Disclaimer: Unfortunately, I do not own Star Wars or anything associated with it. I do not own the Galactic Republic, the Seperatists, the Jedi, and so on. All I own are the characters of Special Tactics Squad 1-17, General Monka Monka of the Seperatists, Master Bel Rof, and Padawan Askara Jento. And if any of you want to use them, ask me first.

Author's Note: Special Tactics Squad 1-17 consists of Chief (CT-1543), Thirteen (CT-1313), Whacker (CT-5505), Sabre (CT-6674), Falcon (CT-6675), Hunter (CT-4509), Pillar (CT-2552), and Cryo (CT-0104) and, unofficially, Askara Jento. Sergeant Kal Skirata was the primary training sergeant for STS/1-17.

Special Tactics Squad 1-17

"That's a Lot of Droids"

Forumulca, Tarsis System

The squad didn't bother to police the area; the power packs for the droids' integral blasters weren't compatible with the squad's weapons. They did, however, check the area for any reinforcements. Finding none, as expected, they moved out.

"I'm surprised you didn't insist on burying the wet, ma'am," Cryo said.

"I . . . I didn't think . . . well, he would've tried to kill us, right?" Askara said, stammering. Pillar bumped her shoulder.

"Don't worry about it, Aska'ika," he said. "You made a good decision, I think. That blaster fire could have been picked up by orbiting ships, so getting out of there quick was a smart tactical move."

The padawan smiled. "Thanks," she said. "I just don't want to get any of you killed."

"And we all appreciate that, Commander," Hunter put in. After that, though, everyone fell silent, more for avoiding notice than for a lack of anything to say. Even though Askara was a Jedi, she was unaware of Thirteen taking a protective stance towards her.

"You seem fond of our little Commander, ner vod," Chief said to him over a private link.

"I am," he replied.

"Fine with me," Chief said nonchalantly.

"You want to know why."

"Of course. But it's up to you to share. We are brothers; you don't need to tell us."

"She reminds me of Sask."

"Your vode from your original squad."

"Yes."

"What happened wasn't your fault."

Thirteen didn't say anything. He was paying attention to his surroundings, keeping a sharp eye out for anything that didn't seem to belong, but his thoughts were back to Kamino, and the training his clone company had undergone that had resulted in the deaths of twelve of his brothers.

"Hey," Askara said, breaking the silence and getting everyone's attention. "There's a shelter over there."

All they could see was a hill. But that didn't mean much.

"Thirteen, Saber, check it out," Chief ordered. The two troopers moved out as quickly as silence would permit. A few minutes passed.

"She's right, Chief," Saber reported back. "Getting heavy magnetic readings consistent with durasteel."

"Life-signs?"

"None," Thirteen reported. "Electronic emissions indicate zero signs of droids."

"Good work, ma'am," Chief told her. "How did you know it was there?"

"Well, the Force . . . said there was an emptiness there," she said shyly. "So I thought it might be a shelter?"

"Good call," Falcon told her.

"Do we get calls, too?" asked Whacker.

"Who would call you?"

"My mom?"

"You don't have a mom, di'kut."

"Sure I do. It was that control console outside of my tank."

"And what makes you think that's your mom?"

"It was always there."

"Are they always like this?" Askara asked Chief.

"Pretty much," he replied.

After a thorough inspection, it was discovered that not only was the shelter - for it was, indeed, an old storm shelter - but it was well-stocked with long-life preserved goods that were still a few decades away from expiring. Which meant that the clones had a feast, considering the quality of military rations. Cryo and Pillar opted to take the first watch duty outside of the shelter, though Askara did make sure they had some rations to eat first. While the other six clones - and their Jedi 'commander' sat down to eat their meal, Askara found herself next to Thirteen.

"Are you okay?" she asked.

"Commander?"

"I'm . . . well, I'm getting feelings of sorrow, loss, and regret from you," she told him. "Would . . . would you like to talk about it?"

"You . . . you want to know?" Thirteen was surprised, to say the least.

"If you want to talk about it," Askara replied. "I promise, no Force compulsion or anything."

"I lost twelve brothers, back on Kamino," Thirteen said softly. "It was during training."

"In training?" she asked, shocked.

"Live fire training," he explained. "It's all we ever did, when we were training. If it was combat training, live ammunition was used."

"How . . . how horrible," the Jedi girl said.

"One of my brothers and I were close," he went on, disassembling a DC-17 and cleaning it. "We called him Sask. Normal clones . . . we don't have the quality of equipment available to commandos and ARCs, so we're more dependent upon each other. Plus we're supposed to be more obedient."

"Supposed to be?"

"My company was . . . different. We were closer to the commando squads than standard troopers, personality-wise. Maybe because Kal Skirata, a Mando warrior, was our main drill sergeant." He paused, recalling the details. "That day, my company was undergoing urban combat training. We were surprised, and my platoon was cut off from the rest of the company. An ambush by the instructors and combat droids killed three of my squadmates right in front of me. Two more died as we cleared a building to use as a temporary base to regroup. Another one died from a sniper as we exited the building. Another three were killed trying to push through a hardpoint to link up with the rest of the company." Askara didn't say anything; she just waited for him to continue. "Two more died when a thermal detonator landed between them," he went on. "Sask was the last to die. It would've been me, or I at least would have been the next casualty, except Sask placed himself in harm's way to get me out of the line of fire. Watching him take hit after hit, refusing to move himself out of the way . . . it got to me. As soon as I was in cover, he finally collapsed. He didn't give in to his injuries; he just kept himself going long enough to get me out of there." He finished cleaning his pistol and reassembled it in less than a minute. "I lost it; I picked up his deece-fifteen along with my own, and charged back out into the line of fire."

"And obviously you survived," Askara noted.

"Yes, ma'am," Thirteen replied. "I was hyped up on adrenaline and combat; I don't remember much of my actions then. When it was all over, my performance was evaluated. I had destroyed a company of combat droids - and five of the non-clone drill instructors. Head shots on them. My behavior, though, was outside of the norm for a 'normal' clone trooper. The Kaminoans wanted to 'correct my deviancy'. But Sergeant Skirata wouldn't let them. He said I could still be useful. And they listened to him. The Kaminoans were the one thing all of us clones feared, and Sergeant Skirata made them listen to him. Then he made me Mando. He put me with a new company, and told me that one day I would be needed for more than what I was doing then. He asked me what my squad called me. I told him that it didn't matter now. That clone had died during the exercise. 'So what's your name now?' he asked me. I told him that it was Thirteen - since I was the thirteenth casualty of my platoon."

"I'm so sorry," she whispered, placing a hand on his shoulder. Rather than move it away, he reached up and laid his hand on hers. "And . . . is that when you began collecting the armor tallies?" He nodded.

"I never forget those who have died," he said, reiterating his words from before. Looking at her, he added, "And you remind me of Sask."

"Wh-what?" she stammered.

"Ever since you began coming with Bel'buir on our missions, I would see Sask in your actions, in your words." He looked away. "I don't want to fail a vode again."

"You won't," she said with unnatural certainty.

"That is something that cannot be promised."

"It isn't a promise," she told him, "it is the Force."

Later, when Thirteen went on his watch with Hunter, Chief came over and sat down next to Askara.

"That was a good thing you did, Commander," he said.

"I . . . I was only doing the right thing," she said, a little embarrassed. "He . . . he was hurting, and I just wanted to help."

"You did, ma'am," he told her. "He has a different feel to him now."

"All I did, really, was listen."

"No, ma'am, you did more."

"What do you mean, Chief?"

"You cared."

Once night had fallen again, the squad moved out. Askara was getting better at moving as stealthily as the squad did, and her Force senses proved to be a valuable asset. Three times, they managed to avoid patrolling droids because she sensed either the organic commander, or local fauna fleeing their approach. They were still heading towards the Sep base that was their original objective. Askara, during one of the short breaks they took to replenish fluids, suggested that they bunker down for another day, so it would still be dark when they reached the base. Once again, she showed that she had an instinctive grasp of tactical situations - or the Force was talking to her. Whichever it was, the squad decided to help nurture and hone the skill.

When they reached the base, they took the approach slow and carefully. Darting from cover to cover, they reached a 'short' cliff overlooking the base. And when they looked down upon the base, they were greeted by a sight that made their task seem impossible. Thousands of droids stood by or marched in formation. Some were heading out on whatever patrol they were programmed to do, others were coming in.

No one said anything. Until Falcon deadpanned: "That's a lot of droids."

"Well, look at the bright side," Saber said.

"There's a bright side?"

"Isn't there always?"

"We only need one big bomb to drop from here," Askara said, stealing Saber's punchline.

"I was going to say that," he said.

"I said it first, though," she replied.

"But it was my joke."

"You're too slow."

"Says who?

"The punchline."

"So what's the plan now, Commander?" Chief asked.

"We could always walk in the front door," she suggested. "After all, wouldn't you expect a missing squad of special ops clones to do something sneaky like going in through the back or the side?"

"The front door is the last place they'd expect us to come in," Whacker agreed. Then he gestured. "And look: some of those fancy spec ops droids."

"You know, they look just like you, Whacker," Hunter said.

"That means they look like you, too, di'kut," he replied.

"No, I'm better looking than you."

"Alright, can it, you two," Chief said. "Let's figure out just how we're going to walk in the front door."

Author's Note: And here is the next chapter of Special Tactics Squad 1-17. You find out why Thirteen has his name, and why he chooses to remember every clone who dies around him. Please review after reading this.