|"The Clone Wars: The Pengalan Tradeoff"|
21.75 BBY (13:8 GrS)
"The Clone Wars: The Pengalan Tradeoff" is a short story written by Aaron Allston and illustrated by Tommy Lee Edwards. It was originally printed in Star Wars Insider 65 and was later republished as Star Wars Hyperspace Fiction on January 27, 2006.
The story is about Joram Kithe, a self-described lazy, cowardly Galactic Republic accountant who was given an unusual task: evaluating the effectiveness of clone troopers in a combat situation, to see if further investment in the clone trooper program was advisable. To this end, he was assigned to a platoon of clone troopers during an assault on a suspected diamond-boron missile factory on Pengalan IV.
Unfortunately, the factory was a trap and the Republic's assault force was severely beaten by the Separatists' defenses. During the retreat, Kithe's gunship was shot down, leaving only him and 7 troopers alive. Due to his temporary commission as a Republic Intelligence lieutenant, the troopers put him in command despite his reluctance and utter lack of military skills.
As he learned to work with the clones, he became impressed by their courage, skill and efficiency, but deplored their lack of individuality. He tried to correct that by giving them nicknames and showing them that following approved procedure was not necessarily the best way to go, and could even jeopardize the mission at times.
Refusing capture, Kithe and the troopers made their way to Tur Lorkin, the nearest village, to find a suitable escape ship.
Due to his accounting skills, Kithe noticed many wrong things about the place: it looked like a small farming community, but there were no farms, no visible industry, yet it boasted a clearly oversized spaceport. The figures just didn't add up, so he and the troopers decided to give a closer look leaving. They realized that the town was a merely a front: the diamond-boron missile factory did indeed exist and was hidden underground, right beneath it. The false factory they had attacked earlier was a decoy, quickly set up after the Separatists realized that the Republic knew about the factory.
Kithe decided to get away and alert the Republic, but the troopers disagreed: by the time they reached Republic space, the Separatists would have found out about their escape and quickly relocated the factory. They had to destroy it before they could run away. Finding an unexpected sense of courage and duty, Kithe decided to join them in their mission, rather than just leaving. Together, they infiltrated and destroyed the factory, then managed to escape.
However, their success came at a high cost: three of the troopers had died, men Kithe had grown to know and appreciate, which touched him deeply. As he admitted this to the troopers, they in turn had a revelation for him: they were not just ordinary clones. They were made "to be a little more self-reliant than the others. To be capable of more initiative(...)In case they need troopers for more specialized missions". Kithe was supposed to assume that they were the norm and write a shining report about the clone troopers, thus encouraging more investment in them. Kithe decided to do just that, since he didn't know what this cover-up was for. However, he wondered why the troopers let him know about this. They said they felt that he had deserved it. That he was one of them.
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