Title: Rapid Redeployment Author: Goodwood Type: Novella Genre: Intrigue, drama, action Characters: Revan, Malak, and scads of OCs. Rating: PG for some strong language This is a tie-in story, taking place between A Marine Went to Jedi Camp and Star Wars: Saber Battalion and ties into the Tales from the Corps, Vol. 1 anthology. 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. War once again comes to the Republic, this time in the wake of an attack carried out by those who had only recently fought to save it. In the short time since the end of the Mandalorian Wars, the forces under the command of Revan and Malak have returned from their trek beyond the Unknown Regions as Lords of the Sith. After the raid on the shipyards at Foerost, a number of Marines are summoned to meet with the Commandant, Vice Admiral Voskel Dun'vei even as a pair of infiltrators ply their trade... Chapter One No matter the time of day or night, it was fairly easy to lose oneself in the sprawling ecumenopolis that called itself the jewel of the galaxy. Just go down a few levels, take a couple of ill-used turns and bam, the glittering facade of high civilization starts to give way to the inevitable decay of universal entropy. This simple principle was not lost on the two beings who currently made their way through the mid-level public housing project situated a few dozen kilometers from the edge of Galactic City by way of CoCo Town. One being, a dark-haired Human woman from Alderaan and the other, a blond Wroonian male from Druckenwell, knew all too well what carelessness would get you in places like these. Especially since the corridor they now trudged, weighed down with travel bags, was much thinner traffic-wise than it ought to have been. About the only positive thing, as far as they were concerned, was the fact that both of them were well-trained, experienced, and of the sort of mind-numbingly ordinary appearance that even well-seasoned intelligence agents have difficulty maintaining an air of suspicion over. They were clad in the height of middle-class Coruscanti attire, their outfits neither brand-new nor careworn; for all intents and purposes, they were a couple who were engaging in nothing more sinister than moving to better lodgings. As long as they avoided contact with anything resembling authority, be it civilian or military, they were golden. After all, their previous domicile had been a truly dreadful two-room apartment barely large enough for one being to comfortably occupy, let alone two of differing gender and species. Located almost six hundred levels down from the tops of the global city, it and the rest of the building had been decorated liberally with filth and graffiti. Their mutual two-day ordeal of having to endure such a place while setting up the preliminaries went a long way toward explaining the hostility that had sprouted up between them, which threatened to drive a wedge completely through the working relationship they had built up over the course of the last few years. "I don't care what he says," the woman muttered hotly to her pale blue-skinned companion, her voice low and outwardly calm. "Security is bound to be tight this soon into hostilities. I mean, just look at history; every time we pull a fast one like this, some deluded moron with too much power tries to raid the place, either to humiliate the government or to rescue some karking nutter." "That's why I'm here," the Wroonian murmured. "Alien enough to be swiftly disregarded, yet it is easy enough for me to pass as one of your kind if necessary." "That, and your economic interests would stand to benefit from this war no matter who wins," she shot back. His affable demeanor didn't slip a centimeter. "True, but irrelevant." The pair continued their trek, taking a turbolift a few corridors down that, for their comfort, started to become more congested. After three days on-world, the logistics of their mission were still being settled, but their contact had at least secured a more habitable safe-house. It was another eighteen levels down from their starting point of a nondescript air taxi pad, still within the upper reaches of the transition between luxury and the squalor of ancient neglect, and therefore quite livable considering the two operatives' respective homeworlds. Pedestrian traffic here was also significantly thicker and more eclectic in its constitution, providing a more comfortable buffer between them and the planet's constabulary. Having split up at the cluster of lifts going down, the two met at the entrance to the apartment with the Wroonian arriving first and the Human a few minutes later. Both were slightly out of breath from navigating the hustle and bustle of the early morning commute to work of thousands of sentient beings, while they themselves were on the way to their new place. Bucking the tide of hang-dog expressions wasn't exactly easy. "Whenever you're ready," the woman said glibly as she stepped to the side, freeing up the doorway so they could enter. The Wroonian pulled a card-key from a pocket inside his blazer and swiped at the lock. It beeped three times, then issued an unhappy blat not unlike the snide comment that a T3 unit might make. Unperturbed, he swiped the key again, at which the door gave a cheerful little whistle and hissed aside. His female partner, her hand dipped into her own jacket, swiftly eyeballed the front room before stealthily snaking inward while drawing the small holdout blaster she had kept concealed within. Following suit with his own weapon out, the pair of them quickly established that the place was deserted. "Are you sure that's necessary?" After reholstering her weapon, the Human had pulled another item from her belt: disguised as a standard comlink, it emitted a steady, somewhat throaty hum as she walked around the apartment, seemingly sampling the air for toxins or other hazards. "It only takes one to ruin an op," she retorted, then put the bug-sniffer away. "We're clear." "Easiest way to defeat a Republic surveillance mission," the Wroonian smirked, "is to use their own technology against them." "You would know, Palo," the woman bit out. "The only reason you're free to roam about is because of our patron's change of heart. That doesn't mean I have to trust you." "Ah, but it does dear Kimba," Palo replied mockingly. "For all you know, I could have been planning an epic double-cross from the word go. I may even be a disarmored Mandalorian, or a disguised Jed—" "Finish that sentence and die," Kimba shot back, looking daggers at the Wroonian as her blaster rematerialized seemingly instantaneously. "I don't care if Lord So-and-so flays my brain to bits for fun because killing you blows the op." Palo stepped back, raising his hands. "Oh for the love of—put that thing away before somebody hears the shot you are so desperate to give." "Then start taking this thing seriously!" Kimba demanded. "I'm sticking my neck out for you—under orders I might add—and frankly, I would like to know why and to what end." "As much as I would love to help you..." Palo began. "...I don't 'need to know.' Even rank amateurs can wrap their pea brains around that concept." After a beat, she put her weapon away once more and began to rearrange the furniture. It wasn't exactly difficult, as aside from a bed more suited to a married couple than a pair of insurgents, a basic refresher and sanisteam, and a barely adequate food prep station, the apartment was rather sparsely appointed. There were sockets for a holoviewer and a comm station, but neither instrument had yet been provided. It wasn't exactly a textbook startup routine, but as safehouses went it could have been much worse. "Where did he say the gear had been stashed?" Palo asked after an hour of effort most notably marked by the stony silence that had descended upon the lodging like a bantha-hair blanket. "Under that fat bed he somehow expects us to share," Kimba grumbled sourly. "He's certainly got a sick sense of humor, your boss." "He's not my boss, strictly speaking," Palo reminded her cheekily. "Just a contact that our employer and I happen to have had in common." "I knew that much. You're freelance at best." "And at worst?" "A suave, yet conniving backstabber who would sell his own grandmother for half a credit's worth of spice." — — — Newly-minted Lieutenant Junior Grade Reeka Chorizzo smiled to her reflection as she adjusted the neck of her brand-new, freshly-tailored officers' dress reds. The ceremony had been a week ago, but the notion of her new rank and where she was heading next in her career had left her floating as though the gravity had gone to half-Standard. That was before the declaration of war the previous day, however; now she felt as though someone had replaced her innards with a permacrete mixer. Still, it wasn't every day you got to meet the Commandant of the Marine Corps—in his own office, especially—and Reeka felt that one should always at least try to be their normal selves when meeting such an important figure. Not that she had fully gotten around to figuring out just who she herself was now, not after having been wounded in the gut by a Mandalorian slugthrower on that green hell they called Dxun, and then having spent two years in recovery and attending Officer Candidate School. Leadership she already knew something about, having served as an ad hoc company sergeant during the last war, it was more about learning the niceties of being a so-called "gentlebeing" as well as some of the logistics of interstellar warfare. What still had her somewhat vexed was the naval side of things; while she had passed all of her classes with good marks, her ears still rang with terms that most naval officers took for granted, such as rolling a ship to present undamaged shields, the proper deployment of starfighters, standard battle formations, and various communications protocols. Fortunately for her at this point, Admiral Dun'vei was not an unknown quantity. Reeka had had occasion during both her recovery and attendance at OCS to meet with and learn from officers who knew the Bothan commandant, or at least had had the chance to meet him. She had in fact written an article for Jarhead some time ago about the first five years of his time in that position, the prep work for which had included interviewing her battalion's commanding officer as well as a comm call to her division executive officer. It had been an unbiased look into the admiral's career, and the reaction from a wartime audience had been mixed. Still, her editor had loved the piece, and had submitted it for some journalism award or something. Reeka didn't even remember which one it was, nor did she care; the article hadn't won, but that wasn't the point. The point was that this was an opportunity to get a sense of the man himself, to see if he remained the highly competent, if somewhat scheming and occasionally taciturn, leader that he had been during the Mandalorian conflict and previous wars. Of course, it was unlikely that the man would consent to be interviewed by a lowly lieutenant fresh out of school, even given her experience as an enlistee and non-commissioned officer, and she was content with that. What occupied her attention instead was the fact that, with the war barely more than a day old and the armed forces reeling from the raiding of the Foerost fleet anchorage, the highest ranking Marine in the galaxy had specifically asked to see her. By name. And she had the oddest notion that she wasn't the only person who was being summoned. Satisfied at last that she looked presentable, Reeka left her hastily-rented Coruscant apartment; fortunately for this meeting she had already been on-planet when the request had been transmitted. While waiting to be assigned to a line unit in the usual "hurry up and wait" manner of all military bureaucracies the galaxy over, she had taken the time to kick back, relax, and have some fun. Humming a jaunty imitation of Sergeant Mulkaehey to herself that was in direct contrast to the song's words and meaning, she left her apartment and mounted the blood-red speeder bike she'd rented upon her arrival, her cover secured in her belt and the wind ruffling her ears and spines. — — — Two wet pops sounded in quick succession as Tuffass stood up from his rack in the hermetically-sealed, ammonia-filled chamber where he slumbered. It was a temporary hotfix, worked up two hours after his arrival for the short time the Gand was expecting to stay on Coruscant, by a Navy quartermaster who would probably have preferred to be out fixing warships left crippled by yesterday's Sith attack. Instead, the hapless Gotal had been assigned to Tuffass as both a guide and interpreter of sorts; the infamous gunnery sergeant had never before visited the capital world, and the brass didn't want him getting lost in the bowels of the city-planet. Grunting at this turn of events, he attached his refilled breath mask and, skyclad, cycled the chamber clean and stepped out and into a private suite which he felt he didn't deserve. Tuffass had shrugged off all of this fanfare and preparation with his usual gruffly stoic demeanor, accepting whatever orders he was given and determined, even after all these years, never to show weakness of any kind. The Gand normally refused any special treatment as a matter of course, even going so far as to buck back—within the bounds of protocol, of course—at the efforts of his superior officers to accommodate his increasingly obvious disability. Today, however, he would put up with it. Though he still had a crop of maggots to attend to back on Corulag, he was sure that they could manage to continue getting into trouble and embarrassing themselves for a few days. Under the tender mercies of his junior drill instructors, they would still learn and learn well. He had, after all, been summoned by name to meet with the Commandant of the Marine Corps, for reasons that would reveal themselves in due time. When the Commandant calls, everybody listens. Not that he hadn't meditated on the event, of course. He had in fact spent the entire trip to Coruscant deep within the mists, attempting to divine the meaning of this unexpected development and how it related to the reignition of hostilities. Despite his longtime mastery of the art, however, the mists had been strangely—one could even call it eerily—blank on the matter. It was as though they were playing tricks on him, or else setting him up for a surprise, but no Gand would ever hazard such a guess. The mists did not lie, they did not deceive those who knew how to read them, they simply showed possibilities and gave clues as to their likelihood. Perhaps the mists themselves are confused, Tuffass thought to himself as he finished donning his dress reds. That explanation seemed to click within his mind as he pondered it, as though an ethereal puzzle piece had been found and placed accordingly, and he found himself feeling a hint of relief. Satisfied that he was not going to feel burdened with matters that would not impress the Commandant, the Gand left his quarters and rendezvoused with his guide. The Navy chief looked like what Tuffass would if he had had fur and a taller, leaner frame; perpetually irritated with the universe but not in an unmanageable way. "Gand apologizes for his presence pulling you from your preferred and rightful duty," he said as the two walked through the barracks complex toward the speeder lot. The Gotal whuffed a meaningful sigh. "That is the seventh time you have done so, Sergeant," he replied resignedly. "And though I know you mean well, it is beginning to become irritating." Even after all these years, it had never gotten much easier associating with the Navy, Tuffass realized. He made a mental note to attempt to rectify that long-standing oversight as soon as possible, however in the meantime he resigned himself to having failed to live up to his reputation with the chief. Not that it mattered much, as he suspected that after the visit with the Commandant, the two would never meet again in this corporeal existence. — — — Vice Admiral Voskel Dun'vei could only recall ever having worn his dress red uniform twice since his ascent to commandant. The first time had, of course, been at the event where he had been inaugurated. The second had been at the announcement of victory over the Mandalorian clans at Malachor V, after which for reasons best left to the Supreme Chancellor, he of all people had been asked to deliver the news over the HoloNet. It was therefore something of a minor puzzle for him to wonder over that every Marine who didn't already report to him, when summoned to his office, insisted on wearing their best attire with full military honors and trappings. Personally he preferred the old pre-reform Marine Combat Uniform, or MCU, but had recognized long before that it was not appropriate for an admiral—or even a commander or captain—to be seen wearing common utilities. Every time he was given command of a unit in the field, he had instituted standing orders that all soldiers were to wear service greens when on duty except in cases where full battle armor and kit was called for. It was one of those fastidious little things that male Bothans were prone to, and Voskel was well aware of the fact that he was the butt of many a whispered joke because of it. It bothered him not one iota, however. Many great leaders had their personality quirks; that was part of what made them memorable in the first place. Admiral Sakira Tobonne, the Corps' founder, had had a habit of inspecting his soldiers' shoes, insisting that they be shiny at all times. Voskel's reasoning for his own policy had been to institute some pride in the soldiers and officers under his command, to demonstrate that they could outperform any other unit in the Corps and look good while doing so. It had worked to a certain degree when all he was responsible for was a single platoon and later a company, but when he had later assumed command of a battalion, he had found that the rule had become unenforceable. Particularly since his company commanders hadn't exactly been enthusiastic about the idea, and especially once hostilities with the Onderonians had broken out, which had led almost seamlessly to Exar Kun's uprising. It had been somewhat of a relief, then, to find that upon becoming a staff officer he learned that the wearing of service greens on duty was the norm rather than the exception. The newer, post-reform Battle Dess Uniforms were for frontier units or those on tour aboard ship, where it was difficult enough to maintain appearances without having to properly care for more elaborate attire. Command can change a person, and high command even more so, and a being can more easily realize how silly they may have been in simpler times. It was that somewhat happier thought that coursed through his mind as he went through the motions of arriving at the complex that housed the Republic Military High Command's Marine Corps branch, where every being and their pet reek were so anxious to offer formal greetings that one may have been forgiven for thinking they had all been sitting on coiled springs, their saluting muscles made of elastic bands. "At ease, everyone," he would inevitably reply to all the choruses of "Good morning, sir!" At the outer room to his office he was met by his adjutant, a Zabrak captain two decades his junior who had only achieved her rank and position a month prior. "Good morning, Admiral," she said rather jauntily, as though the news of conflict came and went every day. "Did you rest well?" He bit back the reply he longed to hurl at the hapless woman, something about not having gotten a proper night's rest since leading a charge on Iziz alongside the rocket-jumpers and ending up with armor soaked to his fur with blood and offal. It was an exaggeration of course, but one that would be believed, and right now the last thing he wanted was to get himself and his staff riled up. "Well enough for the job," he said instead, putting enough emphasis on the word job to remind his aide that the Republic was, once again, caught up in a full-scale shooting war, this time against legions of those who, six months previous, he would have counted as trusted allies. "Will my requested appointments be making it today?" Captain Mir-Vostok bobbed her head, horns the color of creamed caf poking through her ebon hair. "For the most part, yes sir. However, we've had a slight delay in your third booking, she did have to take a packet all the way out from Dantooine, after all." "Of course," the admiral grunted. "But you've made certain that she will arrive today?" "It will be a near run thing sir, but yes." "Never accept a 'near run thing' if you can help it, Captain," Voskel replied crisply, squaring his shoulders and locking eyes with his adjutant. "That's my command advice for the day. We can't afford any screw-ups with this, not with those Sith bastards coming at us again." He turned to his secretary, a Twi'lek male who looked as though he desperately regretted having left his unit to take this posting. "Let me know when they arrive. Otherwise, I do not wish to be disturbed short of a supernova or an enemy armada bearing down on this very spot." "Yes, Admiral." Voskel entered the well-appointed office and sealed the door, growling intermittently as he trudged over to his desk and activated the in-built computer terminal. It would be another few hours before the first of his guests would arrive, and he had a lot to do in the meantime. Some reports just couldn't wait, and there were some things he could prepare to keep certain parties occupied if the occasion warranted it. He hoped that things would go as smoothly as he had planned; a slip-up wouldn't be catastrophic, but he hated having his timing thrown. Such things were an inevitability of war, it was true, but yesterday the galaxy had been at peace. Damn that Revan. Damn him and his pet Malak. Oh, he had certainly welcomed their help when it was needed, when the Mandos were practically knocking on Coruscant's door and happily nuking worlds that hardly deserved such atrocities being visited upon them. He had even permitted the two Knights to utilize as many units of Marines as they needed, from all branches and departments. Even a few honor guards had joined up with the Revanchists, although they had done so in the guise of ordinary soldiers; only one of them had returned from that conflict alive. If he had known what would happen, though—what had in fact happened... ...he would have done nothing different. In times of war the Republic needed its Marines, there was no other way around it, and regretting any command decisions made in the past was to undermine one's very position and authority. Thus far no Marine had proven so traitorous as the pair of fallen Jedi who had led them, but that hardly mattered to him at the moment. There remained plenty of time for duplicity to manifest itself, from any and all possible sources. Voskel was not such a fool as to assume that none under his command were capable of such high treason, but some small part of him held out hope that the disease that infected so many of the military—as well as the titular Revanchists—was not so contagious. Time would tell on that front. Meanwhile, he had work to do.