PART TWO: This is War
Unspecified battlefield: A year or so into the Clone Wars
None of them really gets why. A lot of people have a why, whether it be legitimate or a forcefully believed lie. Clone trooper medics—they don’t. Well, if they do, it sure doesn’t last long. Why’s don’t have long lives. Not in this war.
Everyday, people die. Men—brothers—friends. Human beings with souls. And these medics are the last images they see as they die. The last people, the last thing of this life.
Blaster fire, relentless cannon rounds, noise, adrenaline—all assault the soldiers. Medics aren’t spared this. They deal with more.
Everywhere CT-27-0096 (Silas), CT-27-5624(Shadow), and CT-34-4587(Jansel) turn, there is blood and death. Screams, horror, enough to mentally damage a normal human being. It does that to them too—but they know how to pretend. Pretend it’s all a game. A terrifyingly realistic holo-game.
If this ruse stops working, they die.
Shadow knows. Knows they can’t save everyone. He shoves down the scream in his head that they’re brothers he’s saving, lives depending on him. He turns himself into a machine. It is what he is meant to be, right? But he’s thinking too much. Yeah, don’t think. Just do your job. It’s easier, safer, that way.
Silas works himself into a cold battle focus, a cold goal-oriented precision. He’s in a mode where he can juggle triage and fighting all at once: injecting sharps while picking off battle droids. Sometimes he misses but he doesn’t let it bother him. Keep going. Only way you’ll stay alive.
Somehow Jansel hasn’t died—yet. He feels he’s hyperventilating and he’s dizzy, barely dodging bolts and barely in one piece. He’s new at this. He doesn’t have experience like Silas and Shadow. He doesn’t know how to do his job right. Every scream affects him. He can’t. He can’t. Snap out and into it. Don’t let it do that to you.
He sees it all happen, in slow motion, it seems. Shadow, bending over a fallen trooper. Plasma bolt, speeding toward his turned back. Contact. Confusion. Crumple. Collapse.
“No!” Jansel is frozen. “No—!” Then he’s starting to run. Hands latch onto his shoulders and there’s a gauntlet across his face. Hard.
“You can’t do this! Save troopers! Go! Now!”
Jansel feels like he’s been plunged into icy clear cold water. He can see and he knows where to go. Doesn’t want to. But he can’t hesitate. He ducks and runs.
Silas stumbles to his fellow medic’s side and hunches over him. He doesn’t talk, he never does when working on the wounded. Painkiller, stim, and anti-fever agent. He preps the needle, and Shadow says, “no.” His eyes are dim and watery.
“Others—need it more . . .” he gestures weakly toward the groaning trooper beside him. That troopers wounds are as bad as Shadow’s.
Split-second decisions. Medics always have to make them. Silas makes up his mind. “We need you, Shadow.” He tries to inject the sharp but he can’t. He’s consumed by grief. Paralyzing grief. No—he can’t let this happen to himself.
There are three shots he gives, two and one. It’s too late. Both troopers are dead, by the end of a few seconds.
A few seconds. A few seconds of hesitation. He hesitated.
Silas’ vision is blurry and all he’s thinking of is Jansel. Is he okay? Where is he? Silas spots the red cross-like sigil. He’s struck by a barrage of screams, “Medic!”
Too many dying and not enough time or space or number. He squats over a paralyzed trooper. Severed spinal cord, T6 vertebrae down. He injects the sharp. His tossing head calms. Sorry, trooper. This is the end, for you.
Don’t think. Don’t think. It’s better if you don’t.
The firing stops but the battle isn’t over. Not for the medics. Salvage as many as possible. Preserve numbers. Not people, troops. Not men, ammunition. Not friends, army strength. Not brothers—assets.
The battle isn’t over. Keep injecting, slapping on bacta patches, amputating, relieving pain. Setting bones, reviving lives, restarting hearts. Picking, choosing, deciding which ones live and which ones die. But they aren’t people, they’re organic battle droids.
Once he wished he could do more than hold bodies together long enough to reach the medbay, or make them comfortable as they died. But this is war. War is—war.
He hardly remembers what’s going on, but hears a voice saying, “We’re done here.”
He sees Jansel. Jansel is clearly in shock. Silas steps up to him, removes the shiny medic’s helmet and injects one stim into his neck. “You have to focus, you can’t overthink it,” he’s saying. “You have to be tough. Tough and hard.”
Silas feels his body shaking all over, from fatigue and adrenaline, from his battered soul. He tastes salt on his lips. There’s blood smeared all over his armor. Nausea builds. He rips off his helmet.
I’m tough, he tells himself, walking through the halls of the Acclamator-class Razor. His heart is tough. He’s hard. He’s hard in his soul.
He turns to the bulletin. Fifty percent wounded but alive. He’s done his job. His eyes wander down to a red screen. Numbers, a list of numbers. He keeps his cool. Jansel, beside him, has a stricken face, wet with tears. Silas—CT-27-0096—doesn’t.
CT-27-5624’s dead along with ten percent of the unit. CT-27-0096 repeats the name once. Shadow. He’ll be remembered, but not thought of. You don’t think of the dead. They’re just, dead.
So. They’re gone. It doesn’t bother CT-27-0096. He turns on his heel and walks back down the corridor. A medic, a trooper, an asset, a number. Death doesn’t bother him.