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Posted: Nov 28 2011, 10:47 PM
Member No.: 148
Joined: 27-June 06
Wedge Antilles saluted crisply, then sat down at Admiral Ackbar’s gesture. The Mon Calamari’s office was humid, as usual, but Wedge didn’t mind. He was just grateful to be back somewhere safe and familiar after the weeks of his enforced stay with Ysanne Isard, and the subsequent quarantine on the Lusankya.
“It is good to see you again, General Antilles,” Ackbar said, his mouth opening in imitation of a human smile.
“I’m glad to be back,” Wedge replied. “And looking forward to getting back to work and flying again.”
“Rogue Squadron is under strength, of course,” Ackbar said.
Wedge nodded, sobered by the reminder of the three pilots lost at Distna.
“Nawara has already produced a list of possible pilot candidates, and Tycho and I have just started looking through them.”
“Good.” Ackbar nodded. “That kind of dedication is what I have come to expect from you, General.”
Wedge frowned slightly; something in the admiral’s tone warned him that although the praise was sincere, there was a catch involved somewhere.
“What do you have in mind next for Rogue Squadron ?” he asked.
Ackbar shifted position in his chair. “The New Republic has achieved a great deal in the last year or so; defeating Thrawn and now of course, Ysanne Isard and Admiral Krennel are dead. These victories have come at a great cost, as in all wars. Millions of beings have died, cities have been destroyed and economies strained but the fighting isn’t over yet.”
“Krennel wasn’t the only warlord out there,” Wedge said. “I’ve heard that there are negotiations underway with one or two, but I wouldn’t be surprised if others were thinking of joining the remains of the Empire. They’d rather go back to being part of the Empire than join us or fight us alone.”
Ackbar inclined his head. “The Provisional Council have reached the same conclusion. However, while we are looking at the larger holo, the average being-on-the-street is mainly concerned with their own immediate interests. To them, more fighting means more taxes, more disruption, more loss of life.”
“It’s hard to be concerned about people halfway across the galaxy when your own family is going short of food because there aren’t enough freighters to import even the basics,” Wedge admitted.
“Quite. In light of this issue, the Provisional Council feels that it is necessary to increase popular sympathy for our military, to have them seen not just as anonymous soldiers who kill and cause destruction, but as individuals they can identify with.”
Wedge’s heart sank. “Do you want me to do another propaganda tour ? I’m sure you could find somebody else for that. I’m much more use to the New Republic in an X-wing than I am giving speeches.” He struggled not to sound as though he were pleading too hard.
Ackbar shook his head. “Not a propaganda tour, no. You are correct in saying that we cannot afford to spare you from military duties for months at a time. What was needed was a way to make Rogue Squadron visible to as many beings as possible over a relatively short space of time. After some debate, the Provisional Council has agreed upon a solution.” He paused for a moment, circling one amber eye forwards to focus more fully on Wedge. “Believe me, Wedge, this was not my idea. However, I could not think of a better alternative, and I agree with the rest of the Council on the necessity for increasing public support for our military.”
Wedge stared across the desk at the admiral, feeling like a trapped herd-beast.
Ackbar made a gesture indicating helplessness. “Have you heard of a holoshow called ‘Dancing With The Stars ?”
Wedge merely blinked at first, feeling as though someone had hit him with a stun beam. After a few moments, the words sank in and he felt icy cold.
“’Dancing With The Stars’ ?” he croaked. “You’re not serious !” For a wild moment Wedge thought that maybe Wes Janson had somehow convinced Admiral Ackbar to play an enormous prank on him.
“I’m afraid so,” Ackbar answered. “It is an immensely popular programme, syndicated across the galaxy. Apparently the public become very involved with the people appearing, even if they have never heard of them before. Your squadron’s participation on the show would increase public sympathy for you, and by extension, the military in general.”
Wedge shook his head vigorously. “Admiral, I’m a soldier, not a performer ! How can the prestige of the military be increased by having us dress up in sparkly clothes and humiliate ourselves on a dance show ?”
“According to the PR people, having Rogue Squadron take part in a popular show will enable citizens to get behind the scenes of the military, so to speak, by witnessing you acting as yourselves, rather than pilots. The military will feel less remote to them.”
“But ‘Dancing With The Stars’ ?” Wedge turned his hands palm up in a pleading gesture. “Why not a behind the scenes holodoc ?”
“I thought of suggesting that myself,” Ackbar said. “However, having a holocam crew attached to one of our elite units poses too much of a risk to operational security. I was finally persuaded to agree to the dancing show by an argument I think you will understand, General.”
Wedge slumped back in his chair, feeling defeated. “What’s that ?”
“The audience for the show vote on who they wish to continue to the next round. Their votes raise money. A deal has been agreed that some of the money will go to the company producing the show, some will go to charity, and nearly half will go directly to the New Republic military. In the space of a few weeks, Rogue Squadron could raise millions of credits. You know yourself how the recent wars have depleted our fighting capacity. You and your squadron could make a real difference to our ability to rearm ourselves.”
Wedge gave the admiral a wounded look. “How much would the public pay to see me shoot myself on live holo ? It would be much less painful for me and I’d prefer it.”
“I’m sorry, Wedge, but I will not give you permission to kill yourself.” Ackbar smiled. “All I can offer by way of commiseration is that you will be the one to tell your pilots of your new assignment. You may get some consolation from seeing their reactions.”
Wedge managed a small smile. “That may be the only thing I have look forward to in the next few weeks.”
Posted: Dec 15 2011, 11:35 PM
Member No.: 148
Joined: 27-June 06
Wedge held the shirt up and stared at it critically. It could have been worse, he admitted to himself; the fabric was red, with a shimmer to it, but at least it wasn’t pink. He slipped it on and fastened it up, realizing with some dismay that the top two buttons he had expected were absent, leaving a few inches of his chest exposed. Straightening up, Wedge stared at himself in the long mirror of his dressing room.
His immediate reaction was a self-conscious flush. Wedge’s usual style was for slim-fitting trouser legs, after Mirax had once rather bluntly pointed out that loose, baggy styles made him look even shorter than he was. Normally, however, he’d be wearing a tunic or loose jacket that covered his hips. The black dance trousers he’d been given were not only almost skin tight, but the shirt tucked in at the high waist, giving him the uncomfortable feeling of having too much on display in areas that were usually concealed from public gaze.
Turning sideways, Wedge saw the way the black fabric clung to the curves of his ass, and felt faintly grateful that his mother would never see him dressed like this. Turning and looking up didn’t help much, as he became acutely aware of dark chest hairs visible at the opening of his shirt front.
Wedge told himself firmly that he wore far less in the gym, or in a swimming pool. It didn’t seem to help though. In his mind, sports clothes were functional, and were even skimpy as part of their function. He supposed that the skin-tight trousers and red, open-fronted shirt were designed for a particular function too. However, although the dance costume did its job well, the end result was that Wedge felt that he looked like a model in a dubious holo-mag. And very soon he would have to go display himself like this to an audience of billions.
Taking a deep breath, Wedge turned and headed for the further horrors of hair and make-up.
“This is worse than waiting for the shields to go down at Endor,” muttered Tycho.
The words jolted Wedge from his self-absorbed, silent terror. He, Tycho and Hobbie were standing immediately backstage of the holostudio, awaiting the cue for their entrance. Here, the walls were black, cables were visible and the whole atmosphere was distinctly functional. Noise and bright lights intruded from the studio just beyond, but this place was their last refuge before heading into action.
In spite of his words, Tycho’s aristocratic face seemed composed. To Wedge at least, he was too composed, only his crystal blue eyes revealing his inner fear. Tycho was wearing old-fashioned formal clothes, which suited his lean, upright figure well.
Wedge forced a smile. “Look on the bright side,” he said softly. “At least you don’t have to appear dressed like an Agamari hooker.” He gestured towards himself and then Hobbie, who was wearing an outfit similar to his own, but with a shirt of shiny yellow fabric.
A brief smile blossomed on Tycho’s face. It vanished a moment later as the floor manager, a slender Bothan female, gestured to the make-up artists lurking nearby.
“Major Klivian in 30,” the Bothan warned.
The first make-up assistant swiftly patted Hobbie’s face with a pad, eliminating any flaws that had appeared since make-up time and now. Wedge closed his eyes, enduring the soft touch of another pad whisking expertly over his face as he was attended in turn. Music boomed from the studio, threatening to drown out the sound of his heart pounding as he recognised the fanfare. Wedge opened his eyes again to see Hobbie squaring his shoulders and taking a deep breath.
“And now, our final three New Republic pilots !”
The amplified voice of the host came through from the studio.
“Major Derek Klivian !”
The Bothan touched Hobbie on the shoulder and Hobbie obediently stepped forward into the blaze of lights beyond. He paused a moment, then turned and moved away from Wedge’s sight. Music and applause roared from the studio. Tycho glanced once at Wedge, then moved forward to take Hobbie’s place. Wedge moved up too.
He had the guilty feeling that he should be saying something reassuring to his wingman but he was too terrified to think of anything. Wedge concentrated fiercely, recalling their rehearsal that afternoon and his part in it. He knew he was capable of learning and applying complex parade drills, so walking down a flight of stairs and standing in a marked spot really shouldn’t be too difficult.
The Bothan raised his hand to cue Tycho. Wedge gave his friend a quick pat on the back as Tycho’s name was announced. Tycho stepped out without hesitating, turned, and walked out of sight. Wedge stepped forward, blinking slightly as he got closer to the lights of the studio. He felt faintly sick in his stomach, and wondered briefly if he would be the first contestant in the history of the show to miss his cue by vomiting at a vital moment. The applause for Tycho was louder than he expected and Wedge caught the buzz of voices in the studio. Adrenaline hit him, giving him the feeling that he was about to fly into combat. His senses suddenly came fully alert and his mind cleared to a familiar, focussed sharpness.
The Bothan raised his hand and Wedge responded with a fierce grin.
“And finally, the most decorated pilot in the New Republic, the leader of Rogue Squadron himself, General Wedge Antilles !”
Momentarily forgetting that he was dressed in skin-tight trousers and an open-necked red shirt, Wedge stepped boldly out. He paused on the small landing, turned, and focussed on the target below. There was the host, with three females lined up on the left side of the dance floor, and Hobbie and Tycho facing them. The music was drowned by the cheers, applause and whistles that greeted him. The sounds reminded Wedge of the propaganda tours he’d done for the New Republic, and he responded automatically with a smile and a wave. Walking steadily down the stairs, Wedge joined his squad mates on the dance floor and remembered to look at the host and smile. As the applause continued, Wedge breathed a silent sigh of relief.
Stage one of the mission was a success.
Posted: Dec 22 2011, 10:31 PM
Member No.: 148
Joined: 27-June 06
Wedge tuned out the voice of the host, Bobab Solis, and studied the three female professional dancers lined up opposite. He wasn’t worried about missing his cue: years of Starfleet Command meetings had taught him to listen with just enough attention to recognize and respond to his name, while appearing to be intent on what was happening in the room, no matter where his actual thoughts were wandering. Besides, right now, he was expected to be looking at the dancers. The audience would be wondering which dancers would be paired with the last three Rogues too.
There was a Rodian, one of the females who had a crest of short, upright hair along the top and back of her skull. She wore a dress apparently pieced together from scraps of a hot pink fabric that contrasted violently with her green, reptilian skin. In the middle was an elegant human woman, dressed in a pale violet two-piece outfit. She smiled at Wedge, shaking back long blonde curls over her shoulder, though her posture betrayed a hint of nerves. The third professional dancer was a petite Twi’lek, with unusual silver-grey skin. Her dress was a deep red, liberally scattered with sparkling crystals that shimmered over her curvy figure.
Wedge turned to the host, Bobab Solis, who was an older man with twinkling eyes and a professional smile. They had met backstage and at rehearsals, and so far as Wedge could tell, Solis was as genuinely nice as he appeared in holo.
“Wedge,” Solis said warmly. “You are the most decorated pilot in the New Republic and you have an outstanding record in the military. You have undertaken all kinds of difficult and dangerous missions, from liberating planets to flying into the heart of a Death Star, but how do you feel about competing in our special ‘Dancing With The Rogues’ competition ?”
“Terrified,” Wedge replied. “Obviously, every time I fly into combat I’m risking my life, but I know what I’m doing. When I’m in my X-wing, I hardly even have to think about how I want to move. I just think ‘break left’ or ‘dive’ and it happens.” He gestured as he spoke, his hands showing the movements of his fighter in space. “I’ve just never been that co-ordinated on the ground. On the dance floor, there’s a real risk I could die of embarrassment. That isn’t literally fatal, but I’ll probably wish it was.”
The studio audience laughed and Solis chuckled too, smiling and looking faintly relieved at getting a livelier answer than the awkwardness in rehearsals.
“Well, I’m sure that your skills in your fighter will translate to the dance floor,” Solis said reassuringly. “But I’m sure you are all keen to know just who it is you will be dancing with. We’ve all been waiting long enough.” He paused briefly, glancing at the glittery flimsi card in his hand. “Major Klivian, Hobbie, you will be dancing with…”
A longer pause.
“Makei Olnit !”
The Rodian’s antennae swivelled to point at Hobbie. She danced forward a couple of steps, spun gracefully and bounded across the remaining distance with her arms held out to him. Hobbie took her hands, then let go to hug her as Makei pressed herself against him. He looked both stunned and delighted. Though he was a few feet away from the pair, Wedge picked up the musky, pungent smell that all Rodians gave off. He managed to avoid wrinkling his nose and offered a silent prayer of thanks that he wouldn’t be the one training with Makei for hours at a time.
“Hobbie, are you pleased ?” asked Solis.
Hobbie’s long face lit with a broad smile. “Who wouldn’t be ?” he asked. “I’ve been given much worse missions that dancing with a beautiful female.”
“And Makei ?”
“There ith great honour in danthing with a reknowned hunter such ath this.” Like many Rodians, Makei struggled to pronounce certain sounds in Basic. There was something in her perky attitude, however, that made her accent endearing, rather than too comical.
There was laughter and applause all round for the new partners, and with a wave of Solis’ hand, Hobbie and Makei trotted off to the interview area, leaving Tycho and Wedge on the dance floor.
“And Colonel Celchu, Tycho. Your partner is…”
Wedge studied the two female dancers left. The woman looked to be nearly as tall as he was so surely…
“Alit Stree !”
The blonde woman’s face broke into a wide smile. She extended her arms and advanced on Tycho, performing a shimmying move at the same time, which made the fringes of her skimpy outfit ripple and take on a life of their own. Wedge watched her embrace Tycho, noticing that his XO looked stiffer and less comfortable than Hobbie had with his partner, then turned away as his name was called.
“General Antilles, Wedge, your professional partner is Oolni Vara !”
The dainty Twi’lek bounced forward and ran towards Wedge gracefully, her arms extended. He smiled, holding his hands towards her. In a moment, she was in front of him, her hands on his shoulders, and she jumped up. Before he knew what was happening, Wedge had an armful of beautiful Twi’lek woman, her legs wrapped around his waist. His first response was fear that he might drop her, but the firm hold of her legs on his body and the way she balanced so naturally in his arms reassured him. He entirely failed to hear what Tycho and Alit said to Solis, stunned by his situation. Oolni grinned mischieviously at him, her body shaking in a distracting manner as she giggled.
Wedge was shaken from his astonishment by glimpsing movement to his side as Tycho and Alit turned to leave the dance floor. Oolni shifted her weight and he instinctively supported her as she released her hold and dropped easily to the floor. She snugged an arm around his waist and turned to face the host.
“So, Wedge,” Solis said, laughing gently. “I think your partner is pleased to find who she will be dancing with.”
“I guess so,” Wedge replied. He looked down at Oolni, realizing that the top of her head was about level with his nose. Twi’leks were usually the same height range as humans, or taller; finding himself to be noticably taller than his partner was a novel and rather pleasant experience. “I’m happy, but I don’t know how happy she’ll be once she starts trying to teach me to dance.”
Oolni laughed. “Wedge, you could never be such a great pilot without co-ordination, good reflexes and the ability to concentrate. You have the skills you need to become a dancer.”
“Like I said, sure I can fight in an X-wing, but no one’s ever asked me to do it to music,” Wedge answered.
Solis spoke up. “Well, General, you have a week to train before your first dance. I’m sure everything will be fine and we’re all looking forward to seeing Rogue Squadron in action on the dance floor.”
Wedge nodded, looking down at Oolni and smiling. She rubbed his arm, no doubt aware of how tense his muscles were under the fabric of the vulgar red shirt.
Solis flung his arm out in a grand gesture. “Go and join the rest of your pilots, Wedge. We’ll be talking to you and Oolni again shortly.”
Wedge took Oolni’s hand to lead her away. As he turned, he saw the studio audience, all watching him, and the holocams recording his every move to broadcast it across the galaxy. Nervewracking though it was, he was aware that the audience were applauding him, wishing him the best. Oolni’s presence beside him and her confident smile fanned a faint hope that maybe this wouldn’t be too bad after all. Wedge was not a natural showoff, but something about this absurd situation appealed to the wilder, most Corellian part of himself that was mostly buried under his cool, commanding-officer exterior. This dance show was a challenge, and Wedge’s heart responded to challenges. If only he could wear his flightsuit instead of this tight outfit…
This post has been edited by Corellia's Dream on Dec 22 2011, 10:36 PM
Posted: Jan 19 2012, 10:59 PM
Member No.: 148
Joined: 27-June 06
One, hectic, week later, Wedge was back in the studio. He wanted to get the ordeal of his first dance over with, but at the same time, was immensely grateful that he wasn’t going first. Corran, and his human partner, had drawn the short straw. Wedge and the other participants were in a balcony area above the dance floor, where they could watch the others and look out over the audience. All the Rogues were crowded against the balcony rail, keen to see how Corran got. Wedge had Oolni squeezed against him on one side, and Gavin towering over them both from the other. As it was still only a matter of weeks since Asyr’s death, Wedge had told Gavin that he did not have to take part in the programme. Gavin had thought for a while, then decided he’d rather be busy, and sharing his friends’ experiences, than left alone to grieve too much.
The lighting changed, darkening briefly to a rich blue. The audience applauded and cheered as the band started playing and the lights rose and changed to yellow, to reveal Corran and his partner. Like Wedge and Oolni, they were also performing the Cha Cha Cha. Corran had a blue shirt that buttoned up decently, but was sleeveless, revealing toned arms. Corran and Zavi strode out towards one another, clapping in time with the music, circled and then took hands. Wedge watched critically as they danced: Corran didn’t make any obvious mistakes, as far as Wedge could tell, but he didn’t look as fluid and assertive as the professionals in the holos he’d watched during training.
He glanced at Oolni, who smiled reassuringly at him.
“He’s heavy-footed and your arm extensions are better,” she whispered softly.
Wedge nodded, and kept watching the dance. He wanted his pilots to do well, and certainly to not humiliate themselves. A glimpse of the judges’ desk below, reminded him that this was a competition, and like any pilot, Wedge couldn’t help wanting to win. He wouldn’t, of course, and in fact believed that Wes probably would. All the same, there was a crumb of comfort in being told that he was doing something better than one of his competitors.
Corran finished his routine to applause from the audience, and mostly kind, if indifferent remarks from the judges. Wedge suppressed a sympathetic shudder, calculated that there were three more dances before it was his turn, and promptly felt a surge of near panic. After Corran came Rhysati; although she had technically resigned from the squadron not too long before, intending to start a family, she had agreed to take part in the show, as Inyri was the only female currently flying with the Rogues. Rhysati and her human partner performed a fair waltz, though she mostly seemed to be half a beat behind her partner.
After the first two, fairly low-key dances, the studio atmosphere came to life as Wes Janson bounded cheerfully into his cha-cha-cha. In spite of his own nerves, Wedge couldn’t help grinning as Wes circled the floor, clapping and egging the audience on. He wore a glittering purple shirt, open almost to his navel, unashamedly showing off his toned, strong torso. Standing alongside his Bothan partner and still clapping in time, Wes turned a slow circle, his hips moving in a circle at each step. There was a piercing whistle from somewhere in the audience. Wedge knew he’d had flushed with embarrassment, but Wes merely grinned even wider and went into a side-to-side step.
“He’s not quite as good as you think he is,” Oolni said softly to Wedge.
He glanced down at her, surprised.
“Oh, he’s certainly coming over well to the audience,” Oolni explained. “But he’s too exuberant – keeps losing the beat – and he’s throwing away his arms, not using them properly. Gehrs will pick him up on that,” she finished, naming strictest of the four judges.
“But Wes had got potential though,” Wedge said, glancing back at the dance floor.
“So have you.” Oolni took his hand. “Come on, let’s go do some warm-up and get ready for our turn.”
Wedge swallowed nervously. He wanted to stay and watch Myn, who was next up, but he understood the necessity of a warm-up before his turn when Myn was done. Oolni had worked hard and patiently all week, to make him as good as she could, given the dubious material she had to work with. Wedge felt he owed it to her to do the best he could.
Down in the immediate backstage area, there was just enough room to dance a few steps in either direction. Wes’ routine had just finished, to wild applause from the audience. Wedge tried to shut out the noise, concentrating on Oolni. She took his hands, facing him, and smiled.
“Basic step,” she said. “One, two, three, four…”
Wedge mentally counted ‘one’ and stepped forward on ‘two’. It had taken a bit of effort to train himself to move on the second beat, instead of the first, but Oolni had been encouraging. She’d laughed at his early frustration and told him that she’d had partners who couldn’t even distinguish the beats, let alone move in time to them. At least he’d been starting accurately, even if it was on the wrong beat. Now, he rocked his weight back onto his left leg, stepped to his right and managed the quick double step of the chasse and went back onto the left leg, rocked forward onto the right, and chassed left.
After the first few steps, the pattern took over and Wedge began to relax into the rhythm. Oolni smiled at him and he smiled back. He concentrated on his partner as they ran through a spin, the sway and a drape. Wedge supported Oolni with one hand behind her shoulders as she leaned backwards over his thigh, her lekku swinging out gracefully. The close, physical contact required by the dance still didn’t feel natural to him, but Oolni’s professionalism made it easier to cope. Running his hand along her warm thigh for the first time had been an uncomfortable moment. It seemed far too intimate with someone he barely knew, but at the same time he was very aware of her as a desirable female, nestled against his body.
When Myn’s dance finished, Wedge and Oolni made their way to the dancefloor entrance, ready for their own turn. Makeup crew fussed over them briefly then retreated to the shadows.
“They’ll be running our training holorec in a minute,” Wedge said, watching a monitor to see Myn’s scores. “I don’t mind them filming the training so much, but I hate doing those pieces to the holocam.”
Oolni nodded. “You don’t like to reveal too much of yourself to strangers,” she commented sympathetically. “The personality pieces are an important part of the job though. At the beginning, it helps the audience put names to faces. If they can’t choose which performance they like best, they vote for the personality – some just vote for their favourite personality anyway.”
“I was right – Wes is going to win.”
“Not necessarily.” Oolni put her hand on his arm. “Not everyone likes the extroverts, and if Esrea makes his choreography too showy, that’ll put some people off. Some voters prefer the more modest characters, especially if they can actually dance. And being handsome doesn’t hurt at all,” she added, patting his cheek and smiling fondly at him.
Wedge realized that he’d missed Myn’s scores, and his holorec was running. In the next minute or so, he’d be walking out onto the dancefloor to perform a cha-cha-cha. His skills in an X-wing were no use to him here and his rank carried no priviliges on the dance floor. He saw himself in the holorec, speaking about his commitment to the military, in spite of the fact that he hoped that one day it would no longer be necessary. The words reminded Wedge of why he’d agreed to take part in this ridiculous affair. If he was prepared to actually die in combat to make the galaxy better, then he could surely stand potential humiliation in order to earn money for, and improve public perception of, the military.
The Bothan floor manager cued them to move forward.
“Are you ready ?” Oolni asked.
Wedge took a deep breath. “Yes.”
Posted: Feb 14 2012, 03:24 PM
Member No.: 148
Joined: 27-June 06
Well, someone's reading this, so I'll post the next part now it's done. Also working on other things, so I've been a bit slow at updating this.
You are enjoying it, aren't you ?
Posted: Feb 14 2012, 03:28 PM
Member No.: 148
Joined: 27-June 06
Out on the dance floor, Wedge did his best to ignore the applauding crowd, and set himself into his starting position. Oolni’s hand was warm in his as he stood, feet apart, right arm outstretched to her and left hand posed on his hip. He turned his head to look at her, unaware that his lithe build and natural straight posture already made him look like a dancer. Instead, Wedge felt clumsy and nervous, though Oolni’s warm smile encouraged him.
The band started their tune, and he drew Oolni towards himself. She spun gracefully as she moved, ending up draped against him, one arm around his shoulders and the other caressing his face. They leaned together, then slowly straightened up. Wedge kept his gaze locked on her dark eyes as she circled around him. He bent his knees and spun on the spot with her, concentrating hard on keeping his balance. There was a moment of silent relief at getting the first tricky move completed, but no time to relax.
Oolni stepped away, pirouetting prettily with arm held straight up. Wedge reached out for her free hand, his left arm stretching out to mirror the right. ‘Dance to your fingertips and toes’, she’d drummed into him, and Wedge did so, finishing the gesture right to the ends of his fingers. She spun back towards him, ending up facing him for the first walk.
Wedge followed Oolni as she backed away diagonally across the dance floor. For the first few steps he had the strongest urge to look down at his feet, to make sure he was getting the shuffle step right. He kept his gaze fixed on her face though, and halfway through the walk, the rhythm began to feel natural and he knew he had it right. A spin, then two basic sets with fan and the side by side walk, with her hand against the back of his red shirt, and his hand against her bare, warm skin. Concentrating hard, Wedge entirely forgot to be embarrassed by the contact.
Four steps and then move apart and turn to face one another. Step side to side, move his arms, bring his hands to the open part of his shirt in that Janson-like gesture to draw attention to his chest. Both move and turn so he was standing behind her, sway sideways from the waist and back towards her as she mirrored him. Arm gestures, then hands on her hips for a few moments before another short walk with a quick double-step.
Wedge had no sensation of time passing. There was too much to think about all at once. Remember to extend arms to the fingertips, keep your attention on your partner, walk strong, spin, drape, get all the arm movements, ballroom hold and spin, hold her hands to support and lift her for the splits drag, the side by side walk while looking to the audience and pretending to be a show-off like Wes.
There was no time to stop and think about the music; Wedge felt it subconsciously. His natural ability to spot patterns served him well as a pilot, warning him quickly of anomalies that could be threats, or alerting him to changes in the displays in his cockpit. That same ability worked for him as a dancer. The patterns of the music had rapidly hard-wired themselves into his brain, enabling him to follow the rhythms without effort.
Oolni spun out and away, her skirt and lekku flying out as she moved. Wedge reeled her back in, then hand behind her back and the final drape, his other hand on her exposed thigh. The music finished and Wedge felt a sudden surge of relief. He beamed at Oolni as he lifted her upright. She was smiling too, as she threw her arms around her neck. They hugged, and when Oolni released him, Wedge became aware of the audience applauding and cheering. He blushed, suddenly self-conscious again now the need to concentrate was over. Oolni smiled and took his hand, leading him to where Solis waited by the judges’ desk.
Discreet nudges from Oolni reminded him of where he was supposed to stand. Still out of breath, from anxiety as much as from the effort, Wedge stood with his arm around Oolni’s slim shoulders and smiled at the host in sheer relief.
“Look at the response,” Solis said warmly, gesturing at the applauding crowd.
Wedge did look round at them, amazed at the response and a little giddy now the worst was over. He spotted Mirax in the front row, looking proud and thrilled, and waved at her. Oolni’s arm tightened on his waist and brought his attention back to the host, who was now speaking to the judges. The knot of fear in his guts tightened again as he waited for their verdicts.
The first to speak was the head judge, Arjona, a middle-aged woman who had choreographed major stage shows. Large, dark eyes flashed at Wedge as she smiled at him.
“Wedge, you’re Rogue Leader and I was hoping to see you leading your lady tonight – and you did !” Arjona leaned forward over the desk as the audience cheered and applauded again. “I liked it, I liked the mix of steps; a bit of basic, a bit of razzmatazz. It was a little bit mechanical – you need to loosen up, but it was good. And you looked good,” she added flirtatously.
Wedge smiled rather self-consciously and glanced down at Oolni, who smiled reassuringly. Her eyes were bright and she looked happy, which made Wedge feel better.
“And Finja, what did you think ?” Solis asked the Twi’lek judge.
The blue-skinned female looked at Wedge appreciately.
“Wedge, I think you’re wasted tucked away in the cockpit of an X-wing because you have such potential on the dance floor and you look so good on it.” She made a fluid gesture with one hand. “I loved how focussed you were, your arm placement was good and you did try for the sexy, seductive look. I don’t think it comes naturally to you – not that you’re not sexy !” she explained, giggling at herself. “You are ! I mean it doesn’t come naturally to you to act as though you are. It’s part of your charm, but as a dancer, you have to believe in yourself. It will come in time,” she finished.
Wedge nodded, wanting to believe her, but not convinced he would ever be confident enough to strut around like Wes.
“Thank you, Finja. Now, Jago.” Solis gestured to the man sitting nearest to them.
Jago was already giving Wedge exaggerated sultry looks from blue eyes. Wedge wished frantically that he’d done more research on the judges beforehand. He held no prejudice against anyone with a sexual preference different to his own, but he felt like he’d been thrown into a mission without sufficient intelligence on the enemy. He just hadn’t been prepared to be openly ogled by another man and he was suddenly rather too aware of the tight trousers he wore.
The audience was laughing already; they were clearly aware of Jago’s taste and had been expecting this.
“Wedge, Wedge, Wedge…” Jago leaned further across the desk with each repetition of the name, almost licking his lips as he gazed at the pilot.
Wedge suddenly realized that Jago was playing up to an expected role and laughed rather nervously. He wondered how Jago had acted towards Wes, and suspected that Wes had handled it rather better.
“That was a very fit dance,” Jago drawled, signalling desire with his eyes. “A very muscular, masculine performance.” He paused, letting the audience relish his words. “Arjona is right,” he said, momentarily turning serious. “It could be more sinuous,” he drew out the last word, rising from his seat to stroke his hands down his sides as he swayed his body to indicate what he meant. “Especially on the crotch – I mean hips,” he mock-corrected himself, and gave Wedge a meaningful smile as the audience laughed. “But a good debut. You have excellent timing.” Jago sat down again.
Wedge let out a quiet breath of relief, but it only lasted a moment, as Solis called upon the last, and famously most critical of the judges. Gehrs flicked his ears backwards, his tan fur rippling. He was a Bothan in early middle-age, a former professional dancer who had moved into teaching and choreographing musical stars. White teeth showed in a grim smile as he started to speak.
“For me it was too placed, too clean, too straight.” He raised his voice slightly as the audience began their ritual booing. “I felt you were marching the steps, rather than dancing them and it lacked any real forward and back hip action.”
Wedge felt his heart sink. He knew it, he’d been right all along. The other judges had been nice because they didn’t want to hurt his feelings, or humiliate him, especially on the first show. Gehrs was giving his real, professional opinion, and that opinion was that Wedge was no dancer. He hardly noticed Oolni squeezing his waist and looking anxiously at him.
Jago came to Wedge’s defence, shouting, ‘Rubbish, that was an excellent debut,” and gesturing excitedly at Gehrs.
The Bothan’s fur rippled in annoyance but any answer was beaten by Arjona joining in.
“I thought that was Gehrs being nice,” she said, winking at Wedge before turning to her fellow judge. “I was expecting much worse from you. You’re a nasty piece of work,” she said, teasing.
Gehrs looked as though he didn’t know whether to be offended or flattered.
“Excuse me, we do have a show to do,” Solis said dryly, bringing them back on track. The older man turned to Wedge and Oolni, giving her a comforting pat on the arm. “They all loved you,” he said, gesturing to the audince. “And I loved you. We all loved you. Now go and talk to Tesa.” He smoothly and expertly sent them on to the co-host, keeping the show going at the proper pace.
Wedge and Oolni trotted up the stairs to the balcony where they’d waited earlier. Here, they were greeted by the co-host, a tall woman with brilliant red hair that shimmered with gold highlights. Tesa was nearly ten centimeters taller than Wedge, even before she put her high-heeled shoes on; he was used to others being taller than he was, but not many women were so much taller. Being loomed over by a glamorous woman, stylish and beautiful, didn’t do much to help his bruised ego.
“Well, Wedge,” Tesa greeted him with a broad smile. “Your first dance ! Did you enjoy it ?” She held a sparkly microphone towards him.
“I…I don’t know,” Wedge answered, feeling inadequate. “It’s all a bit of a blur.” He shook his head. “I can’t remember the last time I was so nervous.”
Oolni hugged him. “Wedge has the potential to be a great dancer, but the strutting just doesn’t come naturally to him,” she explained. “He’s the most famous pilot in the galaxy but he’s so sweet and modest; he’s a real gentleman, and a dancer has to be ungentlemanly and immodest in some ways to carry the performance.”
Wedge felt awkward at her comments but couldn’t help smiling. “I guess that’s why Wes comes over so well when he dances. There’s not a modest bone in his body.”
Wes, standing to one side of Tesa, lifted his arms, grinning and accepting the comment as praise, while the rest of the Rogues laughed. Wedge had just started to relax a little when Tesa announced.
“The scores are in !”
All attention was turned to the monitor. One by one, the judges pressed buttons to illuminate their scoring screens. Wedge clutched Oolni’s hand as the scores came up. Five, six, seven and seven: a total of twenty five. So far he was ahead of Corran and equal with Myn, but behind both Rhysati and Wes.
“Middle of the squad so far,” Tesa said. “But there’s six more couples to come and it could all change. Would you be upset if you were voted off this week ?”
Wedge’s first impulse was to say ‘no’. The thought of not having to dress up again, or parade himself on a dancefloor in front of billions of viewers was incredibly tempting. As he opened his mouth to speak, he saw Wes smirking at him.
“Yes, I would.” Wedge stopped short as he realized what he’d actually said. Maddeningly, he was both annoyed at Wes for taunting him, and grateful to him for provoking his fighting spirit. Even more maddening, was knowing that Wes had done it on purpose. Wedge paused a moment, trying to work out what he wanted to say. Looking down at Oolni, he said. “You’ve worked so hard to help me; I don’t want to let you down.” A feral smile spread across his face as he glanced at Wes, then turned to Tesa. “A week ago, I’d have said that getting me to be a dancer was impossible, but I’m a Rogue, and impossible is what we do best.”
The other Rogues, the professional dancers and the audience all cheered him. Wedge threw a challenging look to the holocam. He felt as though he were taking on a task as tough as getting Isard off Thyferra, and with fewer resources, but he couldn’t back down from this any more than he’d backed down from that fight. At that moment, he even felt capable of happily wearing pink sparkles if necessary.
Posted: Apr 14 2012, 08:01 PM
Member No.: 148
Joined: 27-June 06
If Wedge had thought that waiting for his first dance was bad enough, waiting to hear the results of the voting was even worse. When the main show had finished, there had been a thirty minute break for voting to take place. The contestants had gathered in the green room, either reliving their experiences on the dance floor, or sitting in silent terror. Wedge was inclined to the silent terror option but felt that he needed to talk to his squadron and offer moral support. He silently blessed Wes’s energy and enthusiasm, which managed to inject more life into the room, and even found himself relaxing a little. However, once he was back on the dance floor with everyone else, waiting for the results, the terror came back.
Background music ceased, the lights lowered and Wedge’s heartrate went up a few more notches. Each couple were highlighted with their own spotlight. Wedge was vaguely aware of the hovering holocams in the darkened part of the studio, recording the dancers’ expressions as they waited. They were quickly forgotten as he waited impatiently for Tesa to speak.
“These results are announced in no particular order,” she began, then paused. “The first couple safely through and dancing in next week’s show is…”
Wedge gripped Oolni’s hand tightly.
“Tycho and Alit !”
Wedge felt an odd mix of relief and disappointment. He applauded, along with the audience. Tycho lost his slightly frozen expression and smiled hugely as his partner hugged him. Their spotlight dimmed and silence fell as they waited for the next announcement.
Wedge had been pleased to finish fifth on the leader board, behind Wes, Rhysati, Tycho, and Ooryl and his spindly-legged Hk’kutt partner. Oolni had warned him though that the middle of the board could be the most dangerous zone. The dancers at the top already had a lead in points, and got votes for being good. The dancers at the bottom would often get sympathy votes, especially if the audience felt a judge had been unduly harsh to them.
“The second couple through to next week’s show is…”
Wedge was longing for his name to be called out. He didn’t know if it was just pride, or a real desire to dance again.
“Wes and Esrea !”
There was more applause for Wes than for Tycho, and a few whistles from the audience. Wes grinned and pumped his fist in the air. He’d finished at the top of the leader board and he was already favourite with the betting industry.
The next ones through were Inyri, who had danced a lively cha-cha; Gavin, to his evident surprise; and Myn. As the applause for Myn died down, Wedge surreptitiously wiped his palm on his trousers, and took Oolni’s hand again.
“The next couple through are…”
Wedge’s heart seemed to be beating so loudly he wondered if his microphone bud would pick it up. He abstractedly began counting heartbeats to time how long it was taking for Tesa to get to the reveal.
“Wedge and Oolni !”
Half distracted by counting, it took a couple of moments for Wedge to realize that his name had been called. His mouth dropped open, then in a split second he’d grabbed Oolni up in a hug. She was quivering with excitement as she pressed a quick kiss to his cheek. Wedge then became aware of the applause, and smiled at the audience just before their spotlight went dim. Sheltered in the low light, he grinned at Oolni.
“We did it !” he whispered.
“You did it,” she replied, her silvery grey skin looking ghostly in the light.
“We,” Wedge repeated. “You taught me.” He turned, realizing that Tesa was announcing the next couple voted through, and applauded vigorously as Hobbie’s name was announced.
Wedge watched in something of a haze as the next sets of names were called. Only when two couples were left did he start to feel other than relief. Corran and Nrin were the last two Rogues left spotlit. Corran looked both anxious and faintly annoyed. Nrin’s heavy brow ridges were drawn down into a scowl, which betrayed his nerves.
“The couple leaving the competition tonight are…”
Wedge simply couldn’t guess which pair it would be. He didn’t really want to see either of his friends eliminated. No doubt Mirax would have something to say if…
“Corran and Zavi !”
Wedge winced, then started applauding as the lights came up. Everyone else was applauding too, as Corran and his partner hugged one another. Nrin started to move towards them, but was unobtrusively restrained by his human partner who was a show veteran. Remembering the stage directions, Nrin continued to applaud as Corran and Zavi went to join Tesa near the judges’ desk.
“How do you feel ?” Oolni asked quietly.
“I don’t know,” Wedge answered. “Disappointed for Corran of course. Relieved and scared for myself.” He looked down at her. “I don’t want to be eliminated,” he said decisively. “Even if I’d said so earlier, I’d have been devastated if it had happened.”
She smiled at him. “You’re a combat pilot, Wedge. Of course you’re competitive.”
Wedge felt faintly abashed. He didn’t always admit to himself just how competitive he was, and liked to think he kept it decently hidden. Oolni had seen through him in a matter of days, and probably earlier, in fact. Her dark eyes sparkled.
“You’re allowed to be competitive here, and to think well of yourself,” she told him. “In fact, you’ll need to, to win this competition. If you can find the passion for dancing that you have for flying, you’ll win this, Wedge.”
For a few moments, forgetting the holocams, tight clothes and spangles, Wedge felt that maybe he could win this competition. Then, as the music started for Corran and Zavi’s last dance, Wedge remembered that he’d have to become a dancer, in order to win, and it suddenly seemed all rather impossible again.
Posted: Apr 18 2012, 12:30 PM
Member No.: 148
Joined: 27-June 06
The day after the show was a day off. All week, Wedge had promised himself that his reward for humiliating himself in front of billions would be a flight in his X-wing. He allowed himself the luxury of a lie-in, followed by a leisurely, cooked breakfast, but by late morning he was in the hangar, breathing in the familiar smells of warm metal and engine lubricant.
Flying through Coruscant’s busy airspace required his full attention. Once away from the planet, Wedge made a microjump to the edges of the system. He dropped from hyperspace not far from Ulabos, and orientated his fighter so he could admire the glitter of the frozen, ringed planet. Something about the sight of Ulabos had always appealed to him; the combination of beauty and cold and the glamour of its icy rings. Looking at it now, Wedge was suddenly reminded of the glitter ball that featured so prominently in Dancing With The Rogues. He smiled, and laughed aloud at the thought.
Kicking the engines up to full, Wedge swooped in at the dazzling planet. He dived into the edge of the outer ring, playing among the chunks of ice and stone. In another mood, he might have taken more risks but today, Wedge had no need to push himself. Instead, he danced his craft lightly around, rolling and diving with precise grace. Tilting the X-wing on its S-foils to slide between two huge chunks of ice, he headed back for open space.
The music of the cha-cha was in his head and Wedge wanted room to dance freely. He started to think about his dance, then decided not to. Instead, he hummed the opening bars of the music and danced from memory. The X-wing slipped sideways in space, spun slowly and flew forward with a distinct swagger. He spun, swayed and dipped, the music flowing through his head.
Dance like nobody’s watching.
Wedge couldn’t remember where he’d heard that. It was easier said than done, though there had been moments out on the dance floor when he had forgotten about the holocams. Out here, in space, there was no one watching and he could dance without inhibitions. Dancing on stage felt more like having sex in public, which had never been among his fantasies. Not even with a beautiful, Twi’lek woman.
As the music in his head finished, Wedge brought the X-wing to a smooth halt in space. He sat grinning and wondered if he could persuade the show producers to switch from ballroom dancing on the floor, to X-wing dancing in space.
Barrel-rolling slowly in place, Wedge watched the stars rolls past outside his canopy. He knew he was gifted in his reflexes, co-ordination and situational awareness. Few beings in the galaxy had fought as many battles in a starfighter as he had, and most of those were in his squadron. Wedge didn’t survive every time they fought in sims: Tycho was his equal in sheer piloting ability, and Hobbie, Wes and Corran ran him close. But to have survived so many years in an active combat role said plenty about his physical abilities.
Oolni had told him that those skills were important for dancing, too. Wedge had been surprised at how natural it felt to move with the music. Away from the glitter and the public gaze, he could assess himself more calmly. He had the abilities needed to be a good dancer – the co-ordination, musicality and fitness – what he needed to do was translate those abilities into actual skills. As he became more skilled at the technicalities, he would get more confident, and as he got more confident, he would be less self-conscious. He would be able to dance on his feet as well as he did in his X-wing. And he’d have a chance of winning this competition. Now he was in it, Wedge wanted to win.
Throwing power to the engines, Wedge rolled his X-wing onto the course to jump back to Coruscant. When he got back to his quarters, he’d watch the recording of his dance last night and try to see the faults the judges had mentioned. He could watch the other cha-cha’s too and try to learn from the mistakes made by his competitors. Wedge was eager to get down to work.