Cody’s memory of everything after Grevious’s death was – strained. At best.
(“Execute Order 66.”)
(Flashes of a ship – of a man with red lightsaber – “I will not let the emperor have it, it ought to be mine – “)
But he was pretty sure of one thing: This wasn’t how it happened.
He hadn’t been on Coruscant. He hadn’t been in control of himself.
And his General definitely hadn’t been half the size of a Shiny.
He wasn’t objecting. He wanted to make that extremely clear to the Force or anything else might be listening. He had his General back, had his own mind back, and that meant he would put up with a lot worse than this.
He wasn’t lodging a complaint, he was just lodging some questions.
But there wasn’t time for questions. Not right now.
Because right now, he was standing on the soft, bouncy carpet of the creche, and that carpet was covered in soft, pastel colors twisted in soft, rounded shapes, and in the middle of all that softness there was a dead Crechemaster leaking blood.
Behind her, there was a clan of a dozen Shiny Jedi, all huddled together.
Cody’s general, for once, had not dropped his lightsaber. Cody’s general was too tiny to have a lightsaber.
That had not stopped him from scooping up the fallen Jedi’s and planting himself in front of his clanmates.
It was comically large in his tiny hands. The blade was nearly as long as he was tall.
There was nothing at all comical about the way his voice shook as he said, “There is no death, there is the Force.”
Behind him, a Mon Calamari girl grabbed for another human boy’s hand. “There is no death, there is the Force.”
Behind them, the others took up the chant. Some of the small round faces were screwed up with tears; others were blank with shock and with whatever horribleness he had no doubt could be felt in the Force right now.
Whatever messed up twist in the Force had sent him here probably wasn’t helping.
Only one boy hadn’t joined in, and he was on the outside of the group, fists clenched, looking like he wanted nothing more than to punch someone in the face till they stopped moving.
Cody knew the feeling.
The Temple was falling. It was not supposed to be falling here and now; Cody and his brothers weren’t even supposed to exist here and now. Cody certainly shouldn’t remember a war that by rights shouldn’t start for decades yet.
But he was here, and he was now, and he could get a Jedi to sort out the Force nonsense later.
He switched his blaster to stun and promptly shot the brother standing next to him, a feat made considerably easier by the way Jinx was staring at the dead Jedi on the floor.
The kids stopped chanting and stared up at him with wide eyes.
Right. Mission: Save the Baby General was going to have to deal with some expanded parameters.
“Hold hands, stick together, and follow me,” he ordered. “General, you’re in front. Keep hold of that lightsaber.”
The kids blinked at him for a moment.
He realized his mistake a moment too late. “I mean – Obi-Wan.”
The name felt wrong in his mouth. Disrespectful.
He didn’t think the General would have minded. He had pushed for it, in fact, when they were off duty.
But that had been before –
Execute Order 66.
Some of the kids were shuffling together, grasping onto his instructions. Others were still frozen in place.
The kid with his fists clenched had picked up some kind of wooden toy and looked like he was seriously considering throwing it.
They didn’t have time for this.
They didn’t have time for him not to either, though, so he holstered his weapon for a moment, neck prickling the whole time, and crouched down in front of them.
Dead general to one side, fallen brother to the other –
He swallowed. “Look,” he said, as softly as he could with this much adrenaline raging through him. “I know this is frightening. And confusing.” Did he ever. “But I swear to you, I will get you out of here, and we will figure this out. Okay?”
The kids were still staring at him.
Well. Some of them weren’t.
Some of them were staring at the body.
“What does the Force tell you?” he asked desperately.
The General closed his eyes. “It says you’re a friend,” he said firmly.
It was suddenly very hard to swallow.
“But Master Tera,” a Nautolan girl whispered.
“She’d want you safe,” Cody said hoarsely.
He hoped – he hoped he hadn’t shot her. If he’d shot her, he didn’t think he could convince the kids to follow him.
“The Force says he’s a friend,” Obi-Wan repeated, and he grabbed the Mon Calamari girl’s free hand. The other boy she was holding onto reached out, and soon he had a whole chain of Shinies looking up at him with trusting faces.
“Right,” he said, and it was still hard to talk. “Stay quiet, and hold on to each other, no matter what. If somebody . . . stuns me . . . run and don’t stop running until the Force tells you to.”
It was a horrible plan, but it was the best one he had.
The kids had been in some kind of lesson room, separate from the rest of the creche. Cody was . . . grateful, in a horrible way.
He couldn’t leave behind any other Shinies he came across, but he already wasn’t sure he could save the ones he had.
The hallway was empty, at least for now. Cody walked down it as confidently as he could, blaster out, and with a small hand clinging to the back of his armor.
I had orders to take them as prisoners. I had orders to take them as prisoners. I had orders to take them as prisoners.
It didn’t sound any more convincing the more times he said it to himself.
“What year is it?” he asked Obi-Wan quietly since they were alone, and he thought he could get away with it.
Despite his earlier admonishment, the lightsaber had ended up on Cody’s belt. It would be more convincing if they ran across someone.
It still felt horribly familiar.
“950 ARR,” Obi-Wan whispered back. Then, after a moment’s consideration, he added, “It’s Quinlan’s birthday.”
The surreal air of the whole adventure got worse. “Happy birthday, Quinlan.”
“Quinlan’s not here,” Obi-Wan told him, like he was being ridiculous. “He’s in Turtle Clan.”
So. Probably dead then.
His brain finally fired on enough cylinders to connect Quinlan to Quinlan Vos to Aayla Secura. Bly would –
Not going there.
“And who’s the Chancellor?”
A tugging came from farther down the line. “Those are concussion questions,” the Mon Calamari girl whispered. “Does somebody have a concussion?”
Obi-Wan turned to look at him very solemnly. “Bant wants to know if you have a concussion,” he reported.
“I’m fine,” he said, easing up to the corner of the first major intersection they’d have to navigate. “I’m just checking on you.”
“He says he’s fine,” Obi-Wan reported to Bant. He turned back to Cody. “Master Tera told us the Chancellor is Palpatine. And Quinlan told us that the Chancellor is a big pile of Bantha poodoo, and he heard that from Knight Windu, only he said that Knight Windu didn’t say poodoo, and Master Tera said we weren’t supposed to repeat that.”
Years of concussion checks meant he almost accepted this at face value before he caught himself.
Because Palpatine had been the Chancellor for all of his life.
But he hadn’t been for Obi-Wan’s.
Something was very, very wrong.
Just in case everything else hadn’t been enough of a hint.
“You’re supposed to ask our names and if we know where we are next,” Bant whispered.
Obi-Wan tugged at his belt. “Bant says – “
“Quiet,” he breathed.
There were footsteps coming down one of the other corridors. They echoed. Marching in step.
“Back up,” he hissed. “Back up.”
Maybe they would go unseen. Maybe their Force would protect them. Maybe –
The kids scurried backward. He strolled forward, hands tight on his blaster.
He recognized the paint coming down the other corridor.
He didn’t recognize the others, but Rex was bad enough.
“CT-7567,” he barked, the numbers tasting like bile in his mouth. “Report.”
Rex saluted mechanically. “Corridor 21-A clear, sir.”
Rex’s men stopped behind him, an impenetrable wall of armor.
There was no way he could take them all.
He also had no idea what the hallway behind him had been designated.
“Corridor 22-A clear,” he returned, and Rex didn’t react, so that was fine, probably. “Carry on.”
“After you, sir,” Rex said with another sharp salute.
“I’m waiting for the rest of my squad to catch up,” Cody bluffed and – Oh, Force, he almost certainly hadn’t gone out with just Jinx. He needed to ditch his helmet before someone tried to comm him. Currently, he had it clipped to his belt in an effort to reassure the Shinies by letting them see his face, but that wouldn’t be good enough.
“We’ll wait with you, sir,” Rex said after a moment’s pause. “It’s dangerous to be alone.”
“Thank you, trooper, that won’t be necessary,” he said. When Rex still tried to hesitate, he narrowed his eyes. “That was an order, trooper.”
Rex . . . drooped?
“Yes, sir,” he said, moving forward at last with his troops walking very oddly behind him. It was a slanted line of soldiers, almost crabwalking in their efforts to keep –
To keep a line of tiny, scurrying feet hidden behind them.
Cody threw himself back behind the protective cover of the wall the second before Rex realized he’d noticed. Blaster fire rang out behind him.
“Those had better have been stunners, Rex!” he yelled.
The blaster fire paused.
Cody shot an encouraging look at the petrified line of baby Jedi behind him.
“ . . . Cody?” Rex called back hesitantly.
Cody let himself collapse a little against the marble. “It’s me,” he confirmed. “You wouldn’t happen to know how we got here, would you?”
“The rebellion thought the Emperor was going after some Sith’s wish granting artifact,” Rex said, voice getting closer.
Cody let out a strangled protest. “He’d already won!”
“Master Tera said that the Sith are never happy,” his general put in helpfully. “Maybe he wanted to try and win again and see if that made him happier?”
It suddenly occurred to Cody that while having a general currently too young to fight Sith was definitely a disadvantage, at least this general was also too young to flirt with them.
Rex’s progress had paused again. “That sounded like Obi-Wan.”
“It’s the General,” Cody confirmed. “More or less. Also Bear Clan.”
Rex finally rounded the corner. He relaxed a little at the chain of Shinies before catching Cody in a brief, crushing hug. “Great,” he said in relief. “We’ve got Turtle.”
Cody let his head thunk backwards against the marble for just a moment. “Good,” he said. “Tell Quinlan happy birthday for me.”
Rex gave him a funny look.
Cody didn’t care. His memories were a kaleidoscope of nonsense, his general was a Shiny, and he was buried up to his neck in Force nonsense. Sith Force nonsense, even if he had a sneaking suspicion that something else must have interfered for and he and his brothers to be here properly.
“Rex,” he said slowly. “I don’t hear any shooting. Do you?”
Rex paused. “ . . . No.”
It could be, of course, that it was over. That whatever Force nonsense had activated had done so too late and that he and Rex had the last of the Jedi behind them.
But as shocky as the little clan behind him was, they weren’t catatonic from whatever was going on in the Force, and that gave him hope.
Cody stuck his helmet back on and hit the comm. “Report,” he ordered.
There was a moment of uncharacteristic silence.
“Uh . . . clear,” one of his captains tried. “We’re all clear here. No back-up needed. Everything’s handled, and all the Jedi here are definitely dead. Super dead. How about you?”
There was another silence as Cody attempted to digest the fact that someone genetically identical to himself had thought that was a good attempt at a bluff.
“We are . . . also clear,” Squad Two reported. “And we will be, uh, checking on Squad One.”
“Right,” he said. “Somebody find a General that knows how to put this place on siege protocols and rendezvous in the main hall. We’ve got a Code One on our hands.”
AKA Code: Jedi Nonsense.
Cody thought it said something about the war that it had been the most used code in the battalion.
“Copy that,” he heard repeatedly, with considerable relief and enthusiasm.
It was still a tragedy. Still a disaster.
But a salvageable one, maybe.
A thought suddenly occurred to him as a new meaning imparted itself to Jinx’s horrified stare.
“Rex, can I borrow your medic? I think Jinx is going to need one.”
“Name yourself Jinx, what can you expect,” Rex grumbled, but he barked the order, and Cody felt a desperately needed sense of calm finally descend.
They weren’t out of the woods yet.
But he might really have the chance to protect his general now, and that meant things actually might be alright.