Title: Tales from the Corps, Vol. 1 Authors: Goodwood and TrakNar Type: Short story anthology Genre: Action, war drama, character study Characters: Revan, Malak, Mission Vao, Vrook Lamar in varying capacities, and several OCs. Rating: PG-13 for violence and strong language Summary: For approximately four thousand years, from the earliest conflicts with the Sith Empire to the Ruusan Reformation, the Republic Marines did battle with the enemies of the Galactic Republic. Renowned for their skill in all aspects of galactic warfare as well as their traditions of duty, valor, honor and loyalty, the Marines were one of the foundation stones for civilization throughout the galaxy. Laera ReyolÃ©, a Human woman from Agamar and Tuffass, one of the first Gand to encounter the Republic, went on to become two of the most famous Marines of their day. But who were they really? This collection of stories and vignettes explores the lives and careers of two of the Corps' finest soldiers, taking the reader from the training depots of Carida and Corulag to the far reaches of known space and into the thick of the Mandalorian Wars. Introduction Laera's legs felt as if her boots had been filled with ferrocrete. She had been on Carida for over a year now, but she just could not acclimate herself to the higher gravity; it was as if the entire planet was in a permanent launch sequence. It was ideal for hardening the Marines' latest batch of fresh-faced new recruits; nevertheless, it was also a sensation that made her stomach dive into her knees, with her heart in close pursuit. Despite the hardships, she continued on the quiet stroll along the lake's shore. Her companion, if he was as uncomfortable as she was, didn't show it. He was a diminutive insect; quite literally so. Like her, he was clad in PT grays, with MARINES emblazoned across the sweatshirt, but his stocky form barely came up to Laera's chest. His presence more than made up for his lack of height; the battle-scarred exoskeleton and expressionless visage betrayed what he had witnessed on the field of battle and he spared little expense in imparting his knowledge to his recruits. Laera could still recall her own training under the smaller gunnery sergeant; her parents were privy to the details in the letters that she had written home. With a grunt, Laera's companion seated himself on a bench. "Tuffass will be honest; he doesn't much care for this planet..." He allowed himself a tired laugh as he rubbed his right knee. Tuffass was, if Laera recalled correctly, a Gand; a little-known insect species from some backrocket world beyond the reaches of known space. Near as she could tell, Gands did not breathe the same atmosphere that she did, as Tuffass's face was always obscured by what had to be a custom-designed respirator. He was undoubtedly quirky, speaking in third-person all the time. "So, Gunny, I've been meaning to ask," Laera began with a bit of small talk, "why are you called 'Tuffass'?" Tuffass tilted his head to meet her gaze. His compound eyes studied her for a moment. "Because he has a tough ass." He returned his gaze to the lake and rubbed his knee some more before flexing the joint a few times. "Earned it on that mist-forsaken rock, probably before you were even born." He took a deep breath. "He...usually doesn't discuss that. Let's just say that Tuffass proved that he is a tough ass." Laera nodded slowly. The water lapped against the lake's rocky shore in gentle waves, the breeze warm upon her face. It was a rather pleasant afternoon, she had to admit. Certainly a refreshing change from the weeks of rain. The heavy drops had pounded like hailstones as her recruits fought their way through the muddy obstacle courses, harried them during blaster training, and made nightmares out of field problems. Though, she had to thank the rain for at least one thing; it made the grueling training a bit easier to bear for her recruits, as they were not sweating their very lives through their pores. A week ago she had had to send three to sickbay and one had not returned; mustered out due to an underlying condition. She felt sorry for that recruit; he had come from a similar background as Laera, wanting nothing more than to support his family and serve his community. The look on his face when he had boarded the transport cut to the quick. Tuffass stood up and his knee let out a wet pop. He stumbled forward as he grabbed hold of the railing that rimmed the lake's shoreline. And there he stood for a very long moment, his breathing becoming heavier. Carefully, he flexed his knee and sucked in his breath with a loud hiss. Laera was on her feet immediately. "You all right, Gunny?" The short Gand managed a nod and swallowed his breath. He rocked his weight onto his right leg and took a tentative step, followed by another. Laera followed him closely, finally noticing the limp; Tuffass had always walked with one, but this time, there was a degree of pain that accompanied it; despite his stoic visage she could somehow sense it. He remained silent as he walked, trying to bring himself back to his normal gait. "Perhaps you should stop by sickbay—;" "No," Tuffass said tersely. "Blasted planet...just harder on Tuffass's joints." "Gunny," Laera persisted, "at least before you go back on duty. The recruits—" "Those maggots will see nothing," Tuffass shook his head adamantly. "He has plenty of time to heal. This will pass." Those last three words sounded as if through gritted teeth—or mandibles, in his case—as he commanded that his knee cooperate, as if it were one of his recruits. Though, his limp remained pronounced and noticeable, and he paused to support himself on the railing. Laera frowned. Sure, one should not show any weakness to their recruits, but they were on weekend liberty. Clearly the Gand was in pain. And clearly, the Gand was also one of the most stubborn individuals that Laera had ever known. "The commissary is right up there," she nodded to one of the buildings along the ridge, "I'll get you some ice." Tuffass nodded in agreement, much to Laera's relief. The two continued along the path in silence, save for the gunnery sergeant's heavy breathing. They entered the building, the main portion being a dining hall not unlike a civilian tapcaf, and Laera immediately fetched a bag of crushed ice. She handed it to Tuffass and seated herself across the table from him. "Thank you, Gunnery Sergeant Reyolé," Tuffass's voice was low as he placed the bag against his knee and leaned back in the chair, letting out a long breath. "Blasted planet..." Laera chuckled. The heavier gravity was not very kind to her joints, either. Many an evening, she had retired with sore knees and aching feet. "So, did you bring your 'wall of names' here, too?" she asked, feeling that a change of subject was in order. Tuffass let out a sharp laugh that caught her by surprise. "Hah! Nah, Tuffass left that at home. He brought his Clue-By-Four, though." Laera smiled. She had seen that infamous wooden plank when she was a recruit, and had dreaded ever being unlucky enough to have required its usage. "Have you ever actually ''used'' that thing on anyone?" Tuffass shook his head and leaned forward, meeting Laera's gaze. "Between you and Tuffass," his voice was low, "it's just for show. His CO would never let him actually beat clues into his maggots, much as he would want to." "It certainly works, though. Nearly scared the star-stuff outta me when I first saw it." "That was the plan." Tuffass cocked his head slightly and Laera could have sworn that she saw him smile behind his mask. "But you turned out pretty good in the end." It was all Laera could do to hide her face as it flushed with equal parts relief and pride. Inspiration struck after several minutes of commiserating silence, and she briefly departed the small table where they had sat. A couple of minutes later she returned, clutching two triple-chocolate ice creams. The elder gunnery sergeant's reaction was palpable if one knew what to look for, even if Laera didn't quite know the specifics. He removed his mask and as he greedily devoured a third of the creamy dessert while Laera licked indulgently at hers, he seemed to relax by a few degrees. After that he began to take his time, so that the two Marines finished at about the same time. After wiping his mouth, the Gand replaced his breath mask and leaned back in the chair. "Chocolate: the only thing that makes it all bearable," Tuffass said with his own unique equivalent of a contented sigh. His compound eyes glistened slightly as he bobbed his head this way and that, lost in thought. "You wanted to know how Tuffass got his name, do you?" he finally asked after a moment of quiet reflection. "Well, perhaps he could get around to trusting some being with the story. You, if nobody else..."