As far as Rex could understand, Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi had abandoned — ahem, delegated — his battalion to General Skywalker, and gone haring off on Jedi Business, unofficially known as Cursed-Jedi-Shit, again, which left Anakin in charge, which really meant Cody was in charge.
“Two-twelfth reporting for duty, sir,” said Cody.
“At ease,” said Anakin, and the battalion stood down. “I trust you have things under control, Cody. We’re headed for Kashyyyk.”
Cody looked dismayed, which was to say his face didn’t change expression, but Rex knew he was because Kashyyyk had flared up as a contentious hotspot in the last few weeks, and most of Anakin’s plans were limited to copious amounts of thermal detonators.
“Where’s Master Obi-Wan?” said Tano, popping up from behind Fives. Rex could hear Cody’s brain calculating the increase in predicted number of explosions.
Anakin waved his hand. “Obi-Wan’ll be back soon.”
Cody coughed. “How soon, exactly?”
“Hard to tell,” said Anakin. “Rex, I’ll get you and Jesse to double-check the munitions inventory. We meet in an hour for strat plan.”
As Rex walked away, he heard Anakin say, “Commander, the Jedi Council wanted to speak to you —” but thought nothing of it.
The first time, Rex didn’t react only because he was a petty bastard. The initial strategy planning session had been a disaster; now, five hours out from Kashyyyk, things were looking only slightly more promising.
By which Rex meant Cody was fighting a losing battle to prevent every single jetpack from being deployed. He didn’t know what Cody had against jetpacks, honestly.
Cody picked up the voice comm with bad grace. It wasn’t his standard-issue device. “Hello, dear,” he said, sounding exasperated.
Rex blinked, because Cody was speaking Mando’a, which meant Wooley had done a double take but Anakin hadn’t even looked up from the holoscreen.
“I need to take this call,” said Cody to Anakin, and as he stepped out of the strategy room Rex could hear him say, “You had me worried, darling. I miss your beautiful eyes. I can’t sleep but for thinking of you —”
Wooley looked gobsmacked. It was unlikely he understood more than the first part of the conversation, but Rex wasn’t about to let his own surprise show. “General Skywalker, I think we should send Echo and Fives in here as a decoy, and Jesse can curve around with the rest of the battalion and the big guns.”
“Very good, Rex,” said Anakin, and they started discussing the placement of the 212th, but Cody returned in time to say, “We are not dropping paratroopers with droid poppers behind enemy lines.”
“You’re no fun,” frowned Anakin, and Rex blinked again. If only Anakin knew.
Rex was not about to enlighten his General, but thanks to Wooley there was no escaping the other troopers.
“So,” said Boil, sidling up to Cody. “Who’s the lucky sentient being?”
“It’s Cody,” said Rex. “Sentience is a bit of a high bar.”
“Seriously, Commander,” said Waxer. “I didn’t see any Mandalorians in that dive bar.”
This was dangerous territory, because what happened at the dive bar usually stayed at the dive bar. Boil snorted. “You didn’t see anything because you were off your face.”
“Hey,” said Waxer, affronted. “I think I would have noticed if Commander Cody hooked up with —”
“This is for work,” said Cody. “I’m acting as a first point of contact for one of the spec-ops operatives on Mandalore. It’s classified.”
“You sure?” said Wooley dubiously. “It didn’t sound like work to me.”
Cody threw his hands in the air and stalked off in the opposite direction, but they were soldiers, so spec-ops meant spies, and classified grudgingly meant no more questions.
To be fair, Rex had already guessed as much. It may have had to do with him walking in on Cody at his desk, a datapad open on a bootleg of protocol droid dictionary software, one hand on his headset in a rictus of concentration. The other hand was tapping a code against the receiver, all while he was carrying out a perfectly normal conversation in Mando’a.
A perfectly normal conversation to have in bed. He didn’t need to hear what, exactly, Cody could do with his tongue. Rex had dropped his report on the nearest flat surface — the floor — and left. He wasn’t paid enough for this.
So encryption codes in and out of Mandalore were compromised. That was not unusual; the Republic had an ongoing mole infestation that refused to resolve itself, and a neutral system was just as susceptible to illicit monitoring. Especially one as pivotal as Mandalore. As much as the Senate liked to pretend they had no use for anyone outside their sworn constituencies, Mandalore could, would and had before proved to require a little extra effort.
Spec-ops had needed someone who spoke passable Mando’a, then; that ruled out almost everyone except the initial batchers, of whom there were precious few left, and Mandalore had been insular in the generation before the latest civil war had torn it apart.
Cody was good, better than passable. He had always been a massive teacher’s pet. Even, thought Rex sourly, if that had turned out mostly in his favour because Fett was dead and regular Mandalorians didn’t want to talk to them.
And possibly, Fett had not envisaged their usage of his language in quite this way.
Unfortunately for Cody, establishing cultural connections had experienced a resurgence in popularity.
“Commander, is this the correct verb-tense conjugate?”
“Commander, can you confirm the method of address in Mandalore depends on title, status and relations with other authority figures?”
“Commander, will you practise Mando’a with me?”
Cody’s expression darkened at the last one. The poor innocent, unsuspecting soul. Rex didn’t so much as twitch, but Cody’s eyes slid over to him anyway, like he could smell teasing rights till the end of time. Being an unwitting spectator to these exchanges was a threat to one's personal health. Rex kept a carefully flat expression as he continued filing requisitions for missile launchers, and Cody’s laser-burning glare was redirected to more vulnerable targets.
Rex thought the novelty would wear off. The novelty did not wear off.
“Say hello to your secret lover for us!” hollered Longshot as Cody ducked out of the mess, which was uncharacteristic and dangerous considering Cody could both assign him duty and wipe the floor with him in training. Rex eyed the credits that accumulated in front of Longshot and reluctantly conceded it had not been an unprofitable idea, provided he stayed alive long enough to use them.
Wooley smirked. “The Commander’s always had an eye for —”
Dramatics, thought Rex long-sufferingly.
“Skilled warriors,” said Waxer. Waxer was still trying to track down the mystery Mandalorian from the dive bar.
Boil said, “I bet they’re skilled,” with a waggle of eyebrows, and Rex wanted to hit his head on the plastisteel veneer. He didn’t. Professionalism seemed to be on short supply as of late. Kenobi needed to come back and fix his battalion, ASAP.
“Master Obi-Wan’s gonna be heartbroken,” said Tano cheekily. Cody stepped back into the room and gave her a supremely annoyed look. “What? Everyone knows you’re his favourite.”
That just set off all the brothers again. “Cheating on the General,” said Waxer sadly, shaking his head.
For every coded comm call, there was a quick and deadpan consultation with Senate representatives. Probably Republic intelligence. Rex suspected the quicker the debrief, the less likely anyone was going to ask Cody specifically how he was retrieving his information.
By the time Wooley was on the second draft of his novelisation of Cody’s forbidden romance with a Mandalorian he had sworn a blood oath to kill on the battlefields of the desolate plains outside Sundari (“This is historically and culturally inaccurate,” said Rex, but had read it all anyway, just to make sure), there was a regular discussion group in the mess hall.
“Why’d you give the Commander beskar? The Commander doesn’t own beskar,” said Waxer to Wooley, thumping his vambrace. The critics weren’t holding back today.
“The Commander could pull off beskar,” said Boil with confidence and only a little jealousy. All clones were made equal, but not all clones were equal, and never did this become more clear when there were several thousand of them on one ship.
Rex did not mind that, because it meant he knew there was nothing stopping him from doing anything Cody could do, except basic common sense like avoiding extracurricular missions. Captain was a perfectly suitable rank, thank you, and anyone else was just trying a little too hard.
“I’ve heard the General is fond of literature,” said Wooley contemplatively. “Do you think he’ll proofread this for me when he gets back?”
“He’s a busy man,” said Boil. Wooley deflated. “Where is he?”
That question had been asked with steadily less rhetoric as the days slipped by, but Rex’s only answer was Cursed-Jedi-Shit, which satisfied the masses, mostly because no one knew what Jedi did anyway.
It did not, perhaps, satisfy Cody, who looked more wound up every shift. Rex supposed that was what you got for playing acting general for not one, but two, battalions, holding partial custody of Kenobi’s children, and running a madhouse of a side hustle. Also, the war.
Rex set down his datapad. “What’s wrong?”
“They’re late,” said Cody. “No matter. I was told to expect irregular contact.” He paused, and as if on cue his comlink went off.
He came back to Rex looking inordinately relieved, and said, “Extraction’s been called,” which was oddly close to oversharing, for Cody’s secret mission. He was, however, unwilling to elaborate further.
He must have elaborated to his consultation group in Republic intelligence, because three days later General Vos docked a small, distinctly Mandalorian, distinctly on-fire vessel on the Resolute, with Obi-Wan Kenobi in tow. Rex called over the extinguishers and sighed.
“Hello,” said Kenobi, dusting off his intricately-embroidered clothing. His fine-cut, non-Jedi, Mandalorian-style clothing. It was a little singed. “My apologies, Captain.”
Rex didn’t like where this was going.
“Something the matter?” said Kenobi. He had the gall to look innocent.
“No, General,” said Rex. Most of the smoke had dissipated. “Oh, look. Here comes Cody.”
He was wearing bridge greys, courtesy of the endless meetings he had with the admiral board. That meant he would be irritable. Bridge Officer Cody was the worst type of Cody. Rex pondered on the best method of evacuating himself.
Kenobi said pleasantly, “Is he now?”
“Permission to be dismissed, sir,” said Rex.
“Granted,” said Kenobi. Despite the quality of his clothes, he did look a little worse for wear, his eyebrows charred and a long, thin cut running down the side of his face, but Cody didn’t look in any mood to play nice.
He broke out in rapid-fire Mando’a, and Rex wanted to roll his eyes. The undercover mission had finally broken him.
Kenobi answered in kind, hands raised in a placating gesture, too fast and quiet for Rex to follow. Rex blinked.
Kenobi spoke Mando’a. Kenobi. Spoke —
Rex did hit his head on the hull of Vos’s ship. Quietly. Vos looked at him with what could possibly be concern.
“I’m off duty,” said Rex. “Leave me alone.”
Behind him, Kenobi said in Basic, “It was a good plan, Commander. Despite Quinlan’s extravagant piloting, I think the last of the intel is safe.”
“Ingratitude,” said Vos to Rex.
“Yes, sir,” said Cody neutrally, ignoring Vos with the same smoothness he regularly used to ignore Anakin. “Would you like to debrief?”
Kenobi folded his arms. The slim fit of the tailored shirt stretched tight across his shoulders. “We do have a lot to discuss.”
“Apparently so,” said Cody. “I would like a more intimate knowledge of the situation on Mandalore.”
Kenobi leaned in closer and said, “It would be my pleasure.”
Rex tried not to scream. Instead, he commed Wooley and said, “Your General’s back. You should send him the novel.”