Cody’s comm unit has been on the fritz for weeks now. It hasn’t gotten as bad as that one time when Rex’s got shorted out completely after an unfortunate fall into a river, nor as bad as when Waxer’s broke so badly it shocked him the next time he tried to turn it on. There’s just been some interference, a couple dropped calls (thankfully nothing too important--Cody’s been sure to take anything extremely delicate through the comm in his helmet, and he doesn’t really mind being able to truthfully tell some senators that, no, actually, he couldn’t get around to asking General Kenobi to give them special treatment, and you know what, they were actually breaking up a bit). He’s got to go to the quartermaster for it soon anyway; it wouldn’t do to have one of the highest commanders in the GAR be unreachable, especially so close to the end of the war. He resolves to get it switched out after the Utapau mission.
Cody is tired . The Separatists are in strong force on Utapau, and while Obi-Wan is more than capable of holding his own with Grievous, Cody worries. It’s a dignified worry, but he has to admit that it’s a little overwhelming when enhanced by nine or ten cups of coffee and about a gallon of adrenaline coursing through his blood. The fighting is over but he hasn’t seen Obi-Wan since returning his lightsaber, and he always feels better when he can keep his general within eyesight. It's driving him nearly to distraction. That’s his excuse for opening the call from a secure channel on his handheld comm rather than his helmet and Cody is sticking to it. The miniaturized figure makes Cody arch his brows behind his visor, all flowing robes and black hood. Very dramatic. Cody’s seen better at the Jedi Temple on a lazy Sunday morning before laundry day.
“Commander Cody, execute Order 6-- bzzt . ” The Emperor’s figure wavers, sways, and disappears as his order takes hold. The comm does, in fact, let off a static shock at that, but Cody’s already too far gone to do more than let it fall from numb fingers.
“Good soldiers follow orders,” Cody says, his lips moving like someone else is controlling them. He raises his boot and crushes the comm unit under his heel. It’s like Cody is watching all of this happen from very far away even though he knows he’s stuck in his own body. He grinds the broken plastic and metal into the dirt with vehement anger, then raises his hand to his visor and retransmits the order throughout the 212th. After, he reaches up and snaps off the transmitter on his helmet too, just for good measure. Parjai Squad is in the air again, and Sergeant Barlex can be trusted to transmit Order 6 throughout the rest of the GAR as soon as Cody’s relay reaches the 2nd Airborne Company before cutting off his communications too.
Order 6 is completed. All around him, the 212th is destroying their communication units as fast as possible; Boil chucks his straight off a cliff. Cody gives him a nod when he snaps to a salute afterwards. The Order still pricks at him, though, a strange, slick feeling, oozing along his spine into his brainstem. It burrows teeth into his mind, like the jaws of some great beast shaking its prey by the throat. “Good soldiers follow orders,” Boil says, still not dropping his salute, and Cody finds himself repeating the words back mindlessly.
Good soldiers follow orders. But his orders have been completed. What now?
“Orders, we need new orders,” he hears one soldier mutter nearby. His head pounds, Order 6 curling, white hot, through Cody’s frontal lobe. There’s no way he can make sure the order is carrying out across the other battalions and it stabs at him. What other orders do they have? Cody puts a hand to his bucket, desperate to rub at his temples. There’s a wetness on his face; he thinks his nose might be bleeding. Rex used to go over the rulebook with him before all the batchmates were tested on Kamino.
“Listen to this one,” Rex says, laughing in the semi-darkness of their bunk. “‘Order 49: in the event that communication with the Republic or Senate is unavailable under presumption of corrupted or compromised systems, secure Jedi command as quickly as possible through any means necessary. Treat any obstacles with hostile measures.’ They want us to secure the Jedi ? What do the Jedi need protecting from?”
“Execute Order 49,” Cody shouts; his voice breaks, weaker than it should be. This headache is killing him. He sees Boil jump into action, shouting Cody’s order to those nearest him. Then they shout too, on and on, until Order 49 turns into a wave through the ranks. The rest of Ghost Company immediately begin to get the ships ready for departure; some of the gunships take off, getting into position to escort The Negotiator to safety. The bombardment measures and cannons the 212th had set up to break into Grievous's compound are dismantled and put away in seconds. My battalion, Cody thinks proudly, is very good at following orders .
My battalion, Cody realizes, are not themselves. But then he hears a call of his name and rank and the thought is lost to him.
He turns just as General Kenobi’s mount reaches level ground and Kenobi disembarks. The ever present worry eases slightly at the sight, but then Order 49 slams into his skull. It is all Cody can do not to rush to the man and bundle him into the nearest airship. He has to secure the Jedi. He has to follow orders. Cody is a good soldier.
“Commander Cody!” Kenobi calls again across a quickly clearing battlefield. The Jedi’s head swivels, taking in the soldiers preparing to leave. “We’ve made fast work of the end of the war, but I never thought your brothers would be so quick to get back to Coruscant.” General Kenobi nears him now, dropping the reins he’s been holding onto and patting the beast once on the neck before stepping to his commander’s side. He’s smiling. “That anxious to be rid of me, are you?”
Cody opens his mouth, a moment of clarity seizing him. Obi-Wan’s bright eyes gaze straight into his through his bucket and Cody thinks, what am I doing? But what comes out is, “Good soldiers follow orders.”
The general’s brow furrows. “Come again?”
“The Emperor has issued Order 6, sir.” Cody says. His jaw works, chewing over the words he actually wants to say, chewing over what is happening? Obi-Wan, what's happening to me? “Communications are compromised. Order 49 is now in effect. Immediate retreat is necessary.”
“Emp--Order--Cody, what?” Kenobi’s hands come up, reaching out, and Cody tenses, but he only places them on Cody’s shoulders. The gentleness is strange. No commanding officer has gripped him so carefully before. “Cody, what’s wrong? What are you saying?”
“Order 6, General,” Cody replies, just as helpless and useless as Kenobi’s hands on his shoulders. His own hands, working independent of his brain, reach out and steady the man before him. The Negotiator is almost ready. Boil and Waxer will give the high sign when they’re ready to board. In the meantime, Cody slips Kenobi’s communicator from his belt, deftly palming it. He keeps a sharp eye on Kenobi’s expression at the same time, because the man is paling fast and looks a little green around the gills. Order 49 dictates he must see to the Jedi’s wellbeing and if that means he’s got to lend his bucket as a makeshift--well, bucket, then so be it.
The Jedi reels. “What is Order 6? Who is the Emperor? Why--why would you--”
“The Emperor transmitted Order 6--get rid of all communication units, effective immediately--approximately twenty-four minutes and thirty-six seconds ago, General.” He raises Kenobi’s own communicator and, ignoring the man’s squawking protest, slams it into the rock beneath their feet. “Communications are compromised.”
“Why would you ever listen to--”
“Good soldiers follow orders.”
Somewhere in the back of his head, Cody wants to scream, wants to rage. His chest fights to hyperventilate. His eyes are watering. His nose is bleeding even more now. There’s a pronounced trembling in his limbs; the Jedi must notice, because Kenobi reaches out and grips his hands, bringing them up to his chest, cradling them there. Kenobi's heart pounds underneath his knuckles.
“Cody, please.” Kenobi’s eyes search his; distantly, Cody wonders what he feels like in the Force. Whatever it is, judging from the look on his general’s face, it’s not good. “I don’t understand. Who is the Emperor?”
Again, his mouth opens on its own. “That’s classified information, sir. Order 7 includes a clause dictating that any ruling Emperor’s identity must be protected from public knowledge, for that individual’s protection and continued survival.”
“Of course it does,” Kenobi replies. “Because Force forbid any of this is ever easy .” He gathers Cody’s fingers into one hand and reaches up to place his other palm against the side of his commander’s neck. His fingertips brush the bare skin where Cody’s blacks end just before the bottom of his bucket. Cody’s spine snaps straight, shoulders coming up, but Kenobi holds on, gently, gently. In his mind, Cody screams.
Yes, yes, it’s me, I’m here, he pushes out with all his might. His Orders swirl through him, trying to push him back, keep him down. There’s a door waiting to lock behind him somewhere in his mind, hiding a deep, dark black Cody doesn’t think he’ll ever return from. He doesn’t know how the Force works, per se, but trying to push his thoughts out into it is better than surrendering to oblivion. I’m here!
General Kenobi draws in a sharp breath and pulls away slightly. The hand Cody instantly pulls from Kenobi's and drops to his waist flexes involuntarily, but the Jedi doesn’t step back. “I heard you,” Kenobi says, quick and low, like he doesn’t want anyone else to hear. “I heard you Cody. I’ll help. Let me help you, alright?”
“Negative. Assistance is not needed; Order 49 states Jedi command be secured before all other forces.” Over Kenobi’s shoulder, Boil waves. Cody sends him a nod. “Order 49 is now in effect, sir. I have to ask you to get on the ship.”
“Cody--” Kenobi cuts off with a frustrated noise and drops their hands but stays close. Cody’s body stiffens, ready for resistance. Cody’s mind reels from the lost contact. “Commander. I--please state Order 49’s parameters for me.”
“Jedi command must be secured at all costs in the event of total communications failure, sir. Any hostile forces may be taken out by any means necessary to secure the Jedi. Any resistance from Jedi may be disregarded and treated as command being incapacitated. Power structure moves to next in line until threats to Jedi have been neutralized.” General Kenobi’s face does some interesting gymnastics throughout the explanation, but he doesn’t start yelling or running, which Cody takes as a good sign. He also seems distracted; this works in Cody’s favor, though, because Kenobi doesn’t realize his commander has begun slowly walking them both towards where Boil waits on the landing platform. As soon as they begin the trek towards the ship Cody’s headache eases.
“And all these orders come from the Emperor?” His face is still troubled. Within himself, Cody feels the old urge to reach out and brush his fingers over his fringe, hold on until the lines in Obi-Wan’s face smooth away, but he can’t seem to act on it. Then Kenobi’s eyes snap up to his visor again.
The Jedi stops moving. Cody takes another step and turns his back to the ship, carefully keeping hold of him. He doesn’t tighten his grip, but it’s secure; if Kenobi wants to get away, he’ll have to use the Force, which Cody knows he’d never do. Obi-Wan never uses the Force on his men. “Yes sir. If we could keep moving, Order 49 instructs us to get Jedi out of active warzones, General.”
The general doesn’t move. His feet drag when Cody takes a step back, pulling him along, but he doesn’t fight. “An Emperor--the Republic has fallen.”
A Kenobi distracted is a Kenobi easily moved. Cody doesn’t mind keeping quiet if it means Order 49 doesn’t stab quite so sharply into the backs of his eyes. His nose has nearly stopped bleeding. It’s almost enough for him to be able to open his mouth and say something not pertaining to orders, but then he catches himself and his jaw shuts with an audible click.
“An Emperor with the power to topple the Republic--Only a Sith could--” Kenobi’s eyes are glazed over, far away, and within his own mind, Cody hides the bright beam of hope that lights in him. “But why would a Sith protect Jedi?”
“I don’t know, General.” Boil waves them in and Cody gives Waxer the go-ahead to raise the ramp after them. Something aching and nervous in his chest eases once his general has set foot on The Negotiator, but his shoulders are still tense and high. It’s not enough. Kenobi is shaking under his hands, he’s distant. His face is bruised, his clothes scuffed and battered. His hair is covered in dust. He’s fresh from battle and likely experiencing emotional and psychological turmoil. Cody would be operating within the parameters of Order 49 if he were to take Kenobi to rest in his private quarters--so he does. Kenobi doesn’t speak again until Cody’s gotten him settled on the edge of his bunk. He isn’t receptive to being pushed gently to lay down, so Cody gives up on that for a moment and goes to the bridge to confirm take off.
When he returns, the general is pacing the length of his quarters, gripping at his hair and muttering under his breath. Cody assesses the situation and drops his blaster and bucket by the door before entering, hands up like he’s approaching a scared animal. Order 49 was correct; command structure needed power taken from the Jedi right now. Kenobi is more rattled than he’s ever seen him. Inside, Cody feels about the way Obi-Wan looks.
“A Sith wouldn’t protect a Jedi!” Kenobi exclaims when he catches sight of his commander. Cody pauses and nods. Best to agree with him for now. “Unless they got something out of it--like, say if the Sith was at the center of the Republic and needed to make himself look good to politicians before setting off a galactic war! ” His voice rises in pitch at the end, his eyes wild. “I can’t believe it, I’ve been so blind--Dooku even told me--”
All the blood drains from Kenobi’s face. Cody lurches forward on the balls of his feet because for a second it looks like he might faint. Then General Kenobi whirls around and starts rummaging through his desk. “The Senate ! I sent Anakin there for years, I knew there was something off about the Chancellor, I knew it . And--and Padme, and Bail, Commander Fox, they’re all there-- Cody, where is my spare communicator?”
“Communications are compromised. The crew would have gone through each room to make sure no unit was left for us to be hacked or tracked with.”
General Kenobi turns back to him, looking near feral, a strange light in his eyes, just on the edge of hysterical. “Oh, well that’s just perf--urk! ”
He cuts off suddenly as his head jerks back on his neck like Cody's just struck him across the face. Cody, whose hands have been hanging uselessly by his sides, lunges forward to catch his commanding officer before he slides to the floor. He thinks for a moment that he has actually fainted now, but Kenobi’s blue eyes flutter open and shut once, twice, three times before he gasps and opens them wide. There’s burst blood vessels coloring his sclera as he pants. Cody adjusts his grip on the Jedi, wrapping both arms around him. He looks like he needs something solid to hang onto. Order 49 tells him Cody needs to provide that, and for once his inner voice doesn’t try to fight it. “General!”
Kenobi doesn’t come fully back to himself until Cody’s managed to heft him up and transfer him to the bed. It’s little more than a cot but it’s better than the metal floor; Cody lets Order 49 push his hands into bringing up the covers around his general, smoothing out the wrinkles. Kenobi mutters something under his breath but whatever happened, he’s definitely not all there yet. Cody goes to the ensuite and returns with a damp cloth. The process of wiping blood and grit from Kenobi’s face is familiar and warming; it’s almost enough to let Cody push his fringe from his face, to tell him he doesn’t know what’s happening but that he loves him, to tell him to run--
But then Cody stops himself because why would he do that? Order 49 says he has to keep watch over Kenobi, not let him flee.
“Anakin--” Kenobi murmurs. Cody leans closer to hear. “Something--Cody, something terrible has happened to Anakin--I can’t feel him through our bond anymore. I’m supposed to be able to feel him in the Force. I don’t know--I don’t know what to do .”
“The 501st will secure General Skywalker as per Order 49 stipulations after they have carried out Order 6, sir. He will be safe.” Cody hesitates, fighting himself, fighting Order 49, fighting the Emperor. Through gritted teeth that want to bite off his tongue more than let the words out, Cody whispers, “ I’m here, Obi-Wan. ”
Hands close around the sides of his head just as white hot pain lances through his skull again, the orders punishing him. Obi-Wan looks right into his eyes, bruised and beaten and just as lost as Cody, and says, “I know, Cody. I’m here too. I’m here with you.”
It’s all Cody can ask of Obi-Wan now. Cody curls as close as the body-which-is-not-his-body will allow and prays it will be enough.
“It’s--it’s alright,” Obi-Wan assures softly, a little too fast to be truthful. He’s bleeding from his nose too. Cody wipes it away. “I--we’ll go somewhere safe, just like you want, and we’ll find--we’ll find Ahsoka, she’ll be with Commander Rex and they can help find Anakin. We’ll--we’ll fight the Sith together, Cody. I swear it.”
“I have to keep you safe,” Cody says, and means it in every way he knows. “I will keep you safe.”
“In that, Cody, I have the utmost trust. I always have.”