There is an old saying amongst the pilots I have met in my life, they say, “Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it.”
I arrived at the landing bay in time to meet Lord Vader and two storm troopers, my protocol droid and that was it. We boarded the shuttle and the troops, along with my droid went into the passenger troop area, I, being grasped by the arm, was dragged into the cockpit area and told to sit in the co-pilot’s chair. The door that separates the cockpit closed and for the first time ever in my life I experienced claustrophobia.
Lord Vader, physically, is a very large man but it is his presence that is even larger. He fills every space he enters and when the space is as small as the cockpit of a shuttle there is little space for anything else. The sound of his breathing fills the air, you could dance a waltz to it, it is so perfectly timed. He said nothing as he prepared us for take off, the Coruscant Air traffic control gave him clearance and like that we were rotating in the air, the shuttle’s wings began their fold up procedure and before I knew it we were beginning our ascent.
I don’t mind silence, but sitting beside Lord Vader made me nervous and when I get nervous I chatter.
“I always wanted to be in one of these.” I said. “I always wanted to learn how to pilot one.”
Lord Vader looked at me for a second and then with a few deft motions at the control panel he said. “Very well, Miss Gabriel, the shuttle is yours.”
I remind you, we were in the middle of ascent in Coruscant airspace. It’s busy.
The shuttle rocked because it was not on auto pilot, Lord Vader, I later learned NEVER uses autopilot, and I grabbed the controls and tried to stabilize her while rapidly taking in the control panel to see if I could actually recognize anything all the while the CATC was screaming at us because our flight plan was ‘off’ No Kidding!
I know how to pilot. I learned to fly when I was very young, when your father owns a space port and used to be a major shuttle pilot and you are his only child, you get to learn these things. I am not the greatest pilot in the world, if you want to see the greatest pilots in the world then you need to go to Mos Espa where the pod racers are, but I know how to fly and one cockpit is, more or less, the same as the next, it is placement of things that changes. So, for a few, very frantic seconds I found out where everything was. I am betting the Imperial troopers sitting in the back were having a few moments of panic, though. Once, I got the placement of where things were sorted out I got the ship back under control and completely over shot everything because she was touchy, not like the sluggish freighter my father had or the small shuttle craft back home, slow to respond and needed a good swift kick up the boosters before they’d even think about turning, no sir, this shuttle was a spoiled little princess and she like the gentle touch.
So, we gave a few oncoming vehicles a scare and had a near miss or three but in the space of about three minutes I had learned how to pilot a lambda class shuttle, at least the basics. Of course I drew heavily on my weirding ways to help out, sometimes it is like a voice whispering in one’s ear and sometimes it is like light dancing, either way it helped me do what I had to do. The most unsettling thing about the whole three minutes was the laughter I heard coming from my boss. A slow, low chuckling that was as nerve jarring as the ascent we just did.
“You find it funny that I almost smashed the shuttle?” I asked as I set our course into the nav computer so it could do the hyperspace jump calculations.
“You wished to learn how to fly this shuttle, now you know how to fly this shuttle. Had I thought you would not be able to do so I would not have given you the controls. You learn faster than I expected, the Force serves you well.” He said.
“Anything else I should know about this ship then?” I asked.
“The landing bay entrance is lower than it looks, when you bring her in to land, remember the clearance on the dorsal stabilizer.”
“Ah, right. Thanks for the tip.” I said and we made the jump into hyperspace.
On the trip I asked a lot of questions about the shuttle and Lord Vader answered them all. I got the impression he enjoyed flying and maybe even enjoyed sharing a little of his knowledge about it. What I really wanted to know, I didn’t dare ask, he sensed this but gave me no opening. I wanted to ask about The Force, about why me? I wanted to know why everyone was so terrified of him and I wasn’t, scared yes, in awe of, completely, but terrified…not yet at any rate. I kept to asking technical questions about flying and the shuttle and the Imperial Class Star Destroyer we were heading for. It seemed the safest thing to do. My guess is that when he is ready, he will let me know what it is I need to know.
We got to the Imperial Star Destroyer and I was stunned at the size of it. It was bigger than anything I had ever seen. Flight command came over the comlink and requested clearance code. Lord Vader gave them the code and there was a moment’s hesitation on the side of the Flight Command and then came a very nervous “Permission to land granted.”
“Take her in, Miss Gabriel.” Lord Vader said.
So I did, all nice and easy like, the little princess landed perfectly. I even remembered to watch my dorsal clearance. Not bad for my first time. Though I got the feeling I had some extra help. We disembarked and Lord Vader was formally welcomed aboard. He vanished off to the bridge flanked by nervous Imperials and storm troopers. I was left with my fussy protocol droid and a rather confused looking Lieutenant.
“Welcome on board the ISD Devastator, Miss Gabriel. I am to show you to your quarters.” he said.
“Great, who are you?” I asked. I was getting a bit tired that everyone seemed to know my name and never bothered to tell me theirs.
“Oh, sorry ma’am, I am Lieutenant Tobias Jorae. I have been assigned to assist you.”
I laughed. “An assistant for the assistant.” That was just funny. I walked with him as he strode through the ship to my designated area. He explained a little about my clearance level ( not all that high) the areas of the ship that were off limits to the civilians ( most) and that Lord Vader had requested that I be given Quarters near his. Not sure I liked the sound of that but wasn’t going to argue, there is a lot to be said for being alive and I would kind of like to stay that way.
It took a while and along the way I learned where the main mess hall was, where the recreational areas were, the medical center among other places. It was a huge ship and it was a labyrinth. I was thankful I had a good sense of direction. We arrived at my quarters and I was surprised, they were larger than I had expected, and I even had a view port. Seeing the stars was a comfort somehow.
There was a sleeping room separate from the main area which was to be an office, I guessed, a small bathroom (the head) and very small sitting area. It wasn’t as luxurious as the palace but it wasn’t sparse and forbidding either. Could do with a different colours scheme though. My protocol droid was not impressed though and fussed about the office area. I ignored him and asked about food. I was starving. The Shock learning method always makes me hungry.