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Posted: Oct 20 2011, 12:46 PM
Member No.: 148
Joined: 27-June 06
The first scene on Borleias is taken from 'Rebel Dream'. The second two Borleias scenes adapt scenes from the book for this story.The rest is my own.
Coruscant 80 ABY
“Thank you so much for agreeing to this.” The young Twi’lek’s yellow skin flushed a deeper hue as he looked at his hosts.
“Please, sit down,” Leia Organa-Solo said, gesturing at a comfortable chair opposite the sofa that she and her husband, Han Solo, were sitting on.
Vesa Lin sat, putting a small recorder unit on the low table between them, and glancing at the screen of his datapad. You didn’t need to have Leia’s Jedi Master skills to see that the Twi’lek was nervous. Han had met many awestruck youngsters through the decades and the novelty had long since worn off. Nowadays, it merely made him feel old: Han refused to admit, even to himself, that at 109 standard years, he was old. His impatient sigh was quiet, but clear enough. Leia dug her elbow into his ribs and smiled across at the young male.
“You said you were studying the Vong War ?” she asked.
Vesa Lin nodded, one lekku twitching slightly as he looked at the legendary humans sitting right on the other side of a small table from himself. He cleared his throat.
“I’ve read files and watched holodocs,” Vesa said. “But I really wanted to get first-hand material. The Vong War was so long ago; so much has been recorded about it since by people who weren’t born then, or who were too young to experience what I’m most interested in.”
“It was only forty- forty-something – years ago !” Han said indignantly.
“Fifty one,” Leia corrected.
Han opened his mouth, thought for a moment, then closed it again, looking sulky.
Leia turned to Vesa and smiled. “What aspect of the war is it that you are studying ?”
Vesa glanced at his datapad for reassurance. “My doctorate is on the domestic side of the war. The invasion caused a great deal of population displacement and I’m researching how that affected families, as well as the obvious impact of civilian deaths during the war, particularly the loss of children.” His lekku twitched slightly and curled at the ends as he spoke.
Leia took Han’s hand, and the two looked at each other for a moment.
“I know that this is a painful topic for you,” Vesa said quietly. “But I want to try to understand how families coped with loss during the war and after, and you lost one of your sons.”
“Anakin,” Leia said softly.
“And Jacen,” Han added. “He didn’t die during the war,” he continued, looking at Leia. “But that’s when we started to lose him. The things that happened to him, what the Vong did to him, that’s what started him along the path to the dark side.”
Leia sighed and nodded, then took a deep breath, her spine straightening as her gaze became firm. “Yes, we lost Jacen too, but it came years after Anakin’s death. It was a consequence of the Vong War, but it wasn’t part of that war. And we still have Jaina and we have each other, Han. We’re luckier than many.”
Han’s expression changed, his face suddenly showing his age. “Wedge.”
Leia closed her eyes. “Oh, poor Wedge.”
Borleias 27.5 ABY
The Yuuzhan Vong had taken Coruscant, the heart of the New Republic. The defeated forces retreated, giving what support they could to the millions of refugees who fled from the captured planet. Billions more were left behind, to the mercy of the merciless Vong. The New Republic forces scattered, with Fleet Group Three heading to the nearby system of Pyria. They recaptured the main planet, Borleias, from the occupying Vong force, and set about restoring an abandoned biological facility as a temporary base. With immediate business taken care of, General Wedge Antilles paused to speak to his friend and ally, Luke Skywalker, and Skywalker’s wife, Mara.
“Then I want you in charge of special forces, special operations, Mara. I know this is a lot to ask of a woman with a small baby…”
Mara straightened, holding Ben to her. “Trust me, my capacity for mayhem is undiminished.”
Wedge’s smile broadened. “I didn’t spot any ranking Intelligence officers in that crowd. I’d appreciate it if you could act as our Intelligence head for the time being. When we get in an officer from Intelligence, you can move over to Luke’s department of special forces and mayhem.”
Luke hesitated before speaking again. “Wedge, has there been any word about Iella or the kids ?”
Wedge shook his head. “None, but if there’s anyone in the New Republic who could smuggle herself and two children off Coruscant…”
“It’s Iella, I know. They’ll be fine, Wedge.”
“Are you…” Wedge’s voice was suddenly hoarse. “Does that mean you’ve seen something ? With your Jedi perceptions ?”
Luke shook his head. “I’m sorry, no.”
“Oh.” Wedge schooled his features back into impassivity, but to Luke, he looked as though another hope had suddenly died within him. Luke felt a crushing shame at having given him a false hope, however inadvertantly.
Wedge rose. “Yes, I’m certain they’ll be fine.” He left the chamber, Tycho with him.
“He’s hard to read,” Mara said. “How is he ?”
Luke shrugged. “Holding on. Relying on all that military discipline. But not knowing about his family is chewing away at his guts.”
Coruscant 80 ABY
Vesa Lin frowned, trying to place the name that the Solos had just said. Han saw his expression and scowled.
“Wedge Antilles, General Antilles,” he said tetchily.
Vesa’s eyes lit up with recognition. “Of course ! General Antilles commanded at the Seige of Borleias; we saw the holodoc at school. I believe he was an excellent tactician.”
“Wedge was one of the finest officers to ever serve in the Rebel Alliance, the New Republic or the Galatic Alliance,” Leia said, her eyes flashing.
“One of the best pilots I ever saw; nearly as good as me” Han admitted. “And much better as an officer than I ever was, even though he never went to military school, and I graduated from the Imperial Academy.”
“No training could instill a sense of duty like Wedge had,” Leia said. “It came from within him, like his honour.”
Vesa’s lekku twitched. “I hadn’t realized you were acquainted with General Antilles. I guess you met him during the war.”
“We knew Wedge before then,” Leia replied with schooled patience.
Vesa thought for a moment, his red eyes narrowing. “General Antilles…oh ! He was in Rogue Squadron, wasn’t he ?”
“Wedge was Rogue Squadron !” Han exclaimed. “Don’t they teach you kids anything in school ? We knew Wedge for years. He was there at Yarvin; he flew down that trench with Luke. They were like sitting banthas in there, Vader and his wingmen chasing them and no room to manouvre and no way to shoot back, but they did it anyway. Wedge and Luke were the only ones who came back from that. Luke Skywalker, I mean. You’ve heard of him, haven’t you ?”
Leia put her hand on Han’s arm and leaned forward, smiling kindly at the embarrassed Twi’lek.
“Soon after Yarvin, Wedge and Luke founded Rogue Squadron,” she said, her voice calm after Han’s. “When Luke went to study to become a Jedi, after Hoth, Wedge took command of the squadron. He made it into a legend. Wedge led the assault on the second Death Star at Endor; he fought at Bakura; he enabled the New Republic to capture Coruscant; he got Ysanne Isard off Thyferra; his loyalty saved Luke and Han at a vital moment of the fight against Thrawn.” Leia shook her head. “There’s too much to tell.”
“Admiral Ackbar tried to promote Wedge to general about four times before Wedge finally cracked and took the promotion,” Han added. “It turned out he was just as good at fleet operations as he was at small unit tactics.”
“Thank the Force,” Leia said. “What he achieved at Borleias was nothing short of genius. And he gave us hope, right when the galaxy needed it most.”
Borleias 27.5 ABY Predawn
There was a rap at the door. Wedge jolted upright, his eyes opening, his mind momentarily cloudy about where he was, what he should be doing.
He was still in his office, in his chair, but he’d fallen asleep. He couldn’t let himself do that. Every moment he didn’t push himself, more people might die.
He rubbed sleep from his eyes and turned to the door. “Come.”
His visitor was a human male of average height, shaven headed and extraordinarily handsome.
Wedge rose. “Face ! I was afraid you were lost back on Coruscant. Come in.”
Garik ‘Face’ Loran, leader of the covert intelligence unit that Wedge himself had founded twenty years earlier, came to greet him. Wedge hugged his old friend exuberantly.
“How many Wraiths made it out with you ?” Wedge asked, stepping back.
“We were lucky,” Face said. “We didn’t lose anyone at Corcuscant.”
Wedge grinned widely at the news. “I can’t tell you how much it cheers me up to hear that. But how come it took you six days longer to get here than the rest of us ?”
The bright sparkle left Face’s dark eyes. “It was mayhem on Coruscant, Wedge. Billions of beings trying to flee and only enough time and ships to evacuate millions. The Vong landed while folks were still trying to get off planet. We went to see what we could do to help.”
Fear and hope rose together in Wedge’s heart. “Did you…did you see Iella and the girls ?”
Face shook his head. “I’m sorry, Wedge.” He grimaced, expressing his frustration. “We tried to check the spaceports and landing pads closest to your home. There were too many places, too many ships, and not enough of us for everything we wanted to do. Some of the ports, it was a free-for-all. People were fighting one another to get on anything that would fly. Finding one woman and two small girls in that…and Iella would have the sense to avoid the chaos. She’d go somewhere less obvious.”
“Yes,” Wedge agreed dully. His hands were clenched in fists so tightly that his short fingernails were digging into his palms, but he didn’t notice the pain.
“I’m sorry, Wedge,” Face repeated quietly. “But Iella’s smarter than any Vong. I’m sure she’s out there somewhere, taking care of your girls and trying to reach you.”
Wedge was silent a few moments, a sick fear rising from his stomach. Then he took a sudden, deep breath and forced the anxiety into some corner at the back of his mind.
“You did the best you could,” he said. “I know that, and I’m grateful. I’m glad you’re here. There’s plenty of work for everyone on Borleias and I’m going to need all the help I can get, even the Wraiths.” He smiled as he spoke the last words, but the smile didn’t convince either of them that he was happy.
Coruscant 80 ABY
“Mind you, I never worked out how he got Admiral Ackbar to let him return to squadron command as Rogue Leader again though,” Leia said.
Han grinned. “I always thought he talked Ackbar into making a bet with him, like he did over Wraith Squadron.” He shook his head, the lop-sided grin as cocky as ever. “Ackbar should have known; never bet against a Corellian.”
Leia snorted, and turned away from him. As she looked at Vesa Lin, she remembered why they had been talking about Wedge, and her face saddened, looking weary.
“The New Republic isn’t really my field of history,” Vesa admitted. “I don’t recall reading anything about General Antilles after the Vuuzhan Vong war. Did he die in the war ?”
Leia sighed. “He survived the Vong war, but it was the war that killed him all the same, like Jacen.”
“You want to know the effect of the war on families ?” Han said, his voice suddenly gruff. “You want to know about what happened to people who lost their homes, to the children ? To the people whose families went missing ? We’ll tell you about Wedge.”
Borleias 27.5 ABY
Wedge watched the shuttles landing via the holocam feed from the special ops docking bay. A Yuuzhan Vong ship had ejected 22 beings, mostly humans and a few aliens, high above the atmosphere of the planet. The victims had been fitted with headcovers of some form of the Vong’s ooglith cloaker suits, which would give them a few minutes of oxygen to breathe. A few minutes was all they would have had anyway, as they fell into the planet’s atmosphere and burned up alive as flaming meteors.
It was Wedge’s nephew, Jag Fel, who had led the rescue. With extraordinary, delicate piloting, he’d intercepted the victim’s courses with his fighter and changed their direction enough that they were no longer heading for the planet. Jaina Solo and Kyp Durron had followed his example, and all twenty-two victims had been recovered by the emergency shuttles that Jag had called for.
Wedge saw the first survivors being carried from the shuttles by the med crews.
“We’d better arrange for them to go through decomtamination,” he said to Tycho, who was at his side. “And everyone who’s been in contact with them. I wouldn’t put it past the Vong to booby-trap them just in case we did save any.”
Tycho nodded, his cool expression concealing what he felt about the Vong’s tactics.
“I wonder how long those poor people were held by the Vong,” he said. “We should debrief them later to find out where they were captured.”
Wedge tensed suddenly. He continued to stare at the monitor for a few moments, watching the figures moving, then spun to face Tycho. His face was pale.
“I have to go see…Coruscant…”
Tycho nodded, understanding. “I’ll carry on here.”
There was sympathy in his vivid blue eyes as he watched Wedge hurry from the operations centre.
Wedge started at a brisk walk, making his way to where the rescued victims would be brought into the biotics facility. After a hundred meters, he couldn’t restrain himself any longer and began to run. He was vaguely aware of the personnel around looking at him, wondering why their commanding officer was running somewhere. He knew they would be asking one another questions and worrying about what had spooked the leader they all depended on. For the moment though, Wedge couldn’t bring himself to care about the morale of his troops.
He arrived at the hall and skidded to a halt, breathing heavily. The first blanket-covered figures were being brought in on floatbeds. Wedge quickly spotted the officer in charge, a Bothan female making rapid notes on her datapad as the victims passed her. Wedge hurried across the hall.
“Lieutenant L’sar,” he called.
She turned, ears flattening and her teeth showing slightly in annoyance, until she recognized him. “Sir.”
Wedge halted beside her. “Have you a casualty list yet ?”
L’sar nodded. “Four died from exposure in space before the shuttles could reach them. The rest are all suffering from various stages of cold exposure, but they should recover. A few have minor injuries, broken bones mostly, from impact with the fighters that deflected them.”
As Wedge listened, he anxiously examined the victims being carried past. He didn’t recognise any of them.
“Do you have names ?” he demanded.
“Yes, including the dead.” L’sar consulted her datapad. “The prisoners exhanged information while…”
Wedge grabbed hold of the datapad, turning it so he could read the screen for himself. L’sar’s patched orange and brown fur rippled in irriation. Wedge scanned the list quickly, then again more slowly, double-checking it. The names he longed to see weren’t there. Wedge felt as though the planet had been snatched away from beneath him as his slender hopes were dashed. He let go of the datapad and abruptly turned away, covering his face with his hands. Struggling with the need to howl out his pain, Wedge simply stood still and silent.
L’Sar’s voice was anxious as she repeated her query.
“General Antilles ?”
Wedge shuddered once, then lowered his hands. He took a slow, deep breath, pushing the pain to the back of his mind and forcing himself to concentrate on the here and now. He turned to the lieutenant.
“Thank you. Good work, L’sar.” Wedge straightened himself into a formal, military pose. "Carry on.” Returning her salute, he turned and left the hall.
This post has been edited by Corellia's Dream on Nov 18 2011, 09:17 PM
Posted: Oct 20 2011, 07:04 PM
Member No.: 154
Joined: 27-August 06
Excellent! This really had me feeling Wedge's anxiety.
Posted: Oct 21 2011, 01:45 PM
Member No.: 86
Joined: 12-July 05
poor Wedge, you killed his family. I guess....
Posted: Oct 22 2011, 06:05 PM
Member No.: 148
Joined: 27-June 06
Coruscant 80 ABY
“Family meant a lot to Wedge,” Han said. “He lost his first family before he even graduated school.”
Leia turned to him. “Han, that’s personal stuff. I don’t think Wedge would want us to tell that to strangers.”
Han looked straight back at her, then at Vesa. “It’s a matter of public record; anyone who wants to can look it up. I think what happened to his family on Gus Treta affected how he reacted to what happened in the Vong War. Besides,” he turned to Leia again. “Who’s going to be hurt by us telling it ? We can’t hurt Wedge; nothing can hurt him or his family any more. That whole family are gone ! Destroyed by the Vong. Good people, just gone, lost. There’s no one left to be hurt.” He paused, and cleared his throat. “We owe it to them to remember them.”
Vesa spoke. “Of the billions who died in the war, many are forgotten simply because there was no one left alive afterwards who remembered them.”
Leia nodded. “You’re right. The galaxy needs to remember what happened to people like the Antilles. And… what happened to Wedge’s parents probably is relevent.” She gave Han an apologetic look.
Han looked smug for a moment, then his expression changed as he turned to Vesa Lin.
“You’d better switch that recorder on, now,” he said.
When the recorder was on, Han settled himself back into the sofa and began to speak.
“Wedge was Corellian, you know,” he said with a touch of pride. “His parents ran a fuelling depot on Gus Treta, a space station in the Corellian system. He had an older sister; she ran away from home when Wedge was just a kid. She vanished, and it was just Wedge and his parents. He didn’t hear about her for years after that, after his parents had died. He nearly found her a couple of times, got to meet his nephew, Jag Fel, during the Vong War. But Wedge never saw his sister again after she left home. He had some relatives down on Corellia, but family was just Wedge and his parents on Gus Treta. And that ended when he was seventeen.”
Han told the story of how pirates fleeing from Corsec had set the fuelling depot alight, and how Wedge’s parents had sacrificed themselves by staying on the burning depot to detach it from the rest of the station before it exploded.
“Wedge lost everything.” Leia took over the story. “Family and home. I was a couple of years older than Wedge had been, when Alderaan was destroyed, and I lost my family and home.” She paused for a moment. “But at least I was busy with the Rebellion. The battle of Yarvin came straight after that and then the evacuation and then…” She spread her hands. “I grieved, but I was an adult, and I had a purpose. Wedge hadn’t even graduated school when his family died. He had to make his own way, find his own purpose.”
“The Rebellion,” Han said.
“And when he joined that, it wasn’t safe for him to go back to Corellia and visit what family he had there,” Leia added. “He had to make the Rebellion his family.”
Borleias 27.5 ABY
Wedge barrel-rolled to port, and frowned as he levelled off again. He rolled to starboard and almost immediately to port again.
“Artoo, I think the portside stabilizer is a fraction off. She’s turning slightly better to starboard.”
R2-D2 trilled a response that sounded both surprised and somehow impressed. The message he showed on screen confirmed that the port stabilizer was functioning at 1.5% under optimum capacity.
“Hey, I was an ace in X-wings before Luke ever even saw one,” Wedge said. “I know X-wings.”
R2’s response was blunt; Wedge grinned.
While Luke was away on a Jedi mission on conquered Coruscant, Wedge had his permission to use his friend’s X-wing as his personal transport, and naturally R2-D2 came along too. As well as being transport, the X-wing served another purpose for Wedge, albeit an increasingly bittersweet one as the days on Borleias slid into weeks. Wedge loved to fly. He loved the speed, the freedom and the harmony he felt between himself and his craft. The short flights he snatched above Borelias helped to calm him and refresh him mentally. Aside from the sheer joy of flying, Wedge also relished the peace and solitude of the cockpit. He had given standing orders that when flying, he was to be contacted only in case of immediate necessity, and Tycho ruthlessly filtered out many of the calls and requests that otherwise interrupted Wedge’s waking hours. Out in an X-wing, Wedge could, for a short while, forget the noise, stress and duty that filled his days and sometimes his nightmares.
Wedge reversed thrust, bringing the X-wing to a gentle halt. As he lost momentum, he adjusted the fighter’s position above the planet. Orbital space around Borleias was crowded with ships of every size from the Lusankya down to other single-seat fighters. It took Wedge a couple of minutes to get his fighter orientated to his satisfaction. Eventually though, he could rest his head against the back of his seat, and gaze up at nothing but the stars.
“Hold in this relative position, please, Artoo, and keep an eye out for trouble,” Wedge asked. As the droid beeped acknowlegment, Wedge settled down into the padded seat and let himself relax.
Here, above the atmosphere, the stars didn’t twinkle, but shone hard and bright. From his earliest childhood, Wedge had loved to gaze through the viewport of his bedroom on Gus Treta at the stars. That love had never left him. As his life grew more turbulent, with death ever present, he found reassurance in the eternal peace and beauty of the stars. He knew full well that stars, too, lived and died and had witnessed the death of one himself. However, being out among the stars in a small ship gave Wedge a sense of peace and calm.
Sometimes Wedge could forget about himself as he gazed out at the stars that filled his galaxy, that particular part of the universe he called home. But now that galaxy was being taken from him by outsiders. Those silent, peaceful stars were being conquered by an alien race who wanted to wipe out and change everything they found there. Wedge couldn’t think of the invading Vong without thinking of his wife and daughters. Weeks had passed since the fall of Corsuscant, and there was still no word of them.
The stars began to blur. Wedge blinked fiercely and felt the tears running down his face. A low moan escaped him, but that was all. He wanted to scream or shout but somehow he couldn’t. A curious numbness blanketed him, leaving him adrift in his own body. Wedge became almost motionless, barely even breathing.The stars shone around him, silent and cold. He knew time was passing, but couldn’t tell if it were seconds or minutes. He seemed as frozen as though he’d ejected and was floating in space. Wedge viewed his passive state with a sense of detachment, reminding himself to take a breath now and again, and wondering quietly how long he would stay like this.
Some distant, muffled part of his mind clung to reality. Gradually, vague, misty feelings began to coalesce into coherent thoughts. There were things he needed to do; things he was needed to do. Iella, Syal and Myri needed him. He needed to look for them and make them safe again. Other lives depended on him right now, in this star system. The Vong had to suffer for what they had done. If the Vong had robbed him of his family, he would take theirs from them.
Wedge gasped suddenly, breaking the near-trance state. He grabbed the control stick as adrenaline surged through him, and yanked it sideways. The X-wing dipped and rolled, R2 tweetling surprise at the unexpected move. Wedge barely registered the droid’s protests. Instead, he threw the X-wing into a sharp dive, pulling out almost immediately. He pushed the engines to full, then slewed the fighter around in a flat spin, before standing on end and rocketing away from the planet.
“Artoo, give me point four gravity.” When the droid queried him, Wedge simply snapped “Do it !”
Wedge normally flew at .05 gravity, just enough to give him the feel of how his X-wing was moving while protecting him from the sharp turns and manouvres of space combat. Now, as he abruptly changed course, he felt himself shift in his seat and his head jerked to one side. Wedge slammed the stick over the other way, his vision greying out momentarily as the fighter spun and his shoulder hit the side of the cockpit. It was a light blow, not enough to bruise him, but he could feel it.
A madness possessed him; an urgent need to make contact with the physical world around around him. Wedge accelerated at full speed for ten seconds, then threw the engines into reverse, slamming himself forward into his harness. The straps pressed against his chest and stomach, driving breath from him. The heavy helmet caused his head to jerk forward, straining his neck. The pain was good, real. Wedge embraced it and put the X-wing into a tumbling roll. The fighter skittered through space in a series of wild moves, like a demented flutterwing, jinking, rolling, twisting and diving. Inside, Wedge was being thrown around, banging shoulders, elbows and legs within the tight confines of the cockpit. Every jerk against his harness, every wrench his neck absorbed as his head moved around, every pain and discomfort told him that he was alive. Wedge couldn’t stop himself; he flew as though trying to escape from an entire squadron of TIEs. In a cold rage, he punished himself as he struggled to return to normality.
A painful electronic astromech shriek through his helmet speakers pierced the beserk impulse that had taken over. Reality crashed back into his conscious attention at last. Wedge’s pulse rate jumped as noises hit him; alarms wailed and a voice was hailing him.
“Red One, Red One. This is Taanab Yellow Aces Eight. Please respond.”
It took Wedge’s mind a moment to catch up with the unfamiliar call sign. In that time, he saw amber lights flashing on his fighter’s diagnostics board, and identified the loudest alarm.
“Artoo, quiet that target lock alarm.”
The droid beeped anxiously but obeyed, as Wedge changed comm frequencies.
“Ace Eight, this is Red One.”
Scopes showed a pair of E-wings pacing him as he eased off his speed.
“Who are you, Red One ? I don’t know of a Red Squadron here.”
The lead of the two E-wings still had a target fix on Wedge, who didn’t have his shields up. As Luke’s X-wing was not currently assigned to any squadron, Wedge had designated its transponder code as Red One. His wild flying had drawn the attention of two of the pilots patrolling in planetary space.
“This is General Antilles,” Wedge said clearly and firmly. As he spoke, he felt the weight of his name and rank settling over him, with all the responsibilities they brought with them.
“What would General Antilles be doing up here on his own, flying like a novice with a piranah-beetle in his helmet ?” Ace Eight mocked.
Wedge was angry for a moment, before sense told him that the other pilot had a valid point. He thought for a moment, mentally reviewing the Yellow Aces Roster.
“Leiutenant Olix, this is General Antilles.” Wedge’s voice was cold enough to strike fear into the heart of anyone under the rank of colonel. “If you don’t believe me, patch me through to Major Janson. I’m sure he’ll be happy to confirm my identity.”
There was a moment’s silence before the apologetic reply. “I’m sorry, sir. It’s just, we were puzzled by the way you were flying.”
Wedge bit on his lower lip, remembering the way he’d been throwing his fighter around. It was no wonder the patrolling pilots had come to investigate. He noticed absently that Ace Eight had switched off his targetting computer. Word of this incident would soon be spreading around Borleias and his men would be wondering why their leader had been behaving in such a way. Wedge shuddered; he couldn’t let anyone, not even Tycho, know what he’d just been through. As people had been killed and injured in the long weeks of fighting, the survivors had had to work even harder to fill their roles. Everyone was tired, nerves were stretched. He couldn’t let their confidence in him be shaken.
“This fighter has been modified,” Wedge told the Yellow Ace pilot. “I needed to know how well it would perform in a combat situation and I wouldn’t ask anyone to do a job I wasn’t willing to do myself.”
“Thank you, sir.” Ace Eight sounded relieved. “I had no idea an X-wing could handle like that,” he added, respect clear even across a com link.
“Ask Major Janson to give you a demonstration sometime,” Wedge replied. “But return to your regular patrol now.”
“Yes, sir !”
The two E-wings peeled away, moving together smoothly as befitted pilots taught by Wes Janson.
Wedge watched them go before turning his own fighter and setting a course back to the biotics building on the planet below. He took a last look into the black of space, remembering the little girls he’d called his shining stars. His heart seemed to fall into a bottomless pit but his hands stayed steady on the controls. Ruthlessly, Wedge pushed that gnawing ache into the back of his mind. He longed to search for his family, but it wasn’t a task he could manage on his own, not while the Vong were still a force in the galaxy. And while the Vong were here, more families like his own would be shattered.
The best thing, the only thing he could do now, was to dedicate himself to winning the war against the Yuuzhan Vong. That job started with the thousands of beings he commanded here at Borleias, every one of them his responsibility. It was a thought that threatened to crush him, but Wedge couldn’t abandon his duty to them, no matter what the cost was to himself.
Posted: Oct 24 2011, 08:26 PM
Member No.: 178
Joined: 17-April 07
Wedge's sense of duty will crush him.
Damn, this is good. I meant to respond when you first posted but, as you know, my life is in a state of turmoil at the moment.
Wedge will push his grief down to abide by his sense of duty and honor. It will eventually take away his humanity and only leave revenge and hate. You've conveyed his deep hurt and his iron will, his attempt to remain strong for the people under his command. He thinks he is hiding this from Tycho, but Ty knows. Ty knows and can do very little to help his friend. Wedge truly has ice water for blood in his veins during this anguishing time.
I have a sense of dread, especially combined with the title of this piece "Final Choice". This could end very badly. Yet, I believe, even through his suffering, Wedge will make the right choice in the end. His sense of duty, his honor, his love of family and friends, will demand the right choice.
Waiting for the next update...
Posted: Oct 27 2011, 09:17 PM
Member No.: 148
Joined: 27-June 06
Coruscant 80 ABY
“Wedge dedicated himself to the Rebellion,” Leia said. “When I first met him, on Yarvin, he seemed just another hot-shot pilot. Lots of people under-estimated him.”
“Like Palpatine,” Han put in. Leia ignored him.
“Wedge was brilliant as a tactician, and a leader,” Leia continued. “He didn’t care for politics, he always said he was just a soldier, but he was smart. He learned, and became shrewd at politics but it was to protect himself and his pilots from politicians. He hated to see soldiers, any soldiers, being used as political pawns.”
“The politicians didn’t like him either,” Han interrupted. “Wedge wouldn’t co-operate with their games. He didn’t respect them and he didn’t care much if they knew about it. He once told me one of his biggest regrets was not being there to see it when Booster Terrik tossed Borsk Fey’lya into a bulkhead, headbutted him on the snout and then threw him off the Errant Venture. I’d like to have seen that myself,” he added thoughtfully.
Vesa Lin’s eyes were wide. “I never heard about that.”
“I’m sure Fey’lya never told anyone,” Han said, grinning.
“Getting back to Wedge,” Leia said pointedly. “What he achieved at Borleias was…” She spread her hands as she searched for the right words. “It was a military triumph but it was more than that. Coruscant had fallen, the New Republic was falling apart; it was the darkest hour of the war. Then Wedge struck back. He won Borleias back from the Vong, he tricked them and he destroyed a worldship. He bought us the time to recover and start fighting back. He gave us hope.”
“I’m surprised he wasn’t made an admiral,” Vesa said.
“He should have been,” Han said. “I bet the war would have been six months shorter if Wedge had been put in charge after Borleias.”
“Maybe.” Leia shrugged. “But there was no leadership in the New Republic at that point and Wedge wasn’t the kind to put himself forward and grab power. He didn’t care about promotions or status. He never did really, but after his family went missing, the only thing he cared about was defeating the Vong. When the war ended, he wasn’t the person he’d been before.” She stood up suddenly, as graceful as a far younger woman, and crossed the room to some shelves.
Han looked at Vesa. “Wedge never heard from his family after Coruscant. All that time, he never knew what had happened to them. It just ate him up from the inside.”
Leia returned, holding a small holocube unit. She had switched it on, and cycled through the pictures stored on it until she found the one she wanted. Handing it to Vesa, she seated herself again, holding Han’s hand. Vesa studied the holo being projected. It showed two human males, both in early middle-age and wearing the uniforms of New Republic generals. One was slightly the taller, with light-coloured hair, and his arm over the shoulders of the other, darker-haired man in a friendly embrace.
“General Antilles, and General Celchu ?” Vesa said, glancing up to seek confirmation.
Leia nodded. “That was taken not long before the end of the war.”
Vesa looked at the holo again. “I thought that the generals were approximately the same age, but General Antilles is older than General Celchu.”
“Actually, your first thought was correct.” Leia looked sadly at the holo. “Tycho was just a few months older than Wedge.”
In the holo, Wedge’s dark hair was liberally scattered through with grey. His shoulders were slumped and his face lean and pinched, lacking in any softness. Although his mouth was open in a smile, his dark eyes were haunted by old sorrows. Leia took the holocube back and held it to gaze more closely at the image, her own eyes sad.
“What did General Antilles do after the war ?” Vesa asked quietly.
Han reached over and abruptly switched off the holocube, making the picture vanish.
“He did what he’d been wanting to do for a year and a half.” Han’s voice was gruff. “He went to Coruscant.”
Coruscant 29 ABY
Wedge had flown through this part of Coruscant more times than he could remember, and he’d never seen less traffic in the air. For all that, his skimmer was travelling just over half the speed he would normally fly. His slower progress was mainly because he wanted time to look about at this new, strange Coruscant as he passed through it. It was also because he barely recognized what he saw, and he had almost got himself lost once or twice.
When he’d last been on the surface of Coruscant, it had been the heart of the New Republic, a gleaming city-planet of towering skyscrapers and immense public buildings. Vehicles of all kinds and sizes had thronged the wide canyons formed by the buildings, layer upon layer of traffic. There had been an endless glow of lights: windows, signals, traffic, advertisements. The night sky of Cosucant held no stars; the glow of the lights from the planet obscured them, something that Wedge had faintly resented. He’d been happy living on Coruscant, but he’d also missed the natural, open spaces of Corellia, where he’d attended school. The only plants on Coruscant were in pots, or in carefully ordered parks.
This new Coruscant was another place altogether. Great swathes of the buildings had been devastated in the fighting, by bombardment or by vast chunks of debris falling from orbit. Some still seemed intact, but others were broken off, leaving great shards of skyscrapers pointing to the sky. Wedge had seen parts of Cosuscant damaged like this before, after the Emperor had somehow returned in a cloned body and attacked the planet, all of nineteen years ago now. This time, there was more than just the devastation of war.
The Vuuzhan Vong had shaped the planet to suit themselves, and their beliefs. They had even altered its orbit, making the planet warmer and more humid. What had once been paved streets were now often rivers, or had muddy paths winding along them. And everywhere there was vegetation. The Vong had created their own organic buildings from yorik coral that were sometimes hard to distinguish from the mass of plants that covered the city in a living carpet. Groves of alien trees sprouted everywhere, leaves rippling in the breeze. Creepers and vines climbed the skyscrapers, smothering viewports. The air was heavy with the scent of living things in a way that reminded Wedge of Yarvin 4. But here and there, the jungle revealed once-familiar landmarks that sharply reminded him of how Coruscant had been before the Vong took it.
In spite of his caution, Wedge still nearly missed recognizing the block where he’d lived. To his relief, it was still mostly intact; the upper twenty or so storeys were gone, but his apartment was a few levels below the missing chunk. Slowing the skimmer further, Wedge circled the tower, looking for his long-abandoned home. His heart felt like a dull weight as he looked at it, picking out the shape of the viewports beneath a mottled reddish vine. Further round, the entrance to the communal speeder hangar for his floor was also obscured by a curtain of foliage.
The skimmer Wedge was flying was miliary-issue. A quick check of the scanners confirmed an open space behind the vines, and a few blasts of the light laser guns burned away enough vegetation for him to fly inside. He circled the almost-empty hangar cautiously. The few vehicles left seemed largely intact. The Vong had swept through many buildings, breaking and destroying the machines they believed to be blasphemous abominations, but they clearly hadn’t been here. A couple of larger speeders had been partially stripped of components, suggesting that Coruscanti survivors hiding from the Vong had been searching for equipment. A full circuit of the hangar failed to reveal the Antilles family speeder. It had been too well-secured for casual theft, so Wedge was certain that Iella had used it for the first stage of her attempt to escape Coruscant.
Setting his skimmer down near the internal exit, Wedge checked his blaster before picking up a backpack and glowrod, and leaving the vehicle. He moved quietly, the glowrod in his left hand and his right hand close to the blaster on his hip. As on most of Coruscant now, there was no power supply here, and so no lighting in internal rooms and corridors. Wedge didn’t think it was likely he’d run into any stray Vong, or refugee gangs who could be almost as dangerous, but he wasn’t willing to take any chances. He was on edge, his heart thudding heavily in his chest, as he made his way along the once-familiar route.
Wedge drew a sharp breath as he turned a corner and his apartment door came into view. The corridor was dusty and dirty, with some kind of lichen patching the walls, but essentially it was the same as when he’d last said goodbye to his family, and gone to join his fleet. He started running without meaning to, fetching up outside the door, his nerves twanging with anxiety. Wedge began pressing his code into the lock, before remembering that there was no power. Cursing, he stood the glow rod on the floor and slipped off his backpack, extracting equipment. He quickly coupled a temporary power unit to the door controls, and entered his code again. The door slid open with a soft hiss, and Wedge could see his home at last.
The dim interior reminded him to pick up the glowrod and backpack. Wedge stepped over the threshold and paused, shining the light about.
He couldn’t help it; the urge to call to his family, in this familiar place, was too strong to resist, even though he knew the odds of any of them being here was infinitely small. Wedge listened anxiously, but there was nothing but silence. He moved forward into the hallway, again moving quietly as though in enemy territory, not his own home.
The glowrod illuminated the open door of the closet on his right. Inside, Wedge saw the usual clutter of coats, shoes and bags, waiting undisturbed. There was his shabby old brown jacket, that he knew Iella wanted him to get rid of, but would never tell him so. Beside it was a long, cream coat of Iella’s, that suited her slender grace so well. Hanging lower down were the girls’ various coats, with Myri’s favourite rainbow-patterned coat fallen to the floor underneath the others. Wedge’s legs suddenly buckled and he sat down on the carpet, never taking his eyes from his daughters’ coats. Breathing suddenly seemed to become difficult. It was the size of the coats that stood out to him: they were so small. Once, child sized clothing had been a part of his everyday life. Now, he couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen children’s clothing. He could hardly remember the last time he’d seen a child. Wedge’s heart ached, not only for his own children, but for all the lost and frightened children who were victims of this war.
Eventually he managed to gather some self-control and got back on his feet. He turned first into the living areas. There was some natural light in here, but it was dim and reddish from filtering through the vines that covered the viewports. Just inside the plexiglass, the containers of hanging plants that Iella had nurtured now held nothing more than drooping, dead leaves. Other than the dead plants and the dust, the kitchen and living area were as he remembered them. A few toys were scattered here and there, and one of Iella’s light tunics was draped over the back of the sofa. An empty glass stood on the dining table with the wrapper from a sweet bar nearby.
Those insignificant personal reminders nearly undermined Wedge again. He snatched a deep breath, holding back a sob, but couldn’t stop the tears from stinging his eyes. The empty wrapper told him that Syal had been sitting there; it was from her favourite treat. He’d bought a pack of the sweet, chewy bars last time he’d been on Coruscant, and had hidden it in one of the top cupboards in the kitchen. The hologame card on the sofa was Myri’s. It was a girl’s fashion and beauty sim, and Myri had loved to create outrageous models with multi-coloured hair and tiny lights embedded in their clothes. Wedge wiped his hand across his eyes and breathed in and out slowly, trying to calm himself.
He was here for a reason. Not to mourn his family, but to look for them. He needed to find clues to where they had gone, or tried to go. They were missing people and he was investigating them. Wedge tried to force his grief to the back of his mind. It was something he’d done a lot and the pressures of war had made him good at it. Now however, there was no one depending on him, no one waiting for an order or for him to do his duty. Wedge struggled to clear his mind and think impersonally. He wouldn’t have to do everything in the search, he knew his friends would help him. This first trip though, he’d chosen to undertake alone. He couldn’t share this first return to the once-happy home he’d shared with his family with anyone, not even Tycho or Mirax. But this was the best place to start the search and he had to concentrate on what he needed to do now.
For a few moments, Wedge simply stood still, overwhelmed by the painful familiarity of his empty home. His family should have been here to greet him but their secure lives had been snatched away from them, forcing them into danger and uncertaincy. Anger filled Wedge at the unfairness of it all. He’d spent nearly all his adult life fighting to protect others and secure a peaceful future. He’d fulfilled his duty to the New Republic and to citizens escaping from Coruscant by staying in space to command Fleet Group Three during the battle for Coruscant. His actions had saved thousands upon thousands of lives, but he’d failed in his duty to those three individuals whose lives meant more to him than any others, including his own.
He hadn’t been able to save his family then, but now it was his duty to find out what had happened to them. Once again, Wedge shouldered the burden of duty; he became an officer with a task. His mind cleared and he knew where to start.
Posted: Oct 31 2011, 09:26 PM
Member No.: 148
Joined: 27-June 06
Unsurprisingly, there was no sign of Iella’s personal datapad, but the family’s datanet terminal was on its desk in the corner of the room. Using a different power pack from his kit, Wedge got the terminal running again. He checked for messages first, anything Iella might have written before leaving the apartment, and the last messages received by the terminal. There was nothing to help. Wedge checked the datanet use on the day Coruscant had fallen. Money had been transferred to off-world banks. Iella had looked up information on Skipray Blast Boats and technical specs for their family speeder. Wedge thought about those for a few moments, then shut the terminal down again. With the tools he’d brought, it was a simple matter to remove the memory units so they could be taken for detailed analysis elsewhere.
Wedge prowled round the living room and kitchen. He found more signs that the apartment had been left in a hurry – bins left unemptied and dirty cups – but there was nothing to indicate where the occupants had gone. Frustrated, Wedge moved onto the bedroom he’d shared with Iella. The door of Iella’s closet was open and he looked inside. The first thing that struck him was the smell. Iella’s clothes usually smelt fresh and very slightly spicy from the scented sachets she hung among them. The closet now smelt stale and slightly mouldy. It made Wedge both depressed and angry.
He backed away and instead headed for an inconspicuous panel on the footboard of the wide bed. Pressing at the correct point popped open a small flap; underneath was a number pad. When Wedge entered the code, there was a quiet click and the rest of the panel opened up to reveal a space built into the bed base. From the safe, Wedge withdrew the box where Iella had stored her valuables. The lid of the darrwood box was partially open and a quick look showed him that several items were missing. Wedge set the box on the floor and checked more thoroughly. There didn’t seem to be any pattern to what had been taken, but all the jewelery in the box was good quality and would have had value on any planet in the galaxy, regardless of the currency in use.
Delicately, Wedge picked out one of the remaining rings and held it up. It looked odd in the reddish light from the vine covered viewport, but his memory supplied the correct colours. The ring had been his tenth wedding anniversary gift to Iella; a gold band with two offset Chandrilan sapphires, one stone for each of their blue-eyed daughters. He gazed at the ring for a few moments, then fastened it securely into a pocket. The rest of the jewelery went back into the box, and was returned to the safe.
The next room was Myri’s, cluttered as always with toys and the amazing kinds of stuff that small girls seemed to accumulate. A drawer had been left open, with pink-and-blue-striped sleeves dangling from the lip. Wedge shone the glow rod around, but the only thing that looked worth investigating was his daughter’s datapad. It was an unsophisticated model, colourful and designed for children. Wedge recalled how thrilled Myri had been to get a datapad of her own for her seventh lifeday present, and how relieved Syal had been that she would no longer have her little sister begging to use hers. Shrugging his backpack further onto his shoulder, Wedge picked up the datapad in his free hand and switched it on. A picture blinked, indicating an unread message. He hastily opened it, only to find it was a quick note from himself, sent during a snatched moment from the battle above the planet. His daughter had never seen the last message of love he’d sent her.
Wedge swallowed, and hastily switched off the datapad. Stowing it in the backpack, he turned and left the room. Syal’s bedroom was much neater, though the bed was unmade. Wedge stood in the doorway, his emotions now strung up to a high pitch. Any sudden noise would have made him jump violently, but the apartment remained mournfully silent. All he could hear was his own, ragged breathing. Trying to blank his feelings from his mind, Wedge slowly entered the room. He forced himself to search methodically, starting in one corner and working his way around. It didn’t help that he didn’t know what he was looking for. Frustrated, he finally even lifted the crumpled bedcover, and froze.
It was just a toy ewok, the fur worn thin on the paws and muzzle, that had been hidden under the cover. It had been inevitable that Wes would give Wedge’s first child a toy ewok. Syal had adored Kettch and had insisted on taking it everywhere with her for years. Even at the age of ten she’d still taken him on vacation. She’d never been separated from her toy for more than a few hours but somehow Kettch had been left behind as the family fled. Dropping the backpack, Wedge picked up the toy with a trembling hand.
For a long minute he just stared at it, his heart awash with so many emotions that he couldn’t tell exactly what he was feeling any more. A low moan escaped him and he folded forwards onto the bed. Wedge grabbed the pillow and hugged it to himself. The sensation of holding something, even a pillow, in his arms, was too much. Something broke deep inside him. He howled in pain and the tears finally started. Curled up on his daughter’s long-abandoned bed, Wedge buried his face in her pillow and wept helplessly.
Coruscant 80 ABY
Leia handed a glass of sunfruit juice to Vesa and sat down again. She sipped from her own glass, letting the liquid soothe her throat, before she continued speaking.
“Wedge wanted to resign his commision after the war, but Corsucant was under military control; civilians weren’t allowed on planet. He called in a few favours and got himself assigned groundside. Admiral Kre’fey gave him a role with refugee relief work but that was just a way of giving Wedge more resources for finding his family. Squads of commandos were doing building-to-building searches to round up Vuuhzan Vong who hadn’t surrendered, and then medical stations and refugee centres were set up.” Leia gestured with her free hand. “There were still millions of people living on Coruscant, hiding from the Vong. Most of the survivors had teamed up with others for mutual protection and to share skills; others somehow survived on their own. They all had to be checked and ID’d and given food and shelter. There were still people turning up months afterwards, barely alive most of them, and not all sane.”
“General Antilles was hoping his family would be identified at one of the refugee stations ?” Vesa asked.
Leia nodded. “Wedge couldn’t just sit and wait though. He wanted to track where they’d gone after leaving their home. It would give him an idea of where to start looking if they didn’t show up at a refugee station – if they’d been killed.”
“Winter came to help him; she’s General Celchu’s wife,” Han added for Vesa’s benefit. “She was an intelligence agent during the rebellion, like Iella. Winter knew the family pretty well, so she knew how Iella would think. When she got access to Iella’s datanet traffic, she put together the pieces to work out what Iella’s plan had been. Wedge had an X-wing he kept at a small military base, about two klicks from Eastport. In the days before the battle, Iella tracked down some of Rogue Squadron’s old support staff. She made contact with a Bith who’d left the squad the same time Tycho retired, and who could fly small ships. The plan was for them to meet at this military docking facility and to take a Skipray Blastboat stored there that belonged to a captain who was away with Kre’fey’s fleet. When I say ‘take’, I mean ‘steal’,” Han added, smiling lop-sidedly. “The blastboat’s owner was off-planet, so he didn’t need it. Iella might not have been able to fly it, but she was Corellian enough to get her hands on a ship when she needed one.”
“Did she get off planet then ?” Vesa asked.
Leia shook her head. “Once Winter knew where Iella was going, and when she travelled, she tried to track the Antilles through security recordings. The Vong smashed a lot of equipment on Coruscant, but there were still hundreds of hours of footage covering the route from the Antilles place to Eclipse Base, the military dock. It took Winter days to piece the whole thing together.” Leia paused, and sighed. “Iella and the girls left in their speeder, but there was a no fly zone for three kilometers around Eastport. They had to leave the speeder and walk. The streets and skyways were packed with tens of thousands of beings all trying to get to Eastport and find a way off the planet. There was fighting in orbit by then, the planetary shields were breached and debris was coming through. There was even some Vong already on the ground, mostly in disguise.” Leia shuddered, remembering it all. She took a deep breath and continued.
“Iella needed to stay clear of the crowds, and get herself and the girls over to Eclipse Base. She went down into the service tunnels. If you can find your way around, you can pretty much get from anywhere to anywhere else on Coruscant using just the service tunnels. They mostly have security systems and holocams to stop people using them illegally. Iella knew how to get through security systems though, and without setting off too many alarms and automated defences. She didn’t leave many traces for Winter to find on the security records.”
“She did it though,” Han said. “Wedge helped but it wasn’t really his field. He drove himself all the time, doing whatever Winter asked. All the grunt work of scanning the hours of holotapes she picked out because they might have filmed Iella and the girls for a few seconds. When they did find a glimpse of Wedge’s family, it lifted him, but it tortured him too. It was Winter who found the last recording. She said afterwards that the whole search for Wedge’s family had been one of the toughest things she’d ever done. Watching that holo herself was hard, but even worse was knowing that she was going to be the one to let Wedge see it.”
Posted: Nov 4 2011, 04:42 PM
Member No.: 148
Joined: 27-June 06
Coruscant 29 ABY
The call from Winter brought Wedge to her office at a brisk trot that was in danger of breaking into a flat-out run. He badly wanted to hear the news she’d promised him, but something in her tone made him afraid of what it would be. He arrived slightly breathless, anxiously searching her cool, beautiful face for clues. Winter could appear as cold as her name suggested but Wedge saw nothing but sorrow and sympathy in her blue eyes. He opened his mouth to speak but couldn’t make himself ask the question. Winter reached out and took his hand.
“I’m so sorry, Wedge. Iella is dead.”
Wedge took a deep breath. “You’re sure ?”
Winter nodded, her long white hair swaying with the movement. “It’s quite clear.”
It was what he’d feared, and expected almost. He clung on to her hand, harder than he realized, trying to pull his thoughts together. He and Iella had so nearly missed one another in life; both had made mistakes and hurt one another. Eventually, at the last moment, Wedge had realized just how much she meant to him. He’d taken the risk, as daunting as flying a snubfighter against a deathstar, and declared his love for her. Somehow, by a miracle he’d never ceased to be thankful for, she’d listened, and acknowledged her love for him in return.
The dream was over. Before getting together with Iella, his life had seemed increasingly hollow. Iella had filled his heart and that gap in his life. Now she had been taken from him forever, and Wedge feared the emptiness that lay ahead of him once more. There was just one hope left to cling to.
“My girls,” he whispered.
“I don’t know,” Winter answered.
As he stared at her, Winter led him over to the holoprojector.
Wedge sat in front of it, his heart heavy in his chest, but numb. Winter pulled another chair close to his and sat, putting her left hand on his arm.
“I found a recording of them in a service tunnel half a kilometer from Eclipse Base,” Winter said. “There were some Yuuzhan Vong down there too.”
Fierce bitterness glowed in Wedge’s eyes as he looked at Winter. “Vong !”
“Five warriors,” Winter confirmed. “The girls escaped, but the Vong caught up with Iella.”
Wedge took a deep breath, and turned his face resolutely to the projector.
Winter switched the projector on, manipulating controls with her free hand. The holo showed an empty service corridor, everything starkly functional.
Pipes ran along the ceiling and the walls were decorated only by power outlets, droid communication ports, area designators and two, secured doors. Numbers in the lower corner of the image showed that the display was being run at high speed. Winter studied the numbers, then slowed the recording on cue, until it was running at real time.
Iella, Syal and Myri came into view at the edge of the holocam’s field. Iella had a bag in one hand and a datapad in the other and wore a backpack; the girls each had a small backpack. Myri was trailing slightly, being pulled along by her older sister. She glanced back over her shoulder, then speeded up, saying something unrecorded by the vision-only holocam. All three increased their speed, Iella jogging steadily as she checked the screen of her datapad. They passed out of range of the cam but Winter left the scene running. A quick touch of the controls to fast-forward a little, then the recording dropped to normal speed again.
Wedge made a deep, angry sound as five Yuuzhan Vong warriors entered the picture, following his family’s route. The Vong were dressed for battle in vonduun crab armour and moved together like a disciplined unit. Their brisk walk was as fast as Iella and the girls had been jogging. They didn’t look aside or back. The Vong swiftly crossed the holocam’s field and went out of sight.
The scene switched to another view but this time of a dead end. Iella and the girls hurried into shot and stopped short. Iella looked at her datapad, her motion registering surprise. Thrusting the datapad into a pocket, she sprinted a couple of strides to a side door and began examining the lock. The two girls huddled close together, Syal watching their mother while Myri anxiously peered back to the corner they’d just come around. Fear settled heavily in Wedge’s stomach as he watched. It was all he could do not to shout a warning at the old holo-recording.
Iella had tried a key card of some kind on the secured door, but nothing happened. She pried part of the lock panel off but every gesture signalled frustration. Myri called something, moving closer to her big sister. Both girls’ faces were etched with fear but neither gave way to panic. Iella looked about in desperation. She darted to a small air grille set low in the wall and popped off the retaining clips. With unheard words and quick gestures, she urged the girls to squeeze themselves inside, pressing a swift kiss to each one’s face as they went. Their bags were pushed in after them.
Wedge was clutching the arms of his chair as he watched the recording. The air vent was a tight fit for his daughters; there was simply no way Iella could have joined them in hiding. Iella fastened the grille back over the vent, her hands working steadily in spite of the anguish visible on her taut face. With her children out of sight, Iella leapt back to the secured door. She’d barely glanced at the panel before whirling to face the direction she’d come from. A blaster appeared in her hand and shots poured from it. There was a blur of something small heading towards her and Iella staggered.
Pain briefly obscured the anger on her face. More thud bugs were thrown. Iella manged to blast one from the air, but two others struck and tumbled her backwards. Wedge winced, knowing from personal experience how painful the impact of thud bugs was. The Yuuzhan Vong warriors came into view, four instead of five now, but more than enough. The holo blurred and Wedge blinked hard to clear tears from his eyes. Although prone, Iella managed a couple more shots before the armoured warriors closed around her. Their snake-like amphistaffs whipped out, delivering fatal venom with every hit and bite. Iella struggled briefly before paralysis overtook her and she went limp. One of the Vong stamped on her blaster, shattering it. They pulled open the bags, searching for more technology to destroy.
Amphistaff venom could kill an adult human in less than two minutes. Iella was undoubtedly dead by the time the Vong finished their destructive rampage. One of the Vong barked orders and the group formed up again and marched briskly away. When they disappeared from view, Wedge let out a breath he didn’t knew he’d been holding. He reached out to the still figure in the holo, caressing the air where the image was projected.
He let his hand drop and watched numbly as Winter skipped the recording forward a few minutes. She zoomed in on the grille of the air vent as the recording returned to normal pace. Wedge’s heart jumped as he saw fingers clutching the grille, reaching through from the inside. Syal’s face was just visible behind the grille, calling to her mother. Syal pushed futilely at the grille but couldn’t free it. Her head drooped in despair, then she wriggled backwards, out of sight. Winter zoomed out again, so the holo showed Iella’s body still lying as it had been when the Vong left. She let the recording run for a few seconds, then stopped it.
Wedge sucked in a deep breath, gradually returning to his immediate surroudings. He turned to look at Winter, who leaned forward and hugged him. Wedge let himself lean against her, silent tears running down his face and soaking her jacket where his face rested against her shoulder. Gradually, the warm, sympathetic presence soothed the terrible emptiness he felt inside. Wedge sat up again but kept hold of Winter’s hand, unwilling to yet detach himself completely.
“Thank you,” he said huskily.
“I just wish I could have found better news for you,” Winter replied.
Wedge was silent for a few moments. He now knew why his family had never got off-planet. The location of the holocam would tell where Iella had died and he could go there. It was unlikely there would be anything to find, nearly two years later, but at least he could say some kind of farewell there. Wedge glanced at the holoprojector, remembering what he’d seen. He had an answer to Iella’s disappearance, but his duty wasn’t done yet. A thin thread of hope still remained.
“My girls,” he said. “My little stars. I have to find them. They are out there all alone; they must be so frightened.” His voice had dropped to a whisper.
Coruscant 80 ABY
“Iella Antilles must have been a brave woman,” Vesa said thoughtfully.
“Anyone who marries a soldier has to be brave,” Leia answered. “Iella was right in the action herself plenty of times, while she was an active Intelligence agent. I liked her a lot. She and Wedge seemed such a good match.”
“Their girls were good kids,” Han added.
Leia nodded. “I think we might have a holo of them, the whole family. Excuse me.” She stood and headed into another room to look.
Han watched her go and as soon as she was out of the room, he leaned forward.
“Having children – becoming a parent, that is – is something you can’t really prepare yourself for,” he said. “Until you have a child, you can’t believe just how much they’ll mean to you or what you’ll do to protect them. I know what it’s like to have your children go missing. I know how Wedge felt after he saw that holo. You can’t quite get it out of your mind; it’s like something’s squeezing your heart, always.”
Han paused and glanced to the room where Leia had gone. He continued speaking urgently. “When Anakin died, Leia felt it through the Force, even though he was on the other side of the galaxy. I didn’t see it, or feel it myself, but from her reaction, I believed he was dead. I couldn’t doubt her. When Jacen went missing, just after, Leia insisted that he was still alive. In my heart I believed her, because she’s Jedi and Jedi can feel things like that. In my head…” Han shrugged. “It seemed impossible he could still be alive; the odds were too great. But when it’s your child, you have to cling to that hope they will beat the odds. I couldn’t tell Leia I thought any different. She needed that hope and so did I. I couldn’t admit out loud that I thought Jacen was dead; it would have killed that last hope. That’s all Wedge had; just hope. He’d been clinging to that hope for nearly two years. That’s all his life was after the war.”
Leia returned as Han finished speaking, carrying another holocube. It was already projecting an image as she handed it to Vesa.
“That was taken at Winter and Tycho’s fifth wedding anniversary, a couple of years before the Vong invaded,” she explained.
The holo had Wedge in the centre, lifting both girls, while Iella stood to one side. The girls had their arms twined round their father’s neck while he carried them with an arm around each. Myri was saying something, Syal and Iella were both laughing and Wedge was smiling broadly as he looked towards his wife. In this holo, his hair was dark, with just a hint of grey, and he looked younger than his years, almost boyish. The family’s happiness at that moment radiated from the still holo.
“That’s a lovely holo,” Vesa said honestly. “Thank you for showing it to me.” He looked up, fixing his red eyes on Leia’s face. “As a researcher, I should not get involved with the subjects I study. I have to be able to write objectively. But I can’t write truthfully about what those beings experienced unless I understand it myself, as best I can. This holo really helps me see General Antilles and his family as people, not just abstracts that something bad happened to. You’ve explained so much to me about how the General thought, what he’d been through, like his parents being killed. And you are speaking from your own personal experience too, using that to interpret General Antilles to me. You’ve helped me understand so much more than I might have otherwise. I’m very grateful.”
“I’m glad we can help,” Leia said quietly. “This sort of suffering should not be forgotten. We need to remember the cost of war.”
Han held out his hand for the holocube. Vesa passed it to him, and Han looked at the holo for a few moments.
“Wedge mutinied on me once,” he said thoughtfully. At Vesa’s gasp, he looked up and half-smiled. “It was when we were hunting for Warlord Zsinj, back when the New Republic really was new. I was a general, in command of a fleet; Wedge was a commander in charge of four fighter squadrons. We didn’t seem to be getting far against Zsinj and I was starting to wonder what in Kessel I was doing, being a general. Wedge knew everyone was getting stressed, so he started a ‘no décor’ evening. No-one wore any insignia, all ranks mingled and played. Only routine duty was done. Everyone else drank, played sabacc, danced, partied, whatever. It lasted a whole day. It did wonders for morale.”
Han set the holocube on the table next to Vesa’s recorder. “I haven’t thought about that day in years. It’s good to remember Wedge like that.”
Leia nodded. “He was serious about being a good officer, but he had a tremendous sense of fun as well. I guess that knowing him as we did, before the war, is what makes it so hard to remember him as he became afterwards.”
“You saw that other holo,” Han said. “The one where you thought he was older than Tycho. All those months of not knowing what had happened to his family slowly crushed the heart out of him. Then eventually there were two blows, right after one another.”
“First he learned that Iella was dead – that hope was gone. A few days later it was Syal,” Leia said. “Two-thirds of his family confirmed dead in such a short time. He’d been waiting and hoping for so long, and then suddenly that hope for Iella and Syal was snatched away from him.”
“I met him not long before he heard about Iella,” Han said. “He was still friendly but distant somehow. It was beyond dedication; it was like his whole purpose was to find his family. There was nothing else left of Wedge. When he knew both Iella and Syal were gone, then most of his purpose, his reason for existing, was gone too.”
“What happened to Syal ?” Vesa asked.
Leia and Han looked at one another, sharing some silent conversation. It was Han who sighed, and began to answer the question.
“The military were still rounding up Vong and opening up new refugee stations across the planet. A few days after Wedge learned how Iella died, some survivors showed up at a new aid station. There were two or three of them, I forget the details. Anyway, part of the routine processing was to ask for names of anyone they knew who had died during the occupation. The group’s leader asked if General Antilles was still alive. Of course he was, then. The woman said she had to see him, to tell him about his daughters. The girls had joined up with this group very soon after the Vong invaded. They stuck together for safety. It was OK for a few months, then Syal died in an accident. Myri was with them until shortly before the Galactic Alliance took Coruscant back. The Vong were panicking then, a major sacrificial ceremony went wrong so they swept through the undercity, looking for their Shamed Ones to sacrifice. The group Myri was with got scattered, trying to avoid the warriors, and the ones who showed up eventually at the refugee station had lost track of Myri and the rest.
Of course, as soon as Wedge was notified of this, he dropped what he was doing and travelled straight to the refugee station.”
Posted: Nov 6 2011, 10:27 AM
Member No.: 178
Joined: 17-April 07
Gods, this is hard to read. So much suffering and pain.
You really feel Wedge's pain, his desparation to find his family, his spirit being slowly crushed.
I want to just cry....
So well written, CD...so insightful of a man going through hell.
Posted: Nov 6 2011, 08:32 PM
Member No.: 148
Joined: 27-June 06
Yay ! A comment !
Good to hear from you. Poor Wedge really suffers in this story. I promise I'll be kinder to him in the next one.
Posted: Nov 8 2011, 06:48 PM
Member No.: 178
Joined: 17-April 07
Gods! I hope you do treat Wedge better in the next story...he needs some TLC after this carnage; this ripping out of his soul. Hmm, how about some hot, sweaty... Oops, almost forgot this is the safe and sane lounge!
I keep hoping he'll find Myri but deep down I know that is a futile hope. Waiting to see how he handles that last hope dying.
Posted: Nov 10 2011, 08:12 PM
Member No.: 148
Joined: 27-June 06
Coruscant 29 ABY
Wedge barely registered anything about the room where he met Reda Grahl. He was so focussed on the lean, taut-nerved woman sitting opposite that he almost forgot that Winter was with him, sitting quietly nearby. Reda’s face had the pinched look of long near-starvation and even seated in a Galactic Alliance office, she was still poised ready to jump up and fight or flee at any moment.
“General Antilles…” Reda’s voice faded away as she dropped her gaze. She studied the floor for a few moments before straightening her shoulders and looking Wedge in the face again. “I’m so sorry I couldn’t bring you better news.”
Wedge desparately wanted to hear more about his daughters but the pain he felt already seemed to be stifling him. He wanted to know what it had been like for his girls during the invasion; he needed to know just how Syal had died. He didn’t know just how much more it would hurt to hear about it and whether he could bear it.
“My girls…” Wedge paused, not sure what exactly he wanted to ask.
“We found them the day after their mother died,” Reda said. “There were twelve of us already, with one other child. There was no way we could have left them to fend for themselves but they were no trouble anyway. They cried for their mother, of course, but they weren’t on their own any more. A few days after they joined us, Luce began to break down. He was saying there was no point in us trying to survive; that the New Republic was going to abandon us.
Your girls wouldn’t have it. Syal said, ‘Our daddy’s a general and he won’t leave us here. He’ll come here and bring his fleet.’ Then Myri joined in.”
Reda paused, half smiling at the memory. “Myri told us all that her daddy would bring his friends to look for us – Uncle Corran and Auntie Mirax, Uncle Tycho and Auntie Winter, Uncle Han and Auntie Leia and Uncle Luke and Auntie Mara. We didn’t realize who she meant at first. We knew the girls’ surname was Antilles, but it’s not an uncommon name, so we simply didn’t make the association. Myri went on, saying that Uncle Tycho was a soldier too, and that Corran, Leia, Mara and Luke were Jedi. I was astonished when I realized who she was talking about. Syal could see that, and she brought out her datapad and showed us some holos of her family and those aunts and uncles. I couldn’t believe these girls thought of Princess Leia Organa-Solo as an auntie, and Grand Master Luke Skywalker as an uncle. They didn’t brag about it; it was just a statement of fact that these people knew them and would be able to rescue them.”
Wedge shrugged slightly. “I first met Luke in the briefing room on Yarvin, just before we flew out to face the first Death Star. He barely even knew what the Force was then. I respect and admire him a lot, but I know him as a person, a room-mate. Not an object of awe.”
Reda nodded, her own expression slightly awe-struck as she looked at Wedge. He didn’t notice though, his thoughts still on his daughters.
“Tell me about my girls,” Wedge pleaded. “Were they frightened ? Did they get cold ? How did they manage ?”
Reda gathered her thoughts before speaking. “Everyone loved them; they helped keep our spirits up. They were very willing, always ready to help someone and to do their share of work. Keeping warm wasn’t a problem, especially not after the Vong moved Coruscant’s orbit. It got a lot wetter though. There were days on end when everything seemed damp – clothes, bedding, everything. Syal and Myri hardly ever complained though.
Syal used to say that you’d lived in worse places, like Hoth, when you were fighting the Empire. And if you could do it, then so could they, because they were at war too, against the Vong. She was very proud of being a soldier’s daughter. She said that when she was old enough, she’d be a pilot as well.”
Wedge closed his eyes as the grief rose and threatened to strangle him. While his heart ached, guilt and anger tore at him too. Guilt that he hadn’t been able to save his daughters from their nightmare, that he hadn’t evacuated them before the Vong attacked. Anger that his beautiful, brave girls had been robbed of their lives, and everything they might have done with their lives. Anger that Syal would never fulfil her dreams of soaring among the stars, as he had done. He shivered, then opened his eyes to look straight at Reda.
“Tell me… tell me how Syal died.” His voice was barely more than a whisper.
Reda took a deep breath, looking away at the wall.
“Every few days, we moved camp. We established a territory, with places we could get food, power fuel cells and make secure camps, but we never stayed in any one place for long. We were moving to a place we hadn’t been for a while, and had to cross a walkway. It was covered in some kind of creeper, one of the Vong’s plants. The creeper covered the structure of the walkway, we were pretty much wading through the stuff and got spread out a little.
The creeper had damaged the duracrete but you couldn’t see that for all the leaves. A human and a Bothan were walking ahead of Syal. The walkway took their weight, but they must have weakened it. A chunk of the walkway simply gave way under Syal as she crossed it. If she’d not been carrying a bag in her arms, she might have been able to grab some of the creepers. She did drop the bag, but…” Reda stopped and shook her head. She clasped her hands together tightly as she resumed speaking.
“Syal fell about thirty metres, down to a broad stream running along the road below. We tried to get to her as fast as we could, but we had to go back into the building we’d left, and find our way down the stairwell. It took about fifteen minutes, and when we got to ground level and outside, Syal was lying in the water, exactly where she’d fallen. I think she lost consciousness immediately. She didn’t feel anything after the fall. We couldn’t tell if it was a head injury that actually killed her, or if she’d drowned lying in the stream. I’m certain she didn’t suffer.” Reda’s voice was pleading, wanting Wedge to believe her.
Wedge simply sat and concentrated on breathing. He wanted to close his eyes and shut the galaxy out, but didn’t dare; he was sure he’d see nothing but Syal lying in a stream, water rushing over her face as she died. His imagination kept trying to push the picture into his mind as he struggled to stay in touch with reality. He started at an unexpected touch, before realizing that Winter had put a hand on his arm. The reminder of her quiet, familiar presence pulled him back from the abyss that yawned in front of him. Wedge sucked in a deep breath like a drowning man coming up for air. He managed to focus on Reda’s pinched, care-worn face again.
“Thank you.” His voice was weak. “Thank you for looking after my girls. Thank you for telling me about Syal. I’d…I’d like to talk to you again…later.”
“I understand, General,” Reda said softly. “I’m so sorry I couldn’t do more for your daughters.”
Wedge simply nodded; he couldn’t find the strength to say anything more.
Reda rose; she hesitated a moment then placed her hand briefly on his shoulder.
“Comm me when you want to talk again,” she said, and left the office.
As the door hissed shut behind her, Wedge leaned forward in his chair, covering his face with his hands. Winter pulled him to herself, murmuring sympathetically. Wedge clung to her like a frightened child, shivering spasmodically. She rubbed her hand soothingly against his back. Wedge let out a great groan, as though his galaxy had shattered into an infinity of fragments. He began to sob helplessly, brokenly. Winter continued to hold him, her holographic memory capturing his anguish. In the future, no matter how much she might wish for the memory to fade, she would always have perfect recall of Wedge’s torment as he collapsed under the weight of his grief.
This post has been edited by Corellia's Dream on Nov 10 2011, 08:13 PM
Posted: Nov 17 2011, 06:38 PM
Member No.: 148
Joined: 27-June 06
Coruscant 80 ABY
“I think Wedge might have broken down altogether if Winter hadn’t been there to look after him,” Leia said. “She called a medic and had him sedated so he would get some kind of rest and quiet. He didn’t have the will to argue, he just let her take charge. I don’t think anyone had seen Wedge so passive before.”
Leia paused before continuing.
“I got to Coruscant a couple of days later and went to see him. He was so fragile, not just physically, it was in his eyes too. Winter was staying in his quarters at the refugee station, and Wedge said it helped. He liked hearing her moving about the place. He said it would have been too empty if he’d been on his own. Of course, he kept thinking it would be Iella there with him, and then he’d remember that she was dead. It hurt every time, but he said it was better than being in a silent place, with no one around.
Mirax Horn arrived on planet with her father, Booster Terrik. Booster had been a friend of Wedge’s parents; he’d known Wedge since he was born. Mirax was much the same age as Wedge and often stayed with him and his parents while Booster was away on smuggling trips. They supported Wedge when his parents were killed and they were all as close as family.”
Han interrupted. “Corran Horn once said that Wedge was Booster’s son, while he was only Booster’s son-in-law.”
Leia nodded. “Wedge started to recover, outwardly at least. He saw Reda Grahl again once; he wanted to hear everything she could remember about Syal and Myri. She’d spoken to the commander of the station and told him that they’d hidden Syal’s body in the heat plant of one of the buildings near where she died. The group didn’t want to leave her for predators to get at, and there was no way to bury or cremate her, so they used a storage unit as a tomb for her. The commander sent out a retrieval party and they found her there still. The storage unit was dry and warm, so Syal’s body was quite well preserved. Wedge didn’t actually see her body, but he was pleased that there was something physical left of her, something he could say goodbye to.
Winter and Mirax helped Wedge to organize a memorial service for Iella and Syal. He seemed to become more focussed; I guess it was because the memorial was something he could actually do for his family, after those months of not being able to look for them or help them.” Leia glanced at Han, who nodded agreement.
“It was the only thing left he could do for them,” Han said.
“Wedge spoke about meeting Iella on Coruscant, when Rogue Squadron were there undercover,” Leia continued. “He said that pretending to be an ordinary person there, living a normal life of job and family, made him start to think about his own life as a pilot. As the years passed, and he was still flying and fighting, he felt he’d never have the love and raising a family kind of life. He missed having a family and a proper home and that side of his life became very empty.
Of course, he and Iella did get together and have a family. Wedge said it was a dream come true for him; the happiest and most fulfilling part of his whole life. Then he looked at the holos of Iella and Syal in the memorial hall, and said ‘The dream is over’.”
Leia paused there; Han took her hand.
“It sounds as though General Antilles’ friends did everything they could to help him,” Vesa said.
Han nodded. “Wedge made a point of thanking everyone at the memorial. He really did appreciate it.”
“Wedge gave up any chance of finding his family during the war by staying in the military to fight the Vong. He chose to stay where he could help other people, other families. When it was his turn to need help, no one who knew him could have refused.”
“Wedge didn’t deserve to be kicked up the arse by the universe,” Han asserted. “There were profiteers, and self-serving cowards, like the senators who commandeered fleet ships to save themselves during the fall of Coruscant, who deserved to lose the most precious things in their lives. Though they could always go out and steal more credits if they needed to; Wedge couldn’t just go out there and get replacements for Syal, Iella and Myri.”
There was a brief silence. Vesa broke it by gently asking:
“Did General Antilles ever find out what happened to Myri ?”
Han nodded, the anger fading. His face became resigned as he settled himself more comfortably.
“Wedge started looking for Myri almost as soon as the memorial was over,” Han said. “Tycho, General Celchu that is, was back on Coruscant and was assigned to help Wedge with the refugee stations. That was the official statement, anyway. Tycho was closer to Wedge than anyone else alive and they worked great as a team. Leia suggested that Tycho should be there to support Wedge; kriff knows how, but the military saw reason, and took her advice.”
“I’m glad they did,” Leia said. “Tycho and Wedge were closer than most brothers are. Tycho said afterwards that being with Wedge during those months was the hardest thing he’d ever gone through.”
“And Tycho was imprisoned by Isard, and tortured while she tried to brainwash him,” Han interrupted. “And he lost his family too, when Alderaan was destroyed. But he could get angry about those, and fight back. He said he was angry at the Vong for what they’d done to Iella and the girls, and for how it hurt Wedge. But they’d already been defeated so there was nothing more he could do then. Tycho told us how Wedge, his best friend, just got quieter and sadder as the weeks passed.
Wedge just withdrew; if he wasn’t focussed on work, particularly on searching for Myri, he hardly spoke. He wasn’t eating properly and Tycho thought he wasn’t sleeping much either. Wedge didn’t seem angry at the Vong. Tycho said that Wedge didn’t seem to care any more about how or why his family had died. He knew that Iella and Syal were dead and that was the important fact. The only thing left that mattered was finding out about Myri.”
Han’s voice trailed off and he slumped back into the sofa.
Leia looked at him anxiously, rubbing his arm. She seemed to read something in his face that Vesa couldn’t see, and nodded. She turned her attention back to the young Twi’lek and started speaking.
“It did take months to find Myri, four or five. Reda told Wedge where she’d last seen Myri, and the territory that her group had lived in. Myri had got lost just weeks before the Vong were defeated. They’d had the planet for two years, near enough. Winter couldn’t search using security cams, as she had for Iella; most had been smashed by the Vong, and virtually none had power. That sector was still being cleared out and so the only way to search was armed teams going room-by-room. Thousands of beings had died just in that area alone and the searchers found plenty of remains. There were several false alarms – human children, girls – but eventually they found Myri.
She died along with a man and a female Bith. There was a Vong plant, some kind of fungus, growing in the room they were in. It was laden with poisonous spores; if you got within a meter or so of it, the fungus released a cloud of spores. The search teams had been warned about them by refugees, so they were wearing biosuits, but Myri and her companions hadn’t been so lucky. A heavy dose of spores could kill someone of Myri’s size in a couple of minutes.” Leia paused and shook her head sadly. “I remember they said it wasn’t a pleasant death, but at least Myri didn’t suffer long. The man must have lasted a few minutes longer, and I think they said it looked as though the Bith had had it much worse. I think the hardest thing for Wedge, though, was that they found Syal’s datapad with Myri’s things. Myri had been keeping a diary on it, and the last entry was three days after the Vong were finally defeated. She survived all the way through the Vong occupation, and died, because of this fungus, just before her father got back to look for her.”
“That’s dreadful,” Vesa said. He had pulled one of his lekku over his shoulder and had been stroking it, as if to soothe himself as he listened. “So cruel, that General Antilles’ search should end that way.”
“It was,” Leia agreed. “Two years it took for Wedge discover what had happened to his family after the fall of Coruscant. He found out in the end, but it was only when, where and how Iella and the girls had died.”
Vesa said. “There are beings alive today who still don’t know what happened to family trapped on Coruscant then. In that respect, General Antilles was one of the lucky ones.”
Han sat up, scowling. “Lucky ?”
Coruscant 30 ABY
The vines and creepers had been eradicated from the outside of the building. Power had been restored and some of the apartments were being renovated. However, the rooms that had once been Wedge’s home were still as they’d been on his return to Coruscant, over six months ago. The smell of decay and neglect was stronger, but he didn’t notice. The top of the low table in the centre of the living room was the only clean spot in the house, gleaming from just having been wiped. Wedge sat on the musty sofa and stared at the three items he’d arranged on the table.
In the centre was the anniversary ring he’d given Iella, the two blue stones gleaming in a shaft of light that shone through a clear spot on the otherwise dirty windows. On either side were two, small sealed pots made in gold. The delicately engraved, shining exteriors held the grey ashes that were the only physical remains of his two daughters. They were children he’d wanted, and feared he would never have. Now they’d been taken away from him, along with their mother. Myri had almost been in his grasp, but she’d slipped through his fingers at the last moment.
Wedge couldn’t cry; he simply ached. He was the one who’d been a soldier. He’d flown against two Death Stars, fought countless battles and cheated death time and time again. Wedge was good at figures, but back around the Battle of Hoth he’d given up trying to calculate the odds of himself surviving another year. In the end, he’d been a soldier for some twenty five years and had seen combat in every one of those years. He’d survived long enough to find Iella and marry her, and to become a father. And somehow, in some twisted quirk of the universe, he was the one still alive while his wife and his children were all dead.
A beep from his comlink startled Wedge, breaking him from the reverie into which he’d fallen. He fumbled in his pocket, half-resentful of having his thoughts broken into, and switched the comlink on.
“Antilles.” His voice was dry after his long silence, and snappish.
“It’s Tycho,” came the familiar voice. “I’m sorry if I disturbed you, Wedge.”
“No, it’s OK.” As he spoke, Wedge refocussed on the tabletop.
“Good. Whereabouts are you ?”
“I’m at the old place.”
“Ah, I stopped by your quarters to see if you were in.” Tycho said. “I haven’t seen you in a couple of days. I thought maybe you needed some company.”
The words were simple but Wedge had known Tycho for almost thirty years. Even though his thoughts were mostly elsewhere, he still heard the unspoken concern and love in his friend’s words. His eyes stung, and he blinked hard.
Wedge cleared his throat. “I’m still here.” He thought for a few moments, his gaze on the items arranged on the table. “Are you still at my quarters ?”
“Just outside your door,” Tycho answered.
Wedge nodded. “Come over here, please, would you ? You remember the code, don’t you ? You can let yourself in.”
“Of course. I’ll see you in about twenty minutes, Wedge.”
“Right. Thank you, Tycho,” Wedge said. He took a deep breath. “I’m sorry I’ve…caused you so much trouble. Thank you for everything.”
“You’d do the same for me,” Tycho answered. “We’re wingmates, remember ?”
“Yes,” Wedge said quietly. “Wingmates.”
“So I’ll be on your wing in about twenty minutes.”
“’Bye,” Tycho answered.
Wedge switched off the comlink and automatically put it back in his pocket. He was glad Tycho had called; his business here was finished now. Leaning forward, he quickly touched the three things that linked him to his lost family: the ring and the two sealed jars. The people were gone. The laughter, the happiness, the love were all gone. Wedge was ready to go too.
He straightened up, military sharp, never taking his eyes from the tabletop, and picked up the blaster pistol waiting ready on the sofa beside himself. With no hesitation, Wedge lightly touched the muzzle to his temple, and pulled the trigger.
Coruscant 80 ABY
Han slumped back, shaking his head. “Sorry,” he mumbled. “I know what you meant.” He sighed. “Yes, at least Wedge got to know what happened to his family. He said he would keep on going as long as there was still hope for Myri. He was her father; the only thing that could destroy his hope of finding her alive would be proof of her death. So long as she was just missing, there was still a hope of finding her, and he’d keep searching for her. When they did find proof of her death, it took away that last thread of hope Wedge was clinging to.”
“It was Tycho who found him,” Leia said. “Wedge shot himself, in his old home. Tycho felt so guilty of course. He’d spoken to Wedge on the comlink just before going over there, but he said he didn’t realize how desparate Wedge was. Wedge sounded sad, but then it was only three days after the memorial service for Myri. I hadn’t really thought Wedge would kill himself, but…Survivor’s Guilt, you know ? He’d lived when so many others had died, right back from Biggs Darklighter getting killed in the trench on the first Death Star after Wedge had to pull out. It’s a hard burden to live with, especially for a good officer like Wedge. His family helped him cope and feel normal. Then they got killed and Wedge survived.
We’d all tried to help and comfort him. He held together through the war, while he was needed and had a duty to do. Afterwards, there was nothing left for him, just the guilt.” Leia paused and wiped a hand across her eyes. “Tycho went to visit him because he thought Wedge shouldn’t be alone; he thought Wedge needed company.”
“Wedge didn’t want help by then, or company,” Han said. “He’d wanted his family; his wife and his daughters.Those years of not knowing slowly crushed the heart out of him. And when he got his answer, it was that his family were dead. Wedge knew he’d never see them alive again, so he saw no reason to stay alive himself. I don't think he killed himself on a sudden impulse: it was a deliberate choice to die too."
Leia took in an unsteady breath and let it out slowly.
“It hurt the friends he left behind, but no one was truly angry at him for it.” she said. “Wedge had been hurt so badly. We consoled ourselves by thinking that he was at peace at last. Wedge deserved peace but there was so little of it in his life. He lost friends to war, and eventually he lost his family to war. He didn’t die in a war, but he died because of a war. That’s how the Vong war, any war, could affect a family.”
Vesa stirred himself, leaning forward to switch off the recorder.
“Thank you,” he said. “What you’ve told me is invaluable; it deserves to be recorded. I swear I’ll do my best to honour General Antilles and everyone I study for my doctorate. This is a case history about a family in war, but it’s also a story about people who were hurt and scared. People who cared about one another and who had friends who cared about them. I won’t forget that, especially when watching these recordings. Princess, General Solo, thank you for trusting me with this.”
“Just make a good job of it,” Han growled.
Vesa nodded, lekku swaying, and began to gather his things.
“I can copy those holos of Wedge to your datapad if you’d like ?” Leia offered.
“Thank you.” Vesa passed her his datapad.
There was more polite chat as the young researcher took his leave. When Vesa Lin had left the Solo’s apartment, Leia fetched cool drinks and they sat down again on the sofa. Neither said anything at first; Han and Leia sat close together, sipping the drinks. Eventually Han put his arm around Leia’s shoulders and she leaned against him.
“We did the right thing, didn’t we ?” he said quietly. “Telling him about Wedge ?”
“Yes.” Leia tilted her head up to give her husband a quick kiss. “I haven’t thought about Wedge in a while. It’s amazing how it all came back.”
Han stared across the room, brooding. “Wedge was a proper Corellian: tough and stubborn. I remember Luke once saying he couldn’t always tell through the Force how Wedge was feeling because Wedge was too strong-willed to read easily. I’d never have put Wedge down as the type to commit suicide. But I came apart after Chewie’s death,” he admitted. “After Wedge killed himself, I tried to imagine how I’d feel if you and the children had been killed.” Han shuddered. “I couldn’t think about it much; I scared myself. I think I’d have made the same choice Wedge did.”
“His family were his strength and his weakness,” Leia said. “I don’t think it was really much of a choice for him in the end. His family were his life, so why live on without them ?”
“It’s not a choice anyone should have to make,” Han answered.
He turned and wrapped both arms around Leia. They kissed, and then sat holding one another in silent gratitude that neither one had yet been forced to make that final choice.
This post has been edited by Corellia's Dream on Nov 30 2011, 10:17 AM
Posted: Nov 28 2011, 05:33 PM
Member No.: 86
Joined: 12-July 05
pheeww, took me a while to reply. Hard hard story, hard to swallow, but written oh so well. You got Wedge very well and it makes sense, brutally so. Great story, sad content.
Posted: Nov 30 2011, 09:58 AM
Member No.: 148
Joined: 27-June 06
Hi 'Rell, thanks for commenting. It is a hard story, but once I got the idea, I had to write it. I'm glad you liked it.(for a given value of *liked*)