BEGIN VOICE RECORDING NOW

AUTHORIZATION: BLY, COMMANDER, GAR

It's difficult to put a journal entry like this into words. General Secura has just seen the last of the 501st off of this hellhole. She called them, and us, the finest fighting men she's ever worked with. She'd be right, if not for one last Order that we will no doubt soon receive... An Order that will be the most difficult that I will ever have to obey. After all this fighting together and bleeding together and screaming and crying and laughing and... it just feels... Well...

Traitorous thoughts fill my mind. It was back on Salecumai that I got my first inkling that I wouldn't be able to fulfill that order... General Secura was trying to stitch together a sliced shoulder blade from the previous engagement when I walked in on her. She'd ordered me there of course, to discuss troop redeployment movements, but... I'd never seen her like this. Her tunic was off... her back to me, yet the mere suggestion, the mere... sight of her like this... it sparked something in me. I didn't like the feeling. I'm not sure, even now, that I feel differently. She makes me feel...

... traitorous...

I remember her looking over her shoulder, grinning like a troopmate at our victory. I was very glad for my helmet. "Let me help you with that, General," I'd offered her. "Your stitching form is sloppy, you'll have a nasty scar trying to sew up your back in the mirror..."

"Oh..." Aayla nodded softly, smiling at me. "All right. Thank you, Bly.

She covered her chest out of modesty, and sat back, lowering her head to let me dress her wound. "This will hurt," I warned her, pinching the wound closed as I poured the antiseptic over it. "A lot." And Aayla winced, biting her lip as she felt the stinging pain... the good kind of pain, letting her know it was necessary for her to heal. She then paused, glancing back towards me.

"... is something wrong, Bly?"

"I, ah... was just thinking," I had stammered, trying to come up with a convincing lie. "When this war is over... what will become of my brothers and I once we're not needed? Will they sleep us in cryo as usual, or... will they recycle us?"

A convincing lie. It was a legitimate concern among me and my brothers. But the way I feel at this very moment, I'd almost welcome death...

"... I... don't know..." Aayla had answered. "... but if it were up to me... and I'll probably ask the Supreme Chancellor himself about it... I'd request that you and your brothers be given full citizenship... I think you've earned that much..." she smiled at me... I'll never forget that smile, and she added, "... I don't think of any of you as simply 'disposable.'"

I couldn't answer. Not at that precise moment, anyhow. She was too good to us. To me. Even now, those traitorous thoughts creep upon me, clouding even my vision in red hot rage. Rage... Rage... Or something more... I remember when Sergeant Odo gave his lesson on females. We were Mando'ade, warriors born, he'd lecture us. War is all that matters to us. Better not to let females cloud our senses. I wonder if he knows that his lads are currently under the leadership of one of those females he preached caution against.

I hate this feeling. I have to kill her. I have to kill them all. THEY'RE the traitors, not me. This is nothing. This is just lust, clouding my vision, dulling years of training that saves me and my brothers. Lust. Nothing more. She's saved our skins a few times, so what? So she kept us from dying a glorious Mando death. But... why does it feel so wrong?

"... your thoughts betray you, Commander..." Aayla chimed with a small smile. "... you like what you see, don't you?"

I'd tried to say, "Not very Jedi-like of you, General," but I hadn't gotten any farther than "Nuhh--" before she'd spun upon me...

I can still taste her lips. I can still feel her warm body. But she'd broken it off before it could go any further. I couldn't speak right. I was babbling. I think I was trying to ask why. Why? Why?

"Sorry about that..." Aayla apologized, an arm still covering her chest. I could see she was blushing, noting her embarrassment, as she turned back around, sighing. "... I forgot myself for a moment there... forgot the Code... forgive me."

Her precious Jedi Code. If she's willing to break that, even for a fleeting moment... maybe she's not one of them. Maybe she's not a traitor. Maybe...

No. I have to kill her. There's no way I can get off this stinking hellhole without fulfilling my Orders.

I have to shoot her. Enough times to be sure. Maximum stun at close range... it COULD burn enough to fool those in the ranks to our rear. Silas and Booster and Jex and Kaing. That'll be all it'd take. A secure comm channel so I can speak among those four brothers without the rest of the platoon discovering our treachery.

But... what then? We can't just haul her back to bacta... We need something... A diversion. One of the spare armor kits. We can disguise the lekku, we can... we report enemy engagement, say the body was lost... And then... and then I can have her shipped off-world... She can heal there and... Why am I saying this here? I'm as good as dead. Computer... cancel journal entry. Delete recording. Delete ALL recordings for Designate: Bly, Commander, GAR.

ARE YOU SURE YOU WISH TO DELETE ALL ENTRIES? THIS ACTION CANNOT BE UNDONE

ENTRIES DELETED

---

One week later.

Zuma Vee studied the naked figure sloshing about in the tank of bacta. How she would have loved to get a sample of that tissue... Jedi DNA would improve Kamino's research by leaps and bounds.... Who knows what secrets those midichlorians were hiding? But no... with Emperor Palpatine's ban on Jedi, it wasn't prudent to take such a risk. Were Zuma a flawed, emotional being, she might almost chastise Taun We for taking in this traitor. But Taun We had a soft spot for these clones, Zuma knew. Not quite emotion, but... maternal pride. Bly and the others reminded Taun of Boba, and Zuma knew that Jango had personally put Taun in charge of babysitting duties whenever he went away.

Taun We had never quite been the same when Boba never came back after Geonosis. This is why she was smuggling a near-dead Jedi here, to be stitched back together right under the Empire's nose. For that smile of gratitude from the one who so reminded her of Boba. Zuma would almost feel anger, if it weren't such a vulgar, unnecessary emotion. But... as long as this Jedi's recuperation didn't draw the ire of Palpatine, and threaten Kamino's legacy... and as long as Taun We assured her that the Prime Minister would not find out and turn them over to the Empire... Zuma Vee would continue monitoring Aayla Secura as she wriggled about in the bacta. The respirator wrapped around her head, she remained unconscious for the better part of the whole week, ever since she was brought to Kamino. The blaster burns in her back and her head, while on maximum stun, had still taken much out of her as she healed within the tank.

"How's she been?" Bly asked as he entered the facility.

"Her vitals are returning to their normal, healthy functioning..." Zuma Vee said in that same melodic monotone that all Kaminoans had. "Her liver in particular was badly damaged, beyond what we had expected bacta to repair... but her Jedi talents have apparently aided in this healing."

"Good to know," Bly said.

"You could have killed her, you know..." Zuma told him. "At such a close range, multiple stun blasts..."

"I know the risk I took," Bly said sharply. "I couldn't risk discovery. It HAD to look genuine, or she was dead anyway."

"She's lucky you froze her when you did, or she would not have made it to the bacta tank."

Aayla's body suddenly jerked slightly, and Zuma allowed herself a surprised smile. "Ah, she surprises me again."

"What?" Bly turned to look.

"She's awaking four hours and seventeen minutes earlier than anticipated," Zuma said. "Droid, drain the bacta chamber and prepare her robe. She will be chilly from the prolonged bacta exposure."

"Confirmed."

The droid proceeded with the command, and the the tank began to drain into the metal grates underneath her, slowly lowering her to the floor. Aayla slumped against the plexiglass, her legs weak from lack of use, but slowly, she raised her hand to the mask, struggling to pull it off her face. Zuma went to give Aayla her robe, but Bly snatched it from her and looked to the exit. "Leave us," he commanded. "I can take it from here."

Zuma cocked her head curiously, and nodded, as she took her leave, leaving Bly, Aayla, and the droid in the recovery room.

Aayla had managed to pull the respirator off her face, coughing as she struggled to breathe in fresh air, shivering from the same air lightly chilling her wet skin.

"Easy," Bly said softly, wrapping the robe around her. "You've had a rough time of it."

Aayla slowly looked up, still shuddering, breathing deeply now. The look in her brown eyes was the same look of surprise and betrayal she had when Bly and the others had trained their blasters on her back on Felucia.

"... y-you... you... shot me..." she gasped.

"I did what I had to do," Bly said. "Our orders were to kill you. I had to make it look convincing."

Aayla blinked. "... w-what... what o-orders..."

"Palpatine had declared all Jedi to be traitors to the Republic following an attempt on his life," Bly said emotionlessly. "He gave an order that all of us Clones had been trained to follow without question since we were born."

"..." Aayla pulled away, slumping against the bacta tank she had stepped out of, turning her head, closing her eyes for a moment. Then opened them wide. "... I... can't feel... Kit... Quin... what did you do..." she turned to face Bly, a slow rage beginning to form on her face. "What. Did. You. Do."

"I betrayed my brothers and my Empire," Bly said. "I did what I could, to spare one from the fate of many. If this makes me a coward and a traitor, so be it. If you will kill me, I will make no move to stop you. But know this, General. My brothers and I are all that is keeping you alive right now. As far as I know, you are the ONLY one who has escaped this fate."

"WHAT DID YOU DO?!!" Aayla thrust her hand out, and suddenly Bly felt as if he were struck by a rampaging bantha, hitting the wall hard and being kept there, if only for a moment, until Aayla slumped down to her knees, her power not strong enough, as her fists clenched in anger.

"... you know what we did..." Bly said, catching his breath after falling to the floor. "If I tried to stop it, I'd be killed just as surely as you were."

"..." Aayla trembled with emotion... a sight which seemed alien for a Jedi, but considering the circumstances, Bly knew it was inevitable, Her head bowed, lekku hanging from her shoulders, she sighed a deep, shuddering sigh, as if trying not to break down into tears.

"... where's my lightsaber..." she finally asked.

"My brothers have it," Bly said. "They're off-planet, in case you kill me. There are five of us in all. Silas, Booster, Jex, Kaing, and myself. None of the others knew. Only those four were sympathetic enough to our plight to be trusted with my betrayal. Only those four will join me in execution if the Emperor discovers that you're still alive."

"..." Aayla slowly rose to her bare feet, stumbling slightly, but managing to stand straight as she pulled the robe around her body. Slowly she raised her head upward to face Bly, and he can see on her glistening, bacta covered face, a different kind of moisture, trickling down from her eyes.

"... are... are they ALL dead...?" she asked softly.

"As far as I know...?" Bly nodded. "Yes."

Aayla lowered her head once again, trembling softly. For a moment Bly tensed, readying for another anger-filled Force push; the last one may have cracked his armor slightly, he suspected.

But instead, Aayla slumped back down to her knees. Unable to handle the reality of the situation, the twi'lek Jedi, who once appeared so strong and unshakable to his eyes, broke down, and cried out of emotional agony.

"I'm sorry," Bly whispered. "I'll leave you alone now, to sort it out."

With that, he spun on his heels, heading for the exit.

"... n-no..." Aayla gasped out. "... d... don't go..."

"..." He paused, relenting to her. "I cannot stay long. My brothers can keep the LAAT/i commandeered on their own for only so long before the superiors in the Star Destroyer begin to ask questions."

Aayla sat up, wiping away her tears. The look of anguish still in her eyes, but slowly, a look of determination followed. "... when you return... I'm leaving Kamino... I need to go to Coruscant..."

"Your Jedi clothes have been incinerated," Bly said. "Your Jedi identity has been erased. You are well and truly dead, as far as the galaxy is concerned. To those that you meet here on Kamino, your name is Deema. You're the property of one Sergeant Odo, who purchased you as a dancing girl to keep him company in his old age. This is the story you will tell anyone who asks, until I return. The only ones who know different will be Taun We and Zuma Vee, but you will not speak of this to them unless they speak of it to you first. This fiction has been spun to keep you alive. If anyone finds out that you're a Jedi, you're dead. Understand me, General?"

Aayla nodded softly. "... yes... I understand..." She then paused, a look of concern on her face. "... Bly...

"Yes?"

"... Barriss... she's... gone too. Isn't she?"

"Yes." His face was carved out of duracrete.

"... tell me... did..." Aayla closed her eyes, trying not to cry as she remembered her fellow Jedi, the way she smiled, and her calm and gentle demeanor. "... did she suffer...?"

"She didn't feel a thing..." Bly whispered.

"..." Aayla sighed softly, turning her head slightly. "... you may go now..."

"Yes, General."

As Bly turned to leave, the door closed behind him. Left alone, save for the medical droid, Aayla shuffled to a nearby bench, slumping down upon it. And she covered her face with her hands, sighing deeply, mourning the deaths of her fellow Jedi.

"You'll watch over her, won't you?" Bly asked the grizzled, scarred visage of his training sergeant.

The old Mandalorian smiled fondly. "Sure, son," he said. "I just hope she's worth the hell you're bringin' down upon yourself."

Bly nodded. "Me too."






"Traitor"
By
George Stebbins & Ken Blackwell