The Republic transport shuddered against moderate turbulence as the chaotic blue blur of hyperspace flashed by, duly illuminating the rows of viewports running down the vessel’s oblong hull. Halfway down the bulk Ranger engisn Syal Antilles, known by most as only Lysa Dunter stared out into the vast unknown that was hyperspace, suffering from the inescapable plague that befell so many soldiers. Boredom. For the past forty-eight hours she’d been trapped within the overcrowded transport, along with nearly two thousand other crew from the Third Republic fleet, flying nonstop from Corellia to Kuat. At first, she had tried to sleep the journey away, as she was technically an officer, albeit an ensign, afforded her some limited privacy. She’d been granted quarters separated from the bulk enlisted housing, shared with four other female ensigns. The treatment granted her the ability rest for hours at a time without being disturbed, but after nearly two days of constant bunk time the energetic young woman felt if she got any more sleep, she, might start tearing her own hair out. Instead, she distracted herself idly by the viewport cleaning her pistol for the third time.
“All personnel, please standby for the captain’s announcement.” A robotic feminine voice announced over the ship’s intercom. Syal glanced up from her polished barrel. Maybe they were getting close to their destination. She checked her chrono. Yes, they had been enroute for almost the entirety of the predicted forty-three-hour flight. She quickly began assembling her pistol as a more masculine, and organic voice replaced the first, reverberating across the entire transport. “We shall be reverting to realspace over Kuat in an estimated fifteen minutes. Have your equipment and belongings properly packed for safe airlock transfer. We will be docking onto the Defender first, followed by the Indomitable, the Mothma, the Mon Sasorra and finally the Ralroost. If you have been assigned to an escort corvette or gunboat please disembark at your vessel’s lead-ship. You will be transferred from there separately.” His piece said the captain cut off the intercom bringing silence back to the halls.
Syal glanced towards her small bag containing all her worldly goods. Most of which were her spare uniforms. She hadn’t unpacked, there had not been space or need too, which meant she had nothing to do for the next twenty minutes, plus however long it took to reach the Ralroost down at the end of the disembarking list. Sighing she began disassembling her pistol again. A loud knock on her cabin hatch distracted her. Weird Syal thought, normally her cabin mates just barged in unannounced. “Enter.” She said, curious as to who might be calling. The portal buzzed open and there stood a young man, roughly her age with wild dark hair and a Ranger’s indigo flight uniform. Now that piqued Syal’s interest. She had thought she was the only Ranger onboard. It was strange, that on such a cramped ship she could have missed his presence, but to be fair she’d spent most of the time in her cabin, leaving only for the refresher and meals.
“Mind if I come in?” He asked from the threshold. Syal affirmed her consent and he stepped inside. “It took me awhile to track you down, I only half believed it when I heard there was another Ranger pilot onboard.” He explained as he plopped down in the rack opposite her. He extended a hand which Syal shook. “Tiom Rordan, and you are…?”
“Lysa, Lysa Dunter” Syal answered quickly, using the name that she’d chosen to conceal her identity as daughter of one of the most famous pilots in the galaxy. The exchanged the usual pleasantries custom to Corellia. Finally, after a short pause Tiom brought up what they were both thinking.
“Assigned to the Swords as well I assume?”
“Vibrosword Twelve, that’s me.” Syal huffed, the low placing as number twelve marked her as a replacement, but only Tiom grinned.
“And I’m Sword Eleven, I guess that explains why were a both traveling from Corellia to Kuat. Though…” He paused, a light of confusion in his eyes. “I don’t remember you from the academy. Were you not in Boresk Training Company?”
Syal shook her head. The training companies were large, big enough that it was possible to not know everyone who participated but she recognized why they’d never met in an instant. “I was in Rondo Compony, a month behind yours.
“Oh,” he paused, and Syal knew what his next question would be before he spoke. “Why are you back from leave so early?”
The first awkward silence hung between them as Syal tried to determine that answer herself. Mixed feelings of betrayal, personal responsibility, selfish pride, and the unease of her somewhat precarious situation warred in her mind. All of it surmounted by the simple fact that she couldn’t tell this Tiom Rordan the truth. She fished desperately for a cover story, and decided on one that was close enough to the truth that she wouldn’t forget or flub the details in its no doubt numerous retellings. “I dunno,” she said at last. “Family trouble. And I guess I wanted to get into the action. No reason to sit around for a month doing nothing.”
He seemed to accept her vague explanation, and thankfully did not try and pry further. Instead, he surprised her with a different, rather candid point. “That wasn’t very smart of you.”
Slightly miffed Syal raised an eyebrow at the remark. “Really?”
Tiom held up his hands defensively. “That came out more insulting than it should have. Its just, I’ve been told Rangers don’t get two seconds of personal time after their first mission. We’ll be bounced from one end of the galaxy to the next solving disputes and fighting and helping. There’s a reason why they give us a month of personal time before deployment, that’s all.”
Frowning Syal considered his explanation. She’d heard similar rundowns of Ranger life from veterans, but she’d always thought they were exaggerating for effect. After over forty hours of doing nothing she felt she would appreciate some non-stop duties. Whatever the case it didn’t matter now, she’d already been deployed, and her days of leave were forfeit. Syal was saved a response when the blue swirl of hyperspace slowed and formed into a sea of tiny pinpricks of light against the inky blackness of eternity. For a moment the transport hung in space, and then the sublight engines kicked on and the ship lurched forward, making course for the large Mon Cal cruiser at the center of the Republic fleet. They had arrived at last!
Tiom jumped to his feet, an eager light in his eyes. “I need to go get my things. I almost forgot we were so close to Kuat. So, can I meet you again down in the airlock before we report to Squadron Leader Hardus? We might as well do it together. What’s your name again, Lysa right?”
Syal finished reassembling her pistol and shook his hand again. He seemed a good man. Eager to please and pleasant, if somewhat blunt about his thoughts and intentions. She found herself glad he’d sought her out before they arrived on the Ralroost. It gave them a bit of familiarity, and support. Two rookies who could learn the ropes together instead of being thrown to the wolves alone amidst an unfamiliar environment. “That’s right, I’m Lysa and you’re Tiom. See you down there, Ranger.”
He waved as he left, just as Syal’s three cabin mates returned last minute to collect their belongings. Syal checked her chrono again and was surprised to see the captain’s earlier estimate had been slightly off. It had been almost twenty minutes.