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Now Boarding

Chapter Text

The compact transport shuttle was crowded with eight women and their belongings on-board. It felt even smaller with the odd, buzzing energy of nerves filling the recycled air. 

Each woman thought of the others in terms of their jobs. That was the only thing the Grand Army of the Republic had focused on during their short training and in-processing sessions, and it made up the majority of what each woman knew about the others. At least, right then. A casual observer could learn more about the others just by how they spent their travel time.

The programmer was always in motion. She had gone from fiddling with a datapad to pacing around the ship. Eventually, she had stepped forward far enough to call questions toward the front of the transport.

The mechanic rolled her eyes at that. “It’s droid-piloted,” she informed the programmer. “They don’t answer questions.”

“Maybe someone programmed it to answer questions?” the administrative assistant suggested with a friendly shrug.

“Doubt it,” the nutritionist pitched in. “The military probably wouldn’t want anything talking that could be prevented from it.”

“It’s a way to pass the time, if nothing else,” the medic countered. “Let her talk to it if she wants.”

The inventory specialist watched the conversation in silence while the historian wrote furiously in her chosen corner. The last woman, one who had not attended any of the training sessions, continued refolding clothes from her military-issue duffel bag, rolling each article tighter before neatly returning it to the proper place.

“Nah, I always prefer to talk to things that talk back,” the programmer said, spinning back around on the toe of her shoe to face the crowd of women. Her eyes narrowed on one in particular. “Speaking of, what’s your job here?”

The strange woman took her time answering, tucking the last of her shirts into her bag before she glanced up at the programmer. “I’m not part of the workforce program. This was just a convenient transport from Coruscant.”

The historian glanced up for the first time since take-off, looking as though someone had finally done something interesting. “That doesn’t answer the question.”

“No, it doesn’t,” the woman replied. “But we have arrived.”

Any further curiosity was lost in the rush of looking through the small transparisteel windows that were built into the walls of the transport. The Resolute loomed large in the star-dotted vacuum of space. It was a Venator-class star destroyer and the flagship of Jedi General Anakin Skywalker. More immediately important, it was to be each woman’s home for the next three months, maybe longer. 

When the transport shuttle had finally docked - perfectly settled into place in the hangar bay by the droid pilot - the women gathered their belongings in silence and moved to stand in front of the doors, facing their new home as a cohesive group.

It was lucky they did so. Despite their assurances of a low-key arrival, the GAR had overlooked one crucial aspect of the clone troopers: they were terribly, profoundly, relentlessly curious. By the time the last woman had stepped out onto the rough-hewn durasteel floor of the hangar, shoes catching on the raised weld marks that had been left unfiled, a large crowd had gathered.

A trooper they all recognized from the personnel introductions at the briefing stood at the front of the crowd, his blue pauldron as distinctive as the Jaig eyes painted on the helmet tucked under his arm. Captain Rex nodded at them when they had fully gathered, not as formal as a salute, but just as crisp.

"Welcome to the Resolute," he told you, his professional tone countered by the kindness in his amber eyes. "Some of the men insisted on coming to greet you."

"Yeah, and we want to talk to them," a trooper complained, elbowing past the captain.

As if a dam had burst with his motion, the women found themselves surrounded by troopers in the next moment. 

"What's your name, gorgeous?" a trooper with a 5 tattooed on his temple asked, leaning toward the medic.

The medic smiled at him politely, opening her mouth to answer when another trooper interrupted. "C'mon, Fives! You know that's not how we do things in the 501st. Nicknames for everyone!"

The one who had berated Fives muscled his way further into the crowd, stopping in front of the programmer. With his hands planted on his hips, he stared at her intently. "I'm Hardcase. Let's think of a good name for you…"

The programmer laughed, patting him derisively on the chestplate. "Save those brain cells, I already have a nickname. I'm your new programmer, Bug."

"Like a bug in a code," a trooper with long hair wrapped in a neat bun commented, smiling softly. "Clever."

The mechanic snorted. "No, it isn't. We call her Bug because she's irritating and always in your face. Trust me, we've worked together before."

"And what do you do?" another trooper asked over Bug's uproarious laughter. 

The mechanic stared at him with an eyebrow raised. "I'm a mechanic. I'm here to patch up all the stuff the Republic won't replace."

"Patch!" several troopers called at the same time. The newly named Patch made a face, but some of the men had already started talking to her about things that needed fixed.

"How about you?" a trooper asked the historian.

"I'm writing a book about the war," she explained. "I'm here to talk to all of you about your experiences, record them for future generations."

There was a silence at that and the women snickered among themselves. There were no easy, obvious nicknames for historians.

"Eon," a trooper with a triangular tattoo over one eye suggested. 

"Eon!"

"I like it!"

"Good one, Dogma!"

Dogma smiled, accepting their appreciation. Eon returned her attention to her datapad, taking notes as fast as she could type them out.

“You?” a trooper asked, aiming the question at the inventory specialist.

The woman's eyes instantly dropped to focus on the floor. Softly, she said, "I'm inventory."

"Ooh, oooh, I've got one!" a trooper called.

"Go for it, Ronto!" the others encouraged.

"Count!" Ronto said, smiling broadly at his own joke.

The others considered it seriously for a moment before laughing and congratulating both Ronto and Count. Count was still staring at the ground, body language stiff, but a smile stretched across her face as troopers patted her on the shoulders, back, and even the top of her head.

"Okay, next up," was directed at the nutritionist.

“As a nutritionist, I’m going to analyze your calorie needs versus how the food you have is providing for those needs,” she explained, crossing her arms as she glanced around the group. “There have been some concerns about whether the GAR is providing you with foods that are adequately supporting your level of activity, especially with your advanced metabolisms.”

There was a beat of silence. “So you’re going to make us eat weird stuff?”

Clearly biting back a smile, she shook her head. “Nothing too weird, but we might look at increasing certain foods in your diet. Your body absorbs more nutrients from whole foods than through products engineered to deliver those same nutrients.”

“Can we call her Greens?” a trooper with a Republic cog tattooed on his face and head called out from his spot by Count.

His request was met with a cheer and a few troopers started repeating the name as if to memorize it.

Another trooper glanced at the administrative assistant, adjusting his hold on his helmet - simply painted with two blue lines sweeping downward under the eyes - as he did so. “What’s your job?”

"I'm here to work with your captain," she said pleasantly. "I'll help him get through all of the form-filing required by the GAR, then I'll do an audit to make sure it isn't too much work overall for one person, considering the other duties required of him."

"What level of security clearance did they give you?" a trooper with intricate tattoos on his scalp asked.

"I don't have a security clearance at all," she explained, her smile slightly wilting. "I'm a civilian appointee, not an official assistant."

The same trooper furrowed his brows. "Should we really be letting civvies read over highly sensitive documents?"

"Ease off, Kix," a trooper in ARC trooper armor urged. "She's just doing what she was assigned to do."

"Echo's right," Captain Rex said. "Besides, anything to get some help. Looking forward to working with you."

"Helper!" A trooper called from the crowd. 

"And I'm sorry," the captain added under his breath.

"You're fine, sir," Helper assured him. "It's not the worst name I've ever heard."

"All right, six down, two to go," Hardcase summarized.

Fives was still standing in front of the medic. “If we can get back to you…”

“I’m a medic,” she explained simply. “I’ll be training with… Kix, I believe?”

“Lucky di’kut,” Fives muttered, flashing a smile in her direction a moment later. “I hope you aren’t as harsh as he is. Sometimes, we think Kix would rather be the one causing the injuries than healing them.”

“I’m sure that isn’t true,” she denied immediately. “No medic worth his rations would do that.”

“With this group, I wouldn’t be too sure,” Kix replied, moving closer to offer her his hand. “I’m Kix. Looks like we’ll be working together.”

The medic tilted her head back to look up at him, offering a smile as she shook his hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Kix. I’ve heard a lot of good things from the medical officers on Coruscant.”

Fives gave a low whistle, nodding toward the new medic. “Look at that, Kix. She’s as sweet as Kashyyykian honey.”

“Fives,” Kix grumbled, glaring at his brother. “I don’t want you harassing my medic.”

“I’m not harassing her,” Fives protested. “I’m just making sure she knows how much we appreciate having an alternative treatment option on the Resolute. Isn’t that right, Honey?”

“Is that gonna be her nickname?” the trooper with his long hair in a bun asked.

Fives shrugged. “Works for me, Tup. What do you think, Honey?”

The medic smiled at the assorted troopers in front of her. “Whatever makes you all feel the most comfortable.”

With a broad grin, Fives said, “Honey makes me feel very comfortable.”

From behind him, Kix glared.

“We have one more to name,” Echo pointed out.

“Yeah, she’s- Hey, she’s leaving! Come back here!” Ronto called.

Captain Rex extended an arm, holding him back from following the last woman. “Step back, trooper. She isn’t part of the workforce program.”

“She mentioned that on the transport,” Helper remarked. “What is she doing here, then?”

The captain watched her quickly retreating figure. “She’s a rank climber from the civilian side of the GAR. She just got promoted to admiral. She’s here to learn from Admiral Yularen.”

“Yularen agreed to that?” Tup asked, sounding surprised. 

“I doubt he had much of a choice,” Dogma told him. “It’s part of working at a high rank in the GAR. You have to help train new appointees. Whether Admiral Yularen likes it or not, he’s got a shadow.”

“Well, at least we finally have the names straight,” Ronto commented. He pointed at each woman in turn as he gave their new nicknames. 

“We have Honey, the medic-in-training.” Honey waved at the troopers, smiling sweetly.

“Eon, the writer.” Eon glanced up from her datapad for a moment, nodding.

“Helper, the Captain’s assistant.” Helper beamed at all of them.

“Bug, the programmer.” Bug cheerily bounced on the balls of her feet.

“Greens, the food lady.” Greens rolled her eyes at him.

“Count in inventory.” Count ducked her head as the troopers glanced at her.

“Patch, fixing the ship.” Patch sent him a casual salute.

“And Yularen’s trainee, Shadow.”

Everyone chuckled at that, other than Captain Rex. The poor man looked pained, but only said, “Just don’t call her that when she can hear you. That woman has enough rank to decommission us all.”

Hardcase gave a loud, echoing laugh. “This is gonna be fun!”