Valor & Valediction
𝙍ating: Mature [age of consent is required].
𝓒ontent: Original female droid character. ; Implications of sex slavery. ; Action violence. ; Descriptions of injuries. ; Consensual sex. ; Chipped!Crosshair. ; Imperial mind control. ; Imperial unlawful detainment. ; Rampart is a douchebag. ; pregnancy mention if you squint?
𝓢ummary: Before the start of the Clone Wars, Crosshair falls in love with a woman named Ada - a pleasure droid, whom he frees from slavery. Parted by tragedy when Ada is KIA, Crosshair is stunned to see Rampart revive her as part of a new, secret Imperial project. Now trapped on Kamino, Ada must find a way to both save herself and the man she loves from bondage and death. *This fic deviates from canon after episode 8.
𝓦ord count: 19.6k
𝓜ixtape: x ; x ; x ; x.
𝓐uthor’s note: This is a companion piece to A Single Lock of Silver. You do not need to read one to understand the other, however I feel they only enrich each other! Please enjoy, and like, reblog, and comment your thoughts! 🖤
𝓣agged: @2clones-1kamino ; @lost-in-fandom-land ; @nova-de-sketch ; @imalovernotahater ; @quarra.
It had been a cold night, one filled with rain and thunder, and with every clap Ada’s body would shiver and rattle. Unable to sleep, even in her perpetual darkness, she clung to the pillow on the bed she shared with the inn’s unusual guest. She didn’t like being unable to sleep; sleep was a welcomed thing, though she never got much of it. Between the duties her master gave her to service the guests who wanted to take advantage of her unique pleasurable programming, and the cold draughts near her charging port in the kitchen, she stole minutes and hours whenever she could. But the last few weeks, since the injured clone’s arrival, since he’d offered to sleep in the chair, for her to take the bed, she’d felt more rested than she’d ever been. That was, when there weren’t winds whipping at the windows, and cracks of thunder that parted the skies. On nights like those, all she could do was think. And remember.
“Are you alright?” he asked.
He was awake, too, then. “How did you know?” she called back, shifting in the blankets, searching sightlessly for his roughened voice.
“I can see you,” he said plainly. “You look upset.”
Her brow scrunched and she buried deeper into the covers. “You can see me? Isn’t it pitch dark in here? Not that I would know,” she almost gave a laugh at her condition.
“Yes,” he answered. But he felt compelled to say more. He’d spent three weeks in closed quarters with Ada, the longest he’d spent so close to anyone other than his brothers “I have...enhanced eyesight.” She was a droid -- a mirage when he first woke from his sedated stupor when he’d been shot out of his perch and shattered his shoulder -- but she was much more than that he came to realize. She had compassion, tenderness. He only knew it because such things were foreign to him, and the presence of them in her were holiness in an unholy place.
“Really?” she perked -- the thought enticed her: What could he see? How far, how much? Could he see the craters of moons far up above them? Or species that swam in obscurity beneath dark waters? “Do all clones have eyesight like yours?”
“No. Just me.”
Ada grew quiet again, thinking. She had never met a clone before, though she heard their voices from a distance -- they all sounded the same if one were to hear them though not listen. But she and her sisters had been similar: all built in equal fashion, all constructed for the same purpose, but each awakening with a mind incomparable to each others’. She understood the difference among assimilation -- though it was hard to trust that which she could not see, and patrons often valued her lack in addition to what they could take from her. “Are you...really a clone?” she asked, wincing -- though she did not know it -- at the thought of his ire should she offend him without intent.
“I am.” She cowered from him. Fierce as he may have been, no one innocent had ever cowered from his shadow. The sight troubled him deeply. “My brothers and I are different. We were genetically enhanced. We aren't the same as other clones.”
She smiled now, her cheeks brightening at the thought. “Reminds me of my sisters. That’s...what I was thinking about.”
“Where are they?”
“Gone.” It was the only word that needed saying.
And he needed no other to understand it. He nodded with a hum.
Ada shivered and buried herself even deeper in the covers that were piled on top of her. In the years he’d owned her, her master never considered that she could perceive -- touch and temperature, warmth and chill. The use of Crosshair’s bed was an invaluable gift to her, one she would miss deeply when he left. She would miss him when he left, too.
She tried not to let her voice shudder with her chassis, but it was impossible. “Yes.”
“Move over,” he said.
“Neither one of us are going to get sleep if we’re cold. Move over,” he said again. His bristled nature stilled itself as he approached the bed, and still, she jumped, even when he sat gingerly on the edge.
“Oh.” She moved a few inches to the side to make him room and stayed entirely still while he lay down. She could feel his weight adjust on the bed -- he felt lighter than she imagined, but he still must have been very tall. He did not reach out for her, he did not grope to rip the blankets from her. He stayed immovable on his side, lying quiet in the dark. So quiet was he that she worried he held his breath. But a small, soft brush of air wafted against her face in a smooth respire and she wondered what it would be like to breathe.
“Were they all like you? Your sisters?”
The quietness suddenly seemed too loud and Ada pressed the side of her head into the pillow, as if she could hide from it. “Yes. We were all...different. It’s why we were discontinued. Something about a ‘catastrophic neural network evolution’ in our line.”
“You can think.”
She nodded. “Yes. I can think. Feel. Understand. Understand...a lot.”
Crosshair grinned with a chuckle and his arms crossed over his chest to keep himself warm. “My brother would be jealous. His enhancement is his mind, intelligence.”
“Sounds like a pain in the ass,” she laughed.
“So you’ve met him,” he smirked. “I don’t envy him. I’d take my eyesight over whatever they did to his head.”
“Can you really see me? Even in the dark?”
His eyes focused on her, glowing in the night by the light of the storm outside. She was beautiful, a vision he could attest to nothing else other than a miracle. “I can…” He could see the soft dips of her cheeks and the sharp edges of her chin, the way her brow arched over her darkened eyes; her hair, or lekku, as it rained down the curve of her shoulders. Had she always been so beautiful? How could he see and yet not notice?
“Can I...feel your face?” she asked, an awkward stringent in her voice; she cringed.
“I don’t know what you look like. But I’d like to see you...with my hands.”
Cross swallowed, a discomfort flushing his face, the hardened shell of him resisting the desire to be touched by tenderness. But the vacuum inside him gave way and he relented to it. “Yes.”
Her hands reached out to him, finding their landing on his nose. She smiled. He was sharp and angular, but not hollow. There was warmth in him still. His brow had lines that were just forming, his skin was leathered and weathered with wear; his lips chapped and broken from being bitten. She could feel the strain that was permanently etched into him, like stone. It made her sad.
“What color are your eyes?” Her fingers grazed over his brows and lashes.
“Brown,” he whispered.
Her hand found his ear and by it the thick feeling of his hair; whether he knew it or not, he nestled into her touch, and her thumb rubbed against his scalp. “And your hair?”
“It’s black,” he scoffed lazily. “It has grey coming in.”
“Grey?” she laughed. “You don’t sound that old.”
“I’m not,” he tried not to laugh with her, but resisting her was impossible. “I got grey early. I don’t know why.”
“How old are you?”
Her hand stopped and fell from his face -- he ached for it to return --, the brutality of his answer cut her deep; and in a moment they both understood, wordlessly, the obscurity of creation and worth. “Ten?” It was hard not to sound as if she were mourning. “I didn’t know clones aged so fast.”
“We don’t live long. If we’re not killed in the field, we’re useless by the time we’re twenty.”
Her lips pursed in anger and her brow stiffened. “An expiration date ensures perpetual product. Always ready to replace worn out renditions.” Something bit at the center of her -- something about value and incinerators, something about her sisters.
“How old are you?”
“Twelve. I think. I’m sure I’ve got a serial on me somewhere.” She tried to smile, to make light of it. But at the moment, she could not perceive light, and sometimes it was hard to believe it still existed outside her broken eyesight.
A sardonic breath escaped him. “Never thought to check mine.”
She stopped, stunned. “You...have a serial number?”
“All clones do.” The look of shock on her silicone face was palpable, and he felt a semblance of guilt that he’d made her feel bad. “It’s...in the wrist,” he said and lifted his arm to show her, but was reminded of her blindness.
Tenderly, he reached out his hand and took hers that lay on the pillow. She jumped, lightly, but did not fight him. He placed her small fingers on his inner wrist. “It has our number, our rank.”
His arm was deft and muscular, rough, just like his face. If her fingers lingered long enough, she could feel his heartbeat just beneath his skin. She nestled her face closer to him, by merely an inch, and rubbed his forearm before she ran her fingers to his palm, feeling every callous as her hand enclosed around his own.
His eyes closed and he swallowed again, something inside him breaking at the feeling of such benevolence -- a droplet of water to sate his parched tongue, but not enough to quench him. But that he had even a droplet in his life was, like her, a miracle. And he nestled closer to her, still.
“I guess we’re not so different,” she breathed.
His other hand made its way to her along the blankets in the hopes she could feel his approach. She did not pull away as his fingers brushed up against her arm and feathered across her silicone hair, caressing each curve of her with innocence. “I wish, for both our sakes’, we were.”
“Fascinating, isn’t it?” Rampart mused. His hands clasped behind his back, he observed the muddied chassis of the recovered droid from the operating theatre on Kamino. It had been designed to hold clones, not droids, but uncertain times called for modified measures.
Crosshair stood beside him, staring lifeless past the glass and towards the body of his lover as she was pulled apart and disassembled. Something in him broke -- and it was not the glass wall that parted him from himself.
“And to think the very best part of its design was an utter accident,” Rampart huffed and glanced to the clone to his right. The Commander was usually quiet, preferring to observe rather than speak -- a quality Rampart appreciated in the clones as a whole -- but something proved different as he watched the other remain entirely still. He could barely see him breathe. It was haunting, this picture of a ghost beside him, and he felt a chill waft up his arm and the side of his face.
“I know this droid,” Crosshair said at last. It was behind bitten teeth, his tongue scraped his incisors, and his throat closed in on itself.
Rampart knitted his brows in disbelieving amusement. “This droid? You must be mistaken. There were only six hundred of them made, most of them incinerated before the start of the Clone War. Its function...not something you would have encountered, I’m sure.”
“Ada,” he whispered. “Her name is Ada.”
Stunned, the Admiral turned to the other -- a prying curiosity now turning the wheels of his mind. The clone was not mistaken: the droid had been identified as an ADA -- Advanced Delectation Automaton -- number 565.
“I met her on Corellia. Six months before the war.” He’d buried her there, too.
Rampart pursed and turned to the visage of the droid again, eyeing the clone. “How can you be sure this is the same one?”
“The dents on her thighs,” he breathed, “I know who gave them to her.”
His brow arched and the taste of a new opportunity gilded his mouth. “And what of him?”
Crosshair’s visor turned towards the Admiral -- he had to pry his sight away from Ada’s corpse -- and when his eyes met his superior’s, his words fell from his mouth like a stone: “I killed him.”
Rampart had known clones to show devotion to each other, to those who grew with them in batches, to the Republic -- but he was unaware of the minutiae of their loyalties outside of their given structures. If they had any. To hear this particular clone -- so stoic, so hardened -- give an account of revenge on behalf of another piqued him. His eyes narrowed and he attempted to read the other beneath the plastoid that encased him, and he found conflict written on him plainly. “You cared for this droid,” he concluded.
Crosshair said nothing.
Rampart did not know the clones to be subject to the frivolity of extracurricular feelings. His focus on them, as a whole, had been their expense, their numbers, their disuse. But in the Commander’s unique affinity for his new asset, Rampart believed him to be more advantageous than he originally thought. “Would it recognize you? If it wakes?”
The word ‘it’ panged the centre of him, and Crosshair’s fists clenched. He watched as a medical droid cut through the metal of Ada’s leg and his head sharply turned away. “I...don’t know,” he swallowed the rock that’d pushed its way to the top of his throat and he gathered a shuddered breath as he shook his head. “Yes, she would. She travelled with me. With us.”
“Your old squad?” Surprise brought his hand to his chin. He’d read nothing of the inclination in any Republic or Kaminoan reports.
“Yes,” Crosshair managed to keep himself steady as his stomach flipped inside him. “We were...lovers,” the word spilled from him in uneasiness to admit such an intimate thing to a man who so far outranked him. He couldn’t face the Admiral, but glanced towards him in an effort to look anywhere other than Ada’s autopsy table.
There was no sense in destroying the droid completely -- he could download every memory and file it possessed, but to have a live, functioning ADA in his hand to study and watch would have been far more invaluable than an empty chassis. He could see the weaknesses in how it learned, the strengths in how it bonded and interacted with every subject it encountered. And to have a subject with which it could communicate readily and easily was fortuitous. “Excellent,” he said at last.
Crosshair furrowed and turned to his superior -- a cold flush passing his features. An unsavory word that contradicted his present view and circumstance.
Rampart now had a datapad in his hand and he perused through files and memos that pertained to the droid behind the theatre. “After they’ve finished their exploratory procedure, the droid will be relinquished into my oversight.”
“She’s not a battle droid.”
“Indeed. Which is why it will stay on Kamino. It will be under your command. And as of yet, you are the only other here to know of this project.”
Cross’ face tensed and his heart palpitated inside him. “'Project'?”
Rampart handed the datapad to the Commander. “Project: Darktrooper. This is just the beginning. Once we know how its mind operates, how it thinks, how it reasons -- we will be able to apply that knowledge towards a further step in the Empire’s safety.”
Crosshair stared at the file. The proposal: to create a legion of droids that could deduce, rationalize...think. A clone army at half the cost. Fear gripped his flesh and he clutched the datapad with an unexpressed growl -- a pain twinged in his temple.
“See to it that the droid is apprised of the situation, have it report to me when it’s fully awake.”
The rock in his throat kept his mouth closed, but the pain in his head parted his teeth: “Yes, sir.”
“Come with me,” Crosshair pleaded in a whispered voice.
Ada turned from him. Her eyes now illuminated a soft yellow-white since his brothers had returned to the inn, three days thence, since the one named Tech had repaired her eyesight. She could see her lover now -- handsome and stricken with war, she loved him all the same. But now she could not bear to face him. “I...can’t.”
She was pressed against his chest as he held her in a desperate embrace. His hand caressed the shape of her head, his fingers trailing down the sides of her plastoid hair. “I won’t leave without you free.”
She shook her head. “Even if I’m free, I’ll be hunted.” She returned his gaze. “There is no freedom for me.”
She spoke like a deserter. And he wondered if the Regs -- his brothers, begrudgingly, still -- who had betrayed the Republic in an attempt to flee had really committed an act of betrayal at all. Or had they all been like Ada? Constructed and used, enslaved. But Ada was different. And there was no one else like her. Not to him.
The back of his fingers stroked her face and he drew a breath as he looked on her more intently. “I won’t let anything happen to you.”
She smiled and rested her head on his chest, nuzzling into the cold plastoid of his breastplate. She hid the liquid in her eyes -- a benefit to those with either darker or more enthusiastic passions, though now instinctive to her emotions. She was afraid, but her trust in her lover had only grown in the months they’d spent together, inseparable. “I believe you.”
Cross relinquished her from his arms, and reached for her hand instead. “Don’t bother packing. Items are replaceable. You aren’t.” He pulled her close behind him and led her out of the room which they had shared for the duration of his stay. He would be glad to leave this prison behind, but he did not relish returning to the one on Kamino. Though perhaps it would be different, with Ada there with him. He had not thought on how to hide her from the Kaminoans -- what excuses to give. But he was not a stranger to lying, and she was connected to him now; he would not leave his own behind.
They travelled through the inn, towards the front exit where his brothers were waiting and recollecting themselves from their own brief stay. He kept them both to the shadows, hoping to get past the owner before he even noticed Ada gone.
But a figure passed the peripheral of his sight, and before the shadow even spoke, Cross let go of Ada’s hand and unholstered his weapon -- aiming it at her owner’s head.
In the brief moment his hand had let her go, the owner had his own arm locked around Ada’s neck -- her body a shield for the rest of him. He had a blaster of his own pointed wildly at Crosshair, his untrained hand sloppy in its shaking.
“I knew you’d be trouble, clone,” the owner spat.
Crosshair said nothing, did nothing. He glanced to Ada who struggled against the meaty arm around her neck -- she whimpered and yowled at the pain that constricted around her throat.
“Shut up!” he spat in her ear.
Cross could see the shadows of his brothers gather in at the sound of the conflict, he heard them draw their weapons at his own cue.
“You can walk out of here alive,” Crosshair said, cool and even, “if you hand her over.”
“Clones don’t own property --” the owner scoffed, “You are property! No, no -- this one’s mine. I’ve got too much at stake -- she makes me double than without her. You’re gonna have to pry her from my cold, dead, hands.”
“Is that a request?” Crosshair’s finger ached against the side of the trigger.
“Cross…” Hunter’s voice beside him warned -- that he might not use deadly force should it not be needed.
But Crosshair made a promise. And he would free Ada if bloodshed was what it took.
The owner laughed, baffled. He yanked on Ada’s throat as she tugged from him, trying to wriggle her way out of the grasp around her. “You got some nerve. I got all the bargaining chips, here -- I’ve got the droid. So what you’re gonna do is leave -- without her! Got it?”
“Let her go -- last warning.”
The owner began to back away slowly, the weapon still shaking in his hand; he moved his grip and wrapped his arm around Ada’s waist instead, pulling her feet off the ground as he began to take her with him.
“Don’t do it,” Crosshair said once more, finger now on the trigger.
He could see the owner’s finger itch and twitch against the weapon, his eyes darted from each of his brothers, beads of sweat gathered on his brow; Ada thrashed against him screaming to be let go --
The owner lifted the weapon --
But Crosshair lifted his first.
A bolt flew past Ada’s face and landed center in the man’s head. Blood spattered against Ada and she tumbled to the floor in a heap with her former master. She shook, stunned -- unable to process the last second of what had happened. Her hand quivered to her cheek and she wiped from it red blotches of brain matter.
Crosshair holstered his weapon and ran to Ada’s side, kneeling with her as he cleaned her face, wiping the gore from her hair and cheek. “It’s okay. You’re okay. It’s over.”
She clung to him, gripping her hands to his pauldrons as her head collapsed into the crook of his shoulder and chest. She let out a muffled sob, and tried to quell her shaking.
“It’s over. You’re free…”
Crosshair sat in the corner of the medbay, datapad in hand. A steady beeping filled the otherwise silent air from the machines that monitored Ada’s rebooting process. It had been three laborious days of waiting and rebuilding, but the most the medical droids could say was that her systems were the likes of which they’d never seen and thus patience was required. Crosshair had no qualm in being patient, it was in his nature. But his teeth clicked against each other, the innermost part of his cheek and his lips had been bitten raw; his supply of toothpicks was wearing thin.
One hung from his mouth, the taste of wood seeping into the back of his mind as the end of it wore and frayed soft against his tongue. He stared down at the photographs on the datapad -- photos of where Ada had been found. She’d been just as he’d left her: leaned against a tree that overlooked a lake. It was the lake she’d always wanted to see, the one she’d spoken of so many of the nights they’d spent together at the inn where they’d first met. She never truly got to see it, only in death. He figured she’d be safe there, happy there. And in the photographs she looked placid, almost happy if he stared at them too long. The flowers he’d placed in her lap and about her head were still there, dried and rotted now, while she remained untouched if but for dust. But there was something in the gaping blaster wound that pitted itself in her chest, and he enhanced the photo and squinted:
It was a birds’ nest. Filled with spotted eggs. He wondered what happened to it, she did not arrive on Kamino with it, and he wondered if those who recovered her had not been so gentle as he might have been. As she might have been. It would not have been the first time she'd housed young, and had she known of the nest’s existence within her she would have welcomed it. She was always kind and giving, unlike himself: cold and biting.
A trilling in the distance broke his concentration from the datapad and he put it behind him as he looked up. The sound of power piqued his ears and he tentatively stood in anticipation.
A medical droid flew to Ada’s side and ran a quick diagnostic scan before returning to another machine.
Cross’ mouth ran dry, and he could feel his heart in his throat. His legs twinged to stand beside her, and he let a hiss of aggravation -- no one was telling him anything.
But slowly -- and it was slowly -- he noticed the pale yellow lights of her eyes begin to illuminate her, and he swallowed thickly. Rampart was gambling more than he realized -- Ada could wake, in theory, but there was no guarantee that she would remember who he was, that she would not be as she was. And to him, she would have died a second time.
Ada’s shoulders moved and he felt a breath respire from him as he took a step forward.
She groaned at the blinding light above her eyes and turned her head this way and that to focus herself. Her hands lifted from the table and she winced at the feeling of her stiffened joints creaking into place. Her hands now to her face to block the light, she looked at them -- muted and dull, the silicone of her palms felt worn. She furrowed and tried to make sense of what she remembered -- what did she remember?
Crosshair chanced to speak, though the words nearly caught in his mouth. “Someone’s awake.” Carefully chosen, he hoped to prompt her to his voice, to who he was -- bracing himself for the possibility that she had reverted to a base program.
Ada moaned and turned her head towards the muffled sound of a voice beside her -- and as her vision cleared, as her hearing became crisper, she could make out the tall, tan figure of a man. A man she knew, one that made her inorganic innards flutter with an ethereal bond. She could not remember, for a moment, his name.
Her hand reached out to him, and he took it, caressing it with his thumb, his fingers running over each of her own. He let her orient herself at a gentle pace, before he came a little closer, and a little closer still.
The figure pushed the light that blinded her and all she could see was him in its absence. “Cross…?” the name fell from her mouth and little by little memories inside her loaded and reframed themselves -- she’d known him for three years, and she had cherished every moment. “Cross…” the name came with a weighted, beloved knowing and a smile turned her plastoid lips; she gripped his hand with a weakened strength, but she did not want to let him go.
The breath he took was, he felt, the first he’d taken since he’d lost her six months ago. “Ada…” he whispered and knelt beside her table, that he might not loom over her. He kissed her hand, inside his, and drew her scent of metal and earth. “Mesh’la…”
Her smile deepened as she turned her head to see him. “You look tired…” she murmured. Her hand parted from his and caressed his darkened face.
His eyes closed as he nestled against her palm. “I’ve had worse,” he lied. He could not think of worse at the moment.
She knew he did not speak in truth, but she did not begrudge him. Her head rolled again and another wince gripped her features. The pain of unoiled joints stung and scraped. It gave her clarity to her situation and she looked around her in great confusion. “Where am I?”
“You’re on Kamino. In the medbay,” he said, even. There was much to fill her in on, he did not want to shock her into greater disrepair. “Do you remember what happened?”
“All I remember is Saleucami, you and the others had engaged the Separatists,” she struggled to sift through the data -- it all felt corrupted, muddled. “I was at the ship, waiting for you. I was...getting ready for a quick exit, talking to the computer. I don’t...really remember much after that. I take it I was injured,” she reasoned. Ada looked down at herself on the table, she could not see any signs of injury, she must have been repaired. A sense of discomfort seeped into her at the realization of being uncovered.
“Ada,” he tread carefully, for both her sake and his own. Guilt had plagued him in her death. If only he’d picked them off quicker, if only he hadn’t involved her in his life to begin with, if only Hunter hadn’t led the Separatists right to the ship in an attempt at a quick escape. His head panged at the thought of his brother -- at the thought of the traitor -- and he swallowed in an effort to continue his words. “You died.” His voice wavered and he pulled his sight from her to steady himself.
Images began to replay in her mind -- her at the door of the Marauder, a blaster in her hand, pulling Tech into the ship as the others followed. She remembered a searing pain in the center of her -- where her heart might’ve been. But the data ended.
Her hand had unknowingly gone to her chest again and massaged the area that’d fallen victim to the bolt. She shuddered and kept the fluid in her eyes at bay enough to calm herself. “How long?” she asked. “How long have I been gone?”
“Six months,” he said. “A lot has changed. More the past three weeks.”
“Where are the others?”
“Traitors,” he said a little more forcefully than he might’ve meant it.
Her eyes found him quickly and she furrowed. “What?” She searched his face and knew he held no lie within him -- but there was a tension on his lips, the kind that held them closed when he avoided a discussion. Something had happened, something terrible -- something that, even unbeknownst to her -- made her grieve. “I...I don’t believe that,” she baffled.
Crosshair stood and gently took her other hand. With every ounce of deftness within him, he pulled Ada upright and steadied her. “A lot has happened. The Republic is now an Empire,” he said and reached for a linen rack at the side of the room. “Their loyalties changed. Mine did not.” The sentiment burned on his tongue and his face twitched.
She watched him with acute eyes, knowing there was something more to what he was saying. His eyes did not match his lips, but his arms still cared for her. He brought her a sheet and wrapped it around her shoulders, covering her immodesty. He had done the same the day they left Corellia -- he’d wrapped her in a bright yellow shock blanket. Half to comfort her, half at her request; she did not relish the nudity she was forced into by her innate kind, it bothered her being exposed around him and his brothers. He’d admitted his ignorance, and procured for her wires and clips for her to use and fasten the blanket around herself.
He did the same now. He reached for a cabinet beside the linen rack and made from it a roll of gauze and ties. “The Admiral wants to see you,” he said and helped her cover herself. “You have a part in this new Empire. And so do I.”
His words brought a shadow into Ada’s soul and she looked up at him as he wrapped the gauze around her waist and shoulders to hold the sheet in place. “Will you be with me?”
He tied off the wrappings and held her shoulders as he bent to look her in the lights of her eyes. “I will not leave you. Ever. I promise you that.” Never would he let her feel the way the man behind the glass wall felt: abandoned.
The Admiral’s office was stark -- covered in muted grey walls and boards filled with organized notes and plans of action. A temporary home in a temporary base, the Admiral was used to shifting changes and relocations. Where others would see a boring nature in his office, in what he surrounded himself with, he found it efficient, adept.
Rampart sat at his desk, a datapad in one hand, his chin resting in the other. The droid’s downloaded memories had proven insightful into its process of sudden evolution and its ability to learn. He saw all data from the droid’s -- from Ada’s perspective, and he saw now, the instinct in the clone to call the droid a ‘she’. She was, truly, a remarkable creature -- unquantifiable. He had his work cut out for him if he was to mimic her mutations and enhance them for the Empire’s betterment.
He’d listened to only a few minutes of data, of her memories, having been downloaded since her rebooting. Blind though she had been at the time, he skipped to the part she and the clone had met: she’d nursed him back to health and kept him chaste company on lonely nights -- and some not so chaste before his stay concluded. Pitiful though her memories may have been, he learned more about the clone than he ever wanted to know. But titillating secrets were often not desirable rather than necessity. There was much to be learned about an enemy -- or an ally -- based on how they sought out pleasure. And the clone loved the droid, more than Rampart thought he should have.
But more curiously, the droid loved him.
The doors to his office brushed open and there entered both the clone and the droid. She was much smaller than Rampart anticipated: she came only beneath the Commander’s pauldron. She was meek in appearance, and despite the plastoid and metal that constituted her face, he could see fear in her. Sheets from the medbay draped over her gracefully, while gauze wrapped across her shoulders and breasts and around her waist. She’d been dressed carefully and with notice. He wondered which one of them it had been.
The Commander walked the droid a few steps further into the office, and his hand did not leave her arm. He did not grip her, neither grab her -- but his fingers, long as they were in comparison to her bronze arm, lingered there about her.
Ada looked from Cross to the Admiral and found herself uncertain as what to do with herself.
“You must be Ada,” Rampart began and stood from his desk. He sauntered around and towards her, hands behind his back as he surveyed her.
She knew that look in his eye -- she’d seen it many times before. It stiffened her throat and made her face harden. Power -- curiosity. A dangerous mix, she could feel it emanating from him in droves as he stood in front of her. Her back pressed deeper into Crosshair’s chest and she tried to hide a wince. She did not like where she stood: she felt trapped.
“That is my name,” she said in reply and looked the man in the eye.
He nodded, noting the awareness in her of her own personhood. “Are you aware of the state of the galaxy? Of what has transpired in your absence?”
Ada moved uncomfortably at the thought of her death, at the memories that boiled beneath her skin. Her chest suddenly hurt. “Crosshair has told me some, but I am not aware of finer details.” She glanced to her lover behind her, and silently wished for some form of telepathy between them. But Crosshair did not move, he was stiff as a board, eyes ahead as the Admiral spoke. It unsettled her, the deviance in his usual sardonic nature.
The Admiral glanced from Ada to the Commander, curious as to what he’d told her. “It is a pivotal time, Ada. The safety of the Empire, and all its citizens, is now my responsibility and my priority.”
He spoke to her like a child. “Why am I here?” she asked, blunt, but she still did not move. “What is it you want with me?” She did not take him for a man of purposeless good deeds, she was unsure he even knew of her relationship with Crosshair, and she doubted he would ever grant a gift to a clone. She dreaded his answer.
He stifled his amusement but a rigid smile escaped him regardless. She was bold -- she had fire despite her stature. Such qualities would prove useful. “All will be revealed in time, Ada. For now, my immediate priority is to learn, about you. What is your purpose?”
She hated the way her name sounded in his mouth. “My purpose or my programming?”
His simper deepened. “For some there is not a difference.”
She felt a chill beneath her skin, and a horrible feeling gutted the centre of her. His words reminded her of conversations she and Crosshair had had in quiet moments spent in the dark -- whispers they’d let none other hear. “Then they deserve liberation.”
A weakness spotted already. That was the difference between her and her clone counterpart -- the ability to think freely. More freely than he’d anticipated. “Some might call structure freedom.”
“But structure is not the same as subjugation.” If her words caused her demise a second time -- and she had the terrifying instinct they might -- she was glad to have seen Cross’ face at least one more time; that he had seen hers. “Illusions of choices and freedoms can be spotted when there are no other voices of criticisms.”
“And what leads you to believe there is a lack in entertaining criticisms?” Rampart became aware only after he’d spoken it, the word ‘believe’.
“You’re surrounded by clones,” she brushed her head against Crosshair’s breastplate, against his arm, unable to see his face. Her gaze flicked back to the Admiral. “You have no vessel for objections.”
“Evidently not in them,” he approached her, fascinated. “But perhaps in you.”
Ada braced herself, firm against her lover’s armour, and there was a part of her that knew that even if the Admiral attacked her, Crosshair would be unable to stop it. She raised her chin and kept herself from shivering, steadfast in her beliefs -- perhaps some of Cross’ stubbornness had rubbed off on her in the time they’d spent together.
Rampart’s finger flitted beneath her chin. “Such a beautiful specimen,” he mused, entranced. “I look forward to seeing inside that mind of yours.”
Ada pulled her face away and turned her sights from him.
“Take her to the barrack beside yours and your squad’s. You have full command over her, I want her to report to the debriefing facility at 0900 tomorrow,” the Admiral addressed the clone.
Cross’ face burned with an ire he could not express -- he was nearly blinded by the pain that plagued his temple. He caressed Ada’s arm into a guidance away from the Admiral and out of his office. He could feel Rampart’s scrutiny still on them both until the doors hissed closed behind them.
Ada shuddered under the hand of her lover and she pulled her arm across her in an effort to comfort herself. “Well, he seems like a nice guy,” she griped.
Crosshair didn’t say anything, his mouth sewn shut with a throbbing just behind his eye.
His silence only fermented the suspicion in her -- he’d had an acute opportunity to make an acerbic quip, but he instead said nothing.
The walk towards the barrack was equally quiet, every Reg in the halls whom she either saw or encountered was as muted and as martial as Crosshair. Something had happened -- something devastating. She intended to find out what, but how would be a challenge.
The barrack was empty of any other occupants. There was a charging port in the corner, diagnostics equipment and tools lined the area and filled the rest of the empty bunks. It hadn’t occurred to Rampart that she slept. She figured not much occurred to him outside of his own ideas and motives.
Crosshair shuffled some tools out of a bunk and dusted off the bare mattress. “I’ll get you a blanket,” he said. He removed his helmet with a quiet sigh and rolled his neck. He winced at the pain that persisted, though which had now lessened. His hand massaged his temple and he groaned, trying to will it away.
“What’s wrong?” Ada asked and moved towards her lover, hands already outstretched to survey any wound he might’ve sustained.
“Headaches,” he said with another wince.
“Have you seen the med droid?” She placed her hand along his face. There was no visible injury where he kept pawing, and it worried her.
“I keep going back. They keep giving me pain patches and sending me away.” He scoffed with scorn and opened one eye to see her. “Nala Se tells me it’s nothing to worry about.”
She huffed and held in all the things she wanted to say about Nala Se -- there were multitudes. “And Nala Se is always so truthful.” She decided a drop of sarcasm might soothe his aches.
He looked at her and simpered, hand still working his head.
But the thought of Nala Se brought with it a fear in Ada; she hadn’t seen the little blonde haired girl in the halls as she usually did, and she tried to distill her worry into rationality. “Where’s Omega?” she asked.
He flinched at the name and the pain in his head bit back with a wrath. Traitor. His mind wheeled and spun in its place, trying to push the thought of the girl from his mind, trying not to picture her face, but all he saw was her head in his scope. “She went with them. She is an enemy of the Empire.”
Ada was taken backwards and her hand lifted from her lover’s face. “She’s a child -- she’s your clone, my...my daughter,” she shook her head, “What are you talking about?” And as she surveyed him now, she felt she was looking at a paper puppet of her husband, stuffed instead with feathers and down -- not the person he had been before. This was not Crosshair, this was a shell of a person.
Crosshair’s eyes narrowed and locked onto her. He no longer had control of the wheel of his mind, the spinning turned to throttle and his gaze fixated on the woman in front of him. “You sympathize with her?” His hand fell from his head, the pain no longer present, it drifted downwards towards his hip -- towards his blaster.
Ada’s fear turned to grief, and in the moment she processed the fact that her husband was dead -- that some part of him had been murdered -- she thought quickly. “No,” she said, her voice calm and even. “No, I don’t. I just got back. I don’t know what happened. I was hoping you would tell me.” She turned her body, her arms now at her sides -- leaving herself open and exposed to him -- and sat down on the bunk, giving him the opportunity to do the same.
But Crosshair did not take it.
The chip within him seethed with distrust, and though his arm lowered past his holster, his jaw locked and his sight turned from her. The pain in his head was unforgiving, both towards her, and towards himself “Another time. Get some rest,” he said and walked past her for the door. It hissed open and he stood there; he glanced over his shoulder but did not meet her sights. “I don’t want to hear that name -- ever again. That’s an order.”
The door closed and Ada was left alone in darkness, parted from the one she loved.
Her hand covered her mouth and she vowed freedom for her husband. He’d liberated her those many years ago -- she would not leave him without the favour returned.
Ada spent her days on Kamino -- few though they were -- being ushered from her barrack to a suite on the far end of the facility. There, routinely, she was attached to a large wire that gave Rampart access to every nuance of the code within her. It allowed him to study and mirror what made her unique. He found joy in it, she could see it. A novelty in his palm, she was more of a toy to him than Crosshair was, and she played her part of plaything to perfection.
Indeed, Rampart was unaware that the connection made between her and the databanks to which she was chained went both ways. The more he read of her, the more she read of the Empire, of Kamino, and all their filthy secrets.
She wormed her way through every redacted file and forgotten project until she could all but predict the outcomes of each dossier. Should she survive her attempt at liberation, she would have plenty of secrets with which to bargain.
Rampart liked to watch, she noticed. He came in for the last half hour of every session, like clockwork. One arm crossed in front of his chest, the other grazing his chin and mouth, he studied both her figure and her data -- and she relished the cameras at every corner. Not that cameras had ever stopped a man of power from taking what he wanted.
“Don’t you get bored? Standing there?” she asked, unmoving.
“Not at all,” he said with a flick of his hand. “It seems there’s more to learn about you with every passing day.”
“That’s usually said with a little more romance involved.”
He placated a smirk. “I have no lack of romance, with suitable women.”
“And it's reciprocated?” The bitterness in her made up for the lack of humour in Crosshair as of late, and she found she spoke his tongue.
Rampart drew an indignant breath as he put his hands behind his back and walked towards her; she was seated in the centre of the room, bogged down with wires and machinery, though not for long. An attendant droid followed him and began to unhook her from the databanks. “I’d be careful, with the words you speak,” he warned. “I find it fascinating -- however perverse -- the gift of life you’ve been given by Nala Se...”
Ada pulled herself from his encroaching and flinched at his words.
“...To have protected a cloning jar inside that chassis of yours. To have carried it with you all about Kamino for four and a half months, in subterfuge from those who would have laid a threat against...the clone of your lover.” His eyes narrowed at her and he breathed inches from her face. “I hear the Kaminoans want her alive. I’d hate for that to change.”
Anger swept the center of her, and her processing core seized itself. She swiped at the Admiral and slapped him across the cheek. She’d barely realized what she’d done, until she saw the drop of blood that beaded at the corner of his mouth. He rubbed his jaw and glowered at her as he stood upright again.
Ada stood from her seat, coming barely past his shoulder and pointed at him. “You can take what you want from my data -- but you touch a hair on her head, I’ll make sure you never see the inside of mine.”
Rampart still massaged his jaw, swallowing the blood that seeped from the cut in his cheek, and he found it curious -- this innate motherly instinct towards her lover’s progeny. She was neither organic, nor had she truly birthed Omega, but she was as feral as any other mother -- whether wild or civilized.
Another weakness to solve.
Crosshair entered the room and evaluated the scene that was perfectly still in front of him; it reeled of tension, and he looked from Ada to the Admiral.
“Take her to the barrack,” Rampart miffed and turned his back on them both.
Ada wrapped her arms around herself as she and Cross walked down the halls, rubbing her fingers together; she’d forgotten how much an impact hurt. But she knew it’d hurt Rampart more -- she was solid, metal. He was not.
“What was that about?” Crosshair asked, glancing down to her.
She knew she couldn’t tell him the truth, not the whole truth, but lying to him left a tinge in her somewhere. She settled on a compromise. “A minor dispute on project direction,” she said.
He had no reason to disbelieve her, and she had shown continual signs of distress since her waking; the anxiety that riddled her face now was not out of place. It unsettled him. It reminded him of a dingy inn room and a pain in his shoulder. “He is severe, but he gets results. It’s not a problem as long as you obey orders.” He meant it as a comfort.
But it did nothing of the sort for her. It felt he was speaking mostly to himself.
The barrack seemed colder than usual, a storm raged outside -- fiercer than the rainfall that’d persisted throughout the week. She clutched her arms closer to her and looked around the barrack for any other bedding she could use to insulate herself.
“Here,” he said, and wrapped a blanket around her shoulders. “The storm is supposed to last for the next week or so. I’ll see if I can find you more supplies.”
She smiled at him. He seemed different today -- and it had varied day by day. The day after he’d nearly threatened her he was grim and clouded, almost more of a droid than herself; the next he was mild and collected; and the next, still, aggressive and conflicted.
She now knew why.
The only problem she faced now was how to get the chip out.
Ada sat on the bed, pulling the blanket around her forearms, her shoulders exposed. She didn’t like feeling confined or imprisoned, even by soft things.
This time, Crosshair joined her. His helmet hissing as he removed it, he let a heavy, weighted sigh as he sat beside her; his long legs resting high above her own, he leaned an elbow on a knee and ran his hand through his hair.
“You got more grey,” she smiled, and feathered her fingers through his short locks.
He eyed her with a smirk. But it died, slowly, and a grief came over his visage as he reached a gloved hand to her gentle face. “You stayed the same.” It was a thought that did not often occur to him -- whether by force, to keep it repressed under denial, or by absence of mind, which was unlikely -- that she would linger in life long after he was gone. She would remain eternally youthful, at least in an indefinite refrain, while he would waste away in both body and mind in seven years’ time. If he survived that long.
“I don’t...know what came over me. The other night,” he said, a deep shame in his voice. His head briefly shook and he looked at nothingness in the distance. “Sometimes...I can’t think straight.” He took in a stifled breath and glanced to her with one brow raised: “Maybe it’s not just my hair getting older. Maybe it’s just me,” he scoffed.
Ada said nothing, knowing that any speak of what drilled itself into his head would get them both killed. For now, at least. She stayed quiet but brought her hand to his that rested on his lap.
He swallowed something painful at the back of his throat and quickly brushed away the thought. “I got you something,” he said instead and reached for a pouch on his belt. From it, he pulled a neatly folded cloth and handed it to her.
“You didn’t have to do that,” she smiled, surprised.
She knew what he meant, without him needing to speak it: an apology without words.
Ada unfolded the cloth with deftness and saw a small bottle sitting inside it; a soft, round cloth beneath that. “You...you got me polishing oil?” Her mouth opened with genuine glee and she picked up the round cloth, “And a buffing pad?”
He grinned, bashfully, and nodded.
There he was, she thought, and with liquid wanting to form behind her eyes, she cupped his cheek and brushed her thumb against his weathered skin. He felt so different than he had three years ago -- older, deeper, coarser. But as his face nuzzled into her palm, she felt what he did not wear on his exterior: a softness reserved for quiet gifts that lay on her lap.
“I thought I could help,” he said. “You’ve got some scuffing on your back.” His hand went to her shoulder and ran down her back, covered with gauze and sheet and blanket. He could still feel her curve beneath all three and it sent a tingle to his face.
She purred at the touch, and she looked at him -- desperately wanting to be with him. Ada feared she would not make it off the planet alive; she feared the same for him, though he did not know it. Any manner of touch, any semblance of intimacy she would take and give in return -- to both make up for lost time, and make up for time they may not have.
“I’d like that,” she breathed.
His nose nudged against her face when he leaned to take the oil from her lap, his fingers lingering a little longer than they might’ve against hers. Gently, he turned her with her back faced to him and when she parted with the blanket, she shivered with the cold night air.
Cross removed his gloves and placed his warm hands on her shoulders, running them up and down her arms to soothe her and to bate the chill that threatened her. He passed his face over her soft head, breathing in her scent -- gun oil and metal. He swallowed thickly as heat gathered somewhere in his middle -- he imagined the taste of her.
Ada could feel his breath against her skin and she rolled deeper into his embrace, his nimble fingers beginning to unravel the gauze around her breasts and waist. It spiralled off of her, and he was careful not to trap her with it. Free from its constraints, the sheet fell from her figure and gathered at the pile of her supple hips.
Her back bare, Cross caught himself nearly starving at the sight of her. She glimmered in the dim light of night, her skin now the colour of earth and ocean, reflective of the dark hues that surrounded them from the storm that caught outside the window.
Ada felt him restraining himself from his growing desires and she wiggled backwards towards him. The same heat in him had gathered in her, and she desperately wanted him to give into the hunger that had no doubt been neglected, that had deepened in the six months of her absence.
She let a soft moan as his slick hands caressed the frame of her back, as his thumbs worked into the curve of her spine, across her shoulder blades, down the arc of her waist and to her hips. Despite the roughness of the calluses on his hands, his touch was gentle, intentional, and there was not a pang in her that he induced.
His fingers rubbed into every scuff and score mark, massaging them in circles until they dissipated and her skin was left clean and unblemished. Ada’s head rolled as he stroked her neck, and she let another quiet groan at the feeling of his warmth. Cross knew every ache in her joints instinctively, and he worked his hands until she was completely slick with oil, until nothing brought her pain.
Crosshair ran the last of the oil on his hands down the silicone of her hair, winding every curve along the cascade of plastoid that rested on her back -- knowing she could feel each and every motion, up and down her scalp. She was intoxicating, and his breath was stuck in his throat -- his thighs burning at the feel of her arms beneath his hands. He nudged his face against the side of her hair and nestled his brow against her temple.
Ada turned to see him, eager to meet his eyes.
He leaned forward and brushed the tip of his nose against her, looking from her eyes to her lips.
She knew he would wait for her -- wait for her comfort, wait for her readiness, wait for her to make the first move. It was a kindness, and a necessity. And she took the offer he gave her, closing the distance between them -- pressing her lips into his.
She whimpered into his mouth, sending a hum through his chest and down through his legs. His cock strained against his blacks, he caught her in his arms, pulling her flush against him; his other hand cradled her jaw. His tongue worked its way into her mouth and he massaged it with knowing, feeling every curve within her. Her hands digging into his armour, he held her just a bit tighter, feeling a throbbing in his thighs as she yearned for him. He broke from her lips for a heaved breath and he swallowed -- uncertain if this was merely another cruel dream. There were moments, days, as of late, he could not discern reality.
But as she looked up to him, speechless, cupping his face in her hands, nuzzling her head against his, he knew it was no dream. His lover, his mate, had returned to him by some forsaken miracle. And in his clarity, he couldn’t let her go.
“Do you want me?” he murmured, feeling the reflection of his breath from her skin.
“Yes,” she soughed, combing her palms through his hair.
Cross’ mouth craned and found her shoulder, leaving sloppy kisses and pecks against her neck. “I need to hear you say it.”
Ada moaned at the feeling of his wetness trailing against her. “Yes -- I do, I want you.”
Crosshair growled into her skin, pulling her close and spinning her around on the bed. Gently, never harshly, he moved her towards the pillow. “Lie back,” he said.
Ada could feel her processors spin and whinney and at the fluttering feeling his voice gave her. She uncoiled the sheet that’d been wrapped around her and threw it over the side of the bed, lying back on the hard mattress. Her head rested against the pillow settling herself for her lover, before she caught sight of him struggling to disassemble his armour quick enough -- he stumbled shuffling off his greaves. “Need help?” Ada chuckled, biting her finger.
He looked up at her with a raised brow and a scoff. “Takes fifteen karking minutes just to get out of this thing,” he huffed and rattled off his bracers.
“You could ask for help,” she teased.
He eyed her with a simper and the breastplate finally came off with a thud as it landed on the floor. Cross crawled into the bed, now clad entirely in blacks. “So much for a good re-first impression,” he murmured, his lips already landing on hers as he rested on top of her.
“You never cease to impress me,” she mused and helped him unfasten the blacks. She pulled his shirt over his head and tossed it over the side of the bunk, it landed somewhere among the armour -- as did the pants he pried off himself. She hummed happily at the sight of him: he was already stiff and hard for her, and he was just as enticing as she remembered. He was long and girthy and her body ached and rolled at the thought of him inside her.
Cross settled himself between her legs, massaging her thighs with his open palms. “Mesh’la,” he purred at the sight of her glistening body. The bronze of her bare skin glittered like stars in the evening light, and the silicone that covered her face, her breasts, her hips and thighs -- warm in comparison. He leaned forward again and coupled his lips with hers, they were wet with his spit and he intended to leave even more of a trail on her.
He knew exactly what to do, following the path of silicone that continued down her middle in a seam. He wound past the sway of her neck, smothering the top of her chest, and lingered in the middle of her breasts. His mouth latched onto the peak of her bosom, and as he swirled his tongue he earned the reward of his name moaned by his lover.
“Cross…” she whimpered, his mouth already working her into a frenzy. The sensor beneath him activated, and in response, her throat became lubricated and the entrance between her legs became slick from her innate programming.
Cross lifted his mouth for air before he groaned into her other breast, his hand still kneading the one he’d left behind. His eyes closed, entirely enthralled in her, he rutted against the bed beneath them for any ache of friction. He could hear her soft whimpering, trying to keep herself quiet from the others in the barrack beside them. But he didn’t care -- he wanted them to hear. He wanted them to hear how lucky he was, how well he could give it to her, how much she thirst for him.
He came up for another bout of air and found her in the throes of pleasure -- her hand flat against the wall of the bunk, the other gripping the bedsheet. He gave her a cocky grin and held her sight as he shuffled down towards the center of her belly: the most intimate and sensitive part of her. A bundle of wires -- of what would have been nerves -- lay just beneath the metal skin of her middle, and he dragged his tongue along the center of it.
Ada couldn’t help the cry that came out of her at his touch -- she squeezed her fingers into the mattress as his tongue flicked her metal seams, as he suckled on the grooves that wound through her with a heave of pleasure.
His hands working their ways up and down the undersides of her thighs wrapped round his head, he groaned into her body -- she reeled at the vibration of his voice reverberating inside her. He smiled at the sound of her mewling, and he wound his palms back towards her waist. They twisted into her breasts as he bobbed his head along the middle of her, leaving a wet trail behind his tongue.
Ada shuddered at the feeling of suction against the convergence of her seams and she melted into the bed as Cross glinted his tongue across them. The more his hands kneaded into her breasts, the wetter she became, until she felt her mound and thighs were soaking. Dazed in bliss, she no longer made an effort to suppress her cries, and when her hand gripped his hair, neither did he. He let a feral growl, and she whined at the feeling it gave her chassis, her fingers digging deeper into his scalp.
He loved it, it only made him work harder -- and she was close, he could feel it. She trembled beneath him shuddering each time he swiped his mouth over that particular convergence. She was sopping wet now, and one hand moved from her body to her entrance while his mouth still edged her on. His middle finger massaged her entrance before he pushed into her, slowly, at a pace she could take. He stroked his way inside her, grinning at the cry she let when he curled his finger back and forth. Her legs were shaking on either side of his head, and he worked her faster, relishing every second and every sputtering of his name.
Her body was tense, shuddering with ecstasy. And the more his finger hit that one spot beneath that bundle of wires, the more she wound herself into euphoria. One more cry and Ada’s body revved and bucked. Her back arched, her hands groped for anything around her -- she flew into a peak, and a sudden wave of pleasure descended on her and washed her thoroughly from her head to her feet.
Her voice trembled as she came down from her high, her processor dithering inside her.
Cross came up for another gasp of air and he wiped his mouth with the same smug smile.
Ada lay on the bed, nearly spent. Her eyes unfocused for a moment as she gathered herself.
“Cyare,” he breathed, and scooped her into his arm to sit upright and on his lap. “I missed you.”
Ada rested her head on his brow and put her arms around his neck, taking in the softness behind the sharpened edges of him. Grief clung to him still, despite the inebriation of pleasure. She wasn’t going to leave him behind. She wouldn’t let them be parted a second time. Ada nudged her nose against his and imparted on him a kiss -- heated and damp. “Show me.”
Cross’ eyes flicked to hers with a smirk to her boldness.
Ada settled herself on his legs, spreading hers just a little further; he was muscular despite his lithe frame. Her hands wandered from his neck to his chest, and down towards his cock. He was aching for her already, and as she stroked him once she could already feel him twitching.
He hid a moan inside the crook of her shoulder, and he kept her steady with a hand on her back as she maneuvered herself to take him. The feeling of her was heavenly he had to admit, despite his hesitance to do so. She was tight around his length, textured inside for an ‘ultimate pleasurable experience’ -- but never did he take it for granted or advantage. She was his companion, not his commodity.
Ada sunk deeper onto his length, letting a soft moan as she felt him fill her, all the way inside her. She rolled her head at his stiffness against her walls, letting a feathery whine. Once he was entirely inside her, she rocked her hips back and forth grinding them against his own for friction. She felt him sigh into her again and his grip around her back, her waist, became taut. She smiled at his quiet pleasure.
His hips began to thrust into her once she’d become acclimated to him, and he held a shaky breath as he lifted his head to look her in the eye. She was beautiful, completely lost in his sensations as he filled her. Her whines and whimpers only fuelled him, and his thrusts became harder, deeper.
The echo of his thighs against hers, metal, filled the walls; the wetness of her core making salacious sounds with his every thrust. And with her luscious soughs -- it drove him mad. He gnarled into her shoulder again and sucked on her neck, leaving a soft bite behind.
“Cross…” she groaned at the feel of his teeth. She bucked against him with his every push inside her, rolling her hips against his cock.
His mouth latched onto her shoulder, drinking in the biting taste of her -- relishing the feeling of her body warming to his touch. The suction wouldn’t leave a mark on her bronze frame, but he was still careful not to hurt her. With another nipping suckle, he let her go from his mouth with a pop --
The release and the sound sent a vibration through her entire body and she rang like a bell.
Ada stopped, her hands flying to her face in embarrassment. Had she any blood, she might’ve been blushing.
Cross grinned and stifled a chuckle as he sat upright and took her face in his hands.
“That’s so embarrassing -- I hate it when that happens,” she muffled.
He kept his laugh quiet and kissed the top of her head. “It’s nothing to worry about, mesh’la.”
His hands wandered down her back and he gently moved his legs from under her, he helped her lie back on the bed. Cross nestled himself between her thighs and leaned over her, keeping his brow to hers. He wanted to look her in the eyes as she writhed in exhilaration beneath him.
Her legs on either side of his hips, he rocked into her -- a slow and steady pace, at first, he sheathed his length in and out of her, building a warmth inside her soaking core. She hummed, tangling her fingers in the grey of his hair, eyes fluttering closed at the feel of his skin against hers, inside hers. Her ankles tied him to her, and she pressed her mouth against his. He rocked harder into her and her mouth recoiled into him with his every thrust -- her growing moans fell onto his tongue.
The bunk rattled noisily with each heave -- his hips giving her everything he had, fucking her into the bunk beneath them. Ada’s back arched again, her hands groping for his back, leaving marks as her fingers dug into his sinew. She let out another cry as he became sloppy, his body was rigid and was beginning to tremble -- he was almost there. She rolled her hips under him, earning a hiss from her lover.
He gasped, a dampened breath washing over her face, and he trailed a hand down to her breast, massaging the tip. Ada writhed underneath him, groaning his name -- she had one more orgasm in her for him, he knew it, he could see it.
It began to tingle under her skin, feathering out from her core with a wave of intensity, and she felt his hand, light, on her jaw again.
“Look at me, mesh’la, look at me while you cum,” he nearly begged.
Ada’s eyes locked on her lover’s as the orgasm seized her body and she spiralled into a mind numbing well of pleasure.
Crosshair reached his peak at the sight of her, at the feel of her cumming on his cock. He let a guttural growl and filled her with his warmth. His body twitched as he groaned and let his head collapse into her shoulder, his breath stolen from him.
Ada kissed his ear and hummed into his hair as he gathered himself, before he turned and lay on the open edge of the bunk. She nuzzled herself to see him, entirely drunk on the ecstasy between them.
His hand cradled her face. “I missed you,” he said again.
She smiled, hazy. “I can tell.”
He gave her a tired grin, and nudged her chin with his fingers as he pulled her close. He felt he could never let her go. Never again.
Ada woke the next morning to the feel of her lover’s stubble against her brow as he placed a kiss on top of her head. Her eyes fluttered open and she saw his image, backlit, in the clouded morning light; he was already dressed in his armour, his helmet underneath his arm.
“I have to go,” he whispered, though he yearned to be anchored there beside her.
She reached for his other arm that rested on the bed and took his hand. “Stay -- please,” she pleaded with him.
Crosshair’s fingers brushed around the edges of her face as he sighed. “Mesh’la...I can’t.”
Ada’s head sunk and she watched as he pulled away and backed out of the barrack. The door whooshed closed, and Ada was left alone, in the dark of the stormy morning. She could not gather the strength to sit upright for some few minutes -- the breaking wave of last night’s pleasure dissipating into an overwhelming fear for both of their safety. She knew Rampart would not leave her alive. She was too valuable for anyone else to get their hands on her -- she hated hands on her, when they were not her lover’s.
Her eyes closed, taut, for a moment, before she rallied what courage she had in the center of her chest, within the gears that moved her -- and with a determined push, with what seemed to be the only strength left within her, Ada sat herself on the edge of the bed.
A dim smile passed her lips to see her clothes neatly laid out at the end of the bunk: the sheet folded, the gauze wound tight. It was an iteration of Crosshair’s love for her, spoken in silent words. She clung to them, and kept them in her heart not made of metal.
Rampart had wisened since the day before, Ada was now manacled to her seat in the center of the debriefing room -- both her wrists and her brow strapped to the chair beneath her. Wires fed their way in and out of her, though she could no longer move freely. She distilled her panic and kept her mind as present on her current plan as she could.
With a deft hand inside the Empire’s code, inside the Kaminoans’ system, she scooped free the code and walls that meant to poison her, and with gentle words -- spoken in no organic language -- Ada melded them to herself, until they no longer recognized themselves as Imperial, neither Kaminoan -- until every code that passed through her fibres became her.
She had complete control over the system, and everything Rampart saw. She meant to use it shrewdly.
“I trust you’re comfortable,” Rampart said as he entered the room, hands behind his back -- his simper more smug than usual.
Ada kept her ire in check and in time with the revving in her chest. “And I trust I didn’t leave any lasting damage,” she returned with a raised brow.
Rampart scoffed with pursed lips, his tongue mindlessly passed over the cut in his cheek that’d since healed over. “I have certainly handled worse in the war.”
“And now you’re here, overseeing a shackled droid.”
“I think you misunderstand my presence, Ada,” Rampart began and started towards her. Despite her cuffs, he kept his distance -- he stopped a foot away from her. “I’m not here to supervise your connection to the computer,” he huffed at such a ridiculous notion. “No...I find you fascinating. The more I learn about you, the more I learn how to perfect you.”
“You certainly know how to woo a woman.”
Rampart’s simper became stiff and his chin lifted to her. “An inaccurate sentiment on all accounts -- you are not a woman.”
“You are no longer a soldier. You’re a pseudo-scientist with a pipe dream. My creation was spontaneous evolution -- and you are not a god.”
The urge to retaliate against the droid flushed his face and he soothed the burning anger that welled at the back of his throat. His hand seethed to strike her. He approached her carefully, one foot in front of the other with the knowing she was restrained. “I have no need for magic or inexplicable results. I have a team of researchers and an Empire behind me. Probability for success is in my favour.”
Her head strained to lean forward as much as she could against her restraint -- she looked her captor in the eye and read the future written on his face in numbers and variables. “Your project will fail. And when it does, you will earn the disdain of your superiors. They will see you as nothing but an idealist -- an officer without his feet on the ground and his head in the clouds. And maybe one day -- very far from now -- someone will pick up your work and read it with curiosity, long after you’ve been retired -- despite your own desire to continue your good work. And they’ll take it into their own hands, and they’ll shift it, rearrange it, put all the pieces in all the wrong places -- until you, yourself, would never be able to recognize your own work. And they’ll call it good. And they will succeed. But your name will be forgotten, and the ingenuity for which you’ve been heralded would have since been seen as eccentric.” Her eyes still did not leave him, but her head was ceased in its shaking by the metal that kept her still. “And all the good you think you could have done will be gone.”
Rampart struck Ada with the back of his hand, and he clenched his fist the moment it broke away from her face. The metal that encased her bit his knuckles and he drew a sharp breath. Rage tore into his eyes -- such insubordinate behavior required punishment, a lesson learned.
Silence engulfed the air, loud and unfettered, it weighed heavy on the space between them.
Rampart swallowed and returned his sight to the droid. “Talk is meaningless,” he said. “In the end, you are still here. And I still have what I want.” He straightened his tunic and turned his back; his palm massaged his knuckles as he left.
“Don’t forget --” Ada warned. “What you want isn’t always what you’ll get.”
The door closed behind him.
And Ada's eyes fell shut at the stinging in her cheek.
To poison a poisoner, one must be quicker than an antidote. Ada’s fingers wound so deeply into the Imperial system’s underbelly, her code was repeated back to her as truth. She could wordlessly control the movements of droids, of doors, and of machines anywhere in the facility. But it was a secret and a strategy she could only use sparingly.
“How did it go? With the Admiral?” Crosshair asked as he escorted her back to the barrack.
“He’s a well determined man,” she said. She would engage in no conversation that would rile her husband -- she had to keep him as calm as possible, as trusting as he was able, well into the night. And if all went well -- which she predicted it wouldn’t -- they would be off Kamino before the daylight rose.
“His methods get results,” he agreed -- his voice was cold and detached through the modulator. He stood in the open doorway of the barrack as Ada passed through.
“Aren’t you coming?” she asked -- she hid a panic that he’d turn and walk away, wrenching her plan that was already in motion.
Cross looked behind him and deliberated; his shoulders tensed as he fought himself. “I can’t -- my squad --”
Ada smiled and pet a hand to his helmeted face, it trailed down his arm and to his chest. “Your squad are highly trained soldiers -- I’m sure they can handle lights out without you.”
Cross shuddered beneath his armour at the feel of her hand on his chest. The temptation of her offer riled him, and he watched as she wandered away from him and towards the bunk. She was beautiful in the evening light -- the way it glinted off of her, he felt enraptured, enthralled, unable to refuse her. He sighed and stepped inside, the door shutting behind him, he felt his decision for the night had been made for him. “I -- can’t keep doing this,” he breathed and removed his helmet. When his sight returned to her again, she sat on the edge of the bed, her arms situated on either side of her -- they only enhanced the curve and sway of her figure. He felt he could repeat the night before all over again if she’d permit him.
“Maybe not,” she said, and beckoned him closer. “But maybe we can enjoy the time we have together while we have it.”
He let another breath, and sat beside her with a meager grin. “Can’t argue with that.”
Ada combed her fingers through his hair, pushing a few strands behind his ear. “You look tired.”
He glanced to her. He didn’t feel any particular, unusual state of tiredness, but he hadn’t really stopped to notice either way. There was only the mission -- the mission that eluded him, that pained his head if he strained to think of it with any clarity. The mission which he dreaded to speak, but with no knowing as to why.
“He’s been pushing you pretty hard, hasn’t he?” Ada asked.
“His methods get results.”
“You mentioned that.” There was no animosity in her voice, only a quiet humming, like in a dream. She traced the outline of his ear, running her hand down the sinew of his neck to his pauldron. “But right now you can take a minute to relax. At least for now.” She knew he’d never fully relinquish his guard. It was not in his nature, it was never a thought to cross his mind. But she knew, also, and fairly, that she held power over him -- a power she did not ever abuse, but to save his life. “Maybe I can rub your back tonight,” she offered with a smile -- it weighed heavy on her lips with an ache and a strain, but she did not show it. “You certainly gave me a massage last night, it’s only polite to return the favour,” she let a sultry chuckle.
He eyed her with a raised brow and a conniving smirk. “You don’t have to ask me twice.”
She giggled and moved as he began to disassemble his armour and peel off the upper portion of his blacks. “Why don’t you lie down, get comfortable.” She helped settle him on the bed, fluffing the pillow and letting him crane to lie flat on his stomach on the mattress. “You okay?” she asked and ran her hands against the outlines of his shoulder blades, down to the small of his back.
Crosshair groaned at the touch -- her fingers were light, and he’d never known softness until the moment he’d met her so many years ago. Sometimes such soft things felt painful, foreign. Soft things don’t survive in war, and he worried over Ada with a constant fear -- that she may not survive.
He forced the thought -- the memory -- from his mind and took a breath as she wound her palm up his spine. “Thinking.”
“That’s dangerous,” she smirked.
“Nothing more dangerous,” he agreed. Especially for a clone.
His muscles were tense -- they always had been, she was sure they always would be. They carried in them the means to kill, maim; things that never dissipated, especially from sinew and bone. “And what are you thinking about?”
“You,” he hummed.
“Good things I hope.” She hoped they were good things -- she hoped it would always be good things, that he would not resent her for what she knew she must do.
He purred with a smile. “Always.”
Ada’s eyes closed if but for a moment, and she plucked his single word, keeping it in the center of her mind.
“I never thought I’d see you again,” he said. “Sometimes I think I’m dreaming.” She was not the only reason, though the one that caused him the greatest doubt.
“I’m here,” she reassured him, rubbing her hands in small circles on his back, as if to tether him to her. “I’m here. And I’ll always be here.” They would always be together, she imagined -- far from Kamino, far from the war and all the things that caused them pain. A fallacy she clung to as a motivation for the grievous death she’d escaped, for the betrayal she would cause. But a mind was entitled to its dreams -- and she dreamt many things, rarely any of them good; yet the good she held to as the braid of a rope.
Ada continued to rub her lover’s back, stretching every tense muscle into a state of repose, loosening every joint until Cross seemed as though he’d meld into the mattress. She could feel his breath slow -- imperceptible as it already was -- he was falling asleep, and her own heart rattled within her.
His eyes were closed and his body was placid -- it was the only opportunity she would have.
Ada reached one hand behind her, beneath the lip of the mattress, and pulled from it a pistol -- one she’d instructed a droid through the Kaminoans' systems to retrieve and hide for her. It was already set for stun, all she had to do was pull the trigger.
Her one hand on his back, still meaning to soothe him, the other shaking with the weight of the blaster, Ada raised the muzzle to the back of her lover.
Cross felt the tremble of her fingers on his skin, the absence of her other hand -- a stringent tension frayed the air. His eyes opened.
He caught the glare of a blaster barrel behind him. His hand flew to the holster over the side of the bed among his armor, the weapon cocked before he turned around on his knees -- he faced Ada. The blaster shook in her hand and water lined her eyes. “What are you doing?” He could hear his pulse in his ears sewn in with the sound of his voice, grief struck him with a bolt through the marrow of him.
“Cross,” her voice remained calm, but her weapon did not lower. “Listen to me --”
“Put down the blaster.”
“I can’t --” she swallowed a sob. “I can’t do that. I need you to listen to me.”
“Ada put down the blaster now.” Pain reared in his head, shooting its way through his temple and through his eye, downwards towards his throat. “Give it to me.”
“No -- I can’t. I won’t.” Her voice trembled with the tears that began to form and fall from her face.
“Ada give it to me now --”
The pain now nearly blinded him -- a white stab through the field of his vision and an ache that constrained his chest. He kept his hand level, his sight pinned on her, confusion gripped his features -- Why? What had he done? “Don’t do it. Don’t,” he shook his head once.
Ada hesitated, watching the faith he had in her die with each passing second. If she lowered her weapon, there would be no hope left for either of them -- he would die in the service of a man who did not see him as human; and she would be left to rot, to be be smelted. But if she took the chance, if she fired, she would never be quick enough.
The blaster grew heavy in her hand, and Cross did not move. His sight on her grew cold, empty and aching. And she wondered how much of it was him, and how much of it was the chip.
She bit down hard as her eyes locked onto his -- stern resolve returned to her. “No.”
Cross’ head shook again. “Don’t--”
Ada lifted the blaster --
Cross’s finger pulled the trigger -- a spiral of blue coiled around her in a brilliant flash.
Ada’s body clattered to the mattress beneath them in a motionless heap.
Cross’ breath held in his lungs, and he watched as the light dimmed from her eyes, her head at his legs. He sat back, the blaster falling from his fingers as his body shook at the sight of her. Bile began to burn the back of his throat as a well of memories flooded his mind’s eye -- a smoldering hole in the center of her chest, lifeless eyes fixated on nothing, as they were now. The glass wall within him cracked, and the moment his breath fled him he suppressed a retching.
He reached to her, her skin cold and chilled -- it bit his fingers and burned his stomach. He pulled her body to him, scooping her frame into his arms, laying her across his lap. He looked into the dark of her eyes as he had so many times before: the night they met, the night she died, and now -- the moment she betrayed him. A caustic grief ate away at his innards despite the lack of movement on his face, all he could do was stare at her -- take in every feature of her face, still damp from the tears that’d plagued her only moments before. He brushed them from her skin, cradling her cheek in his palm -- the hand that shot her.
Why? What had he done?
Cross carried her body as he had once before, languid and limp in his arms. And though this time she would wake, he knew, surely, he would never see her again. Once Rampart had what it was he needed -- and his methods always get results -- she would be decommissioned. And if he was lucky, so would he.
Upon instruction, Crosshair took Ada to the brig. He placed her lying against the durasteel bench, bitter and sterile -- unlike the sepulchral willow tree beneath which she’d been laid only six months before. His fingers caressed her face one last time, and he clung to the privacy of a helmet -- a tear fell and he drew a shuddered breath as he spoke a quiet and final goodbye.
“Mesh’la…” he whispered. He bowed down to meet his head with hers, lingering a little longer than should have, unable to let her go a second time. But he pulled himself away, tearing himself in two as he parted from her, as he turned and walked away.
Crosshair returned to his squad’s bunk -- pointless, if but for a restless night -- and awaited new orders in the morning. A new opportunity to hunt the traitors that pained his head.
If only the pain would stop.
Ada woke with a start -- a pain resonated all throughout her chassis, she could feel every cord within her vibrating. It made her dizzy and she moaned as she began to push herself upright. She was no longer in the bunk, she lay on something hard and cold, though she couldn’t tell where she was. The buzzing in her body disoriented her.
“It’s a shame that you’ve insisted on causing such a ruckus.”
She knew that voice. Her eyes narrowed and her brow furrowed as her vision cleared -- Rampart stood on the other side of the electric barrier that separated them. She was in the brig, she could tell now. Two guards stood behind Rampart, at the entrance; no other guards came with him.
Ada stood and placed herself directly in front of her captor. “I’ve done nothing you wouldn’t do.”
He scoffed. “And what is it you think I would have done in your stead?”
She took his sight by force and held it. “Survive.”
He kept her gaze, taking it as a challenge as he mused. “Survive. Though all things strive to do so, everything must come to an end.”
“You won’t be the one that ends me,” she stepped forward, keeping his eyes. “I’ve taken a bullet, and I’m still here.”
He met her pace until his breath bounced back at him from the field that kept them both at bay. “I’m the one who brought you back. I will be the one to take you out.”
“Are you really going to be the one to do it? Or are you going to get one of your serfs to do the dirty work?”
Rampart seethed, furor rushing his bones, he hissed at her: “I will take you apart piece by piece, until your head is in my hands, and I will pull every wire from your skull until I have what I want.”
“I’m sure you’d love to get your hands on me.”
“I wouldn’t stoop so low to defile myself.” He snapped, his breath quick on the tip of his tongue, he quieted himself -- chastizing his response. She was nothing. Nothing but a droid. He had no need to perturb himself with her agitations. He straightened himself and pulled on his tunic. “You are scheduled to be terminated by the end of the day, your code dissected and disseminated. The Commander none the wiser.”
“Where is he?” She did not blink, though the worry for her lover was palpable through her words.
“Disposing of the rest of his former squad. And without further complications, both Project War Mantle and Project Darktrooper will succeed unhindered.”
Ada’s heart wept at the thought of Crosshair finding his brothers, finding Omega in the center of his scope. She tried not to flinch, but the bereavement at the thought of losing her daughter at the hand of her lover -- it pushed on her shoulders and she broke her sight at last from the man who held his strings.
“I have learned a lot both from you and about you, Ada. Had things turned out differently, I would have rather you been more involved in what the Empire is achieving.”
“Go to hell,” she spat, her arms wrapping round her middle mindlessly. Her only thoughts of Omega, of how it felt when she kicked inside her jar -- how terrified she must be wherever she was.
“I’m sure we’ll see each other there sometime later, rather than sooner,” he said and turned to depart. “Although, I doubt your kind would be allowed entrance to even the most pernicious of places.”
The door shut behind him, leaving her alone in the brig once more.
Ada struggled to keep her thoughts together, her hand shaking around her mouth, she settled herself and sat back on the steel bench behind her. She had to escape -- she had to get out. She had to get to -- to what? To whom? Even if she absconded from the brig, she would be alone: her husband gone, dead to himself, her daughter murdered, his brothers, now as close to her as her own kin, dead as well. Even if she left she would have no one. Neither kin of flesh nor droid.
Ada gathered herself, fighting the instinct to roll over, to give up -- she’d threatened Rampart before: that should he harm Omega, she would never let him have what he wanted.
It was time to make good on that threat.
Ada stared the camera lens through its eye and soughed a single word: “Loophole.” Rampart was not the only one with contingencies -- and with her hands meddled through the entirety of the Imperial system, she had as many tricks up her chassis as he had neurons.
The camera lens shifted and whirred as it rewound its footage five seconds and kept the visual of Ada sitting on the bench in a loop.
She stood, fists clenched and her wiring tense -- if she had breath she imagined it would have been shuddering. The guards muttered to each other on the other side of the brig, conversing casually, unawares as to her subtle movements. She positioned herself in front of the metal wall to her right, and gave herself a quiet nod. This is going to hurt like a gundark.
In a single fell motion, Ada slammed her head against the durasteel -- a startling clang echoed and reverberated off the cell and throughout the room.
The guards whirled round to see the droid rattle to the floor, fear roiled the ever present pangs in the sides of their heads -- fears of blame, fears of decommissioning.
“Open the cell!” One bark to the other.
The ray shield dissipated into nothingness, and both approached the latent droid tentatively. One rolled her over onto her back -- the metal lids of her eyes closed.
“Get her to the medbay,” the same trooper breathed. “The Admiral won’t be pleased.” And they both would pay for it with their lives, they were certain.
The other trooper lowered his blaster rifle onto the floor as he knelt and began to scoop Ada into his arms as his compatriot pulled from his belt a comlink.
Before the trooper could press his finger to the call button, Ada flung her head forward and battered the helmet of the clone who carried her. He stumbled, disoriented, and she swiped the blaster from the floor -- firing a blue bolt of rings around his torso. The trooper left standing dropped the comlink, pulling his blaster upright -- but was pummelled with another stun to the chest.
Ada’s hands vibrated with the recoil of the weapon -- something she’d never fully grown used to, despite all the hours she’d trained with Crosshair. Something inside her sunk at the thought of his name, of his face. She steadied herself and squared her shoulders, sitting upright on her knees to survey the two clones; she grabbed the comlink on the floor next to the one slumped against the jamb of the cell and nestled it in the folds of gauze around her waist.
With the rifle still in her hand, she bolted for the other end of the brig. In the corner, close to the floor, was a large vent grate; she pulled it from its place and crawled inside, and set it back where it belonged before she turned to wind her way through the facility.
She had the whole layout memorized, from days long past when Cross would slither through them just to catch a glimpse of Omega when she was an infant. Nala Se had let Ada care for her on days when the scientist’s dutiful obligations outweighed her moral ones. She’d told Ada once, that it was merely convenience to have Ada care for the infant, given her more human tendencies. But Ada could see in those cold, grey eyes, that Nala Se understood her to be more than a droid, to have maternal feelings towards what would have otherwise been an experiment. And Ada knew, also – as days turned to months, turned to prohibitions from seeing her organic daughter – that Nala Se came to love Omega in ways she would never be able to express in her aseptic confines. In a way, despite all the grief and maleficence she'd caused, Ada pitied the geneticist. And now, the girl they both loved was marked for death.
She had to find them: Omega and Crosshair. But she had no shadow of an idea what she would do when she did.
Ada crawled through the long corridors of the facility towards the docking bay -- where a ship had lay in wait for both her and Cross, had her plan come to fruition -- she heard a tumult. Running of boots and calling of orders -- she gripped the rifle and prepared for an assault on her hiding place. But she quieted, and listened as a medic barked in the oncoming distance:
“Get me Nala Se -- I need a medbay prepared, he’s been unconscious twenty minutes. Burns to the face -- not sure where else. Dislocated left leg, right shoulder. Two packs bacta and pain reliever administered already, we’re going to need a full tank.”
She peered through the slats in a grate nearby. A horde of clones led a grav-gurney through the hall and towards the medbay. Her processor revved inside her as she saw the face of the man lain out and bandaged: “Cross…” Her fingers kneaded the underside of the blaster and she followed the gurney back through the hall to watch where he was taken. Nala Se and AZI rounded a corner and escorted an unconscious Crosshair into a medical suite.
Ada sat in the air duct of the medical suite, watching Nala Se and AZI pass back and forth bandages and bacta packs.
“Is he still viable?” she could hear that distinctively calm voice just above the sound of AZI’s maglev.
“His vitals appear stable, I have assessed the damage and determined he will make a full recovery.”
Ada’s shoulders dropped at the thought -- if only she could get him out -- away from under Nala Se’s knife.
“Prepare to transport him to my private medical facility. I want him moved to a hyperbaric chamber,” she directed and turned to leave with a datapad in her hand.
AZI hurried off somewhere to fulfill his master’s wishes.
Ada scanned the immediate area she could see before she unhooked the vent screen and clambered out of her hiding place. She ran to her husband’s side and set the blaster on the tray beside him, her hands caressing his wrapped face. She stifled tears to see him so battered -- mauled and unrecognizable. Her thumbs ran their way through his singed hair, and she clung to the hope -- the thought -- that perhaps her daughter had made an escape if he were so beaten.
Cross’ eyes strained against the pain and the pressure of the bandages; his one undamaged lid began to flutter open and he was met with a blurred beacon of light above him, shrouding anything else in his view.
“Cross?” he heard a voice, distant, rapturous.
A tear fell on his skin and he winced at the twinge it gave him. But when he moved to wipe it from his face, his hand was met with another -- metal and plastoid. “...Ada?” he rasped.
She smiled, though she doubted he could see it. “It’s me, I’m here.”
“You’re here?” he struggled to furrow, but the gauze around him kept his muscles taut and flat. ‘Here’? Where was ‘here’? “Am I...dead?” he reasoned; the last he saw her, he knew her fate was the same as his state of mind: decommissioned.
Her smile persisted, though weighted with sadness. “No. Not dead. You’re on Kamino. You were hurt,” she said.
Memories began to flood him -- memories of the little blonde haired girl in his scope, memories of his brothers, of Hunter, begging him to come to his senses; memories of a blighted pain in his head that moved his arms and pulled his fingers on the trigger. His mind wafted and worked at the blinding sight of the ion engine --
Memories of a dark inn room, where he’d been woken by a voice just as ambrosial. And a pain in his body just as feral.
Cogency returned to him in a bolt of lightening -- a reprieve from the parasite in his head that reined his thoughts and mind’s eye, his movements. In a moment of clarity, he grabbed Ada’s arm and pulled her close.
She jolted at the motion, he’d never grabbed her before; he’d never set his hand on her with force. But the look in his eye, reddened and burnt, it was one of terror, not rage.
“Run,” he could barely get the word out. “Run -- leave and never look back.”
“No -- I won’t leave you,” she begged, looking around for a way to smuggle him off world, something, anything. “I’m not going to leave you behind.”
His grip on her arm tightened, both out of persistence, and as a pang grappled his body and held it hostage. “Leave -- leave now. They’ll find you,” he coughed, his throat and lungs ashened from the fire that scarred him.
“I --” she was about to protest again, still looking round for anything she could use -- a bodybag, a bacta tank, anything.
He pushed her with what little strength he had left.
She stumbled backwards, grief clawing into her features. He lay there, panting, wearied. The sound of his laboured breath replayed in her mind -- three years ago when he lay shattered on a bed in that forsaken inn to which she would never return. They would part the same way they met: with whispered confessions and dreams of a life they may never have. But she refused to believe their severance would be forever.
“I’ll come back,” she promised, searching now for words instead of any tangible solution before her.
He shook his head. But his sight settled on her -- hazy and marred with pain. He longed to see her clearly, to hold an image of her with him for whatever few years he had left. “Don’t,” he breathed. “Don’t ever look back.”
A tear ran down her face and she reached out for his hand again. He took it, this time gentle and soft: his scorched and shaken fingers entwined with hers, she was steady, firm. She always had been, even more than himself. She’d only ever made him a better person -- and he’d only ever treated her like one. He held her hand with a tender grip before he let her go --
Voices and the sounds of maglev came from the distance and Ada swiped another tear from her face with the gauze round her shoulder.
“They’re coming,” he said.
She pressed her lips to his, stealing what little of him she could take, to keep with her until they met again. They would meet again. He was only too stubborn, too sullen to believe it now.
His hand on her hair, he breathed in her scent, past the fetor of burnt flesh and searing flame: she was gun oil and metal, she was quiet nights spent in murmured darkness, and days filled with hope. His fingers ran down her neck and shoulder, where he pushed her again -- less harshly now – but insistent, still.
She broke from him with anguish and greed for more time, more of him, and took the blaster from the tray. One foot stepped behind her, then the other as the voices gradually found their way further towards them, and she could barely pull her sight from her lover. She retreated into the air duct, behind the vent screen, and watched as Nala Se and AZI transferred him onto another gurney and escorted him to Nala Se’s private facility, the cognizance fading from him in passing seconds.
The crawl back to the ship that awaited her dredged on her legs, she felt she could barely make it – that soon she would meld into the metal beneath her, fixated and lifeless. But by the time she reached the hangar she could no longer feel her limbs – her mind worked her body by instinct. Survival had been a language spoken on her tongue long before she’d met Crosshair: to hide, to vanish, to live by any means. Many years she’d lived with the unequivocal – and unnecessary – guilt, that she had abandoned her sisters somehow; that somehow, she’d let them down. That somehow, she couldn’t save them.
But now, a much more present guilt added itself beside that burden: she had abandoned her husband. A guilt she could never outrun, and never forgive.
With her ‘Loophole’ contingency, the camera surveying the ship was blind to her steal inside the bay. The ship primed and fuelled, Ada needed only to climb inside; her legs heavy, her side lonely. She stared at the empty copilot’s seat for a half second longer than she could spare. The door hissed closed with a definitive clang and she hurried to the controls, keeping at bay the grief and the cord that was to be severed within her.
She would find him again. She swore it. Once she was safe from Rampart’s net, once she was armed with both weapons and knowledge – she would free him. Just as he had freed her, those years ago. She would not fail him again.
With a deft hand across the console, Ada set the coordinates for somewhere in the outer rim – somewhere she could disappear.
Crosshair lay in the pitch dark, sprawled on his bunk in the backroom of Cid’s bar. Woken by a ruthless dream, a torment of images, memories, of the woman he loved, he could no longer find the will to sleep. With his brothers still reposed, he lay in the promise of a wakeful night full of invasive thoughts; images played behind his mind’s eye of her smile, of her voice, her laughter.
It had been three weeks since they last parted, and so much had changed. His hands shook as they rested on his abdomen, his throat stuck together at its dryness, and he wondered if he ever found her again – when he found her again, if she would even recognize the man he’d become. Part of him couldn’t find her fast enough, the other never wanted her to see him this way. But his Pride was his weakness, and he growled at the thought of being weak.
All the things he feared she’d reject were only things he rejected of himself – the quiver in his fingers as he held the barrel of a rifle; how he had to work to find a target now. None of those things mattered to her – he scoffed at himself that he should think they would. All she cared about was him, how he treated her, how he spoke to her. And though his words were prone to the tendencies of his hands: violence and sniping, he’d never let a stray bullet hit her. Even when the chip had plagued him.
A finger wandered mindlessly to the side of his head, the scar healing over, the burn wound showing signs of promise. It’d never be the way it was – but what would? His life now was completely incongruent to the life he’d lived only three weeks ago. Why should his skin stay the same?
“Buir?” a quiet voice emerged beside him.
He started and lifted his head to see Omega in the dark standing at the edge of his bunk. “What is it?”
Her eyes dodged him out of sheepish embarrassment. “I…had a bad dream,” she said, almost ashamed that it had affected her so poorly.
He hummed, recalling the dream that’d woken him; recalling the nightmares from years long past. He opened one arm to her and beckoned her close. “What was it?”
She hesitated as she crawled next to him, and she settled into the crook of his arm, nuzzling against his chest. She lay on her back, staring at the same empty ceiling. “I don’t want to talk about it.” Her hands clasped on her stomach, she looked at him – she tried to make out his figure in the black of night, tried to see if his innate abilities had been passed onto her. All she could see was fuzzy darkness, she scrunched her nose. “Want to talk about yours?”
He furrowed and looked to her. “What?”
“Your dream. You were talking in your sleep earlier,” she said. “Something about a girl named ‘Ada’.”
Crosshair’s face turned cold and he stiffened, unsure of what to say. He swallowed thickly, opening his mouth, but nothing came out. He’d tried many times over the past week to say something – anything as to the origins of her mother, of the admission she even had a mother, but nothing he could think of was adequate. At least, in his mind. But he knew, if he waited any longer he would only be lying to her by omission. And lying out of Pride would only ever serve himself. She deserved better. Ada deserved better.
Omega smiled, and nudged him with her elbow. “Is she your girlfriend?” she teased.
He huffed with a scowl invisible to her in the dark. But as his eyes wandered back to the vacant ceiling, he grabbed his Pride by the throat and stifled its pawing. He drew a heavy breath as he turned over and pushed Omega to do the same. “Get up. If we can’t sleep, might as well do something useful.”
Omega snuck behind her buir, confused as to his sudden wave of energy, but willing to follow him anywhere. Even to the back kitchen of Cid’s bar. Boxes and crates were stacked in corners, and appliances hummed and rattled in the dim glow of the overhead stove light. Everything was filthy and covered in a visible layer of grease – she dreaded what he had in mind as ‘usefulness’.
“How does Cid find anything back here? It’s a mess,” Omega dodged a roach as it skittered from beneath a refrigerator.
“Don’t give her any ideas, she might make you clean it.” Cross stopped in front of an industrial fridge and reached up and over to its roof. “Echo keeps the good kark up here,” he muttered to her as he looked for a prize. His hands found two small boxes of sweet crackers, he tossed one down to her and took one for himself.
Omega caught it and watched as Cross sat leaned against the fridge. “Isn’t this stealing?”
He shrugged and shook his head as he tore open the plastic bag inside. “No. We’re brothers. We share.”
She gave him an amused, yet sceptical eye and she sat in front of him as she opened her own box. The sweet crackers resembled creatures and fauna from across the galaxy, some were massiffs, others were fathiers, but most were unrecognizable.
Quiet noises of crunching and the shudder of the fridge were the only things that weighted the air for some few minutes, as Cross tried to gather what to say. Pride aside, confusion was the driving force behind his silence. What if Omega had questions to which he had no answers? Or no answers he wanted to give? But he knew that if – when, he found Ada, she would be devastated if her own daughter did not know her, despite his opportunities to reveal to her the truth.
“Ada’s not my girlfriend,” he said at last. Again, in confessions and bare vulnerabilities, he could not look Omega in the eye. “She was my…She was more than that.” He swallowed, choosing each word carefully, with reason, with hope. “I swore an oath to protect her.” He glanced to Omega: she was readily invested, sitting eagerly, gingerly, to hear more. His brow raised as he averted his eyes again. “She was a droid.” He took another bite.
“A droid?” Omega’s eyes ran at the memories that began to surface and she smiled: “The droid that followed you guys around?”
He nodded once. “She was part of us. She was…” he could think of no word, no concept, no idea that could fully encapsulate all of what Ada truly was. “She was a person.”
Omega’s hand stopped in her lap and she put back the cracker from her fingers. “Is she…gone?”
Cross sighed and ran a hand down his face. “No. No, she’s out there – somewhere.”
“Did you get separated?”
“The Empire wanted to hurt her. So I told her to run,” he almost couldn’t get the word out. The image of her terrified face the moment he’d pushed her had branded itself into his mind. He knew he would never be free of it.
He could see Omega thinking, he could see her remembering all the brief and fleeting moments Ada had waved to her, given her a kind word in the halls of Kamino – small gestures that had both set her alight and wounded her all at once. Cross had shut off his connection to Omega completely – almost completely, but he hesitated to admit anything else. But Ada had never recovered from having her child ripped from her arms as an infant.
“She was your mother,” he stated, with an imperceptible waver in his voice as he did.
Omega’s eyes went wide with shock as she tried to meet his. “My…what?”
“When you were cloned from me, there was a threat to your life. Someone wanted Nala Se’s work. Someone wanted you. She needed to hide you.” He took another swallow and another deep breath as he tread through the minefield of his memories. “Your mother and I met on Corellia three months past, I brought her back to Kamino. I tried to hide her, but…” he shook his head, recalling the dodging of corners and the counting of guards in order to keep her safe. “Nala Se found out. She knew she was different, so she…cornered Ada, struck a deal. Ada would carry your jar, inside her chassis, and Nala Se would keep her secret. But…” he scoffed almost with a laugh – but there was no snideness in his simper. “Your mother got attached. She couldn’t let you go. Then, when you were decanted, Nala Se took you – it crushed her. But I think she tried to make up for it, she’d let Ada take care of you every so often. Then one day…she didn’t.” He raised a brow and tensed at the memory of consoling his desolate lover. “Didn’t want you to have divided loyalty, I guess.”
Omega’s breath shook as she recalled a moment from two years before – she sat alone, in the rain outside the facility on Kamino. She’d been hiding from the medical staff, unwilling to participate in the testing for which she’d been scheduled, terrified of needles and machines. She had only a rain coat to keep her warm as she sat beneath the canopy of the building, she’d been shaking, wiping her face every so often from salt water – both from the ocean and not. But a droid had come from nowhere, with bronze skin and a blue parka. She was so gentle as she placed it around her, sitting next to her with only a sundress to stave off the cold. How she’d found her, she reckoned she’d never know, but she never scolded her. They’d played cards with the half deck she’d been given by one of the clones that’d come in for a patch up job; and dominoes with the six pieces that Ninety-Nine had given her.
Omega sniffed with smile and she brushed her cheek against her shoulder. “My mother.”
“It killed her that she couldn’t tell you. But not even I was supposed to know.”
She swallowed with another sniffle and squared herself as she pulled her knees to her chest. “We’re going to find her.”
He nodded once. “We are.” Between Ada’s optimism and Crosshair’s stubbornness, Omega was the perfect picture of the two of them. It almost made him smile.
“Do you think…she’ll want to see me?” she tried not to cower behind herself.
That made him smile, and he reached a finger to her face, caressing her cheek and nudging her chin. Something about her looked just like Ada – something he couldn’t put into words, something he couldn’t entirely see. Something he knew he could never be, and never teach her to be. It scared him, this softness, the potential for loss. But the grin persisted as he nodded, knowing her truly to be her mother’s daughter.
He wouldn’t have wanted her any other way.
“She wouldn’t want anything else, ad’ika.”