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The Transfer

By: Raptor

Word Count: 2510

The thrum of the hyperspace drive was more felt than heard in the cargo bay of the Lambda shuttle as it traveled to its destination at superluminal velocity. Without idle conversation filling the bay or the sounds of droids at work it would have been difficult not to notice it. Neither the thrum nor the absence of conversation was particularly worrisome to the bay's lone occupant, however. In fact, the silence almost seemed to suit the lanky individual who sat on one of the passenger benches as he leaned back against the hull of the vessel.

Lieutenant Kevin "Raptor" Clayborn kept his eyes closed as he allowed the subtle vibrations to course through his body from the contact he had with the vessel. It didn't feel the same as when he was piloting a snub craft en route to a mission, but it was close enough to allow his mind to order his thoughts in a similar fashion. While there would be no combat engagement at the end of this hyperspace jump, there were things to prepare for and he used the time accordingly.

Transferring to a new squadron had never been a goal or expectation for him during the several years of service he'd had with the Rebel Alliance. Once he'd been assigned a strike and superiority role with Green Squadron aboard the Nebulon-B Frigate Rehz'nor there had been nothing further he wished to aspire to. The work of explosively dismantling Imperial capital vessels had been all he had hoped for and more. Comradery with his fellow pilots had been earned slowly but surely across those years and he was content with their company. And then the Battle of Endor happened, and his universe was altered permanently. The notification chime from the pilot ended Raptor's contemplation of his situation as a voice came across the PA.

"Transition to real space in two minutes. If you want a view of the fleet as we come in then join us in the cockpit," the pilot stated. Getting up and walking up to the entrance of pilot compartment Raptor blinked his eyes a few times at the sight outside the dura-glass window. The faint blue hue of the superluminal transition filled his vision and backlit the cockpit's other occupants. A common sight to fighter pilots, it nevertheless still awed him for a moment to see it.

The pilot nodded to his co-pilot as he laid a hand on the hyperdrive controls. "Prepare for transition in three. Two. One," he said as he pulled back on the throttle. Real space snapped into place before the vessel's occupants as it exited its traversal. Before them stood a fleet made for war and the defense of the fledgling New Republic. At its center the Mon Calamari Star Cruiser Vigilant stood against the black of space, a bulwark against the terror of the Empire. It was a testament to the growing power of the New Republic that she had as many escort vessels as she did. Several frigates and a handful of corvette vessels formed a loose barrier around the home of Renegade Wing.

Raptor took a moment to orient himself to the fleet's disposition as he peered outside. They were coming up on the Vigilant from just starboard of the aft beam. Taking a step up to lean between the pilot seats he looked off to his left and let his eyes adjust to the darkness outside. It took a moment, but his eye was long practiced at seeing what he was looking for. At the outer edge of the fleet a vessel hung dark against the stars, its deep viridian paint making it particularly difficult to spot. Kevin smiled to himself a moment as he looked upon the hull of the Rehz'nor. It was like seeing an old friend again after a long absence.

"We'll be landing on the Vigilant here in a moment," the co-piloted said as he worked the shuttle's control board. "If you want to gather your gear and get ready we'll have you disembarked as soon as we touch down."

With an absent nod and grunt of assent Raptor turned and headed back down into the shuttle's main compartment. Ensuring that his holstered pair of DC-15 pistols were secured around his waist, he snagged his duffel bag from where he'd left it next to the seating bench and made his way up to the shuttle's boarding ramp. He took a moment to breathe and let the tightness roll off of his mind as he completed his mental preparations. In just a few moments he would step off of the shuttle and into a new billet and his transfer would be formally completed. As the shuttle lurched with the touchdown, though, he felt like a part of him would not be coming along with the transfer. Deep inside, some part of his psyche would still think of himself as Raptor, Green 17.

***

"Lieutenant Clayborn?"

Raptor looked up to see a tired, but clean cut, man with a Lieutenant Colonel's pips awaiting him at the bottom of the ramp. He nodded. "That's me, sir."

"Chris Stephen," the officer said as he shook Raptor's hand warmly. "Though most of the pilots around here call me 'Animal'."

Raptor noted the clipped, professional tone of Animal's speech immediately. "You're from Imperial City, aren't you?"

Animal canted his head and smiled warmly. "Been to Coruscant often?"

Raptor nodded. "Here and there. Did a little bit of work Core-ward before I joined the war. You don't forget a Coruscanti-proper accent."

Smiling broadly, Animal gestured with a hand, and started walking deeper into the bay while he continued to talk. "I studied your records, Lieutenant. You are exactly the veteran transfer I've been hoping for while we continue to reconstitute our numbers in Buccaneer. I'm hopeful that your experience with Green squadron, up to and including Endor, will help educate our more... green... recruits about how to stay alive longer while on mission."

Raptor nodded and grunted in all the right places during the speech as he took in the relatively empty hangar. The angry roar of a Wookiee drew his attention back near the shuttle momentarily, as he saw the source of the sound waving his arms in the air while clutching a pair of hydrospanners. Looking forward again, he saw their path seemed to lead to one of the few snubs still on the deck. A green painted X-wing was being attended to by a pair of flight technicians as they approached.

Animal came to a stop near the freshly painted fighter and patted the hull. "Well, this is you. The rest of the wing is already groundside, except for the squadron commanders, as we try to hammer out our next moves and welcome our new transfers in. I hope you don't mind waiting another day to be introduced to your new squad mates. I know your capabilities in a strike-configured X-wing, though there may be times when you take on an escort role while the heavier bombers do the damage. I presume you are good with that?"

"Of course, sir," Raptor replied. "I trust that I'll be assigned a droid from the quartermaster before departure tomorrow, then?"

"Ah, yes. I'll have that arranged for. Do you have any model preferences?" Animal inquired.

"No, sir. As long as it works reliably I'm good."

Animal smiled. "Great. Well, I'll leave you here to get acquainted with your ship and get the cockpit personalized to your liking. We'll be transferring down to the planet in our fighters tomorrow, but until then your billet on the ship is available, as are the lounge and other areas. I've got to get back to another meeting, but it's great to have you aboard, Lieutenant." He saluted lazily as he turned back and walked away.

***

Raptor watched as his new CO walked off to his meeting before he turned his attention back to the craft in front of him. He hadn't expected to see it painted in his old squadron colors, but he wouldn't complain. It would at least be easy to spot on the deck in an emergency situation where he would have to scramble to get to it.

Having put down his duffel bag he climbed up the ladder to the open cockpit and looked within. The interior was immaculate, a clear sign of a fresh off the line delivery. Raptor made a mental note to put the craft through its paces on the journey to the surface the next day just to ensure its reliability. He swung his legs over the lip of the cockpit and sat down in the seat to get a feel for his new ride.

"How's it looking up there? Everything in line with your expectations?" a voice called from the deck. The young Lieutenant looked down to find a grease covered technician standing alongside the nose section.

"Everything looks fresh off the line and in line with standard regulations," Raptor replied as he ran through some pre-flight checks. Satisfied that all of the appropriate indicators worked as intended he shutdown the systems and exited the cockpit. He met the technician at the base of the ladder.

"Any adjustments you wish to apply to make it more homey? These new craft come with the latest projectors, and if there's something a little off-regs you'd like to have in there too, well, you just need to ask," the tech said with a wink.

"I think I'm good with it for now," Raptor replied with a faint smile. "Let's break her in before we worry about anything cosmetic."

"You're the boss, boss. We'll have her ready for your departure tomorrow. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got some work to get to."

With a brief nod Raptor picked up his duffel bag and looked around. It only took him a moment to spot the exit Animal must have taken to leave the flight deck. Determined to spend his free time getting to know the layout of the Vigilant better he made his way off the deck to find his billet and stow his gear.

***

Having wandered the halls of the Vigilant for several hours, with a brief stop for chow at the otherwise empty pilot's mess, Raptor found himself outside a lounge he presumed Animal had referenced on his arrival. No stranger to the hidden bar on the Rehz'nor with its loud and flashy atmosphere, he was nonetheless surprised at the comparatively subdued nature of the one before him as he entered. Another surprise looked to be ahead of him as well.

"Iggy?" Raptor asked the droid behind the bar as he walked up and took a seat.

"Ah. Lieutenant Clayborn," the now identified droid stated as it turned to approach the newcomer. "Welcome aboard. It appears that your transfer has been successfully completed. I am pleased to inform you that your bounty on Imperial boards has increased appreciably since our last interaction as well. Would you care for a beverage on the house to celebrate?"

"I, uh, yes, please. Pick something for me," Raptor replied. "I wasn't expecting to see you here of all places," he said as Iggy put a flute of bright green liquid before him.

"It's a tale for another time, sir. Simply put, my services were requested by the wing commander somewhere along the way, and I have been stuck behind this bar ever since."

"I see." Taking a sip from the flute he let the smooth taste of the rum roll across his tongue. "Well, that's a new one. No complaints from me, though."

"I am glad to see that your tastes are as expansive as ever."

"So, uh, if you're here does that mean that he is here as well?" Raptor asked with a gesture from his free hand. Taking a microsecond to extrapolate the gesture's direction, Iggy determined that the Lieutenant had pointed towards the air vents above the bar. He understood immediately whom was being referenced.

"No, sir. No transfer, approved or illicit, appears to have been conducted. No rumors amongst shipboard crew has filtered through here regarding any encounters either."

"Well, that's something at least," the pilot sighed. "Speaking of individuals who pass through, what do you know of the pilots in Buccaneer? Anything I would want to know ahead of time?"

"They are regulars at this establishment," the droid responded while he cleaned a mug. "There's almost never an evening or night where they're not imbibing here, especially if a mission is scheduled the following day."

"Well, that's mildly concerning," Raptor said. "Animal stated he was looking to firm-up the squadron, but I wasn't expecting as much liquid reinforcement being involved amongst the ranks."

"They are young pilots from which much is expected. They are not as experienced as you are. At least not yet."

"Yeah, well, experience is what you make of it. A lot of it is being lucky enough to stay alive in places where you shouldn't have."

The perceptive droid remained silent as he waited for his patron to say his piece.

"When we were ordered to engage the Executor at Endor I wasn't expecting to see the other side of the battle. It was one thing to face off against the Super Star Destroyer Vengeance in the Airam Sector. That was a carefully executed campaign where we piecemealed the Imp fleet and pinned her down with that looted tech. The killing blow was a wild ass idea where we rammed a Corellian Corvette chocked full of explosives into her bridge. Shockingly the whole thing panned out!"

Raptor slammed the remaining contents of the flute before he continued.

"No such plan at Endor, though. Nothing but advance and engage and pray you make it out the other end. I pulled a wild end run on her engines hoping to affect her maneuverability, but I didn't quite make it around before her bridge was taken out. Force only knows how Green Leader managed to direct his A-wing to hit the command deck in just the right spot to take her out like that. Needless to say that was quite the turning point for the battle."

"A notable sacrifice indeed," Iggy intoned.

"Yeah, that it was. Not so lucky for Green Leader, though. And that's why I'm still here to pass along my experience and he's not. Hopefully the Buccaneers will take what I have to say to heart and they won't be so unlucky themselves."

"One can only hope, sir."

"Well, thanks for the drink, Iggy. I presume you've already established a tab for me here?"

"Affirmative, Lieutenant."

"Thanks," Raptor said as he pushed back from the bar. "Time to get some rest and prep for meeting the squadron tomorrow. I'll see you around."

"Good night, sir. And again, welcome aboard. I'm sure you will do the memory of your comrades proud here."

Raptor felt a faint moment of regret pass across his face before he regained his composure. With a brief nod he departed the lounge.

The End