Chapter One of Bloodied Innocence
Summary - The Bad Batch start their day by having a picnic and end it with the greatest tragedy.
Hunter had gone soft for Omega. He couldn’t deny it now even if he wanted to. Her curious questions and bright smile had made their home in his heart and he knew he wouldn’t be able to survive a day without her next to him. His brothers had also fallen victim to her spell, that much was obvious, but it changed them all for the better.
The softness she caused is what led him and his teammates to their current situation. She had begged them to have a picnic for lunch, so a picnic they would have. That morning, Tech had taken Omega off into the forest to collect any fruit or berries they could find while Echo went hunting. Echo returned first with a few small animals and began cooking them while Tech and Omega returned with baskets of berries and berry-stained mouths.
Hunter and Wrecker stayed at the ship to set up a small area for them to eat. The area was carefully selected by Omega and consisted of a tall forest on a hill, which was where they were to have their picnic, that overlooked a gigantic flower field.
The brothers placed blankets on the ground, weighing them down with rocks so they wouldn’t blow away. They had never had a picnic before, but they were going to do their best if it would make Omega happy.
Once everything was ready, they began to divide up the food. Hunter noticed Omega carefully sneaking back aboard the ship when she thought no one was looking. He let her go and returned his attention to preparing their lunch, although he was curious to where she ran off to. Hunter chuckled to himself as he realized her curious tendencies had started rubbing off on him.
She reappeared a moment later with a small bag in her hand. He recognized it as the hard candy that Echo had bought her nearly a week ago. She’d been carefully rationing the pieces out by only having one a day, and Hunter had ordered everyone (mostly Wrecker) to let Omega have all of them to herself since it was a special treat.
She ran over to him first, holding out a little pink piece, and happily exclaimed, “For you, Hunter!”
Hunter accepted it with a smile and replied, “Thank you, Omega. I’ll save it for last.”
She went around to the other three with a smile spread across her face as she handed out the remaining pieces of her candy. They all eagerly accepted, Wrecker already unwrapping the candy to pop it in his mouth.
They ate over an abundance of conversation, Echo sharing stories of his time as an ARC trooper while Tech relayed information about their previous missions to an awe-struck Omega. Omega was listening so intently to their stories that Hunter had to nudge her a few times to remind her to eat.
Once they were finished, Wrecker leaned back in the grass while rubbing his abdomen with one hand and said, “All that eating made me tired. Anyone else wanna take a nap?”
“No, we have to explore a little bit!” Omega insisted, springing up from her spot and running to Wrecker’s side to shake him.
“Didn’t Tech already take you for a walk in the forest?” Echo asked, hiding an amused smile at the scene before him by taking a drink.
“Yes, but that was just the forest! There’s a flower field at the bottom of the hill that I want to go see!” Omega huffed, running up to Echo to tug on his sleeve, “Can we please go see the flowers?”
Echo looked to Hunter for approval, who granted it with a nod, before saying, “Alright Omega, let’s go.”
Omega cheered, grabbing Echo’s hand and pulling him down. Tech followed not far behind and once he saw that almost everyone was joining Omega, Wrecker stood up and followed as well.
Wrecker turned around once he noticed Hunter wasn’t following and asked, “Are you coming?”
“I’m going to stay back to watch the ship, you four go enjoy yourselves,” Hunter replied, urging Wrecker to go on. Wrecker shrugged and made his way down the hill.
Hunter couldn’t blame Omega for wanting to visit the flower field, it was absolutely beautiful. Flowers in every color imaginable blew softly in the gentle wind. Hunter didn’t recognize any of them, but he was sure Tech would be happily lecturing Omega on every little plant down there.
Hunter laughed a moment later as his thoughts came true. Omega was pointing to every new plant they came across while Tech was surely telling her every single fact he knew about them. When Omega wasn’t looking, Hunter watched as Tech took holos of all of the flowers Omega pointed out.
Omega had recently dedicated her learning to every plant they came across, and it helped between her and Tech grow. Even though the rest of the Batch didn’t share Tech’s extensive knowledge, they tried to assist Omega when they could.
Echo was off to the side, picking some of the smaller, less vibrant flowers that didn’t stand out as much as the others. Hunter watched as Echo presented the small bouquet of flowers to Omega and Omega’s already-wide smile grew tenfold. She gave Echo a quick hug and then let him help her tuck the flowers behind her ears and into her hair.
Wrecker seemed to be getting antsy as he stood by watching as Tech and Echo had their own interactions with Omega. A moment later, Hunter saw a particular look flash across Wrecker’s face that Hunter had come to learn meant trouble for anyone around him.
Wrecker grabbed Echo, who didn’t even have time to react as he was lifted onto Wrecker’s shoulders. Wrecker’s next targets were Tech and Omega, who he scooped up by their waists and pressed to his sides. Only Tech and Echo seemed to be apprehensive about being carried around since Hunter could hear Omega’s giggles from atop the hill.
Hunter yelled a quick, “Be careful with her!” to Wrecker, but he knew the giant man was only roughhousing with her to make her laugh.
Hunter watched as Wrecker stomped around the field with Echo sitting on his shoulders and Tech and Omega each tucked under one of his arms. Hunter was happy to sit on the sidelines and listen to the howling laughter coming from Omega and Wrecker and watch as smiles grew across Echo and Tech’s faces.
After a few minutes of running around, Wrecker carefully set everyone down. Echo playfully punched Wrecker in the shoulder, who rolled his eyes in response.
Omega wandered back to the flowers, staring at a particular bunch of dark blue ones before picking a single flower. She ran up to Echo, presenting the blue flower to him with a soft smile. Echo happily accepted it and upon Omega’s instruction, tucked it behind his ear. Omega carefully helped him adjust it before running off to a patch of vibrant red flowers.
Omega picked a red flower for Tech next, who kneeled down to give her every bit of information he knew about the plant. Tech instructed Omega to smell the flower, watching as her face lit up at the sweet smell of its nectar. He, too, was ordered to wear the flower behind his ear.
Next was Wrecker, who was given a bright orange flower. Wrecker accepted it with the most delicate hands he could, brushing his fingers over the soft petals. Wrecker picked the girl up, letting her place the flower behind his ear herself.
Hunter watched as Omega carefully selected a white flower before smiling up at him. He smiled back and watched as she climbed back up the hill. With every step she took, Hunter felt his heart fill with the familiar warmth she always brought to him.
She finally marched to his side and said, “I picked this for you, Hunter! You have to wear it behind your ear so we all match!”
Hunter smiled and did as she asked before complimenting her, “This is a beautiful flower, Omega. Thank you.”
Suddenly, Hunter felt a sharp presence nearby. He could tell it was human and that it was coming from one of the trees in the forest Tech and Omega had been in earlier.
Just as Hunter was about to tell Omega to get to the ship, a shot rang out and a piercing pain erupted in his abdomen. He fell to the ground with a yell, clutching his left side. Omega’s scream filled his ears as Hunter pulled her to the ground and dove on top of her. He’d regret his roughness with her later because for now, his mind was occupied with only one thing.
Hunter knew that there was only one person in the galaxy who could have made a shot like that.
Crosshair was here, and he’d just shot his oldest brother.
He heard Crosshair jump down from his sniping position just as he heard his brothers running up the hill yelling for him. Hunter cursed to himself as he remembered that they’d left their weapons, armor, and gear on board.
Crosshair approached before his brothers could finish climbing the hill, pointing his rifle directly at Hunter and Omega.
“You’re all traitors to the Galactic Empire,” Crosshair said, “Turn the girl over and I will give you all merciful deaths.”
Hunter could feel Omega shaking underneath him and he’d be damned if he let Crosshair leave with her. He loved his youngest brother but right now, his priority was keeping Omega safe.
Echo, Tech, and Wrecker approached them slowly with their hands raised in the air. Wrecker stepped in front of Tech to cover him as Tech slowly made his way to the ship, presumably to get it ready for a quick escape. Echo followed Tech a moment later, casting a worried look to Hunter.
Hunter was sure that Crosshair would’ve noticed them leaving, but he didn’t move his focus an inch from Hunter and Omega. If his true target was only Omega, the rest of them didn’t matter as long as they didn’t get in the way.
Wrecker approached Crosshair slowly, hands still in the air, and softly spoke, “Don’t do this, Crosshair.”
Crosshair spun around to point his rifle at Wrecker and hissed, “All clones in violation of Order 66 shall be terminated.”
As Crosshair moved his finger to the trigger of his rifle, Hunter roared as he ran forward to tackle his youngest brother to the ground. Crosshair still managed to fire off a shot, but it went safely into the ground instead of into Wrecker.
“Get Omega on the ship and get out of here!” Hunter ordered with fury in his voice. Wrecker scooped her from the ground and ran to the ship despite Omega’s screams of protest.
Crosshair struggled against Hunter’s hold, but Hunter had always been the stronger of the two and managed to hold him down. Hunter’s injury burned and protested against his aggressive movements, but he shoved his pain into the back of his mind.
“I know you’re in there, Crosshair!” Hunter managed to grit out, “Fight the chip, I know you can!”
Crosshair growled as he suddenly managed to free his left arm and jab it back into Hunter’s wound, purposefully digging his elbow deeper into the bloody flesh.
The sound of anguish that left Hunter’s mouth was unlike anything he’d ever heard from himself and he instantly pulled away from his brother to clutch his wound. A sour taste filled his mouth as he felt bile starting to work its way into his throat.
Crosshair stood up quickly and took another shot at Hunter, hitting him in the right ankle and sending Hunter tumbling to the ground. Hunter felt the bones in his ankle shatter as he was hit. When he tried putting any weight on it to stand, the pain would send him face-first into the grass.
By the time Crosshair turned back to the ship, they were already lifting off and flying away. Hunter knew they would get Omega to safety and then come back for him, but all he cared about was that they had escaped. They would be fine, even if he wouldn’t be.
Crosshair groaned with frustration, tossing his rifle to the side and clutching his head. Crosshair never handled failure of any kind well and always needed a minute to re-focus, so Hunter saw this break as his chance to talk with his lost brother.
“I know the chip is controlling you, and I’m sorry. I’m sorry we left you behind, we just didn’t understand. I know that somewhere, deep down, my brother is still in there. I need you to fight this, Crosshair,” Hunter spoke with a shake to his voice from his pain.
Crosshair turned to silently glare at him, but Hunter instead found intense sadness reflecting in his eyes.
“Traitors to the Empire do not deserve mercy,” Crosshair forced out, but his dull tone showed that he didn’t believe a word he said.
“I’m not a traitor, Crosshair, I’m your brother and I love you,” Hunter spoke in the same tone he used to speak to Omega. Maker, he would miss her. He would miss them all.
Crosshair turned away from Hunter as he heard what sounded like a muffled sob come from him. Hunter moved to begin crawling to his brother’s side, but was aggressively shoved away the second he got close. Hunter fumbled to the ground, crawling backwards until his back hit the base of a tree.
At some point in their struggle, Crosshair had managed to retrieve the flower that Omega had given to Hunter and was turning it in his hands. Drops of Hunter’s blood decorated the white petals, and Hunter hated to see such an innocent gift become corrupted.
Crosshair tossed the flower aside as if it were nothing, sending a pain to Hunter’s heart. Hunter watched as Crosshair wordlessly swiped his rifle off of the ground and stood tall with shaking hands.
Tears streamed down his brother’s face as he gritted his teeth, “Good soldiers follow orders.”
Hunter had always said he would die to keep his brothers and Omega safe and now, he was ready to do just that. He urged himself to plaster the image of Omega’s bright smile and sound of her happy laughter in his mind as he turned his gaze to the distance so he didn’t have to look down the barrel of Crosshair’s rifle.
Even though his vision was beginning to become blurry, Hunter was still able to make out the white flower that Omega had given him lying in the green grass. Hunter smiled, knowing that even if he was about to die, his final thoughts would be of Omega.
With his last bit of energy, Hunter reached out to cover his youngest brother’s eyes with his hand.
He felt metal press against his forehead and tears against his hand and then, he felt nothing at all.