Shuttle New Voyages
In transit from Kuat to Corellia
In the onboard galley, Janina Arlos checked the dinner in the oven. The spiceloaf was covered in a light brown blend, meaning it was nearly ready. In addition, the hotcake that would cap a delicious meal as dessert had nearly risen. She went to the cupboard to take out the plates and cutlery. It would be another two days before they finally transited to sublight, but the pantry was well stocked.
There was a kick in her lower abdomen. The aromas were exciting the child growing inside her. The medical droid insisted that she should not make a journey through hyperspace this late in the pregnancy, but they overruled it. They wanted their child to be born on Corellia, thus a child of that world just like both its mothers.
On Kuat, being the wife of Lara Kessler had made her something of a celebrity by association. She was construction supervisor of Andrim Shipyards in orbit of Kuat, with a primary focus being on building escort carriers. Before she took over, the shipyard had been in disarray from incompetent leadership. Ships were launched behind schedule, sometimes incomplete. One Lancer-class frigate departed and just as the hyperdrive was brought online, it vanished in a spectacular explosion. The loss of over 800 crew infuriated the Imperial Central Command and the Joint Chiefs were considering revoking the Kuat contract. Fortunately, the company executives had clear minds and began a overhaul.
Within a year, nearly seventy percent of delayed projects had been completed, all proving satisfactory to the Imperial Starship Bureau. A year after that, all contracts from before her appointment had been completed, with new ships being completed at an astonishing pace. Twice, the company had offered Lara to be senior supervisor of all shipyards, but she twice refused, preferring to ensure her own work was done well. Nevertheless, Kuat had begun to copy her techniques for the other shipyards.
On the bridge of their yacht, Lara Kessler was observing the beautiful blue swirls of the hyperspace vortex. No one knew who or what developed the hyperdrive, but it was still a miracle. The bridge crew, provided by an ever grateful Imperial Navy, enjoyed working for her, as their pay grades were higher than they would be even on a Star Destroyer.
The door hissed open and the yacht's captain, Lieutenant Commander Yulan Tetrov, arrived for his duty ship. He was a handsome young fellow, clean-shaven and neat, placed here at the request of Vice Admiral Jerjerrod (the fleet liaison at Kuat). He had the promises of a fine career in the navy, something that Lara resented as it would mean having to assign a new pilot.
"At the helm again, Dr. Kessler?" he asked.
"I finished the book I brought with me."
"Breach the Hull?"
"A World Too Far, about the Saleucami operation during the Clone Wars."
"Ah." He paused uncomfortably. "My older brother fought there. A stray missile destroyed the bridge of his ship."
"I'm sorry to hear that, Tetrov."
"Might I borrow it while we're on Corellia?"
Lara looked up with a smile. "It's yours. I have another copy at my family villa. I make it a habit to never lend books."
"Thank you, sir!"
She looked down at her chronometer. "Oooh, dinner's almost ready. I'll have the droid bring up something for you boys."
Hearing this, the flight crew perked up. Eating SoroSuub synlent was not how they wanted to spend their time in hyperspace. Many crews of VIP shuttles were not so lucky, being seen as tools of their employers.
In the dining room, Lara's eyes lit up upon seeing the display her wife had set before them. She knew Janina has been in the galley the whole afternoon, but did not expect a meal like this. "To what do I owe this pleasure?"
"Can't a wife do something nice for her spouse the day before we arrive home?"
"Indeed, she may." Spiceloaf with charbote root and potato rice was Lara's favorite meal, and no matter how many Corellian restaurants they visited, both on-world and off-world, they were never able to match Janina's cooking. They would tease that she should stop working as a naval correspondent and open up a restaurant on Kuat for genuine Corellian meals.
"The company approved for your maternity leave?"
"Six months, but I think it's for the best. The shipyard will probably explode if I'm gone for a day longer. Gotta keep them on their toes."
Janina smiled. "So, it will be just me and the baby, alone on Corellia after that?"
"I pulled some strings. I'll be able to fly back every two months."
"And I'll be waiting for you, with this." They kissed and sat down. "First thing I want to do is get the baby's room set up. He should be in the east wing, overlooking the forest."
"I grew up in the south wing," Lara replied. "My parents will want him to be there."
"Well, I'm the birth parent of this child, and I'll say where I want him to grow up."
They chuckled and shared a toast. "To our new life," said Lara.
"And to us," added Janina.
The meal was heavy, forcing both women to retire to the lounge. Lara let out a burp, which relieved her somewhat but not entirely. Leaning over to kiss her wife, she whispered, "First thing I'm going to do is have a run. I think I gained a kilo or two."
"I want you to feel my struggle, dear," Janina replied with a laugh.
Suddenly, the ship jerked to the side. Having been a spacer her entire life, Lara immediately recognized this as the ship suddenly reverting to normal space prior to their destination. That was only for the most extreme emergencies, such as an imbalance in the motivator or a sudden sighting of an unexpected shadow. Either way, the ship was back at sublight.
Racing to the bridge, Lara asked Tetrov, "What the frak's going on?"
"An unexpected detour, Doctor," he said as he pointed to the viewport.
In front of them was one of the new Praetor-class battlecruisers, escorted by three of the equally new Victory-II Star Destroyers. In the middle was a CC-2000 Interdictor, the reason for their sudden drop from lightspeed. To make matters even worse, the ships were marked with the unmistakable emblem of the Commission for the Preservation of the New Order. COMPNOR. Despite the rivalry between the army and navy, both branches had grown to absolutely hate COMPNOR, who valued ideological loyalty above all else.
"Incoming transmission from the lead ship," reported the communications officer.
After a crackling static, a voice came through. "We have you on our scopes. Identify your ship."
Already displeased with the abrasive directness, the captain activated his comm-unit. "Shuttle New Voyages, carrying VIPs to Corellia. Lieutenant Commander Tetrov in command, serial ID-6411."
There was a tense pause as they awaited a reply. Unfortunately, they received it. "Cut your engines and prepare for inspection."
"Acknowledged," Tetrov begrudgingly replied. He then activated the ship's internal comm. "This is the flight deck, we're about to take on some CompForce troopers. Soto, Varss, Maral, ready the starboard docking hatch. Everyone else, be on your best behavior." He turned back to Lara. "May the gods help us all."
Lieutenant Beka Soto, wearing the all-black uniform and blast helmet of a navy trooper, anxiously waited for the airlock seal light to turn green. The sooner CompForce came aboard, the sooner they could leave. Her squadmates Varss and Maral had the same look on their faces. Finally, it turned from red to green. "Sir, airlock secure."
"Good. Show them the lower decks first. Maybe they'll get bored and leave."
The hatch opened, and in walked a CompForce officer. Anyone in the navy was displeased to see they shared the same uniforms, though CompForce made it a point to wear blast vests, no matter what their role was. The leader stepped forward and presented his identification. "COMP-Major Charr, ready to begin inspection." Unlike the smooth faces of the shuttle crew, his was jagged and edged. It was a note for CompForce to be as intimidating as possible. To his right and left were CompForce troopers, wearing their unique armor that was rumored to have personal deflector shields.
"Right this way, Major," replied Lieutenant Soto.
"COMP-Major. Get it right, you navy twats."
Her family had served in the Republic Navy before her, and she was the first to join the Imperial Navy. Being referred to as a "navy twat" infuriated Soto, but she managed to maintain a professional demeanor. "Right this way, COMP-Major."
The inspection of the engineering sections went well, though there was not enough time for the engine staff to change out of their yellow jumpsuits and into their uniforms. Charr was not impressed, but dismissed it.
Afterwards, they proceeded to the bridge. Tetrov tugged to straighten his uniform as the turbolift door opened. "Welcome aboard, COMP-Major. I'm Lieuten-"
"Calm," the COMP-Major interrupted. "Bright. Relaxing. You're all wasted on this ship. Or, perhaps you're meant to be here. Can't get the marks to serve aboard a Star Destroyer, flying into glorious battle."
"They're just as capable as any Star Destroyer crew," Lara interrupted. "Dr. Lara Kessler, supervisor, Kuat Drive Yards."
He immediately sneered. "A civilian, with soldiers carrying you from place to place. You civies make me sick."
"I'm a member of the Imperial Shipbuilding Bureau and have a brevet rank of Commander."
Seeing they were immune to his intimidation, he rolled his eyes. "Take me to your cargo hold."
The cargo hold was filled with containers of numerous sizes. At once, the troopers began to open the lids off crates and rummage inside. The shuttle crew stood back while they let them proceed. Janina appeared in the hatchway, but knew to stay out of the way. She quietly entered the lavatory that was adjacent to the cargo bay. Being aboard would only make things more complicated.
"Nothing, sir," said the Force-Sergeant.
"Very well," replied the COMP-Major. "Notify-"
"Hold on, sir!" interrupted another trooper. "I'm picking up a lifeform just behind that bulkhead."
With their blasters drawn, they opened the hatch and dragged a very large pregnant woman out into the cargo bay. They made it a point to ensure she fell onto her stomach. "Well well well," said COMP-Major Charr. "Carrying a stowaway? Perhaps some refugee from Tatooine trying to sneak into the Core Worlds?"
"If we came from Kuat, how could we pick up someone from Tatooine?" asked Lieutenant Commander Tetrov.
"Oh, sarcasm. The lowest form of humor. I can see why you navy dogs do so poorly in battle." Without another word, Lieutenant Soto approached and struck Charr right in the nose. Immediately, two troopers restrained her. "Striking a CompForce trooper. I believe that calls for torture and then execution."
Tears began to form in Soto's eyes. "I don't care."
"Well, you will care." He started to caress his hand across her soft face. "You will care when we place you in a bacta tank and subject you to electroshocks. You will care as we begin to pry your fingernails off with a very dirty blade. You will care as place a hot needle in your eyes, blinding you until we finally blow your corpse into space. You'll then wish we just shot you right now."
Grabbing their blasters, the shuttle crew shot three off of the four CompForce troopers. Lieutenant Soto punched her captor against and threw him towards the last guard, where Tetrov eliminated both with a single shot. Thinking quickly, he turned to Varss. "Stick their bodies in the shuttle and set the power core on overload." He turned to Lara. "They probably shut down the gravity well after we dropped out of lightspeed. How long will it take for them to power it back up?"
The CC-2200 was an older and less efficient vessel, in contrast to COMPNOR usually getting the newest ships and walkers to play with. Lara quickly saw the schematics in her head, wanting to get them underway before bringing Janina to the medical droid. "If they start right after we detach, approximately three minutes."
"Get to it!" he ordered as he activated his communicator. "Pescer, we're going to make a run for it! Set an escape vector and jump us out of here as soon as we're detached from the shuttle!"
It took a few minutes to load the bodies on the shuttle, a quick way to clean up the mess. The Imperial Navy troopers moved more quickly as Charr's still functioning communicator started to beep with increased urgency. "There'll be hell to pay at Central Command once this gets out," said Varss as he dragged the COMP-Major's body into the pilot seat.
"I hope so. These clowns need to be reigned in," replied Soto as she set the autopilot and deactivated the magnetic containment field for the hyperdrive. With one last look, Soto and Varss exited the shuttle, closing the hatch behind them.
The CompForce shuttle departed from the yacht, moving slowly back to its mothership. The flight controller did not notice anything was amiss until it did not acknowledge his directions. He looked carefully, it seemed as though the shuttle was unmanned but increasing speed. Before they could flee for cover, the shuttle rammed into the soft hull above the landing bay. At that moment, the hyperdrive finally failed and erupted in a massive explosion that took out an entire half of the battlecruiser. Before anyone could react, the New Voyages had escaped into lightspeed.