Diana DeRiggs, Wraith6, Csillag
Wes Janson took his best friend aside, "Hobbie, you'll need to settle down. I know your wife is expecting a baby, and I know I was psychotic when my first was born, but you are not endearing yourself to anyone. Sela is fine, she's healthy, and what did the doctor tell you?"
"Um ..." Derek Klivian, known to everyone as Hobbie, knew he'd been acting chaotically, but he couldn't help himself, "he said ... uh..."
"He said that behaving like a lunatic psycho was stressful for Sela, and that you would have to calm down!" Wes stated the doctor's order for him. "And it's not helping anyone here. We all understand Hobbie, but we can't keep covering for you."
"Wes, I'm sorry, I really am. I just wish I wasn't on this high-orbit platform right now, I asked for a planet-side assignment to spare everyone." Hobbie was contrite, but still couldn't deny his nervousness. His wife was having a baby and he just wanted to be with her!
"She's nearly due," Hobbie was agitated, "less than two weeks to go!"
Tycho Celchu came up behind them, "She's not going to break, Hobs," he took a seat in the pilot's lounge, "it's not like people have never had babies before." To emphasize the point, he yawned.
Hobbie quickly got down on his knees before the commanding officer, "Tycho, please reassign me dirtside?? I can't bear being up here knowing that baby could pop out any minute and I won't be there!"
Tycho patted Hobbie's blonde head, as one might indulge a slobbering puppy, "There, there. Remember we once battled the Empire on Hoth and accepted that we might never go home. Especially you, who flew into a walker! If I recall, they had to get the manual out to figure out how to put you back together?"
Hobbie wept openly, "You bastards are so not understanding ..."
"Is he finally crying?" The voice of General Wedge Antilles broke through the sobbing, "Hobbie, I understand you, but you have to do your job, damn it. You can't go dirtside, I explained it to you." Hobbie had curled up in the fetal position at this point, wondering why a simple request like this couldn't be granted?
Wes squatted down to whisper in his friend's ear, "Tell you what ... if she calls you to tell you the baby is coming, I'll take you dirtside myself ... and no one is hotter than me in a shuttle!"
"No, no, no," another voice broke in, "I'm much better than you are, and as former commander of this unit, I should get the honors." It was Luke Skywalker, Jedi Master and one of the original members of Rogue Squadron.
Wedge offered a mug of caf, "Luke! Good to see you! I thought you were out on Omega-Mu?" He was referring to a star system which was purported to be a Jedi hiding place, where the Force was concentrated in a sort of black hole. Luke was known to chase any lead concerning lost Jedi or information about them.
The blond man shook his head while accepting the caf, "Too dangerous. Not even Han would give me transport there, can you imagine? And I get a bad feeling about the place, so I figure I should wait a bit. And I didn't want to head back to the palace and the usual interrogations by the council, so I figured I'd stop by here and see how my big ship is doing." He was referring to the building of a new style of high-speed ship for him, which would function as a prototype for a new Rogue Squadron cruiser.
"Not good," Tycho drew himself a caf as well, "we would send Mr. Klivian here out to test it, but he's guaranteed to crash it in his current mental state, and we figure why waste a potentially good ship on testing by an incompetent pilot?"
Everyone laughed at the comment, even Hobbie. As he giggled, he finally sat up. "Okay, I know I've been useless, and I'm really really sorry about that. But it would not have been my fault if that ship had crashed! The stabilizers keep counterspinnin-"
"You have no clue what stabilizers are for," sniffed Wes, "I've been your wingman, following you is like following Luke, only without any certaint-"
Wes's commlink buzzed with his wife's signal, abruptly interrupting the insult-fest, and he excused himself to take the message. Hobbie followed him closely to eavesdrop, thinking Jehri Janson might have some news about Sela? The two wives were very close.
"Hi, Jehri, how are the kids?"
"Hi, Snookums! Kids are fine, I'm fine, I'm calling about Sela. Her water broke and she went into labor today, and please tell Hobb-"
That was all Hobbie heard ... his wife was in labor! She was having their baby! Nearly two weeks early!
"-not to worry, she's fine, they'll watch her at the MedCenter, she's not fully dilated yet. Dr. Holzern says for him not to-"
But Hobbie was gone by then, running around at full panic, past pilots and technicians who jumped quickly to get out of his way. Wes and several others had taken off after him, knowing that he'd try to get dirtside as quickly as possible. They needed to get him into a shuttle piloted by someone else! After all, friends don't let friends drive while crazed, chucked Wes.
Hobbie was not concerned that he was looking very much like a madman. He headed straight for his starfighter, and shrieked with frustration when he saw he was boxed in by other ships, all around and even above him. He had been planning on using his repulsorlifts to bounce him out of the docking space, but that maneuver would be impossible now. He cursed himself that he hadn't checked on his ship within the past hour to make sure it was accessible.
As the others burst into the hangar, they saw with horror that Hobbie had boarded the ship closest to the magcon shield. It was surrounded by technicians of all species who were jumping up and down, trying to get the pilot's attention. "Wedge," asked Tycho, "isn't that Luke's new experimental ship?"
Before they could get Luke to come and try to stop Hobbie using a Jedi trick, Hobbie had slid the ship into the inky blackness of space. One of the technicians saw the other pilots and ran over to them. He saluted, "Sirs! Major Klivian is on an inadequately prepared transport!"
Blanching, the technician reported that the ship was barely space-worthy. It could hold atmosphere at high orbit, but not in hard vacuum; fortunately, they knew Hobbie was heading toward the planet surface. "But more pertinent, sirs," the technician was sweating, "there's almost no fuel in there! It was being drained selectively to work on some injection problems!"
Luke's new ship was designed to move at extremely high speeds, and if it moved slower, the panels holding the whole ship together would gape by design. This meant that copious amounts of fuel and atmosphere would leak out of the tanks; when moving at high speed, the friction of molecules would expand the designer ferrocrete and transparasteel, causing the ship panels to seal tightly. It was a clever design, but it meant the ship was really only gas- and fuel-efficient at very, very high speeds.
The technicians were trying to put a practical spin on what the engineers had specified, in order to minimize and recycle the lost fuel and gases, and thus had emptied the ship of excess volatile materials. There had been a lot of welding and suturing going on; fortunately, the ship was functionally sealed, but the tiny amount of fuel left in it to operate minimal functions would leak out in mere minutes.
Wes pulled on his hair in frustration, "Stupid Bacta Boy is in for another dip, if he's lucky! What good will he be to Sela and the baby if he's dead?? Why does he have to labor so close to the edges of death? What a moron!"
Tycho had reported the potential problem to the military police and traffic controllers on Coruscant, hoping they would be prepared to rescue Hobbie when the inevitable happened. "Bacta Boy ... yeah, we should call him that from now on. He brings it on himself, the idiot!"
Wedge had thought to pursue him, but realized that none of the other ships could catch the experimental plane, and even if they could, they didn't have the capacity to haul him out of it. They could only sit and wait, and watch the ship's quick descent down to Coruscant's surface.
* * * * *
Despite his frantic state, Hobbie noticed the layout and design of the ship he was using and he thought it was marvelous. He immediately realized that he'd taken Luke Skywalker's new ship, and regretted that he'd likely be in a lot more trouble than usual for this theft. But he was so determined to get to the MedCenter where his wife was delivering their first child, it didn't really concern him at that moment.
He had enough to think about with all the hails he was getting from Coruscant Traffic Control. They could not get a transponder response (Duh, thought Hobbie, it's an unregistered, brand new, not quite ready, state of the art cruiser!) and demanded to know who he was and where he was going. He tried to explain, yelling into the comm, "I'm Hobbie! I'm going to the MedCenter!" He couldn't understand why they had no clue what he was talking about.
He skillfully navigated the upper lanes of cargo traffic waiting for access to the normal traffic levels, skimming past freighters and cutting in front of slower ships. Though he was wreaking havoc in his wake, miraculously no damage was done. Police cruisers followed him, alerted to the potential of a renegade unregistered vehicle in the capitol.
With Hobbie's whole concentration centered on this blockade-running style of flying, he barely registered the klaxons of security hails sounding, or the shrieking of the air through the gaping ship panels as the vehicle slowed to lower speed. It was no wonder that Hobbie didn't hear the "low fuel" alarm going off.
He spotted the dumbbell-shaped Lake Caritan via visual scanning. It was a reservoir that provided fresh water and a recreational park, and on which the MedCenter was located. As Coruscant was very much an artificially-built world, it had been decided during the Old Republic days to create parks and simulations of the natural world as much as possible, especially around public and government buildings. Some of these efforts were quite whimsical, and like Lake Caritan, were shaped in ways never found in nature. But it made the area distinctive, especially for the pilot homing in on it now. In fact, it was so distinctive that it was frequently referred to as "Lake Dumbbell."
He jinked left to avoid a skyscraper tower ... and kept going left. Hobbie pulled on the rudder controls hard and narrowly missed another building. Panting hard at the effort, he finally noticed he was out of fuel!
He fought with the controls, trying desperately to avoid other vehicles and buildings. Realizing that he would not be able to land with any precision at this point, he made a quick decision to head for the lake itself. He prayed he could land this thing gracefully, or at least without doing too much damage to it.
But as the seconds ticked by, it became obvious Hobbie couldn't get the airbrakes to work and that a hard landing was inevitable. The ship was simply moving too fast to not do some damage. For the first time, the pilot felt guilty; by taking this ship, he would be costing the New Republic several billion credits in damage. And then he realized that he, too, would likely be damaged in the accident, and he panicked again. Who would take care of Sela and the baby if ... He pushed hard on the rudder to avoid a tree!
Hobbie tried hard to pull the nose of the ship up, so that it might skip on the water's surface instead of plunging down. It was just as well he couldn't manage it, as it would have done more damage to the ship if he'd succeeded. As he felt the jolt of impact, he hit the ejection explosives and was tossed clear of the sinking, expensive vehicle.
Alas, the canopy did not quite open, I'll have to tell the techs about that, and his head and shoulder hit the transparasteel structure in a glancing blow as he violently exited the cockpit. He regained consciousness shortly after, floating peacefully on the surface of the lake. This feels calm, Hobbie's thoughts came to him slowly, Dr. Holzern told me to stay calm. I'm calm ... He heard the alarms of emergency sirens, and wondered if Sela and the baby were okay. I'll be there soon!
* * * * *
Several of the Rogues had taken a Lambda shuttle down to the surface, and the techs were hard at work pulling Luke's ship out of Lake Caritan. Though damaged, many of the panels were salvageable, and the engineers assigned to the task noticed that the panels were curved in such a way as to interlock in an almost braided fashion. One of them realized that this was the solution to the problems they'd had with fuel leaking at lower speeds -- they could diamond accordion-pleat the sutures and curve some of them around, so that the panels could still have room to expand and tighten up at high speed, but still be sealed at low speed. This was exactly the type of testing they'd hoped to perform to reveal some serendipitous solution. Normally, Hobbie might have been cited and given a commendation for his part in the testing, but Wedge decided to trade it for clearing Hobbie's record for charges of theft and damage to government property.
To their surprise, Hobbie was not in a bacta tank when they arrived at the MedCenter. The orderly explained that Major Klivian had requested a traditional setting for broken bones, so that he could be with his wife when their child was delivered. Just as the Major was delivered by ambulance to the emergency room, Sela's cervix had dilated the required amount for the baby to start it's journey down the birth canal. She'd spent all day in labor, and Dr. Holzern had been about her induce her. Her sudden dilation caught everyone by surprise.
Perhaps it was some karmic connection that some husbands and wives seem to have. Sela seemed to be waiting till Hobbie arrived, and as soon as Dr. Holzern told her he was in the MedCenter, labor had started in earnest. In turn, Hobbie begged for his broken shoulder to be set as quickly as possible, so that he could be with his wife. It was faster than the day and half he'd normally have to spend in bacta. He even requested he not be given painkillers, so that he could be coherent for his daughter's birth.
The Rogues found their fellow pilot in Sela's birthing room with a large white cast plastered over a quarter of his body. It was rare to see a cast, since bacta could quickly heal most injuries without scarring; only those with an allergy to bacta would be treated in this manner. But the pilots admired it and wrote their get-well wishes on it. They had also brought flowers and plants for the new mother, and all oohed and aahed over the newborn.
Even in her exhausted state, Sela looked shocked when Wedge told Hobbie that all charges were cleared against him, but that if he pulled another stunt like that again, he'd be court-martialed. Hobbie realized he'd put civilians and others in potential danger and was openly contrite. But nothing could dampen his spirits as he proudly displayed his daughter, "We're calling her Nia!"
The others understood; the baby was being named for the woman Hobbie had been engaged to many years before. Nia Ponsed had also been a mentor to Sela. She'd also saved Hobbie's life on Hoth, displaying a rare talent for Jedi healing. He had actually been pronounced by the triage staff to be "not savable" and had been left last for treatment, so that others with a better chance for survival would get medical care first. He should have died.
As they left the MedCenter, Wes voiced his wonder, "Hobbie has such a charmed life, don't you think?"
"What do you mean? You mean Sela and the baby? Yeah, he's lucky."
"Yeah," Wes looked uncharacteristically thoughtful, "but more than that. I mean, he's spent so much time in bacta that those organisms personally know his cells by name ... and yet he pulls through. Bacta Boy's ships tend to be irresistibly attracted to the ground, and he gets really mangled up, but he comes out better than new each time. It's almost like ... like he's being watched over, don't you think?"
Wedge, who knew Hobbie as long as Wes had, nodded his agreement, "You're right ... you think Nia Ponsed is like his guardian angel?"
"That's it exactly!" Wes's face lit up, "Exactly the term I was looking for. And the doctor said Sela went into labor only after Hobbie reached the hospital. That sounds like cosmic forces are laboring to keep him whole, doesn't it?"
"So what's your point, Wes?" Tycho asked.
"I think," Wes seemed more like himself at this point, "that means we no matter how we haze him and work him, he'll come out okay. So what say we have a party and put it on his tab? We'll call it a "labor day special" at the base tapcaf -- since Sela was in labor, Nia Ponsed is laboring to keep Hobbie whole, and Hobbie is a tool."
"That's a bit lame, Wes." Wedge shook his head at his friend's logic.
"C'mon, Wedge! For all the worry Bacta Boy put us through? It's the least we can do for him!"
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