Head to Head: A Different Trench Run.
There was no way out.
After the middle TIE fired on him and his controls turned to sludge, Wedge knew he was done for.
Luke seemed to feel otherwise, ordering him to clear of the trench:
“Get clear, Wedge. You can't do any more good back there.”
Can't do any more good? Wedge thought, Kriff that. The Imps just hacked most of my squadron out of the air. Except for Syal and Mirax, everyone I know is either dead, incarcerated, or right here. Luke's making a run for the exhaust port, and Biggs won't stay alive long enough to cover him when I go. I'll be dammed if I do nothing.
Time seemed to slow as he came to a realization, and his veins turned to ice at the prospect.
I have nothing to lose. The Imps have a whole dammed battlestation on the line.
It was the work of a microsecond in that icy state for Wedge to decide on his course of action:
“Plug,” Wedge growled to his R2 unit as he kept an iron grip on the stick, “Get ready to kill the ethertic rudder and set both of my torps for proximity detonation. I've got a plan.”
“Wedge?” Luke's voice came frantically through the scratchy comm, “Why haven't you left yet?”
“Just picking a good time.” he murmured back, abstractedly calm, “Picking... a good...time...”
Darth Vader fumed as he tried to reacquire the annoyingly rugged X-Wings maneuvering desperately in the trench's tight confines.
The Incom Corporation has much to answer for.
The Sith Lord stewed under his armor, noting the fighter he had damaged was still keeping pace with its wingman.
Still screening its wingmates with smoke and sparks puffing from the vessel's tail, dissipating into the vacuum of the Death Star's Polar Trench, and further disrupting his target lock.
These Rebel pilots are more skilled than Intelligence said they would be. Isard has...Disappointed me...
Vader briefly amused himself by wondering which pilots were smugglers, which were Imperial defectors, and which ones were stupid enough to be idealists before pushing such idle thoughts out of his mind. The rebels would be irrelevant in seconds, anyway.
They would be dead.
That thought brought satisfaction as he stretched out with his senses only to be taken aback at the sheer Force presence emanating from the leader. Clearly untrained, but shining like a star gone nova, screaming out a challenge to Vader.
His cracked lips formed a brief, painful smile beneath the glassy-eyed obsidian mask.
At last, a challenge from someone worthy, unlike that decrepit relic Kenobi.
The brief distraction from the damaged snubfighter would prove to be Lord Vader's undoing. As he well knew, one second was an eternity in space combat...
“Okay Plug!” Wedge shouted to his astromech, “Do it now!”
The droid tootled an acknowledgment, and Wedge dropped the throttle to zero while pulling back on the stick, trying to maneuver the craft in a manner it hadn't been designed for...
“The force is strong with this one.” Vader mused, so distracted by the leader's Force presence that he didn’t notice a change in the damaged fighter until it had dramatically swapped nose-for-tail and headed directly for him, its engines sparking and spitting flame.
Then his eyes widened as he the sleek gray and red fighter vomited two torpedoes at him before spiraling drunkenly off into open space.
Impossible! Vader raged, and stretched out with a knife of his anger towards the speeding projectiles, frantically firing his guns and searching for the missiles' activation circuit. Finally, he clenched an outstretched fist trying to push them out of the way.
Any other pilot would have been vaporized instantly. As it was, Vader nearly triumphed. He destroyed the first torpedo, disabled the activation mechanism of the second and dodged it with inches to spare on either wing array, to no avail.
The dead torpedo corkscrewed into one of his wingmen, punching a hole straight through the cockpit and killing the man with pure kinetic energy. The explosion from the first torpedo shredded Vader's shields and made him twitch ever so slightly as the pilotless TIE veered into him, knocking the TIE Advanced out of control and into the trench wall.
The millisecond it took for Darth Vader, Sith Lord and right hand of the Emperor to hit the wall was an eternity of fear. But somewhere, deep down, the weakened embers of a man once named Anakin Skywalker stirred, acknowledging a worthy adversary as he became one with the universe and took the third TIE with him.
“You're all clear Luke!” Wedge crowed jubilantly he sped away from the Death Star, “Now blow this thing!”
Then his comm failed, his engines lost power, and the last green lights in his cockpit display turned amber. The broken fighter sailed off into the void propelled only by its inertia.
Wedge exhaled deeply and relaxed into his chair, bathed a corona of light from the explosion of the Death Star less than a minute later.
Luke had done it!
Alone with the universe, the abnormally restrained Corellian finally reverted to type, whooping with joy and pumping his fist triumphantly. At the end of the day, he'd saved two of his wingmates and had pulled off a maneuver that gave veteran pilots nightmares just thinking about it.
All in all, Wedge mused, It had been a good day for flying.
Just when Wedge started to worry about how he'd get back to Yavin Base, two carbon-scored X-Wings formed up on either side of his cockpit as the ventral section of a battered YT-1300 freighter settled into view above him.
YAVIN 4 MAIN HANGAR
FOUR HOURS LATER
Half of Yavin Base was drunk. The other half was on the way, and the candy, creds and other high-value items offered to people for standing watch sober had made a few abstentious Rebels very wealthy in the only currency that mattered on a hidden insurgent base.
As the base staff and the raid's few survivors; Wedge and Luke, Keyan Farlander and Biggs Darklighter drank, they made sure to toast the twenty some others who didn't make it back in the fashion of those who had been about to die that morning.
In short, one hell of a party was in swing.
The only problem with the the celebration was that the two men of the hour were each insisting that the other had made the greater contribution. Luke insisted that he never could have made that shot if Wedge hadn't scraped the TIEs off of them, and Wedge maintained that he'd never have been able to land the exhaust port hit as well as the farmboy from Tatooine.
All the lum had been expended in an effort to get them both to stop being so modest, which had failed because there were only so many things for Luke to to do around Tosche Station with his friends, and Wedge was Corellian, so now bottles of rotgut Whyren's were being passed around.
“Seriously, Antilles, one hell of a piece of flying.” Solo says for the fifth time, still genuinely impressed, “Chewie and I could use you the next time we make the Kessel Run. Teach those Imperial slugs a thing or two about flyin' like a Corellian.”
“By which you mean like a Bantha that's been in the sun too long?” Biggs asks, and he and Luke dissolve into laughter as Solo knocks back another tumbler of Whyren's and attempts to explain how the even the hypothetical Bantha would be able to outfly the Imperials, with the exception of maybe a pilot Han was at the academy with named Fel.
With the amount of alcohol he's taken on board, Wedge is amazed the older man can still speak coherently, let alone remember his Academy shenanigans.
Just like he wonders what exactly the smuggler was doing near the trench.
A sudden attack of conscience?
Wedge almost asked Han to join them, almost tells him about his past, almost says,
“I used to be a smuggler too. I was , practically raised by Booster Terrik after my folks died. We could use a good pilot like you.”
In the end, he doesn't. It took Wedge a while to find the Alliance on his own, and no amount of pushing would have convinced him to join up beforehand.
Solo wasn't there yet, and with the money to pay off Jabba sitting in his hold, Wedge doubted he would be desperate enough anytime soon.
Instead, he just smiles at the story and passes Solo's Wookie copilot another bottle of bad brandy.
“Where the hell are you putting that anyway?” Wedge asks. The critter's got one hell of a tolerance.
Solo and the Wookiee share a laugh at that, and explain that to Whyrens may as well be a kids' drink to Wookiees.
Wedge silently resolves to never accept a drink from a Wookiee, and hears a soft voice in his ear.
Wedge turns to see the Alderaanian Princess behind him, still looking beautiful in the simple white dress she had worn that morning. She was smiling with her mouth, but her eyes looked hard and tired. She hadn't joined them for the celebration until now.
Understandable. It's a bit hard to celebrate when you've just lost your world. Still, doesn't mean I can't include her in the group.
“It's just Wedge tonight,” he said, indicating a blank uniform collar “No décor at a time like this.”
“Call me Leia,” She said, smiling for real this time, and they shook hands. “I hate to be the bearer of bad news Wedge, but you may want to find some insignia. General Dodonna wants to see you in the command center for debriefing. If you can walk there.”
Wedge nodded, swayed a bit, and stared down at the tumbler in his hand, before managing to grab another from a mechanic with a tray of them.
“I'll have one for the road.”
He credits the later friendship with Leia to the fact that he didn't spill it on her as he passed it over.
“You'll need this.”
He held up an empty hand, raised the one holding his tumbler, and the room quieted.
Wedge spoke four quiet words, “To vengance for Alderaan.”
A stab of pain flashed across Leia's face, turning into resolve as she heard the rest of the Rebels echo the toast.
As normal conversations gradually picked back up, Wedge pointed the Princess to a thick knot of people containing Luke, Han and Biggs. Leia turned to thank him, but he was already making his way carefully out of the hangar bay.
YAVIN 4 COMMAND CENTER
Wedge swayed at a position approximating attention while trying to work out if General Jan Dodonna was suppressing a smile behind his magnificent beard as he stared the young pilot down before speaking,
“I suppose you're wondering why I haven't called in the MP's yet?”
“The thought had crossed my mind, sir.” Wedge said as he suppressed a smile.
The beard still indicated nothing, but the General's eyes softened a bit, “We just lost most of two squadrons. Doesn't matter if we just put a small-moon-sized hole in the Tarkin Doctrine. We pay the due to our dead. Tomorrow we have a ceremony for them. Tonight we say goodbye.”
Wedge blamed the whiskey for the next bit, “Thank you sir, we're not out of drinks yet if you'd care to come down.”
He could have sworn Dodonna's eyes twinkled at that.
“Perhaps later. Right now I need to figure out why we lost so many fighters on the final approach. That's why you're here.”
Wedge nodded, and focused on his memories of the battle.
“It had to be that unique TIE model I vaped. The basic Eyeballs weren't too bad, but this guy, he went on a rampage until I got desperate enough to try that crazy inversion.”
“Good thinking,” The General said, stroking his beard pensively, “But if it was a secret weapon, more could be produced, further endangering the Alliance's cause. We can see if the prototype's pilot has any unique markings on their flightsuit.”
“Mr. Martuz,” Dodonna said to a nervous tech manning a computer terminal, “Access Antilles' flight recorder, and take us through his inversion maneuver, frame by frame.”
The three men watched a pilot's eye view of Wedge's dangerous maneuver as the playback advanced slowly, and the screen jerked frame-by-frame toward the cockpit of the other craft.
“Got a look at the cockpit.” The tech muttered, “I just need to run a light filter to clean it up, and...”
Jan Dodonna saw the black lensed mask of Darth Vader staring back at him. Then the entire command center saw their seasoned sixty-year-old commander use some very outdated, anatomically impossible slang terms as the command center staff goggled incredulously at the screen.
“Lock the room down!” barked the General, “We need to decide what to do with this.”
“Blazing Sith! Did I...” Wedge trailed off, at a loss for words, Vader's mask sobering him further.
“You did. The footage shows you vaping Darth Vader with that insane maneuver.” General Dodonna said gently, patting him on the shoulder, “Exceptional piloting, son. Damn exceptional.”
The young pilot gulped, “So, I get a medal or something?”
“Yes. Psyops will probably suggest High Command announces it, pulls you off the front lines and starts a propaganda tour. You're about to get very famous.”
“No sir.” Wedge said, and the General's bushy eyebrows shot up “I didn't kill Vader. Not right now, at any rate. The last thing I want to do is paint a target on my head.”
His eyes hardened, “I'm not going on a cushy propaganda tour either. Wes is getting over his bout of fever and we've got Imps to vape.”
“Besides,” Wedge said, beckoning the General closer, “Word gets out that I killed Vader, then ImpSec and COMPNOR check my background and find out that Coruscanti actress Wynssa Starflare is really my sister Syal, and her life isn't worth a dicred.”
Dodonna nodded, “What about Vader then? Acknowledging his death would be a great boon for our cause.”
Wedge's expression hardened, lending his youthful face an uncharacteristic maturity; “I killed a lot of people yesterday sir, in the battle. It'll never be more than that, and it won't bring the rest of Red Squadron back. I'll tell Luke that the man who killed General Kenobi is dead, but as far as anyone else is concerned, Vader died on the station.”
“Hell, just classify it for fifteen years. I'll either be dead or off the flight line by then.”
He paused significantly,
The older man smiled beneath his beard, “A Corellian. Who successfully debriefed with god knows how much whiskey in him, doesn't want to brag about shooting down the most feared pilot in the galaxy, and is telling high command how to run propoganda? With that kind of self-control you'll be standing where I am in about ten years.”
“Me sir?” the younger man's hardened expression vanished, replaced by a grin, “A General? We'd be pretty kriffed if it came to that. I hate doing paperwork.”
“Learn.” Dodonna said abruptly. “And learn fast. I'm Brevetting you Captain. You're in charge of what's left of our fighter force on-base.”
“You heard me Captain,” The General replied, “Mr. Martuz, note that in his file.”
Wedge sketched an enthusiastic salute, “Orders, Sir?”
Finally Dodonna smiled, slowly returning the salute, “Go on back to your friends, tell them what you know, and drink some more of that distilled fighter fuel they call whiskey. I think we'll be moving on soon.”
“Yes Sir!” Wedge replied, and the General watched him go.
As talk in the Command Center resumed, there was a new undercurrent of energy there that hadn't existed that morning.
The Alliance had won a huge victory, and Jan Dodonna felt as if maybe the galaxy was spinning just a little bit differently.
Chapter 2: Life
"You're always going to be too young for something important to you, too old for something else, and the timing is just not going to be right for a third set of things. That's life, and you can make yourself crazy by dwelling on that. Or you can figure out what you are the right age for, and what the timing is right for, and celebrate those things."
- Wedge Antilles Starfighters of Adumar
OUTER RIM TERRITORIES
NEBULON-B CLASS FRIGATE REDEMPTION
It had been two months since Yavin.
Two months of life on the edge, as Palpatine's finest prowled the mid-rim, hunting for sedition while murdering countless innocents.
The balance of power in the had shifted throughout the Galaxy following the twin deaths of Tarkin and Vader, Alliance leadership had ordered the various Rebel cells to run and survive, and plan a strategy to destroy a changed Empire.
It had been two months of increased responsibility for Wedge. Commander Narra had died a week after taking command of the newly-named Rogue Group.
It hadn't been a glorious death in a dogfight, just a freak hangar accident with malfunctioning lifter-droid. With the Rogues deprived of their oldest and most experienced pilot, Wedge barely had time to grasp the basics of being an XO before entire squadron became his responsibility alone.
For the last two months they had been on constant combat operations. A few nuisance raids, but the real priority was hitting Imp convoys for supplies before clapped-out equipment killed the rest of them.
Currently, the squadron was undermanned and under-equipped. They had eight pilots, eight X-Wings, no proton torpedoes and barely enough spare parts to keep them in the air.
On a good day, they came back escorting ramshackle freighters loaded with food, fuel and munitions, ready to fight another day.
The more ephemeral things, like actual hope for the future, or a sense of ease eluded them.
Still, Wedge couldn't be prouder. He had a fine bunch of pilots.
One flight was the odds and ends. Rogue Four, Zev Senesca, was a fellow station rat and trader. A steady pilot with good fundamentals, he paired with Three, Lia'Tol “Tol” Amaxhosa, a former stunt pilot, and member of the Devaronian Resistance who had mananged to avoid the massacre at Montellian Serat .
An attractive redhead around Luke's age named Shira Brie rounded out the flight. Born into a rim community wiped out by the Imps, Brie had a score to settle and some basic talent behind the controls .
Wedge assigned her as his wingmate, Rogue Two, because she tended to focus too much on what was in front of her, shutting out potential threats. He wanted to try to help her survive, but he didn't see her much outside the briefing room either. Brie was more interested in the resident farmboy.
Biggs, Wedge and Janson found Luke's utter cluelessness on the subject hilarious.
Two Flight was the most cohesive, with the wingpair of Wes and Hobbie sharing a four-bunk cabin with Luke and Biggs. They were practically a squadron to themselves, and after Wes introduced the Tatooine natives to the “Pail of water over the bulkhead” prank, As Biggs fastidiously patted his moustache dry, Wes was roundly upbraided by the desert contingent for wasting valuable water. He woke up covered in sand blasted from one of the looser-composed asteroids.
The prank war was in full swing, and while Wedge smirked from a distance, he held back from joining in.
Invited to all-unit gatherings, Wedge found himself turning them down about half of the time, or left quietly when he remembered that he was laughing with people who he could condemn to death with a wrong order the next day.
Besides, eight pilots in a highly mobile insurgent movement generate a surprising amount of paperwork.
After two months of intense combat operations, he would always be “The Boss.”
As a captain in the Starfighter Corps, he was too high ranked to have many contemporaries aboard ship, and too low-ranked to have anything to do with decisions made by Alliance leadership.
He was alone.
Scuttlebut said they were getting new pilots and fighters in soon, but he'd been hearing that for weeks. They needed reinforcements badly. The Imperial crackdown after Yavin was severe.
Ysanne Isard and COMPNOR were granted free reign to purge “undesirable elements” and many Rebel Intel sources in Coruscant's largely nonhuman InviSec had dried up or disappeared.
After every raid, Imp counterstrikes seemed to get closer and closer to their little fleet. Right now, they were sitting in an asteroid field in the Anoat Sector, hiding the metal of their ships in the vast spray of nickel-iron planetoids that surround the inhospitable iceworld of Hoth.
They hadn't put a base down there though. Too easy to get caught and surrounded. Instead, fleet elements blasted several paths through the field and set up temporary drydocks and living quarters on some of the larger rocks, giving them a home that can be evacuated in hours instead of days.
It's what most of the smart pirate groups do, a thought that strikes Wedge as ironic given what he did in his youth to Loka Hask and the crew of the Buzzer .
On long nights, Wedge holds vigil in Redemption's secondary comm center after hours, after-action Reports half-done on his lap, and pulling in information from a Holonet beacon set to receive only, scouring newsfeeds for more information he can use to hurt the Imps and help his pilots live longer.
To stop the killings. The disappearances. The millions of quiet deaths in the night.
It may be morbid, but aside from his cramped quarters, it's the only place he can get any privacy.
It's also the only thing that helps him sleep. Even a little bit.
Because he had killed Vader. Wedge Antilles, Jagged and Zena's boy from Corellia had made good in a big way by blowing the Emperor's number-two man into his constituent atoms.
There were consequences.
When Vader was the Emperor's hatchetman, the joke around the fleet was that he killed about as many of his own officers as he did Rebels. No one was laughing now. Vader was obsessed with the Jedi and enforcing Order, with a capital “Osk,” and he didn't care about much else. Now all the mad nexu the Dark Lord had been keeping restrained had been let off their leashes.
Still, their instability and overconfidence made them vulnerable, and with Vader's death, a new flash of rebellion had swept the galaxy from the outer rim inward. Assassinations of petty bureaucrats and local tin tyrants was up. People were striking back.
But when Wedge watches the propogandistic Holonet reports about the families of Imperial servicemen being kidnapped and killed by fringe Rebel cells, and crosschecks them with the Alliance intelligence reports he does have access to, he feels responsible for those too.
He sees Syal on the news once, late at night, as she's hosting a benefit for an interspecies youngling's care center as up-and-coming Holostar Wnyssa Starflare. It's a poke in the eye to the Empire, a more subtle one. Most Corellians don't care where you come from or what color your blood is, they've been trading and living in an interspecies system for millennia, and Sya- Wnyssa shows no bias in comforting these children, her presence with them making them temporary Holonet celebreties themselves as she asks for their names and life stories, making them visible, making them safe from random disappearances at least. His sister looks happy as she reads to them, but Wedge remembers her well enough to notice her business face when she's wearing it, even through the signal decay from their remote location. Syal's scared, but she's hiding it well.
Then it closes in on her face, and Wedge pauses the feed, pretending she's looking at him, like she's seventeen, and he's seven and she's about to ruffle his hair and drag him away from his toys to go eat dinner with their parents.
Suddenly his eyes sting, and it's not just the constant patrols on bad caf and cheap stims. For a moment, he remembers viscerally what it felt like to have a safe home and a family.
Wedge is so absorbed in nostalgia that he misses the soft footsteps scuffing the floor behind him.
“She's pretty, but I think she's a bit old for you.”
He whirls, reaching for the blaster that he left in his quarters and sees Leia standing there before realizing that he's crying, alone at night in the comm center, and of course the Princess still looks pretty wearing rumpled beige fatigues, even if the circles around her eyes are as dark as his. Blinking furiously, he hopes she doesn't notice.
Unfortunately, the change in her expression from archly sarcastic to something slightly more open indicates that she has.
“Okay, I'm guessing there's more to the story, and that you're not just creeping on a famous actress late at night. Alone.-”
Ever the pilot, Wedge orients on the momentary blow to his reputation first, “Would you believe she's my sister?”
The Princess looks at the still image, looks at Wedge, and back to the holo. She wrinkles her nose theatrically, which looks adorable on her,
“Okay, the face shape is similar, but I'd say you're prettier.”
That gets her a chuckle, before Leia pauses, and smacks herself in the forehead lightly. “Kark it. I'm not usually the one who says things like that, I just...”
Wedge smiled briefly, “Couldn't sleep either?”
An acknowledging nod. “You could say that.”
“Since Alderaan?” He asks, indelicately, and shrugs helplessly, gesturing to a chair next to the one he's sitting in, far enough away so he's not intruding in her personal space. Leia grabs an armrest and scoots it over to him, and suddenly they're sitting face to face with Syal's magnified image illuminating them.
Anyone walking in right now Wedge thinks, is going to think we're conducting some sort of obeisance to a popular holostar.
He suppresses a grin, curses his inner Janson, and waits for Leia to speak.
“I've had trouble sleeping since the Death Star.” she replies, almost evenly, “Vader was...Less than delicate. Alderaan didn't help.”
“Luke told me what you did. Who you killed when you scraped those TIE Fighters off of him.” Leia said, carefully monotone, “I wanted to thank you.”
Wedge's eyes narrowed, “I'm guessing this isn't an accident, you being down here. Me having the place to myself.”
A crooked grin sneaks across her tired face. “Captain Antilles, have you considered a breakout career in espionage?”
“Not really,” he replies, shaking his head. “Not more than I absolutely have to. That sneaky cloak and vibroknife stuff seems like a great way to get killed even faster than flying snubfighters.”
“I'm not supposed to tell anyone,” Leia says, “But mission statistics agree with you. General Cracken disagrees. He puts the odds lower on fighter pilots.”
“Someone should point out his son's career choice then. That said, I won't intentionally get killed by a wingmate. And it's over quick. Trust tends to be a liability in that line of work.”
She nods, not reacting at all to his slightly manufactured world-weary fatalism.
“I told Luke, and I told him he could tell you, because I have a vague idea of what happened to you on that station. You still didn't give us up.”
Leia's eyes unfocus for a moment and she shakes her head jerkily. “I would never- ”
“I know.” Wedge says. He puts a hand on her shoulder through the fatigue jacket, feels her tense, and then relax.
She doesn't shrug it off.
Wedge nods, “I'm not stupid enough to ask you if you're alright, but have you talked to anyone about it?”
“I'm talking to someone about it right now.” she says, Her eyes flash, and the hint of a smile teases at her lips.
He raises an eyebrow. “Someone professional?”
“You're a very professional Captain in the Rebel Alliance. Someone who knows where I'm coming from,” she replies, looking at him with an evaluative gaze, “I read your file. What little it said. You lost your parents too.”
A stab of pain hits him. Even after all the blood, years and parsecs since, it's still sharp. Wedge schools his features so the anger doesn't reach his face. Leia jerks away from his hand despite that.
Wedge leans back.
“I'm sorry.” she says. “That was out of line.”
“Your entire planet just got blown up.” Wedge says, and just exhales, letting the anger go, “I can't imagine you have many people to talk to, position like yours. How detailed was my file?”
Leia exhales, holds herself a bit less rigidly, “Not detailed enough that it mentioned you were related to one of the most famous holostars in the galaxy. Detailed enough for me to help General Dodonna approve your promotion to full Captain. You're doing the job anyway. I just read about your parents as I skimmed it. ”
“Find anything else good?”
Leia shrugged, “It's from your interview after you joined. Raised by Booster Terrik after your mother and father were killed, borrowed a Headhunter from him and tracked down the men responsible a few weeks later.”
“I guess that kind of reads like a bad holodrama.” Wedge said, trying uncomfortably for a joke, anything to get off of this topic. Nothing presented itself.
Silence grows thick in the air, until she breaks it. “How did it feel?”
“In the moment?” He asks, and continues at a nod from Leia, “It felt like slotting the last piece of a puzzle together. I wasn't angry. I wasn't sad. I wasn't happy. I just felt sort of a cold gratification until I landed.” He puffs a breath, remembering. “I didn't sleep for a couple of days after that. Booster had to drug me.”
“Knowing Vader's dead, It won't make you feel better. Even pulling the trigger yourself doesn't bring anyone back.”
Leia looks at him, an unreadable expression on her face, “People I haven't even met are telling me what my parents were like, what my mom and dad meant to them. I still don't feel like they're gone yet, and already they stopped being well-” she gestured expansively-“people”
“You feel like they're being made into symbols.”
Leia nods, her hair bobbing up and down in its messy bun and eyes wet.
“Kark 'em then.” That elicts a brief smile before Leia's frown deepens again.
“Those folks looking for monuments will think what they want to, but they were your parents. They'll never really go away,” he replies, “Death's funny like that. They'll pop up at the most unexpected times. The things they'd do, the way they'd speak or laugh or the way dinner smelled when you sat at the table together, but eventually you'll start to forget all that, and you'll have to reach to figure out what your parents wanted for you, or how they'd react to something, and somehow, they're still with you again for a moment.”
Leia nodded sadly.
“I was adopted, you know. I never knew my birthmother or father. They died in the Clone Wars.
But that didn't matter. I had a wonderful Mom and Dad.”
“Tell me about them.”
“You wouldn't have believed it if you've ever seen him on the newsnets, but my dad could tell the lamest jokes, he had this one about a ranat meeting a Force-witch who gives him three wishes...”
Wedge held up a finger, “I think every dad knows that joke.”
“Well, sure,” Leia said, a goofy smile blooming on her face, “But my mother was the really tricky one. When the Kuati Ambassador visited us to threaten our medical support of their underclass, she decided to organize the servants into this evil little gauntlet to keep her off guard. It all started with the canapes, see Alderaanian pond-fish has to be cooked at very specific temperatures...”
Wedge smiled as he leaned in.
There's little time over the next few days for them to talk, but somehow, they keep meeting in the deserted secondary comm center on the swing shift every few days, talking about family and childhood and life , watching bad holodramas and sitting closer together before one or both are called to duty or sleep.
It's a chance to be themselves, no décor, and it's liberating.
For the first time in months they're both actually sleeping the nights they aren't seeing each other.
The Squadron doesn't say anything. Luke just watches with a slightly hurt expression on his face as mission follows mission, and Brie watches Luke with a growing frustration at being overlooked.
The pilots know something's up and Janson's the only one who notices that Wedge is resting and smiling more.
It's after a run to Croulag, where they've escorted two Gallorfrees loaded with food and infantry weapons smuggled out of a loosely-held Imp Depot back to the fleet, when Wedge gets a knock at the door to his room, which must have been a janitorial closet before he got it because there's barely room for a pallet and table, let alone space for clothes, and a faint impression of solvent.
“What can I do for you Leia?” Of cours she's still wearing a uniform, they all are, but the sleeves are rolled up and her hair is bound into a lose tail over her shoulders. She looks different, softer somehow and alarm bells start going off in the back of Wedge's mind as his pattern-recognition skills search for some sort of trap.
“So you get your own room too?”
“Perks of being the Squadron commander.” He smiled, “Besides, Hobbie snores.”
“Have you thought about what you could do with a room like this?”
She asked, stepping closer.
Wedge, still facing the viewport, doesn't notice. “Yeah, I've given serious thought to planting a garden...” he said, sweeping an arm in a grand gesture, and cursing when it impacts the wall of the tiny cabin.
That's when he noticed Leia standing right across from him.
“Oh no,” she says, deadpan, “You're clearly not fit for flight duty with an injury like that.”
she passed him a datapad. “Doctor's orders. You don't fly until you get 24 hours of downtime.”
“Let me see... “ Wedge stared at the datapad and frowned. Suddenly he realized just how close Leia was standing , and that underneath the smell of starfighter lubricants she hadn't quite managed to wash off of her hands, he could smell a hint of something floral.
Somehow, it should have been soothing, and he was tired enough, but there was something else going on here that neither of them was talking about.
It wasn't about duty. It was about them. Because whatever happened in the next few minutes was going to be about them as people, not Princess and Captain.
“We're off alert status and you might have been sleeping more but you don't look any more relaxed.”
Leia shrugs, and the serviceable wave of brown hair bounces up and down. “It's convenient, but your pilots have generously volunteered their time to take you off flight duty for the next day. Lieutenant Darklighter has directed that all paperwork go to him.” She smiled. “How would you like to spend your leave, Captain, any ideas?”
A jolt of adrenaline shot up his spine and Wedge felt exhilarated and terrified all at once.
“Just one, Leia,” Wedge says, trying for nonchalance, like he flirts with beautiful princesses every day, “seal the hatch?”
Leia turns, hesitates a moment, and Wedge's mouth goes completely dry before she hits the door control from the inside.
“So it wasn't just me then.”
Leia just shakes her head.
“You know,” she says, words tumbling from her mouth, “There are young people our age all over the galaxy who have to do this without the incentive of facing starfighters and lasers and death the next day. They sit and angst and wonder “Is this really the right choice I'm making?” they ask their friends, and they still don't do anything about it in most cases.”
“Do you want to do something about it?” As he walks the short distance over to her, Wedge notices that for the first time in a while, they're both nervous around each other.
“I care about you and either of us could get blown up tomorrow and I don't want-”
He's still not sure who moves first but she's warm in his arms and her lips are sweet, and neither of them does much thinking after that.
It's better than pulling off a perfect snaproll in a dogfight, lining up that measured deflection shot on an eyeball, and it didn't involve the Alliance, the Empire, grand strategy, politics or taking life.
It's two people who are so busy running to save the lives of others taking a small moment to feel alive themselves.
Out in the corridor, conveniently around the corner, and within earshot Wes Janson smiled at the sound of the door closing, with a distinct absence of tiny angry feet stomping off, along with the thought of winning 150 credits and a classic Ternar Xarzis Holocomedy from Biggs. He'd play it in the pilot's lounge for the rest of the squadron of course, right after he gave the medic who cleared the Boss's schedule 60 credits, but before he gets Luke stinking drunk.
Fair was fair.
After he pays off Jabba, Han comes back with regular supply runs to the fledgeling Rebel fleet, one of hundreds scattered throughout the Galaxy.
For some reason though, this one's special, and it isn't just the kid.
Han notices the little glances, the comfortable ribbing and the stolen touches that have developed in his absence, and he brushes it off right then, because Han Solo doesn't let women get to him like that. Not Rebel women. Not after Bria.
Later, in his quarters, he mourns the death of something he never had with a bottle of something expensive he stole a long time ago.
“Do you really think a Princess and a guy like me?”
“No.” Luke said abruptly.
Alone in his bunk, those words haunt him now. Wedge is a guy like him. Through the contacts that still talked to him, Han had checked up on the guy who killed Vader and was leading the kid's squadron. Parents dead, family friends with fellow smugglers and lowlifes like Booster Terrik, the murderer, Gun-runner and smuggler was somehow, good enough for her. Hell, Antilles was even Corellian.
It stung something fierce.
The Rebel base in the asteroid belt was feeling more like home, the approach runs becoming familiar, supplies arriving more regularly, and traders and smugglers of all sorts bringing everything a growing insurgent movement needed to survive while the fleet remained ready to depart at a moment's notice.
Exiting the Falcon, Han waited behind a refuling pillar as Captain Wedge Antilles, slightly-too-short Hero of the Rebellion sauntered arrogantly into the hangar bay and stopped next to a
-class yacht that had its ramp down as well.
Okay, maybe I'm editorializing a bit too much. Han thought. Wedge isn't a bad guy. It's just been a rough week..
Fluent cursing in trader's argot tumbled down the gangway of the modified yacht, and Han heard Antilles shout up “Improv night is next week!” before being surprised by a beautiful brunette in a loose-fitting spacer's jumpsuit with a blaster on her hip and a duffel over her shoulder pelt down the ramp and practically tackle Antilles into an enthusiastic hug.
Han Solo died a little inside. Two. Two. That just wasn't fair.
That little death lasted about as long as it took for him to picture telling Leia Mr. Perfect Pilot wasn't so perfect, and then completely, when the woman snaked an arm up, mussed up Wedge's hair and cried “Veggies!” delightfully. Han chose that moment to amble into view and fully appreciate the new vermillion color in his fellow Corellian's face suddenly acquired.
“Upholding the finest traditions of the service, Captain?” Han said, deadpan.
The two broke apart, and Han got to watch the happy grin on the woman's face flicker while she assessed him at a glance.
“Han Solo, I presume?” She said.
“What gave it away,” Han said, smiling his trademark I-don't-know-you-now-but-I'd-really-like-to grin, “My rugged good looks and roguish charm?”
The woman rolled her eyes, “You've got a modified DL-44, Corellian Bloodstripes, and you smell like burnt fur.” A speculative eyebrow raised, “I'm guessing Wookie.”
Han's smile grew a bit brittle “We had an accident fixing the Falcon. Sharp friend you've got there
Veggies, you gonna introduce us?”
Antilles chuckled, extending his hand and giving the smuggler a warm handshake “Good to see you again Han, meet my friend Mirax.”
Gracious about jokes and introducing me to beautiful women? I suppose he's actually not that bad.
Han got a bit less grumpy, and tried his signature smile again, “Mirax. Pretty name for a pretty woman.”
“Her last name's Terrik.” Wedge said, smile becoming like a well-fed predator's. “Myri and I grew up together. We're practically siblings.”
Han saw his life flash before his eyes. Dumping Jabba's cargo was one thing, putting the moves on Booster Terrik's daughter was a surefire way to get the old man's attention in the worst possible way first thing after he got off of Kessel. A n icy chill went down his spine.
“Oh.” Han said in a very small voice.
Mirax sighed, “Yeah, hotshot. Oh doesn't even begin to cover it.”
“I'm sure Booster will appreciate knowing a pilot like you when he gets out. Could be a window of employment if Jabba's not an option,” Wedge said, waving to encompass Mirax, who smiled. “We could put in a word?”
Han nodded, “I'd appreciate it a lot actually. I'm obliged Captain,” He inclined his head to Mirax, “Captain. Captains.”
Mirax chuckled, “You change trajectories fast. I like this one Wedge. Can we keep him?”
Wedge smiled “If this haul's what I think it is, I'll have to bribe him to come back! I hear you and Chewie snuck some more Protons out of the Corporate Sector for us. Could mean the difference between eight pilots coming home with kill markers and no pilots coming home at all. Best lifeday present I've gotten this year.”
Mirax opened her duffel and pulled out a large bottle and passed it to Wedge. “not now it isn't.”
“Twenty-year Whyrens,” Antilles said as he scrutinized the label. “Clone Wars Vintage, like most of our equipment. How thoughtful!”
“There's a case of the stuff in my hold,” said Mirax, “along with enough field rations, medkits and detpacks to choke a rancor.”
“I don't think my torpedoes match up to a case of twenty-year,” Han replied. “I'm humbly accepting second place in this clearly rigged contest in exchange for a bottle.”
“Come to think of it,” said Wedge, “You didn't get me a card.” He pasted a hurt expression on his face. “I think that disqualifies you.”
Han placed a hand on his chest and bowed in mock acknowledgment of a point scored.
“You know Solo,” Mirax said, a mischievous look on her face, “Wedge didn't tell either of us what his princess girlfriend got him.”
The vermillion was slowly making its reappearance on Wedge's face. “We didn't.. um. Gifts are materialistic and support the overtly consumptioninstic face of the Empi...Ican'talkaboutit. To you. Either of you.”
The two Corellian smugglers stared expectantly at the suddenly stammering Corellian former smuggler.
Mirax stared at Wedge inquisitively and rubbed her chin pensively. “Evasion like that and it's either a stuffed Paleodor that makes cute noises when you squeeze it or fancy underwear.”
Han took a moment from spectating to chime in, “Thirty creds says it's the Paleodor.”
Wedge stared at Han with a look of betrayal.
“You're on,” Mirax shot back, “I've only seen him get this tongue-tied on double-dates.”
The look of betrayal shifted targets.
“Alright alright,” Wedge cut in, waving his hand frantically, “Since I can't drink torpedoes and I can't shoot bottles of Whyrens at the Imps or Wes will start crying, I'll declare a tie on who gave me the best present if the both of you shut up and help me drink the first bottle.”
Mirax and Han nodded. “What about the rest of the crate?” she asked.
“I'll have Chewie haul it to the Mess.” Han said, pulling out his comlink. “Hey fuzzball, get on out here, It's Wedge's birthday and we've got a whole crate of Whyren's to celebrate with!”
Chewie hustled down the Falcon's ramp, mussed Wedge's hair again, and whuffled congratulations before getting acquainted with Mirax, her repulsor dolly, and the Pulsar Skate's cargo hold.
As the two of them walked off, Han went white as a sheet.
“What's wrong Han?” Wedge asked.
“I just realized,' the smuggler said, jerking a thumb back toward the cargo “That Mirax and Leia are going to be in the same vicinity as each other, a bunch of alcohol, trained soldiers and capital-ship grade weaponry.”
Wedge just shrugged. “Should we inform the Emperor we'll accept his surrender now?”
“That sounds maybe a little premature.” Han drawled, as Wedge unsealed the whisky bottle and took a slug.
“Hey!” Han said, “You don't treat twenty-year like that!”
“I do when you call the imminent demise of galactic peace and order down on our heads.”
“Thought you and Luke already did that.” Han shot back. “Now give me that bottle. You don't get to abuse good booze like that alone.”
As Chewbacca and Mirax exited the hold with a pallet of food and more bottles, Wedge surrendered the bottle to Han and set off out of the docking bay, singing under his breath;
“Happy life-day to me, Happy Life day to me...”
Han's smile came back, and it stuck.
So I wrote more, and have, (I think) a good chapter Two. I've gone away from the one-chapter-per movie model I thought about earlier because these scenes came up longer, so this will be the first part of the arc set in the Pre-/post Empire Strikes back era.
Please let me know if my drama is too angsty, my humor is too schmoopy, or my romance is too flat. (I haven't done much writing in that category.)
As always, if you notice any grammatical, spelling or flow errors, or have any suggestions, please let me know. This a bit of a rough cut people!
Chapter 3: A Candle in the Dark
“We, the Rebel Alliance, do therefore in the name—and by the authority—of the free beings of the Galaxy, solemnly publish and declare our intentions:
To fight and oppose you and your forces, by any and all means at our disposal;
To refuse any Imperial law contrary to the rights of free beings;
To bring about your destruction and the destruction of the Galactic Empire;
To make forever free all beings in the galaxy.
To these ends, we pledge our property, our honor, and our lives.”
-Declaration of Rebellion
The Rebellion is in peril. Their asteroid base in the Anoat system had to be abandoned when an Imperial task force moved into far sensor range, and Wedge watched his X-Wing's sensors with a cold sense of satisfaction as the base detonated, taking out the entire assault force of Sentinel-Class transports, packed with Stormtroopers, sent to seize it. Then he waited, powered up his fighter and made the jump back to the fleet. To Leia.
She's busy being the spiritual head and military 2IC of part of a galaxy-spanning resistance movement, and he's busy learning advanced military tactics from General Dodonna and leading the toughest squadron of snubfighter jockeys in that galaxy (In the unbiased opinion of its pilots at any rate) but he's staying out of her chain of command and they're making the most of any time they can steal together. Usually in his tiny closet of a room.
The last month was a whirlwind of lightfights, running and never slowing down. And they're both sleeping nights. Mostly.
Wedge still hasn't lost a pilot. In fact, he's gained one, Tycho Celchu, an Alderaanian defector named who used to fly fighters for the Imps. One of Leia's agents vouched for him, but Wedge still sat him down and looked him in the eye like he did with all his pilots. If Janson has the steady brown eyes of veteran gunfighter, Celchu's blue ones burned with the cold fire of the iceplanet near their old asteroid base, and Wedge notices that he's still wearing a black flightsuit. Leia tells him it's the Alderaanian color for mourning, and Wedge doesn't enforce their already lax uniform codes.
Wedge takes him to Redemption's training center puts him in an X-Wing sim against vastly superior fighters in the “Requiem” scenario that a pilot's designed to lose.
The “battle” drags on for thirty minutes and Wedge has to suit up and hop into a nearby TIE simulator pod to light Celchu up. It isn't easy and when he finally does, the new man pops out of his pod with sweat pouring down his hair and face, and he's smiling from the thrill of the hunt.
“Good shot towards the end, but I'd wager you're more used to four lasers, shields and a bit more time to set up your shots on an attack run, eh Captain?”
Despite himself, not wanting to get closer to any new fish, Wedge smiles in return, “You flew like you were used to going faster. Once you get used to X-Wings, you might come to appreciate a fighter designed by people who actually gave a vrelt's rear about seeing their pilots come back from a mission.”
Celchu just nodded “If that sim's accurate, the shields ate around six shots that would have had me in a TIE/ln.”
Wedge snorted “Around here, we just call them eyeballs. Say Celchu, you were a Captain with the Imps right?”
The Alderaanian nodded.
“So you did paperwork, flight rotations, all that?”
Celchu's eyes narrowed and he nodded again.
Wedge unsealed a pocket of his uniform, fished out a small package and it to Tycho, who snatched it out of the air with excellent pilot's reflexes. It was a small box and a booklet that had been spacetaped together.
“I get the feeling that you want to kill as many Imperials as you can but you're not going to go on a stupid tear to do it and get all of us killed. That's good. You've had admin experience and you're one hell of a flier. That's good too. I hate paperwork.”
“The box is your new rank. Open it.”
Celchu fumbled it open and his eyes widened.
“The book's our regulations, but we mostly ignore them. Rogue Squadron has four rules: Fight hard. Protect your wingmate. Respect your techs -- they keep our snubs flying. Oh, and turn on us and we burn you down.”
“Welcome the Rogues, Captain Celchu” Wedge said, and extended his hand.
The Alderaanian took it and shook. “Honored. How's our pay?”
“Lousy and infrequent.”
“Free but undersupplied”
“Lackluster at best compared to the Imps.”
“Did you really burn down Vader?”
“You and the Princess?”
Tycho paled “Kriff no. Is there caf?”
“Does it taste like battery acid here too?”
“I'm afraid that's standard for mess hall caf, even if you've joined the nominally-good guys.”
So that's his XO problem solved, and while the other Rogues have been a bit slow to warm up to Celchu, Hobbie and Biggs had trained with him and welcomed him in with a scrounged-up bunk and a flight helmet. Tycho's soft sad smile was noticeable as he turned it in his hands to see an image of Alderaan painted over each ear covering, with the legend of the old Alderaanian Guard “Stand Fast, Strike True” running over each miniature world. Wedge remembered the initial interview where Tycho had haltingly said he was talking to his family when the Death Star erased his homeworld on his lifeday. Wedge thinks it was one helluva lifeday present and that Biggs' and Hobbie's was better. Lightyears better.
Even though they're on the run, Mirax has stuck around, seeking a full overhaul and illegal upgrades for the Pulsar Skate from Rebel Alliance Outlaw Techs as she briefs them on new trade routes and smuggler hideouts for the Rebels to use in return. Or so she claims – see, she and Leia have been getting along famously, and Luke's been helping her install the upgrades. Sure, Han and Chewie and Wedge have dropped by to lend a hand, but it's the pint-sized farmboy who's been learning some Sullustan to speak with Mirax's first mate Liat, and is usually hauling himself out of a crevice or engine ducting in a grime-spattered coverall with a contented grin on his smudged-up face before getting in some Jedi practice. There isn't much guidance for becoming one of the order so enthusiastically purged by Inquisitors and ISB alike aside from reading one of the datapads Kenobi left him, meditating, then blocking and failing to block seeker shots from a horde of the droids controlled by Biggs, Janson and Brie, who seems to take a perverse pleasure in zapping Luke. It doesn't take a Jedi to figure out why she's so focused.
When the Rogues come back from a run to Croulag where they baited out a squadron of eyeballs with a ratted-out freighter and cut them to ribbons, Wedge waits till the end of the debriefing, and motions for Luke to follow him to the squadron office near Redemption's hangar bay. The boy-no, young man's eyes widen as he sees Wedge take off his rank pins and motion him to the seat in front of the desk, and widen further as Wedge parks on a corner of the nearly-bare desk.
Luke's eyes narrow a bit and his chin comes up in a defiant look oddly similar to Leia's as he removes his Flight Officer's pips and grabs the conversational initiative.
“So I take it it's time for the big brother 'what are your intentions – slash – I have an airlock and lots of friends.' speech then?”
Wedge manfully resists the urge to snort with laughter and fights hard to tamp down the amusement he's feeling to just a twinkle in his eye. It's not enough though. Luke, perceptive as he is, sees right through him and drops his eyes down a bit.
“That would be the conventional thing, the thing you see in the holodramas.” Wedge says, “You've doubtless heard of Booster Terrik and his reach from Han and Myri herself, but she's been running her own life about as long as I have. Me doing anything, anything that takes away her own autonomy and results in her kicking me in very painful places is a no-no. This is where we talk about you and why, if you want to, because you're my friend, and a good k-” He stops himself “-Man.” A shadow passes over his face. “Whatever else we are, we've all lost family and had responsibilities thrust on us to damn early, Leia, you, me, Mirax, even Han. You survive as long as we have even halfway -sane and you're a man same as me.”
Now it's Luke's turn to smile, if somewhat guardedly, before speaking. “I keep waiting for Han to pick up on that. I think he thinks it's endearing. Like I've got some kind of innocence he doesn't when we had Tuskens and Anchorhead scum trying to hassle us for water since I was a sprout.” He held up a hand “Don't tell him though. Much more fun to keep the illusion of the completely wide-eyed farmboy. Even after almost a year of this.”
Wedge nods, and motions for Luke to continue, “Why Mirax though? See, aside from her being just- er well, her, she's a waterpool of knowledge I've always wondered about.”
“You mean smuggling?” Wedge asked.
“Not in an exotic kind of way, but we didn't get much news on Tatooine, Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru didn't emphasize the clone wars much, so I didn't hear about my father the general until after I got here. I thought he was a navigator on a spice freighter my whole life, roaming the spacelanes before getting shot down in a cantina or somesuch, and if I didn't get into the academy, I thought I'd try to retrace his steps, have that life in the stars and get as far away from Tatooine as I could manage. I started talking to Mirax to hear about her experiences with the antiquities trade, and see if the runs with her father were anything like what I heard about in Anchorhead growing up.”
“Some of it jibed, and it turns out she's been all over the Galaxy, and seen things I'd have never dreamed about. The way she talks about it she made me want to see them for myself, and she might have bumped into some Jedi artifacts along the way. 'sides, working on the Skate's one of the most relaxing things I do these days. Reminds me of fixing vaporators or working on my speeder before the Empire killed um...”
Wedge nodded once, grimly, “I get it.”
As Luke trailed off, Wedge went to the sideboard and passed a cup of caf to him, Like most of the caf on the aging frigate it had a metallic taste from being reheated and a rainbow sheen of grease on it. Like any good navy man, Luke's eyes lit up and he grabbed for the cup as he searched for more words, The caf might look and taste repugnant but it hit like an enraged Wookie.
“So assuming you survive the war you want to explore go hunting Jedi relics with Mirax when peace breaks out – How does she feel about it?”
A sunny grin emerged on the farmboy's face “When we talked about family, her mother gone, Booster on Kessel, me not knowing much about my parents or the Jedi traditions, she suggested it! It sounds good now, but we might want different things later. She's amazing though, knows a bit about the Corellian Jedi and dug up a holo of my dad, at least I think he's my dad.”
The younger man pulled a holoprojector out of his pocket and paged through some images of the Rogues and their support staff led by their Verpine tech chief Zraii, as well as some pictures of soldiers and pilots who hadn't made it back, before stopping on an old propaganda transmission of young man who bore more than a little of Luke's look under a bold heading proclaiming him “General Anakin Skywalker: The Hero Without Fear.”
Luke's eyes rolled, “It's a bit trite, isn't it? Or is it?- I don't know Wedge – Before missions I get scared all the time. I guess I've got a lot to live up to.”
“Everyone gets scared. I get scared sometimes when I strap into the cockpit. Leia, Han, most everyone. It's part of being at war. If you don't go in a little scared of something, then were you really brave to begin with? Plus, we saw what happened with Cranner's squad last month. She never broke off early, never had that spark of fear-driven awareness in the back of her head. Damn good to have her at your back in a lightfight but I wouldn't want-wouldn't have wanted her leading one.”
“I just don't want to lose anyone else,” Luke said, “Even though I know I'm going to, and we've not lost anyone in a month or two so I keep feeling like we're due somehow... or I'm missing something big because my insides are crawling something awful every time I leave a briefing these days.”
“Some kind of Jedi thing maybe?” Wedge asked.
Luke frowned. “It's nothing I can pin down or bring to the General, but...There's a chill in the air. Just-just, keep your eyes open.”
“I can check six twice as much as I normally do,” Wedge said, “Any more than that and they'll have to put my neck on a servo like my astromech. And Pluggie's already a bit proprietary. Don't want her to think I'm getting a replacement.”
Luke smiled back, but it didn't reach his eyes this time.
Farmboy must be really kriffin' worried. Maybe it's time to have a sit-down with Cracken's boys.
“Look at you using an informal name for your droid. I suppose you've stopped the routine memory wipes on 'R2-P8' if she's developed such an independent nature.”
“Artoo set a good example,” Wedge replied “His independent nature got us out of a few scraps we probably shouldn't have. Your instincts do you credit Luke, I just hope I won't see you or Mirax hurt.”
“Me either.” Luke said, “Jobs like ours though...” he trailed off, got up and walked to the door, but held off on opening it. “Luke, we're all flying day in day out, but if you start to feel really bone-weary or scared enough to be combat-ineffective, you talk to me before you stand on the flightline. I'd rather have you alive and taking a day or two to talk to Leia or a counselor than dead in some stupid try to push through and show us how fearless you are. You get scared, you slack off and get dead. But you can't ever let it own you.”
Luke just ducked his head, took a deep breath and ostentatiously put his rank pins back on. Wedge didn't. Falling back on military courtesy. He's rattled –perhaps I shouldn't have-no. No he needed to hear that.
“Thank you for the talk sir. You've given me a lot to think about and I-I can't talk much more right now so I'd very much like to do that thinking now.”
“Luke.” Blue eyes swung up to meet his brown, “I'm proud to have you in my squadron. You're a credit to the people who raised you and the Alliance is lucky to have you.”
“Thank you sir.”
Wedge fastened on his Captains' pips.
“Flight Officer Skywalker. Your orders for the day are to obtain a pillow and some other potentially embarrasing materials from storage locker C-12 on deck six and make Lieutenant Janson's life a misery for the next twelve hours.”
Luke couldn't maintain his stone face, The Boss was never this flippant “Uhhh, Wedge?”
“Wes knows what he did, and that's Captain Wedge to you, or is this the Agmarian Navy, where we just call people by their first names all the time? I've just given you an order mister!”
Finally, a genuine grin broke out on Luke's face and he snapped an enthusiastic salute that would have horrified any Imperial Academy Graduate.
Just as well neither of us had gone to one.
Wedge let him hang there for a moment, “Before you go wreak havoc, remember one thing. I never provided you with any such orders or storage locker locations.”
“The Force knows and sees all, O noble Captain. I couldn't possibly compromise my principles as a Jedi.”
“There's two bags of candy and a Garik Loran holodrama to mock in the bottom of the locker.”
Luke's eyes widened. “I swear on pain of death I received no orders or direction from my glorious and noble commanding officer.”
Wedge tested his mock glower. “You forgot handsome and modest.” Finally he returned Luke's salute gravely. “Dismissed Skywalker.”
Relieved, Luke bolted from the room, still chuckling. Wedge sat back in his chair, patched Leia's comlink into his and told her to try and be in proximity to Wes Janson for the next hour or so.
Then he started a draft of a mission briefing. Tomorrow they were flying cover for a commando raid on the Relchor VII COMPNOR compound. It was packed with Imperial sector command and could process sixteen thousand political prisoners and undesirables per day for execution. It would be heavily defended and they didn't even have the ships to get the prisoners out. Hit, run, plant explosives and grant the prisoners a quick death with their captors before the Empire lost one “Correction Compound” out of thousands.
Then he tuned his comlink to the security office and arranged to have Janson tailed by someone with a covert holocam. He'd open the briefing with the recording.
Eat, Drink and be merry, for tomorrow...
So, it's been a while, here's a whole new chapter!
Concrit requested, please let me know if you spot any grammar/story issues.