Chapter Twenty Five: The Search

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Echo got up after Fives was slapped in the face. As much as he loved it here, he was smart enough to know when he was walking on eggshells. He had been doing it ever since his breakdown on Ahsoka. Sure, she had cut his chip out, but that didn't mean he was as good as new. If anything, that just meant he was a broken defect who needed to be destroyed. Only defects broke down on their trainers. Only defects went mad and almost killed the Jedi they were created to serve. And Kix was sorry to say this, he was that defect. He was the defect who would kill Ahsoka Tano.

The clone rested his head against the cool walls of the ship. When had it came to this? Why didn't the GAR care about their clones? Why didn't they ever stop to think that their manufactured soldiers might have wants and needs of their own? Echo wasn't sure why it had came to this. He just knew that it had started getting bad, ever since Umbara. And Tup, Force rest his soul...hadn't helped either. He had shot and killed a Jedi. That meant that all clones were suddenly suspect and no one would truly care if an innocent man was caught up in the hell that was Kamino.

He took a shuddering breath. Fives had no idea. He was getting to be a spoiled brat here, safe and cossetted with a person who rarely even raised her voice at a clone. Had he already forgotten the beatings during training? The cold rain that lashed your skin? The way you were always hungry and cold? Had he forgotten the awesome terror of the battles and the way it felt to watch your brothers die around you? Had he forgotten what it meant to be a vod?

It took him a minute to realize he was crying. Echo forced himself to take a deep breath and to get ready to find his brothers. He might not have agreed with Slick's methods, but he agreed with what the man did. The dark haired clone steeled himself and went to find Melia and Ahsoka. If Fives would ignore his vode, Echo would find a way to save them. He had heard the rumors that you could buy clones from Kamino. He hoped they were true, because he was about to suggest that they go and buy Slick and Dogma. Maybe even Tup, if he was still alive.

Echo walked to the bridge. Already, Ahsoka had a map up and was quizzing Rex about the way Clone Jail was made. Echo was surprised, but he watched anyways. Could Rex have been a defect? Was there something wrong with him, besides the fact that he had blonde hair instead of dark? Echo had heard of cadets being culled for lesser things than that. If they were lucky, they were sold. But most wound up on the meat barges, where the owners did not care if you were still alive before they started processing.

"You a defect?" Echo pushed beside his brother and looked at all of the spinning maps. To be honest, holos made his head hurt. He couldn't read the symbols anyways. Very few clones could actually read. It was lashes if they figured out you could, plus a probably reconditioning. "I thought you were the most perfect clone to ever get hacked out of a tube."

Rex shook his head. "I have a hole in my heart." He glanced over at Ahsoka. "Between you and me, I think the Jedi are as good as bastards for not fixing it. Teaching me to read won't help. But fixing my heart? That would save my life!"

"You can read?!" Echo all but yelped. He looked at Rex like he was the Force himself. "Teach me! Please! I wanna learn!"

The blonde gave him a shy smile. "I'm not all that good, you know..."

"I don't care." Echo ran a hand through his hair. Here he was, a "grown" man and he could not read to save his life. You would have thought the GAR would have at least taught the ARCs how to read, what with the things they did on a daily basis. Wasn't it smart to have your troops bright enough to know what they were doing without being killed. "You know how to read and I'm pretty sure you'll be willing to teach me. Right?"

It took Rex a minute, but he nodded. "Yeah, I'll teach you. I mean... I'm not sure I'll be the best at it, but I think it'll work. If Ahsoka could teach me, surely I could teach you."

Echo hugged his fellow ARC. "Thank you. Thank you so much. You have no idea how much this means to me..." He actually wanted to be able to read the comm orders. Not just rely upon a general.

Rex smiled and dropped upon a battered looking couch. "I spent some time in Clone Jail because of my heart. They were trying to decide if I needed to be destroyed or not. Skywalker got me out, though, because of my scores. I'm just really happy a Jedi was willing to take a chance on me."

"I'm just happy we're free," Echo softly said. Was this what it felt like to be a free man? To know that you were the only one to control your destiny? Was it knowing that you could get food whenever you wanted and you wouldn't be beaten? If this was...Echo thought he liked it. He thought it would be good to be free and stay that way.

The blonde nodded and squinted at a readout. "We  know Slick is on Kamino. Dogma is another story. He's still pretty young and he's not ruined like Slick is. Well, beyond what Krell did to him. But my point is that he could be anywhere in the galaxy."

Echo nodded sadly. "But we'll start on Kamino." He looked over at Melia and beckoned her over. "You can buy clones on Kamino. Why don't you try to buy Slick?"

"Good man." Melia smiled and it was like his entire world had been made anew.

Credit to musntbill for the head canon that Rex has heart problems! Go follow this awesome person and read her stuff

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