it would mean sending some other poor clone to his doom.
"No," Trey thought, "I couldn't do that to a brother." Images of some unknown trooper being dragged away to be disposed of were more than enough to dissuade any further contemplation. There had to be another way out of this. Without realizing he was even doing it, his gloved finger slowly began taping the triggering stud on his Decee. With a start, he caught himself actually wondering if he could shoot his way free and escape.
"But who," a rational portion of his mind asked, "would I be willing to shoot my way through... even if freedom was possible?"
One of his brothers? His vode... ?
The thought was madness, born of desperation. Trey knew deeper than any fear that killing another clone was something he was incapable of doing. And besides, where could he escape to? There was nowhere to go in this enclosed world, he reminded himself. Even if he could get out of the facility, the entire planet was covered with water. Gills and fins had not been a part of his genetically-manipulated blueprint. No, there was no way out of here. Not for him.
Then, the ultimate plan of escape... and of insanity: Let them shoot him!
He'd never before entertained the notion suicide. Although there had been latrine-rumors that some clones had and did. Those were just rumors, though. In the carefully monitored and administered world of the clones, very little 'classified intel' (as loose-talk was commonly called jokingly), was ever found to be true. But still, his mind walked that frightening path a bit farther.
"It may be better than 'reconditioning'", he heard himself whisper.
Fear that he may have been overheard flooded his veins with adrenaline. Sweat formed all over his body, until his eyes thankfully found the icon in his helmet's HUD that told him his mic was muted. Just as quickly as panic had seized him, relief washed over him like a cool stream. He hadn't slipped. "Not yet, anyway," he said glumly.
Just as Trey began to think he could at last relax, that he could believe for the moment this unusual formation-call was only that... unusual... his memory replayed to him the un-overheard words he had uttered. The cool mental-waters caressing him instantly froze into the icy hold of terror. This new horror was nothing like those he had grown accustomed to being raised here, in this factory of death. This unfamiliar fear was of himself.
Shakily, Trey continued to march forward, looking around frantically, desperately, pathetically... for any signs that this might still just be some drill. Any sign of salvation.
His eyes eventually went up to the viewing platform that overlooked the massive, pearly white ceiling cavern. There, the gracefully long-necked creatures whom would be performing the necessary task of making him more conforming, looked down with scrutinizing precision. Seeing the cold, yet oddly tranquil, eyes studying him more like a laboratory experiment than a living, thinking, feeling being; only gave credence to the paranoia that now consumed him.
Despair whispered to him, seductively selling him on the only real choice it said he had left. But doing that just wasn't in him.
He could sacrifice his life to save another, and would especially at that moment. But he couldn't willingly do himself in any more than he could harm another clone. Besides... if he could, he wondered, wouldn't he have already? Not liking where those questions might lead him, he resolutely pushed all thoughts of it aside along with all plans for escape or salvation.
All hope was suppressed, as well.
As he entered the vast parade ground area, his tortured mind tried to resign itself to the unfavorable fate he was sure to come. Perhaps he needed to be reconditioned, he thought. "Perhaps then," he whispered to himself, "I won't be so different from my brothers." Being more like them was usually a comforting thought, but right then, thinking it didn't make him feel any better. It made him feel... 'other'.
Reaching his position in the formation, Trey stood in his assigned place in unmoving, uniformed silence, being slowly surrounded by masses of his mirror images. Only this time, instead of being comforted by presences of his brothers, or even relieved by the relative anonymity of being just another clone, Trey suddenly felt surrounded. The sense of dread within him became overwhelming as one by one, other armored figures fell-in to their positions within the formation.
He saw them now as individual pieces of a white-plastoid prison being slowly moved into place, sealing him to his doom.
He felt inside the cage-door slam shut, as the last stragglers rushed to fill the gaps any tardiness had left. His heart sank, as nausea rose with him. Unable to move, unable to call for help, unable to withstand the terrible voice inside him screaming "RUN!" The last crumbling walls within him began to tumble down, leaving him raw and exposed to emotions and thoughts he knew he could no longer control.
His contemplation of self-termination flew in the face of he everything he was designed ,and trained, to do. To survive. It was all the proof that he, and more importantly, the Kaminoans, that CT-3033 had performed below specifications. He suddenly understood exactly what was happening to him. Why he was so 'different' from his brothers.
Trey, CT-3033 was indeed... 'Defective'.
The realization destroyed any vestiges of hope that remained hidden away deep inside of him. He was suddenly dizzy. Bile rose in his throat, burning its way up from his churning gut, to fill his mouth with its acidic taste.
He felt as if the entire universe were closing in around him, like he was falling down into a deep, dark hole. Everything that used to be his reality, was now a shrinking point of light that sped further and further away from him... consumed by the growing darkness of his malfunctioning mind.
Now he knew why he was 'different' from his pod-mates. He simply wasn't up-to-specs, just as he'd long feared.
He knew now that every group of clones, or 'pod', didn't have one like him, as he had often hoped. Now, somehow... the Kaminoans had found him out. He must have failed some unknown test... somehow. The idea that he was not worthy of existence made him feel unhealthy... like a cancerous cell hidden inside an otherwise fully-functioning organ. What he should do, he thought, was turn himself over to the nearest Kaminoan technician. Let them 'fix' him... 'recondition' him... 'cleanse' him.
Trey simply continued to stand there in silent obedience like the good soldier he pretended to be. A lone example of imperfection... a vivid blemish amongst the magnificently-polished ranks of 'full-spec' clone troopers, waiting to be ordered to step forward and be displayed as unworthy before everyone he'd ever known and cared about.
He imagined the looks of disgust and contempt that would be worn upon every identical face, even Quay's. Then, as his nightmares had often shown, he would be taken away... in disgrace... to be 'reconditioned'. Glancing sideways at his beloved pod-mates standing in formation all around him, he wondered if he would even remember them after... 'it'.
Once they knew he was defective, he thought sadly, they probably wouldn't want to remember CT-3033. He couldn't blame them if they didn't.
By not meeting up to performance standards, he had failed them. Another unfamiliar emotion, this one far beyond the soul-crushing depths of any previous fears, swallowed him whole and shaded grey the dim light of whatever remained within him that had once been 'Trey'... eclipsing him into its creeping darkness. All that was left of him stood trembling, frightened, and... ashamed. For the first time in his intentionally short life, he left... alone.
Warm, wet tears crept slowly down his face.
All the while, as if to mock his failings, over the battalion comm frequency of his helmet came the familiar chorus of clones' voices ringing-out with pride the beginning verses of "Vode An"... the Mandalorian 'Song of Brotherhood'.