"Hey, watch it!"
Lieutenant Adam "Guardian" Burns, Buccaneer Squadron's Executive Officer, barely managed to clear to the side of the Mon Calamari Star Cruiser Liberty's corridor before being run over by Rafael "-Hyl-" Costa Guerra. The Corsair flyer was barreling down the walkway like a runaway speeder bike, and Guardian corralled his buddy's arm and pulled him to the side. "What's the rush?"
Hyl nodded quickly to his friend, then his eyes moved to the corridor behind Guardian and he started to pull away. "Gotta get to the flight bay. Their shuttle is arriving."
"What?" Guardian asked, letting Hyl go but falling into step beside Rafael. "Who's shuttle is arriving?"
"My parents," Hyl shot over his shoulder. "They're coming in today for a quick visit."
Realization dawned on Adam. "Ah, that's why you've been bouncing off the walls lately." Hyl shrugged, turning his head. He had been acting kind of crazy for the past few days; things like locking his passkey in his room and asking the same thing twice. The Liberty's pilots had picked up on their friend's behavior and started watching out for him; however, Guardian didn't want to mention that some of the guys had a pool going as to how long it would take for Hyl to eject himself from the cockpit of his A-wing fighter accidentally.
The pair reached the main docking bay. The door to the berth was sealed, and an amber light glowed above it. Guardian dropped into one of the prefab chairs in the waiting area while Hyl plastered himself against the transparasteel, watching the Lambda-class shuttle float down to a rest on the docking bay floor. The shuttle was flanked by two of Corsair's A-wing fighters; the warships drifted over to their landing areas before touching down. The light above the entry door went from red to green with a buzz, and Hyl was through the portal like a scurrier on speed.
Guardian shook his head and followed. He watched his friend charge toward the SHU, bouncing as he ran. Memories of his own parents flooded through Adam, and he couldn't help but smile at his friend's joy.
Two figures descended from the shuttle as the docking ramp hissed to the floor. Both wore rather plain jumpsuits, and each wrapped Hyl up into a huge hug. Guardian stopped his jog a few feet away, not wanting to intrude on the privacy of the moment. He turned as a motion in the corner of his eye caught his attention. Eloy "Mynock" Cintron, Corsair's Executive Officer, was striding over, still in his full flight suit, helmet slung at his hip.
The Costa Guerras, all three of them, were jabbering away excitedly. Guardian made a quick command decision and stepped forward, clearing his throat. "Ahem, uh, Hyl, if you'll give us a moment, we can show these two wonderful people to their quarters..."
Hyl turned around, his eyes going wide. "Uh, I didn't know they were staying overnight."
Guardian shrugged. "I dunno. They're your parents," he stressed, leaning forward and arching his eyebrows. "I haven't met them--"
Hyl caught on and cut Guardian off. "Oh, right. Adam, these are my parents, Baer and Windhern Guerra. Costa Guerra"."
"I figured their last names," Guardian said with a smirk.
Hyl didn't catch it, having turned back to his parents. "Mom, Dad, this is Adam 'Guardian' Burns, and," with a nod to his exec, "Eloy 'Mynock' Cintron."
Mynock had arrived at Guardian's side, and took his turn shaking Baer and Windhern's hands. "Pleasure's mine."
"Thank you for the escort," Windhern beamed. "You made us scientists feel very special."
Eloy beamed at Hyl's mother. "Ah, ma'am, your son is considered family, so you're family, too. It wasn't any trouble." He turned to Guardian. "Listen, I need to see you later about a patrol cover." Adam nodded, and Mynock tossed a salute to Hyl and his parents. "Well, I'm going to go get cleaned up, and then brief Electro and the Admiral on Corsair's status, so I'll see you two later. Mr. and Mrs. Costa Guerra, it was a pleasure." With that, Mynock headed off in the direction of the pilot's lockers.
"Well," Hyl said, looking at his folks, "I didn't really have anything planned. Would you two like to see the Lounge? We can get a drink, I can introduce you to some of my pilot friends and catch up on what's been--"
Hyl was cut off by Guardian's comm link signal. The Buccaneer pilot quickly unclipped the comm from his belt and raised it to his mouth. "Burns here."
"Guardian, we need you in medical bay as soon as possible. We've got another rookie crit coming in from the flagship Independence, and needing emergency surgical procedures."
"Copy, I'll be there in three. Burns out." Guardian returned his comm link and looked up at Hyl. "Well, I've got to take off."
"Do you need more help?" Baer Costa Guerra stepped forward. "I am an expert in human physiology, and know enough about most other alien forms--"
Guardian jumped on the offer. "If you could, we'd be much obliged. Medical's been short-handed lately."
Baer nodded toward the door. "Lead the way." Guardian turned and jogged off, the scientist falling into a quick pace behind him.
Hyl turned to his mother. "Well..."
"Come, Rafael. Let's get that drink."
"Yes, Mother, but..."
"But what? What's troubling you?"
Hyl sighed. "It's... I don't want to go into physiology, I'm a combat pilot now, and an intimate knowledge of the human anatomy doesn't do me all that much good."
Windhern nodded slowly. "I could feel this coming. You think by changing what you study that you will offend your father and I." Hyl nodded once, then took a sip of his beverage. "Son, your father and I have discussed this. We were expecting it." Hyl's eyes shot up. "You've already superseded all of our expectations for you. You're doing something you do well, and fighting for a worthy cause. We don't think we could've raised you any better. The fact that your friend Stryker spoke so well of you shows me that you've impressed him greatly."
"When did you...?"
"When we were arriving here, he was jumping with other Rogues and knew we were your parents. We exchanged a few words about you. It's nothing to worry about. Just get that diploma in two months and feel free to do what you know," Windhern looked at the table for a moment, thinking, then continued. "Your father and I brought you a gift you might find useful. We asked the shuttle crew to put it in your quarters for you, and they said they would."
Hyl's eyes lit up. "What is it?"
Windhern smiled. "Calm down, Rafael. There will be time for that later. For now, let's simply be a family, until duty calls us apart again."
"What's up, Hyl?" Eloy asked, pushing through the cluster of personnel around his pilot.
Hyl didn't look up; instead, he nodded his head toward the droid. Eloy looked around the cluster of people and picked out a familiar face. "Parody, what's going on?"
Michael "Parody" Miller, Corsair-7, stifled a laugh and stepped forward. "Um, it's Hyl's droid, sir." At a look from Mynock, Parody continued. "It's, heh, one of the new line of R2 units. Top-of-the-line, factory fresh. I've never seen one before. It's got twice the memory capacity of the old R2s and a ton of other nifty gadgets. Problem is, someone seems to have... altered it's... personality matrix."
Mynock looked down at the automation. The little droid's sensor eye was dull--someone had shut it off. "What did they do to it?"
Parody chuckled again. "Um... well, when Roo walked in, it started to... trumpet Hyl's qualities to her."
"It started hitting on Roo for Hyl. Same thing when Slicer stopped by. It was hilarious."
Guardian put a hand on Hyl's shoulder. "S'okay, buddy," he said calmly, "Parody'll make some modifications and fix it for you. Then you can take it for a ride on your A-Wing!" All starting laughing together, except Hyl.
Hyl shook his head. "No, he can't. I promised my parents I wouldn't make any changes to it. I am not sure why, but they made me swear it."
"Well, then," Guardian stalled, looking for something to say.
At that moment, a waiter walked over to the table. She carried a large serving tray with a water pitcher and one glass. Just after her, Roo entered the lounge with her receptors displaying a reddish color. She set the tray down close to Hyl. "I never knew you felt that way about me, Hyl." she whispered in his ear. "I think you're pretty special too." Hyl's face turned red as she walked back over the Lounge's long counter.
Mynock, noting the water pitcher and his pilot's red face, remarked, "Mrs. Costa Guerra, surely you know we compensate Rafael better than treating you to a pitcher of water." Hyl's mother smiled at Mynock and replied, "I know that Lieutenant. This is for a special occasion." Guardian picked up the hint and herded the assembled pilots out of the Lounge as Hyl's father entered.
"Good", he said approaching the table," the water is here." He sat down and the three enjoyed catching up on what's been happening in their lives. After a few moments, Baer Costa Guerra leaned close to his son. "Rafael, we want you to share a glass of water with us. " he said warmly. "But father, I can certainly afford to treat you two to something a little more extravagant than water." Hyl searched his father's eyes for approval. Instead he found wisdom.
"Son, your body is made of seventy percent water. You are essentially water. From this day to the rest of your life you will need to be closer to yourself. Know yourself. You will see yourself in some situations that you and only you can help yourself."
"You will need better eyes to see beyond the obvious obstacles. Better ears to hear more than what is being said , better balance of mind and body, a better you. Every time you drink, you are losing some neurocells that for most of us don't make a difference. But it will to you. Those neurocells will make the difference between win and lose. Between live or die. And we could not bear to lose you." Hyl's father took a sip from the glass and passed it to his wife. She took a sip from the glass and passed it to her son. Hyl looked at the glass of water and took a drink. Then, Baer Costa Guerra sat back and smiled at his son. "You will see," he stated, "you will see how this water will help balance things for you."
"First the droid, then the "water," Hyl knew that something bigger was going on... but was not sure why he didn't say anything
Later that night, Hyl lay in his quarters thinking about what his father had said about the water. Finally, he dozed off for a while and was awakened by Zeesix's loud bleeping. "Not now, Zeesix. I need some rest." Hyl rolled over and tried to fall asleep again but Zeesix refused to let him sleep. The brand new R2 astromech's tooting and bleeping took on an urgent tone and Hyl climbed out of his bunk to calm him. "What is it?"
The droid ejected a small box from one of his dome's sides. Hyl took the unit and looked it over carefully. One end held an interface jack that seemed custom made to plug into a receptor within his A-wing's cockpit. "What is this?"
Hyl didn't get a reply. While looking at the jack, alarm klaxons began blaring, and a frantic voice came over the comm. "Scramble alert! All pilots to their ships!. This is not a drill! Repeat, this is not a drill!" Hyl was dressed and out the door in forty-five seconds. At a minute and twenty's end, he was in the hangar. Two Y-wings from Buccaneer were lifting off, and Hyl saw Mynock jump into his craft.
"Launch!" yelled Corsair's exec. "I'll brief you in the air, Electro has launched already!"
Hyl clambered into the cockpit of his starfighter, strapped in, and began to taxi out when Z6's box began chirping. He looked down long enough to plug the apparatus into his console, then he launched his fighter into space.
And immediately saw the problem. Two Victory-class Star Destroyers, tagged as the Placator and the Pursuit, had emerged from hyperspace almost on the Liberty's tail. The voice of Chris "Electro" Schock, Corsair Leader, came over the comm. "These clowns knew right when to hit us. Rogue and half of Buccaneer are off on that strike on the Chaldean base. We've got six Y-wings and twelve A-wings to take these guys out."
"And only half of Corsair is out," came Parody's voice. "This is not going to be fun."
Tac net chatter picked up as the understrengthed Rebel fighters pulled into formation.
"Bucc Two to Corsair Two," Guardian called. "We're going to try to knock out the Placator first. Keep those fighters off of us."
"Roger, Bucc Two. We'll be--"
"Wait!" Hyl interrupted. "Guardian, go for the Pursuit."
"Negative, Hyl, the Placator's closer and already launching Ties! Do your job, and let us…"
"I know! Listen! The Pursuit is fresh out of drydock, having its warhead launcher upgraded to the new Arakyd IPC-14 model. Problem is, it's still running on the old model 12's reloader. Concentrate your missile fire on their warhead launcher and we may be able to set off a chain reaction back up into the storage magazine, which is right near..."
"The secondary power cores! Nice, Hyl! You heard the man, Buccs. Let's get us a Star Destroyer..."
Hyl shrugged. "To be honest, I had a little help. Z6 has some kind of remote relay--he's the one who pulled up the file on the Pursuit."
"Yeah, but you're the one with the guts to suggest that plan, even if it was the droid who brought it up. Looks like Intel's got itself a pretty good addition, I'd say."
"I hope so. Now, if I can only find a way to keep my droid in line."
"Speaking of which, where is the little grease glob?"
Hyl turned. "He was right here..." The pilot looked frantically around the Lounge, his eyes finally coming to rest on his astromech, with a protocol unit at its side, speaking to a table of women in Ordinance and Supply garb and one Aradia "Slicer" Emerson, Buccaneer Eight. Slicer caught Hyl's glance, smiled, and winked at him.
Hyl turned back to the bar, groaning; all Guardian could do was