Origins Part 1
death of RC-1133
Geonosian weapons factory
Blaster fire scorched through the air above their heads as Theta squad formed up around the crevasse, the harsh orange glow of the Geonosian sky blinding them. Taler, republic commando one one three three, looked down as Darman fast roped into total blackness, and watched him hit the floor hard. The cavern was filled with light from Darman's helmet spot lamp, the harsh light reflecting off the sharp, angular stone walls.
Geonosians clawed their way out of the rocks towards them, and Taler knew they had to hold them off, the view in his heads up display showing Darman racing towards the door behind them. Vin and Jay knelt down beside him, their DC-17's already ablaze, cutting through the advancing Geonosians. The ground shook beneath them and Taler felt his stomach knotting as spider droids appeared before them from around the edge of the spires.
"You having a party down there, Theta?" A voice barked to Darman. It was the CO of Delta squad, the other unit of republic commando's that had been assigned to the mission. They were a few meters higher up the slope, keeping the enemy at bay beneath the ridge.
"Can't rush an artist..." Darman said.
"You want to tell that to the spider droids?"
"Patience, Delta," Darman replied, the words grinding out through gritted teeth. "Nearly there."
"A lot of spider droids..." The voice hissed. Taler ignored the chatter, lining up his sight with the nearest Geonosian and emptying another round into its skull.
"I hear you, Delta."
"In your own time. No pressure. None at all..."
"Clear!" Darman's voice cried. Taler signalled the unit to fall back and he watches as Darman flattened himself against the walls. The explosives detonated and they were surrounded by white light and an ear splitting roar. "Delta squad - clear to enter. Take take take."
"I thought you'd never ask," Delta's CO cried. Delta squad raced from the ridge, and hooked onto the lines, fast roping into darkness. Taler braced his rifle against his shoulder and signalled to Vin and Jay, all three fast roping into the crevasse behind Delta squad. They raced forwards and disappeared into the darkness heading north while Theta remained behind to secure the tunnels. Something moved in the darkness.
"Darman," Taler said crisply. "Take that E-Web and hold this position." Darman nodded, setting up the heavy gun in the opening of the tunnel. Taler signalled to Vin and Jay to follow him and they move into the tunnel, back to back with overlapping arcs of fire.
The sound of the E-Web ripped through the caves as Darman opened up with the heavy weapon, and a swarm of Geonosians erupted from the holes in the walls around them. It was an ambush.
Taler felt his finger squeeze the trigger, and watched as blaster bolts tore through the gloom, illuminating the caves like a strobe. The Geonosian energy pulses were ripping through the air around them. One skimmed passed Taler and he turned in time to see it slam into Vin's chest. He was picked up by the force and he soared across the cavern, Taler watching in horror as he crashed into the wall and a shard of stone bursts through his chest. His scream tore across the comlink.
"Vin!" Taler ran across the cavern, dropping to his knees as he reached his brother. Blood was pouring from the hole in Vin's chest as his body convulsed on the floor.
"Man down! Man down here," he yelled into his comlink. Jay was stood ahead of him, covering them as the energy bolts tore through the air. It was all going wrong.
Taler turned and watched as Jay reached into his belt for a grenade. A bolt slammed into Jay's shoulder and he lost his grip, the live grenade falling to the floor.
"No," Taler yelled, racing towards the grenade, scooping it up and throwing it towards the enemy moments before it blossomed in a ball of roiling flames and light.
The shockwave slammed into him and threw him against the wall. The rocks above him crumbled and the cave collapsed.
A soft, repeating beep echoed through the darkness. It started as a whisper, silently calling through the gloom, growing stronger with each passing breath.
Wearily, Taler opened his eyes, vague shapes and familiar images barely visible in the gloom. A flashing red light seemed to match the beeping that sung in his ears and as he tried to focus on the light, the inside of his helmet materialized in front of his eyes. His head was still spinning, and he felt as though he was weightless, still floating in the dreamlike state between consciousness and sleep.
He tried again to focus on the light, blinking away the ghost images of his unsettled mind. The mist that filled his head began to clear and memories flooded back. The Geonosians, the grenade, the cave in...
He remembered it all, and he remembered being thrown across the cavern by the explosion like a rag doll. Taler tried to move, but suddenly every inch of his body erupted in pain. His lungs felt as though they were on fire, his arms and legs weighed down like they were made out of stone. He knew that he had probably suffered broken ribs and he had possibly shattered his wrist. But what about...?
Vin? Jay? Had they survived? Everything around him slid into sharp focus as his mind became clear, his aches and pains receding to the back of his mind, becoming background noise. He found himself staring through the unlit visor of his helmet at a wall of stone. Instinct took over, and his eyes darted to the blinking red light in the corner of his visor. He blinked twice at it, activating the armour's systems, and watched as the visor struggled back into life. Words scrolled down the left side of his HUD as the armour systems rebooted and ran a rapid diagnostic.
All the seals were still secure, air filters working at optimum levels. Everything worked. At least he knew the katarn armour could take a beating.
Gingerly, and with a lot of effort, he turned his right hand over, bringing the scanner mounted into his palm to face upwards. Numbers flickered across the front of his visor as the sensors probed the pile of stones that lay on top of him. He was close to the surface, and could probably dig his way out. The loose stones around him fell away as he clawed his way upwards, dragging himself and his pack through a meter of stone before he felt his hand break free.
He fell onto his side and rolled a few meters across the surface of the cave-in, breathing heavily. Dust lingered in the air above him and the sounds of loose stones clattering against one another echoed throughout the cavern.
Taler blinked again at the little red light in the top corner of his visor, opening the unit channel on his comlink.
"... Squad, call in," he said, his voice hoarse and breathless. Static filled his ears. "... Squad, respond. Vin? Jay? Are you receiving me?"
Silence. Blinking at the controls again, he switched to a longer range signal.
"Darman, are you there? Darman?" It was only after he had spoken that he saw the words flashing in the lower right hand corner. His long range communications had been damaged and could not connect. Even if Darman was still on the other side of the cave-in, there was no way Taler could contact him.
Anger and irritation replaced fatigue. He had to find his brothers. Activating his palm scanner again, he began to sweep through the rubble.
An hour of searching ended with Taler digging out the lifeless bodies of his squad brothers, Vin and Jay. The scanner on his palm had registered no life signs, but it had been known to be wrong. He'd knelt beside Vin and popped the seal on his helmet, lifting if from his brother's head.
Vin's face seemed peaceful, the night vision filter on his visor colouring his skin grey. Taler had seen that look so many times during live fire training when other clones had been killed, but it seemed so much worse on the face of his brother. He could almost have been sleeping, resting in between missions. But Taler knew he would never wake up. He had been trained to be the best soldier in the galaxy, but no one had ever told him how to deal with grief. He could feel the pressure building up inside him, and he wanted it to go away, he wanted to forget it was ever there.
A rock tumbled somewhere off in the darkness, and Taler's hand dropped instantly to his DC-17 that lay beside his leg. He snapped around to face where the sound had come from, his finger slipping into the trigger guard. But nothing appeared.
Minutes passed before he felt it was safe to lower his weapon again. Turning back to face his fallen brothers, he struggled with the emotions that were building up inside him. He had been taught so much, and yet he realised that he knew very little.
There was nothing he could do for Vin and Jay, they were beyond anybody's help now. He knew that the longer he stayed there, the more difficult it would be for him to leave. Forcing himself to do something, he reached into Vin's pack and pulled out all the ammunition he could carry. To some it would have seemed cold, robbing the few things he could from a dead comrade. But Taler knew better. He had been trained to be a pragmatist, and he knew that Vin no longer had use for it.
Taler reached down and removed Vin's side arm as well, but as he looked down at it, a thought occurred to him. He ejected his wrist mounted blade, and carefully etched his brothers name into the grip. It was Vin's, and it always would be his.
He did the same to Jay, claiming his ammo and his side arm, and carving his name into the grip. His brothers would never be forgotten.
With nothing else to do, and the pain of his loss growing stronger by the second, Taler stood up and walked away, feeling a small part of himself dying as he left his brothers for the last time.
The maze of tunnels wound their way through the spires of Geonosis like veins through some giant creature, opening out to caverns and branching off in all directions. Taler wasn't sure if he was going around in one big circle or not, but every time the floor angled upwards, he would follow it, hoping that by going up, he would find a way out.
Shapes and figures seemed to dance through the darkness that surrounded him, always on the edge of his night vision filters range. He hugged the walls, edging his way along the tunnels slowly. His breathing was getting worse and the pressure of his broken ribs against his lungs was getting more and more unbearable.
Pressing himself against the hard walls, he closed his eyes tight, willing the burning pain in his chest to subside. He took two deep breaths, the cool, filtered air from his helmet respirator soothing his lungs, and seeming to numb them for a moment.
As he opened his eyes again, he thought his armour systems were failing. His night vision filter had deactivated itself, and he was blinded by the darkness around him. But as his eyes adjusted, he saw why the night vision filter had turned itself off. Up ahead, around a corner, a dim glow lit the edges of the stone walls. He was close to the surface.
His excitement almost made him reckless, the urge to run for the opening nearly overpowering his training. He clamped down on the impulse and pressed his rifle back into his shoulder, edging his way towards the corner, sweeping the sight back and forth, his finger still in the trigger housing.
Darkness gave way to searing sun light, and Taler stepped out into the harsh, arid air of the surface of Geonosis.
Wind whipped across the edges of the spire, and dust devils raced across the dusty desert floor between them. It was an utterly barren landscape, lifeless, mirroring the death that was hidden beneath. The wind gusted loudly, but beneath the howling there was a distant rumble. It grew and grew, gaining strength with each passing second. He knew the sound, he had heard it often enough in training, and it always made his heart soar.
It was the most beautiful sound in the universe to any clone, whether they were trooper, commando or ARC. It was the sound of rescue, it was the sound of a ride home.
Taler frantically scanned the horizon for any sign of its source, his heart hammering hard in his chest against his shattered ribs, each beat causing new levels of pain.
The sound changed in pitch as the idling engines were kicked into life, and Taler watched as the last three LAAT/i drop ships lifted clear of the desert floor and soared away into the sky.
They had left him behind. His heart sank lower then it had ever fallen before. His arms felt instantly weak and fell down by his side. He fell to his knees, the dusty ground crunching beneath his armour. He wanted to scream for them to come back, but as he opened his mouth, nothing emerged.
He had known from training that he was bred to fight, and bred to die for the republic. He would have given his life in battle and died alongside his brothers. But he had never thought he would be left behind.
Vin and Jay were dead, and he had no idea what had happened to Darman. He was alone. The republic had cost him his brothers, and they had cast him aside.He was expendable.