Vader, Rex, and Cody blinked again. The light was still bright, but their eyes soon adjusted. Vader looked around and recognized the surroundings. “Okay, this is odd. This is the Mos Espa Grand Arena. I won the Boonta Eve Classic here.”
“What are we doing here on Tatooine?” asked Rex.
“Must have gone through that door,” said Cody.
“Hold on,” said the voice. “The door won’t open just yet. First, tell me more about yourself.” A figure appeared in the commentator’s box. It looked like a bald, black man in plain robes.
“Master Windu?” said Vader.
“Anakin, Rex, Cody, what are you so afraid of?” asked Mace Windu. The men were a bit put off by the question.
“I guess…getting old,” said Rex.
“For me, I’d say being different a bit,” said Cody.
“Being indecisive, Master,” said Vader.
“Are they really so scary?” asked Mace. The men looked at each other as he stepped back to let an older man in a beard and the same robes as he did step forward.
“Is that…?” asked Rex.
“Obi-Wan Kenobi,” said Vader.
“What do you want out of life?” asked Obi-Wan.
“To see rare sights!” said Rex.
“To broaden my horizons,” said Cody.
“To be strong, Master,” said Vader. Obi-Wan acknowledged with a “Hm”. He stepped back to reveal a lady in a purple gown with her brown hair done up in a braided bun.
“Padme!” said Vader.
“What is most important to you?” asked Padme Amidala.
“Me, milady?” said Rex. “Being number one!”
“Friendship, senator,” said Cody.
“My prized possessions,” said Vader.
“Are they such a big deal?” asked Padme. She stepped back and faded along with the two Jedi before her.
“Padme, wait!” said Vader. It was too late. They disappeared. The voice came back.
“Rex, you are afraid of getting old. You want to see rare sights. You want to be number one. Cody, you are afraid of being different. You want to broaden your horizons. You want friendship. Vader, you are afraid of being indecisive. You want to be strong. You want to hold on to your prized possessions. Your baptism of fire will begin once you wake up. Rex, your adventure begins at dawn. As long as the sun is shining, your journey should be a pleasant one. Cody, your adventure begins at midday. Keep a steady pace and you’ll come through fine. Vader, your adventure begins in the dead of night. Your road won't be easy, but a rising sun awaits your journey's end.”
“Wait,” said Rex, “wake up? Baptism of fire? What are you talking about?” The three men didn’t get their answer as sleep hit them hard. They collapsed onto the sands of Tatooine.
The men woke up in the medical area of the Star Destroyer. “My lord,” said the doctor, “what happened in the brig?! The creature came out! We’re being swarmed by more of them! They’ve taken over the ship!”
“Hold on,” said Rex, “you’re telling me that little black ant people took over an Executor class Star Destroyer?”
“You did not see them Rex,” said the doctor. “They took no prisoners. The four of us are the only survivors on the Ruthless.”
“How much of the ship did the enemy take?” asked Vader.
“They took over most of engineering, all of decks 1 to 19, and the main bridge tower,” said the doctor.
“What about decks 20 to 24?” asked Cody.
“They’re slowly breaking through,” said the doctor.
“I don’t understand,” said Rex, “they could have killed us in our sleep.”
“They’re doing this deliberately,” said Vader. “They want us to stew in our own fear.” The doctor was too terrified to register what Vader had said. His eyes were wide with fear.
“I have to get out of here!” he whispered.
“Doc, that’s not a good idea,” cautioned Cody.
“Cody’s right,” said Vader. “If we go out there now, we’ll be killed in an instant.”
“I have to get out of here!” said the doctor in a more panicked tone.
“Doc,” said Rex, “we will get out of this. We just need to not give in to fear.
“I HAVE TO GET OUT OF HERE!” shouted the doctor as he ran into the hall outside the medical facility.
“Doctor, wait!” said Rex. Too late, the doctor ran into the hall and was running as fast as he could towards the escape pods. He didn’t get very far. He saw a storm trooper in the hall.
“Trooper, get me to the escape pods!” said the doctor. The trooper didn’t move. “Trooper, respond!” No response. “Trooper!” shouted the doctor. The storm trooper stepped out of the shadows. Something looked wrong with the armor. The areas that were black looked jagged and the white areas blended with the black. The eyeholes had yellow lights and the symbol of the Heartless was emblazoned on his chest. “…No!” whispered the doctor. More Heartless came in the different shapes of humanoid Battle Droids. “No!” whimpered the doctor. More storm trooper Heartless came out. Some of them looked like scout troopers. The doctor whimpered and held himself tightly in a ball. Black mist surrounded him, and a new Heartless subspecies was born. This one looked like the storm trooper variant, but the black areas were white and the white areas were black. A black tube on each side of the chin went over the shoulder and onto a back pack.
Meanwhile, in the medical bay, Cody saw the life sign monitor tick down to three. “My lord,” he said, “we’re the only ones left.”
“Stupid man,” said Rex.
“Some people just can’t handle combat,” said Vader.
“Well, I guess that’s it,” said Rex. “What are your orders, sir?”
“Fall in behind me and arm yourselves,” said Vader. “We’re going out with a bang.”
“Sir, yes sir!” said the clones. Old habits kicked in as Rex loaded new plasma packs into his pistols while Cody clicked a laser sight onto his rifle. Vader once again activated his light saber.
“On three,” said Vader, “we charge out.” Rex and Cody flanked either side of him. “One, two, THREE!” Vader used the Force to open the door and the three charged out into the hall, blasters blazing and light saber humming. The Heartless weren’t fighting like they took the threat seriously as the weapons didn’t affect them. The men continued fighting.
“Vader, are we even doing anything?!” asked Rex.
“Merely showing that we will not back down when faced with adversity,” said Vader.
“Impressive,” said the Heartless’ collective voice. “You don’t let fear take any of you. You fight to keep whatever scrap of light exists inside that frail heart of yours. You refuse to acknowledge that every light must fade. Every heart returns to darkness!”
“You keep going on about how we’re weak,” said Rex, “how our light will extinguish. You may be right, but if I may be egotistical, there is one thing us clones are bred for. We are very good at fighting to the death!” Rex blazed away with his pistols.
“You fight with nothing,” said the voice, “you have nothing.”
“Wrong,” said Vader, “I have people to fight for.”
“I have friends to defend,” said Rex.
“I have places to protect,” said Cody.
“We have something to fight for!” said the three men. All of a sudden, a light shone in their weapon hands. The weapons suddenly returned to their resting places at their hips (back in Cody’s case) and had key shaped blades. Vader’s new weapon looked like an elaborate key end light saber hilt while the blade looked like the light took a key shape and was a mix of red and blue constantly swirling together. Rex had a smaller weapon in each hand that had a more curved handle, like a blaster. Cody’s weapon looked more staff like, but he could easily swing it in one hand.
“…Impossible,” said the voice. The Heartless twitched as if they weren’t sure how to best judge if these enemies should be taken seriously. Vader and the clones then decided to make a preemptive strike and swung their new weapons at a storm trooper Heartless each. They evaporated and released a heart into an upward direction. “…So be it, warriors of the Keyblade,” hissed the voice. “Your vessel is doomed anyway.” The Heartless faded and the dark pools disappeared.
“Warriors of what?” said Rex as the phrase sunk in.
“I think we have bigger problems,” said Cody. “Lord Vader, I think we should get to the bridge and see if we can regain control of the ship from there.”
“My thoughts exactly,” said Vader. The new weapons disappeared, but that wasn’t their immediate priority. Vader activated his light saber and cut a hole through the ceiling. Using the Force, he took the cut away metal and threw Rex and Cody up into the next floor. This process was repeated until they reached level 2, just under the main bridge in the ship’s bridge tower. From there, they went up an open elevator shaft and got in through the door and onto the bridge. The ship was drifting near a planet by the time they reached it. Rex took the weapons console while Cody took the engineering console and Vader took the helm. “Cody, see if you can deploy the flaps. We need to slow down as much as possible.”
“Flaps deployed, sir!” said Cody.
“I’m going to land this thing on its side,” said Vader. “Rex, fire the port side weapons as soon as I give the word.”
“That’s going to be a problem sir,” said Rex. “Power is dropping like dung from a Dewback.”
“Get to communications and prepare a distress signal,” ordered Vader.
“Yes sir!” said Rex. He jumped from one pit in the bridge to the next and got the radio working. “Mayday! Mayday! This is a distress call from the Star Destroyer Ruthless! Our engines are down! We are crashing on a planet at coordinates 22 by 17 by 364 by 19! Requesting immediate assistance! I repeat, we are crashing on an unknown planet at coordinates 22 by 17 by 364 by 19! Does anyone rea…” the ship crashed near a small island.