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The Art of Being Invisible

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Carida
Republic Defense Academy
3648 BBY

"I think you'll be pleased with the recruits we have to offer Agent…" The woman currently fishing for his name was a thick set human female, Theron estimated mid-forties, with mousy brown hair that refused to stay back in the regulation bun. Her brown eyes were dull and watery, and there was a foul smell on her breath from whatever she'd eaten for lunch. All in all, not who he expected to be his guide while searching out some new blood at the commando school.

The SIS had lost quite a few specialized agents as of late, and the higher ups had a new plan in progress. Above average soldiers who could double as agents. Short term, violent missions that the Republic military couldn't green light, and required the skill to do what was necessary. Luckily for Theron, he had high enough clout to be pulled along for the ride. That, and he could read people as well as any Jedi. It made him perfect for the recruitment process.

"How many will we be seeing today?" Theron asked, completely ignoring the woman's subtle inquiry. He wasn't under orders to keep it hidden, after all, he'd shown his ID upon entering the base; but it had become a game. How long could he remain anonymous while trudging through one of the most secure facilities in the galaxy? Also, because he was bored.

Major Sorell Men'jeer: forty-three, mother of two, wounded during the attack on Coruscant, and relegated to a desk job; fell short of the stimulating conversation. However, she was responsible for this particular commando school, so surely her file held more interesting information.

There were schools like it spread across the galaxy, so the SIS agent wasn't in a rush, and he sure didn't expect to strike gold on the first stop. However, he'd received an interesting tip from a trusted informant, they had a promising feeling about this place.

"We have six that match the specifications sent in by one…" Men'jeer checked her datapad, chewing on her lower lip while she scrolled through her messages. "Sen Dewu, would that be you?"

"No," Theron answered simply. To his utter amazement, the woman still didn't push.

"I must say, it was an interesting list of criteria Mr. Dewu sent us," the major continued. "Obviously, we train all our commandos thoroughly, but the added requirements seemed harsh even by our standards." She spoke in a pleasant tone as they walked, nodding to passing personnel, but Theron could hear the strain in her voice. He reevaluated his initial opinion on the woman. The major worried about her students, which was admirable, if not foolish in his line of work.

Senior Agent Dewu was Theron's current chain of command, however loosely the SIS followed such things. The Chiss was as tough as they came, he'd experienced both Imperial Intelligence and SIS training. Then proceeded to rewrite most of the criteria for up and coming SIS recruits, including, Theron himself. So, it was unlikely the list Men'jeer was scowling at held any surprises.

The two lapsed into silence when it became clear that Theron had no intention of elaborating on why they were seeking out these young people. Eventually, the major stopped and motioned him inside a dimly lit room. Theron's right eye adjusted automatically, forcing him to close his left temporarily to accommodate the sudden shift.

"Meet our six qualifiers," Men'jeer said with a wave of her hand. A one way mirror stood between them and six young beings of varying species; four males, two females. First order of business, begin weeding out the non-compatibles, Theron thought.

"The Bothan and the Kel'dor may leave, I can't use them." Their species were too recognizable. Not to mention, both were likely to be shot on sight, rather of taken prisoner by an Imperial. Theron sighed, he'd already narrowed it down to four. Granted, he wouldn't mind returning to this particular informant and to rub it in that she'd been wrong for a change.

Major Men'jeer leaned forward and pressed the intercom key, "Privates Vikar and Drega, you are excused and may return to your training."

The six soldiers froze while the major spoke, each looking up at the speaker in the corner of the room. Then the two aliens slapped their peers on the back and exited. Now that potential recruits knew they were being watched, the remaining four lined up against the wall and stood at attention. Two humans, a Duros, and a Rattataki half breed were left. Theron could work with that, maybe.

One quick blink activated the facial recognition program in the agent's left eye. A file, along with medical and disciplinary records, superimposed on Theron's cornea while he studied each individual. The human male was a guy named Jesbar Camtre, grew up on Dantooine, joined the army to see the universe and fight for freedom. He scored high marks on the firing range, but was brutal when it came to close quarter's kills. That could be a problem, because dead bodies equaled evidence.

Moving on, Theron thought as he scanned the next recruit. The Duros male, Cain Mo, grew up on Duro, his species homeworld. He came from minor nobility and had joined the military as an act of rebellion. He also had the highest marks in his class when it came to strategic infiltrations. Mo might be one to watch.

Then there were the two females. The white skinned Rattataki with black facial tattoos and a few nasty scars over her cheeks and lips caught Theron's attention. She'd escaped her homeworld, but it had left her with too many identifiable marks. Shame, because no one scored higher in resisting interrogation.

With a shake of his head, Theron pointed her out, "Can't use the Rattataki woman either."

The major pressed the intercom key again, "Private Usresu, you're dismissed." The woman gave her companions a quick nod before slipping out the door, leaving Theron with only three left.

The final recruit was the human woman. She was absolutely average; thick build, drab, blond hair, and dark blue eyes. That sort of anonymity would work in her favor if she made the team. Fynta Wolfe: age, twenty-one. Orphaned. No known homeworld. Background included a few years working with mercenaries and bounty hunters. She even ran with the Black Sun for a few months before joining the military. The woman scored high marks in every category consistently. It was a side note from one of her drill sergeants that grabbed him.

"Unprecedented adaptability," Theron read aloud.

"Ah, yes. You must be talking about Specialist Wolfe. She's kept us on our toes," Men'jeer said with a smile.

"How so?" There was little else in the soldier's file apart from time spent with the Republic Military.

Men'jeer's smile grew. "That one broke out of isolation after putting another soldier in the infirmary. It was six hours before anyone noticed. We finally found her in her bunk with the rest of the squad. She claimed her cell's bed was disagreeable." The major sighed and crossed her arms. "The entire squad went two days without rations as punishment for neglecting to inform command of Wolfe's escape. They all said they forgot."

Seemed a little too spectacular to be true, in Theron's opinion. He was sure there was more to the story. "Why did she put the soldier in the infirmary?"

The major's smile slipped. "He didn't understand what the word no meant, apparently. The boy confessed to the assault after regaining consciousness and she was cleared of all charges." Men'jeer paused and cut her eyes at Theron. "Two days later."

Theron considered Wolfe again, then the two men. "Interesting. Alright, I'll take those three."

Major Men'jeer gaped at him before regaining her composure. "Very well, but there are discharge papers that must be seen to. It will take some time to—"

Theron held up his datapad, "Already done. Thank you for your cooperation, Major. Have a good day."

Nar Shaddaa
Red Light Sector
SIS Training Facility

"Three? That's all?" Sen Dewu scowled at the list in his hands. "You traveled to seven facilities, and all you brought back was three."

Theron shrugged. "You requested only the best." He waved his hand at the datapad. "Here they are."

The Chiss's blue lips pulled back into a vicious grin. "They are all from Carida. You know what that means?"

Theron rubbed the bridge of his nose and Dewu started to chuckle. "I thought so, it means she was right, again. And you have to tell her." The Chiss sighed when he didn't get a response from his protégé, and returned his attention to the list. "It'll probably end be the woman. You know that, right?"

Theron snorted in response. "Being tough isn't everything in this job. Wolfe sent that soldier to the infirmary for putting his hands on her. I doubt her mental stability. Especially with whatever you plan to throw at her, Blue."

The Chiss smiled, flashing dazzling white teeth against his dark blue skin. His red eyes took in the small group of commandos as they acquainted themselves with their new living environment. "Care to put your credits on that one?"

"I don't gamble on the job, it's unprofessional," Theron responded. Plus, he already owed Dewu one hundred and seventy credits.

Sen chuckled and turned to address the ops room. "Alright, begin. They've all scored top of their class, time to turn up the dial. Lights off in half an hour, then training begins at 19:33. I want to see their reaction to the life of a compromised SIS operative." Sen passed the datapad back to Theron and walked out.

The SIS agent turned back to the unseasoned youths on the screen, they weren't much younger than himself, but he'd been in this job so long that it already made Theron feel like an old man. As he watched the three soldiers climb into their beds, Theron sighed. It was going to be a long night.

19:32

The entire safe house was wired and monitored. This kind of thing had never been attempted before. Taking commandos and throwing them into the life of an SIS agent, then just sitting back to see what would happen. It was no wonder the observation room was full when the attack began just an hour after recruits had gone to sleep.

At 19:33 on the dot, a squad of heavily armed men burst through the door to the room and all hell broke loose. The screens were a blurred motion of chaos as the recruits responded instantly to the intrusion. They were barefoot, wearing simple shirt and shorts, faced by men in full armor. Yet not a single soldier hesitated to attack.

The human male, Jesbar Camtre, cannoned into two of the men, flattening them under his weight, while yelling at the Duros, to get their weapons. Fynta Wolfe snatched the lamp from her side table, smashing it into one of the agent's faceplate, knocking him backwards. She turned in time to catch the rifle that Cain Mo threw to her, and Camtre shouldered another soldier out of the way as they ran from the room.

The gathered SIS agents in the observation room laughed, placing bets on who would be the last one standing, and murmuring relief that they hadn't drawn the short straw on this drill.

"They work well as a team," Sen remarked, watching the images while stroking his completely hairless chin. "Let's give them some time; I want to see how they handle the stress of the noise." On the Chiss's command, a tech activated the sirens. Theron smirked at the screens as the young commandos ducked away from the sound, searching for escape routes. After all, the safe house was completely sealed. There were no exits.

21:09

The trio had traversed all six levels of the house, clearing rooms as they went. Each had been injected with trackers to monitor their vitals, and Jesbar Camtre was beginning to show signs of fatigue and stress. The man put his fist through a wall in frustration when yet another door led to a dead end. "There's no kriffing escape from this place!" Camtre dropped to a squat and pressed his hands over his ears.

Fynta Wolfe grabbed the man's collar and put her face in his. "Pull it together, soldier!" She waited for him to make eye contact and nod before elbowing past to study their surroundings.

Camtre stood and his eyes locked on one of the cameras. Theron knew the man hadn't made them, the devices were too small to detect. Still, Camtre leveled the rifle just as Wolfe turned and shouted, but it was too late. The screen went blank and several people in the observation room let out a cheer.

"We can at least shut these things up so it's easier to think," the man growled as another camera angle took up the blank screen to show Wolfe slamming Camtre against the wall.

"You shabbing idiot," she hissed. "Now they'll know our exact location."

Wolfe gave the man a rough shove and peeked over the banister of a stairway. "We need to split up to better our odds. Camtre, downstairs; Mo, you take the top level. I'll finish this floor."

The Duros, took off upstairs without hesitation. Camtre, on the other hand, glared at the woman for a few seconds before hefting his stolen rifle and heading down. Sen elbowed Theron with a grin. "They follow her orders. My credits are feeling pretty secure."

"I'll get in on that," another agent said, looking over one of the tech's shoulders. "My credits are on the Duros. His vitals haven't budged."

Theron was beginning to doubt his previous estimation, but if Dewu discovered it, he'd never hear the end of it. Sure, Specialist Wolfe's heart rate was elevated, but it wasn't erratic, not like Camtre's, at least. Leaning over to tap the tech's shoulder, Theron nodded at the Duros. "Take Mo first, see how he deals with being a hostage." The agent who'd just thrown his credits into the pot scowled at Theron when the tech nodded.

Sen slid red eyes over towards Theron. "You have a plan, don't you?"

"Who, me?" The man replied with an innocent shrug.

"Hey, Wolfe, I've got something," Mo called over the handrail, only half way up the stairs. He aimed a light into the darkness below, drawn by the movement of one of their hidden agents.

Wolfe took the stairs two at a time to reach his position and Theron had an idea. "Take the railing away, see what happens." The tech responded by pressing a few buttons and everyone leaned closer to the screens as the barrier gave way and the Duros fell. The hidden agent was prepared to catch the man, but it was unnecessary. Fynta Wolfe had Mo by the back of his shorts before the yelp had even left his blue, scaly lips.

Wolfe hauled Mo upright, hurling him against the wall with her hand flattened on his heaving chest. She leaned over the edge, holding her rifle on handed. "Looks like this house missed the last few inspections." She was cracking jokes, a fact not lost on those in the room as they gave approving nods.

"Where are we?" Mo finally managed.

Wolfe patted his chest in a sign of reassurance. "Somewhere that we need to escape, that's all that matters, soldier. Come on, let's find Camtre. I don't think our answer is up." She squeezed passed Cain Mo, who spared another look over the edge before following.

Sen sighed. "Tranq the Duros. I want to see what our girl is made of."

A shadow swung up onto the stairs behind the two soldiers and Wolfe turned a second too late. The agent in all black shot Cain Mo with a realistic blood splatter dart and the Duros's legs crumbled beneath him. Specialist Wolfe opened fire immediately, winging the agent with one of the fake bolts before he managed to snag the body and drag it off with him. Wolfe lunged for her comrade, just missing as the two vanished into the darkness again.

"Fierfek," she swore, and a new round of whoops went through the agents in the room. Even Sen was laughing.

"You know what that means. Care to reevaluate your initial prediction, Shan?" Theron ground his teeth. If this woman had ties to the Mandalorians, it would explain a few things. Sen was still chuckling as he gave the next command. "That's it, tranq the big guy too, I want to focus on her."

The images of the Camtre cut out just as SIS agents in heavy armor swarmed over him. His shouted curses echoed throughout the entire complex, making Specialist Wolfe drop low and turn her head to listen for his direction.

"Give her something to breach the wall with. Leave the Duros as a gift," Sen continued.

Theron glanced up at the Chiss with an arched eyebrow. "You're really getting into this."

Dewu shrugged as the tech pressed his finger to his ear and the agent that Wolfe clipped earlier, reappeared on the bottom floor. He injected Cain Mo with a serum to mimic death, slowing his heart rate to twenty beats per minute, then dropped him on the floor and proceeded to hang limp from his rappel line.

It didn't take long for Fynta Wolfe to reach the scene of the skirmish with Camtre. The man had put up quite a fight, though it hadn't done him much good. Wolfe paused at the bottom, her eyes no more than white slits in the camera's night vision. She bent to check the pulse of her comrade, hanging her head in acceptance of the loss, then crept closer to the agent. She fired twice more before approaching him completely, ensuring the enemy was dead.

"Good girl," Sen muttered, more serious than he had been moments ago. Although, Theron was sure that the agent on the screen would need a trip to the medcenter once this was over.

Everyone watched in silence as Fynta Wolfe took his weapons and explosives. She even stole the man's boots, which got a few chuckles from the gathered agents. Then she began checking the exterior doors for signs of weakness.

Sen backhanded Theron's shoulder, "Come on, time to get more personal."

26:38

Theron sat in a modified lounge, while a few other agents milled about looking properly Imperial. Sen sat across from him swirling a drink and looking as disinterested as usual. Curiosity had finally gotten the better of Theron. So, the agent sliced into the security cameras via the implant in his eye. Fynta Wolfe had already punctured one wall, ignoring all the doors. Now she was clearing the building, room by room.

The weapon the soldier carried was set to automatically shut down as soon as she breached this room, though Theron wondered if the techs setting the house up had considered her affecting entry through smoking debris. Either Wolfe had used all the grenades, or had one left. Theron would have him answer in less than thirty seconds.

Sure enough, the door burst open and Wolfe squeezed the trigger. Nothing happened. Two of the agents lunged at her and she used the weapon as a club, smashing one across the face before spinning out of the grasp of the second. Dropping, the commando hooked the rifle behind his feet and yanked them from under him. Wolfe had vaulted over the table to hurl a glass ashtray at another agent by the time Dewu managed to put his blaster to her head.

"Welcome, Specialist Wolfe," Theron said in his most polished Imperial accent from where he still sat in the chair. Wolfe froze as soon as she felt the barrel touch her skull, one fist poised to strike.

The woman glared at Theron as he stood, walking a bored circle around her. She still wore the simple black shorts and shirt, along with the stolen boots. Which gave Theron an idea to test her composure. He made a show of running his hand across Wolfe's stomach, up the side of her ribs, and between her shoulder blades. The woman trembled with pent up rage under his fingertips, but she didn't move. Grabbing her blond braid, Theron yanked her head back and put his lips next to her ear. "Give me a reason not to kill you now."

Wolfe cut her eyes at the disguised agent and smiled. "You obviously need me."

Her blatant lack of fear disqualified the woman in Theron's opinion. Even the toughest agents knew when to be afraid. It was how they used that emotion that made the difference. Fear could keep an agent alive, and Wolfe displayed a reckless disregard for her life. Almost a challenge to end it.

"I have other prisoners," Theron said, releasing Wolfe's hair to seat himself in the chair in front of her. "What makes you so special?"

That's when things took an interesting turn. Instead of reacting as the standard woman might, by offering her body in an attempt get close enough to kill him, or just in the hopes of staying alive a little longer. Specialist Wolfe spun on her toes to face Sen Dewu. Theron didn't see what exactly happened, but it evoked a startled yelp from the Chiss agent, followed by a big grin.

"Good girl," Sen repeated, then nodded to the men standing ready around the room. "Take her."