Obviously, this owes a great deal (understatement of the century candidate) to George Lucas, to James Kahn's novelization of "The Return of the Jedi", and to Michael Stackpole's "X-Wings" series of novels. All of the Rogues (except Wedge and Tycho) are mine.
No copyright infringement is intended.

The Battle of Endor

Wedge made his way into the Headquarters Frigate's main conference room to listen to the final briefing, because he wanted to hear what the wing was going to hear. He knew the plan already, of course; he had been at the first meeting when Admiral Ackbar and General Madine had taken their senior staffs over the data the Bothans had brought them and put together their strategy. So he knew what was coming up. And he'd been at the briefing for the senior operational staff, hanging out in the junior-officers-by-invitation, standing-room-only section for that one. He'd had to admire the way Mon Mothma had made the Emperor's presence sound like a godsend instead of the horrendous complication that it really was. What was Tycho's phrase, something about a meal eaten outside? This wasn't going to be one.

Sure, in some ways it was going to be easier than Yavin. For one thing, this Death Star had no armaments, so they weren't going have to dodge fire from the gun emplacements on the battle station itself. For another, there weren't any TIE fighter squadrons on board yet. For a third, they weren't going to be on the clock, their main base literally coming under the gun. For a fourth, the damned thing wasn't finished yet; its superstructure was open to space-and X-Wings-and they weren't going to have to hope that a merely human-mortal, Wedge corrected himself-pilot could drop a torp into a 2-meter hole without using the Force. They could just fly right inside the thing and head straight for the reactor.

On the other hand, oh on the other hand... Palpatine was going to be there. Wedge wasn't sure the Bothans' data could be trusted when they said there were no capital ships amongst the Death Star's usual protective force. Yes, tying up capital ships that way was costly, but losing a Death Star was costlier, as the Imperials knew. And ground based fighters would take too long to get to a battle. But whether the Bothans were right or not, Ackbar and Crix Madine both agreed that the Emperor's presence guaranteed capital ships. Star Destroyers if nothing else. Which meant squadrons, wings, of TIEs-Wedge expected Imp fighters to be falling out of the observation ports. Plus the firepower of the big boys themselves. And everything hinging on just how fast Han and his team could get that shield generator down.

No. This was not going to be easy. It was doable, but it was not going to be a romp.

He took an inconspicuous seat in the last row. He had no wish to distract anyone, or to compete with the dark man in the brand-new beige uniform with the grey cape sitting next to Madine. This was his show, not Wedge's. And he would revel in the spotlight that Wedge gladly enough relinquished to him.

The closest snub jockeys to him were a handful from 2 Wing sitting together some three or four rows down; all of his wing were across the room, sort of catty-cornered to him and talking amongst themselves, Sainsy and Kappy making Rogue unmissable even from this distance. Missing from today's briefing was Han's strike team, already in play. Wedge found himself smiling again, remembering yesterday's op brief, when across from him, in the first row, he had spotted the unmistakable, tall, hairy figure of Chewbacca and sprawled in the chair next to him a solid, dark-haired man in an off-white shirt, old black vest, and Corellian bloodstripes. Just the sight of Han still brought a smile to Wedge's face. Living stars, it's good to have him back with us. And going down to Endor, he's really back. And the smile had widened when Leia came in, forsaking the dais with the other leaders to sit next to her rescued love. Wedge had smiled again when Leia turned in her chair, her eyes finding him as though she'd been told where he was. He'd lifted his hand, but shook his head; he was staying where he was, where he belonged, with the other pilots. But he'd been gladdened, and for her most of all. The joy had come back to Leia's life, and the rekindled fire in her dark eyes warmed everyone who cared about her.

Except maybe Luke. His slim, black-clad figure had been late to yesterday's, and was missing from this briefing, too. Of course, he was with the strike team, but Wedge wondered if Leia's obvious happiness hurt the young Jedi, who loved Leia himself. Luke was too fond of Han to really grudge him anything and what Leia wanted she had to have, but Wedge figured Luke was aching inside. He'd been quiet and bothered ever since he'd rejoined the Fleet...

Mon Mothma, Ackbar, and Madine reprised their speeches from the first briefing, and then Calrissian stood and said something about the role of the fighters. Wedge missed it, because his attention was caught by 2 Wing's pilots.

"Calrissian? Who's he, anyway?"

"At the battle of Tanaab-" somebody started, but the first speaker snorted.

"Tanaab. Yeah, right."

"That's not the point," said a third voice, one Wedge recognized, a Y-Wing pilot unforgettably named Krayt. "The point is, who is he? Why's he a general?"

"Exactly. Exactly. By all the souls of Alderaan-"

"Hey, Madine knows what he's doing."

"Madine? Man, that's Solo." The first guy stepped on the second one again, the one who was in Calrissian's favor.

"Hey, Solo I can buy," said Krayt. "I mean, he was at Yavin. He's been there."

The second one tried again. "Madine knows what he's doing. He's good."

"Madine may well know what he's doing," said the first one, "but Madine didn't do this. Madine put that ground thing together, what Solo's doing. This-this is Ackbar, or somebody. And what I want to know is, what in seven sectors happened to Antilles?"

"Oh," said the second one, and Wedge realized Calrissian'd just lost his supporter. This was what he'd hoped wouldn't come up. "Hadn't looked at it from that vector."

"Yeah, well, punch it in, read it out," said Krayt. "Antilles was at the first one. The man can fly. And he's paid his dues."

"Ab-so-lute-ly," said the first one. "No doubts."

"Okay, I admit it, you got a point. I still say, this Calrissian guy, he was good at Tanaab. But it's not right, should be Antilles."

The first guy's last words had a finality to them. "Wrap it up and take it home: if this isn't Antilles's show, it should be."

They dispersed, leaving Wedge with the hope that Calrissian either hadn't thought of the problem, or had realized that he, Wedge, had been serious when he turned down the job. Did Calrissian know he'd been second choice? Or third... Ackbar had wanted Han. Well, Wedge didn't know what to do about it except make sure everyone in 1 Wing knew he was where he wanted to be. The Rogues (someday Ackbar is going to let us use that name) would understand, that would help. And if 1 Wing knew, 2 Wing would figure it out, and so would the whole Group. And anyway, what was the worst that could happen? In the hangar, a half-second delay to check if Wedge agreed. In combat, most of them, especially 2 Wing, wouldn't even register who was in overall charge of the snubs. There wouldn't be time, there sure as Sith wouldn't be the inclination. There'd just be action and reaction, and life and death. Politics wouldn't find house room.

At least this time their leader wasn't asking "what snubs could do". Wedge shook his head at the memory; he himself had figured it was impossible. Impossible but imperative, so you tried. Do, or do not; there is no try... Luke's admonition echoed in his mind. As did a much younger Luke's naively confident statement from Yavin: 'I used to bulls-eye womp rats in my T-16 back home...' At the time Wedge had wondered how many, what had Biggs called them? Tusken Raiders? had been firing laser rifles at Luke while he was shooting his varmints. Wedge smiled. In the end, it came down to trust: trust in yourself, in a farmboy, in the Force, in what his mother had always called just 'what's right.' You did what's right, and you trusted it would work out. Nobody ever said it would be easy, or bloodless. But if it was imperative, you did it, impossible or not. Every man in Rogue Squadron knew the truth of that

And so did Leia, and so did Luke. Han knew it now, too. They'd get their part done. It was up to Wedge to make sure 1 Wing was ready to do theirs when the time came.

And on that note he realized the briefing room was empty. Dead stars. Now is no time to start napping. He rose to his feet and headed for the hangar. Time to get it done.

Tycho, Sainer, and Ferris were standing near the hangar door, waiting for him. Wedge was surprised at the relief he felt over Ferris's still unhealed hand; there was one life he wasn't going to be responsible for today. Tycho and Sainer had obviously been speculating on assignments. Wedge closed his eyes briefly at that thought. Tycho was not going to be happy, but Wedge had given it a lot of thought. He turned to Ferris first.


Ferris interrupted him. "No need, Wedge. I can't. Teach me to do what they hire mechanics for." He shrugged, but Wedge knew he wasn't really so resigned. "I'll keep an eye on things from the bridge; you don't need both hands in working order for that."

"Sorry, Harl. Do me a favor? Find Rhyst. He's probably-"

Harl Ferris grinned. "In the comms center. Yeah, I'll get him." Keevan Rhyst was in love with a comms technician; Ferris always told him it was just the result of hearing that voice in his helmet all the time. Wedge refrained from commenting on the theory; it hit a little close to home.

"Tell him I mean now."

"Right, Wedge," said Ferris and took off at a trot.

"Okay," Wedge turned to Sainer. "You're taking Blue today."

"Me?" The redhead glanced at Tycho, and then back at Wedge.

"Yes. You. And listen, Sainer: I need you to keep your boys on top of Green, as close as you can." Wedge brought his hands almost together, sharply, in unconscious illustration of his point. "They may be faster, but they don't pack quite as much punch, and they're all fresh out of the shrink-wrap. You have to keep the TIEs off them-and us. You and Green are going to be our first line of cover when we make the run. You come at the Death Star only if we don't take it out."

"Wedge," the redhead protested, but it was pro forma.

"Sainsy-we can't all go after it. I know you want a piece of Palpatine, but he's not going to be there alone." Wedge ran a hand through his hair. "Sith, if it was me running his security, he wouldn't go anywhere without a couple of Super Star Destroyers at the least. Not to mention Vader. And that," he held Sainer's green eyes in a steady gaze, "means a hellpack of TIEs. The longer you keep them off us, the better our chances of taking him down. We're in it together. Blue covers Green, and you both cover Red. 2 Wing covers us. You want to feel sorry for somebody, try them."

"Or the big boys," said Tycho.

"We can hope," said Wedge. "It'd be real nice if they didn't have anything to do on their 'perimeter' except watch us have fun."

"Right, boss. Will do," said Sainer. "Can't blame me for trying."

"No. Go say goodbye to Iliana, and then get Blue briefed." Wedge and Sainer shook hands briefly, and then the redhead saluted and left.

Wedge and Tycho watched Sainer walk off in silence, and then Tycho said, "So, the general'll be Gold Leader/Red One. What'll you be, Five? And me Nine? Or on your wing?"

"No," said Wedge quietly. "Malina's Five, and Wes is Nine. You're taking Green today."

"What?" That was a surprise, Wedge could tell. And he could tell that Tycho did not want to hear it, either.

"Green Squadron. I want you leading them," said Wedge. "Rhyst is flying wing for me."

"Rhyst? For you? What about what's his name, the general? Isn't he taking the Wing?"

"No, he's taking the Group. I'm taking the Wing and leading Red. Rhyst is flying my wing. Sainer is taking Blue. And you're leading Green." Wedge was decisive, hoping, in vain he feared, that Tycho wouldn't argue with him. He was peripherally aware that Calrissian had come up nearby and was hovering, apparently unwilling to interrupt, but he couldn't just cut Tycho off. Not on this. Not Tycho.

Who was protesting for real, unlike Sainer. "They're A-Wings, Wedge."

"I know. But don't tell me you can't fly A-Wings, 'cause I'm not believing it." That even had some humor in it.

"Of course I can fly them." Tycho glared but he was only momentarily distracted. "I don't want to fly them. I want to stay with Rogue-"

"Red," said Wedge .

"Whatever." Tycho put his hand on Wedge's arm. His crystal blue eyes were anguished. "Don't send me away on this one, Wedge. Janson-"

"No." That wasn't sharp, but it was final. Wedge rubbed his hand over his chin and when he spoke, his voice was gentle. "Tycho, you're the best pilot that ever came out of Alderaan. You're the second best pilot in the wing-"

Tycho said, with resignation, "Oh, somebody's ego is in good shape."

Wedge nodded. "Yeah. That's why you'll survive flying with Green."

"Wedge," Tycho began, almost forlornly.

"Tycho, listen," said Wedge earnestly. "I need you with Green. Half those boys have never fought in the shadow of a capital ship. You know how different that is. And a Death Star.... trust me, it's bigger." His own voice, much younger, echoed in his mind: Look at the size of that thing... He collected himself, looked Tycho square in those vivid eyes. "A lot bigger, and a lot scarier." He reached out and took hold of the other man's shoulder. "Tycho, if the Bothans are right, this is not going to be, what d'you call it?, a stroll in the park. And if they're wrong about anything, anything, it's going to be like running the Maw. It'll be Sith come calling. I know you want to hit at Palpatine, I know." The shadow of shattered Alderaan was in Tycho's eyes, but Wedge had to look past that. "I do. But I meant what I told Sainer just now: everybody will be. Trust me on this, Tycho. I ran at the first one. A lot of people are going to die today so a handful of us can get to that damned thing. Anything that we can do to cut that number is something we have to do. If everything is perfect," he flung his hands out into the air, "it's going to be a mess, and no plan survives contact with the enemy. It's going to be nothing short of Sith-bred chaos. I need you with Green, boy." He paused, and then repeated softly, "I need you with Green."

"Okay. Okay," Tycho sounded mad at himself for being convinced. "Talk about overkill. You just want to hit me over the head with something?"

"Nah," said Wedge, grinning slightly. "I just told you: I need you with Green. I just pulled in every marker I had with Ackbar to hang onto the wing for this thing, I don't want it any more messed up than it has to be."

"You know, buddy," said Tycho, unsurprised, cocking his head at Wedge, "you'd have been a lot better off calling the plays with Ackbar, and drinking caff with Ferris. Someday somebody is going to have to give you a lesson on figuring odds."

"Maybe. But not today. And not you."

"True." He paused, and then put out his hand and grabbed Wedge's elbow, slapped his shoulder. Wedge returned his grip, almost hugging him but not, respecting Tycho's Alderaanian reserve. Tycho gave Wedge his eyes in a moment of unspoken emotion, and then said, "Watch yourself, boss. I'll see you for the victory celebration. I got a bottle of Whyren's Reserve, 20 years old."

"All right," said Wedge. "I'll be there." He punched Tycho's shoulder lightly, and then returned his salute. He stood and watched the Alderaanian walk off, and then turned to look at the waiting Calrissian. "General, is there something I can do for you?"

"I was going to introduce myself," said Calrissian. "We didn't really meet at the briefing."

"No, we didn't," said Wedge, who'd realized yesterday that the man didn't remember him from a year ago. As why should he? "I assume you don't object to my putting Lieutenant Celchu in command of my wing's As, General?"

"Like I'd know who'd be better? And it's Lando." He gave Wedge one of his better smiles.

That's what I've heard about, thought Wedge. Yeah, I can see where that works more often than not. "Wedge, then," he said, not falling under Lando's spell, but holding out his hand.

Lando nodded and smiled again, taking it.

"Do you want to go over what we did last time?" asked Wedge, gesturing at a table some dozen yards away and well aware of the watching eyes around the hangar. "If nothing else, I can tell you what doesn't work."

"Sounds good to me," said Lando.

"Sir?" said Tyree, materializing at Wedge's elbow.

"I'll be there," said Wedge. "Get my R2 onboard. We've got-"

"Twenty five minutes, sir," said Tyree. "At least, that's what Lieutenant Celchu just said."

"Come back in twenty minutes, then," said Wedge. "No, eighteen." He always made a pre-flight walkaround, not because he didn't trust Tyree, because in fact he did, but because it was important. First, so he could see for himself what shortcuts Tyree had had to make this time due to parts shortages or the man's mania for improvements, and second, to make sure that his pilots followed suit. Not every mech was Tyree. Not every X-Wing was "perfect".

"Right, sir," said Tyree, vanishing again.

"Captain?" That was Ellisor.

"What is it, Eri?" Wedge looked an apology at Calrissian, but the general just smiled again.

"General Calrissian's not taking an X-Wing, sir, so-"

Wedge lifted a hand and turned to the Lando. The general shrugged, and said, with a trace of apology, "No, I'm taking the Millennium Falcon." Wedge saw his own change of expression reflected in Calrissian's dark eyes. It was one thing for Calrissian to take the Falcon with Han out of commission, and under Chewie's watchful eye, but if he was flying it now, then Han must trust him. Lando's grin was a bit on the wry side, but Wedge knew they understood each other a little better. The general added, "Nunb's with me, too."

"Okay," Wedge turned to Eri Ellisor. "You and Raey suit up; Red Three and Four."

"Yes!" said Ellisor, punching the air. "Thank you, Captain." He turned and ran off; Wedge could see Raey waiting, registering the answer, happy.

"You're welcome," Wedge said to the empty air. "Just don't die on me."

"You want to tell me about Death Stars, Wedge?" said Lando after a moment, and Wedge shook off the premonition. If premonition it was, and not just track record.

It was going to be impossible. But they were going to do it, nevertheless. Because it had to be done. And they were the only ones there to do it.

But it was worse than he'd figured in his worst, most pessimistic appraisals. Because the Bothans were either traitors to the Rebellion, or sloppy. Either way, the Empire knew that the plans and the location of the Death Star had been given to the Alliance. The half-constructed battle station hung over the Sanctuary Moon like a tempting piece of fruit, and the skies around it were empty, but like so much in life, it just wasn't quite as it appeared.

Gold Group slid away from the cruisers and the rest of the fleet, heading toward the Death Star. It was bigger than Wedge remembered; he wondered briefly if this one was bigger, or if the stars showing through its superstructure made it appear so, or if he'd made the first one smaller in his mind. He checked his weapons, especially the proton torps. And then Lando asked Wedge if he could get a reading on the energy shield because Lando couldn't.

"Break off the attack! The shield's still up!" Calrissian jumped to a conclusion before Wedge could answer.

"Are you sure? I get no reading..." Wedge's voice trailed off as he realized what Calrissian had already figured out: no reading's not the same as negative reading. He was on tactical to the Wing as Lando repeated the order to the whole Group, sticking to the Millennium Falcon's side as they broke sharply and skimmed the edge of the shield's presumed location.

Three X-Wings didn't make it; Wedge registered the loss of Val and Sharl Ontar, both unable to avoid the shield and confirming its continued existence with their deaths. A pilot from Blue died as well, but the rest of the Wing managed to avoid the deadly trap.

Then the Imperial capital ships emerged from the shadow of the Sanctuary Moon, and chaos broke loose. Eri Ellisor and Evan Raey died almost at once, in a vain attempt to protect the medical frigate in the first wave of attacking TIEs. And the Bothans proved to have been wrong about more than one thing, much more. The Death Star, not impotent, opened fire, and the Liberty became dust. After which, just as he'd told Tycho, Sith came calling, took off its jacket, and settled down to stay for a while.

Ackbar took the Rebel cruisers into close combat with the Imperial ships, in order to prevent the Death Star from firing on them, and things got very confused. Although the battle plan had become free hydrogen in space with the first Imperial shot, 1 Wing kept as close as they could to Wedge's original intentions. Sainer's Blue Squadron split into individuals, keeping an eye on the Green A-Wings as long as there were enough of them to do it. Except Tycho; Sainer decided, reasonably enough, that Tycho could take care of himself and concentrated on the rest of Green. The Blue-Green pairs wrought as much havoc as they could, and as for what was left of Rogue, they went in all directions with all guns firing. Confusion was the order of the day.

Wedge lost track of the peripheries of the battle. He had all he could do to oversee his Wing, look a little out at other Rebels, keep track of enemies close enough to matter. He was almost completely occupied by the dance of death that was the Battle of Endor, with the half-sentences spoken and heard of warning and guidance and occasional praise for the kids. But in one ear he heard Lando's running conversation with Ackbar on Home-One, just as with one eye he caught sporadic glimpses of the Falcon's asymmetrical shape slicing through the chaos surrounding him, heard Calrissian pushing Ackbar to stay, to give Han time, the chance he needed to fight his way through what had to have been as big and unpleasant a surprise on the Sanctuary Moon as they had found waiting for them in orbit around it. Nobody was asking Wedge (teach me to turn down a promotion) but he agreed with Calrissian; Han would get it done, Han and Leia and Luke-you couldn't ask for a better team. They just needed more time. And Wedge was not even in the mood to withdraw while there was still a chance of victory; too many were dead. And not enough are Imperial. By Sathembi, not nearly enough.

He was doing his best to alter that. An Alliance cruiser tangled fatally with a Star Destroyer, leaving the Imp slightly vulnerable but rapidly repairing her damage. Calrissian called Wedge to follow him, and Sainer and the Green he was shepherding came with them. They dove directly down onto the Destroyer, a straight vertical descent being the hardest to defend against. Just above the deck Calrissian called for them to level out and start their attack, and the A-Wing pilot moved in, running at his ship's superior speed, the Falcon and the X-Wings grouped together behind him.

"Stay clear of those forward batteries," warned Sainer.

Wedge spotted major damage on the Destroyer's left turret. Both Sainer and Calrissian turned with him to hit the Imp there, but the Green pilot was too far out, moving too fast.

"I'm hit!" he yelled, "I'm losing power!" His young voice was strained beyond recognition.

Wedge spun his X-Wing to get a look; what he saw was deadly. "Get clear!" He ordered. "You're going to blow-"

The A-Wing never flinched; the pilot took it straight down into the Destroyer's forward batteries, silencing them. Wedge heard Sainer's voice, quiet amid the conflagration raging around them, saying "Thanks," but he didn't have time for such emotions himself.

"That opens it for us," Wedge spotted the gap in the Destroyer's defenses. "Cut over. The power reactors are just inside that docking bay."

"Follow me!" yelled Calrissian, banking the Falcon as sharply as if she were a snub fighter. Sainer closed up on Wedge and they cut in right behind the Corellian stock freighter, all three of them hitting as hard as they could, the Falcon's superior firepower matched by the proximity the much smaller fighters could achieve. Wedge cut inside the bay itself, spinning out almost as soon as he went in, lasers blasting. He wanted to save his torpedoes for the Death Star; they were going to be used. "Direct hit!" called Calrissian exultantly.

"There she goes!" Sainer was savagely joyous.

"Pull up!" yelled Wedge on top of them as he came out; Sainer was too damned close. "Pull up!"

The explosion from the forward reactors split the Destroyer's bow and blew the rest of her power sources in a serial explosion that ripped her into pieces. The shock wave rocked Wedge as he ran from it; out of the corner of one eye he saw Sainer's X-Wing spin into an Imperial communications shuttle. Both exploded. Wedge swore under his breath, but was already looking for new targets. He heard Ackbar and Calrissian in his left ear; the jamming had stopped but the shield was still up.

"It looks like General Solo's unit didn't make it," said Ackbar.

"Until they've destroyed our last ship," said Calrissian, "there's still hope."

Leia and Han won't fail us. We have to buy them time. Wedge found another target, sent it to join the Destroyer. He was suddenly in that same place he'd been in at Dantooine, at Yavin, at Hoth, at Gall, the place where they were slower and he knew where they were going. He rolled his 65 between one of Green's A-Wings and an oncoming TIE and blasted the Imperial to pieces, taking out a reconnaissance skiff with his follow-through.

"Gotta be Red Leader," said Tycho's voice in his right ear. "Three coming behind you, boss; cut left and I'll take one of 'em."

Wedge complied with the suggestion, firing over Tycho's starboard wing as he came around. Three TIEs went up in flames as oxygen contacted exploding fuel.

Then Ackbar's voice rasped in his left ear: "All fighters, commence attack on the Death Star's main reactor. The deflector shield is down. Repeat, the deflector shield is down!"

Calrissian echoed him. "I see it! We're on our way! Red group! Gold group! Blue squad!" He gave up on trying to get colors and echelons matched, and finished, "All fighters follow me!"

Most of the Alliance fighters bolted for the Death Star. They were followed by Imp TIEs, who were harassed by Rebel capital ships' fire, and by those fighters unable to join up in time. Wedge tucked in next to the Falcon, and Tycho was right next to him. Wedge could hear him as clearly as if he'd come on line with it. Green wasn't invited to the party, but we're crashing it, boss.

"Stay low until we get to the unfinished side," Wedge reminded them; Green hadn't been invited and they might have forgotten the briefing.

"Squadron of enemy fighters-" that was Fastholt from Blue, Sainer's XO on this excursion.

"Blue Wing, take your group," Calrissian still hadn't mastered echelons but nobody was being picky, "and draw the TIE fighters away."

"I'll do what I can," acknowledged Fastholt and the remaining Blues broke back towards their pursuers.

Wedge ran his eyes over his console and slapped it. "I'm getting interference," he reported. "The Death Star's jamming us, I think..." His R2 scrolled up supporting data and Wedge snarled at the Empire. That's not nearly enough.

"More fighters coming, ten o'clock-" whoever that was didn't have to say 'high', it couldn't be anything else. The Rebels were nearly scraping their bellies against the Death Star's superstructure. Wedge remembered how easy it had been for the Y-Wings at Yavin to just brush some piece of the battle station; at their speed, a brush was a collision.

As if reading Wedge's mind, Calrissian warned them about getting too close. "And there it is. Watch for the main reactor shaft."

Things were looking familiar to Wedge, which was weird in the back of his mind because not only was this Death Star not finished, but he hadn't gotten quite this close before. He shook off the not-quite-deja vu and focused on the perils of the construction materials, scaffolding, and floodlights stuck haphazardly along the length of the Trench. Just like Beggar's Canyon? I don't think so, not this time, not unless womp rats use power cranes. He spotted the channel, double-checked it, and then thumbed his radio. "I see it-the power channel. I'm going in."

"I see it, too," said Calrissian. "Here goes nothing."

Somebody whistled. "This isn't going to be easy-"

And then they were inside. The channel was about big enough for three X-Wings, or one Corellian stock freighter. It occurred to Wedge that Calrissian was going to have a hard time fitting the Falcon into this conduit if it narrowed much. He hoped that the man had thought to check that out on the blueprints, and again that the blueprints were accurate with all the machinery scattered around. He spared a quick glance over his shoulder; some twenty Rebels and maybe fifty Imps were Diving the Shaft... he could hear the capital letters now. Behind him, two X-Wings careened into the walls and were gone, a lesson for the rest.

Wedge focused ahead, on the job and the shaft. It wasn't quite as clear a shot as they'd been led to believe... surprise me. Fork-offs, feeder shafts, and tunnels lined the walls. But he felt himself smiling. He felt invincible. They were inside. Leia and Han had done their job; now he was going to do his. It was that simple, when it came down to it. Time to get it done. "Where are we going, Gold Leader?" he called, hearing himself sounding like a kid on a joyride. Some Imperial's laserbolt hit the wall above him, showering his windows with sparks like fireworks. Gotta do a whole lot better'n that, he thought, and laughed aloud.

"Lock onto the strongest power source," suggested Calrissian, "it should be the generator."

They dove on at full X-Wing speed, the faster Falcon and A-Wings limited by their positioning: there wasn't room for Calrissian to pass Wedge, and the other fighters were all behind the freighter. It became apparent to Wedge after only a few seconds that the shaft was narrowing as they got deeper.

"1 Wing, stay alert," said Wedge, "we could run out of space real fast."

Behind him, the Rebels strung out in single file, occasionally in pairs. More deja vu for Wedge, as TIE fighters behind them kept firing and Rebels, running out of room to dodge, exploded. But this time, Imps were hitting the walls nearly as often, as the shock waves from their kills buffeted them inside the narrowing channel.

"I've got a reading on a major shaft obstruction ahead," Calrissian announced with an unfamiliar tenseness in his voice.

"Just picked it up," confirmed Wedge. He whistled. "Will you make it?"

"Going to be a tight squeeze," said the general. It was. He followed Wedge through, but where the smaller T-65 leapt the obstacle like a graceful animal, Calrissian had to spin the Falcon through 360 degrees, while rising and then dropping, in order to negotiate the heat-wall. The A-Wings and the rest of the X-Wings slid through without much trouble, but the two remaining Y-Wings weren't quite nimble enough. Wedge spared a glance back at Han's beloved ship and winced; Calrissian had left a sensor dish on the wall of the shaft. It was a good thing he didn't need it.

Wedge whistled and shook his head, and then swore as his screens filled with white noise. "Black dead stars!" He thumbed on his radio. "My scope's gone!" he called, hoping it was just him.

But Calrissian was saying, "Cut speed. Some kind of power discharge causing visual interference."

Or they're jamming us, like the first one. Not that it mattered. "Switch to visual scanning."

"That's useless at these velocities," said someone, "we'll have to fly nearly blind!"

Or you can get out and walk, thought Wedge. The Imps aren't going to slow down for us. Do or do not. Even as he thought that, two blind X-Wings flying side by side hit the wall as the shaft narrowed. "Single-file it!" he hollered on tactical, and almost missed Home-One in his left ear calling for help.

"Green Leader," called Calrissian.

"Copy, Gold Leader," acknowledged Tycho.

"Split off and head back to the surface. Home-One just called for fighters and you might draw some fire off us."

"Right, Gold Leader," said Tycho and then changed to tactical. "Okay, kids, let's wake somebody up. Nail 'em for me, boss," and he and his remaining A-Wings broke into the next turning, heading for the surface, gunning into full speed. They were followed by some of the TIEs.

Ackbar was back on line. "The Death Star is turning away from the Fleet; looks like it's repositioning itself to destroy the Endor moon."

"How long before it's in position?" asked Calrissian.

"Point oh three."

"That's not enough time!" despaired Calrissian. "We're running out of time."

Wedge interrupted the command channel. "Well," he pointed out almost cheerfully, "we're running out of shaft, too." He spun his X-Wing sideways to slide through a sudden narrowing. Looking back, he saw the Falcon scrape through, leaving another piece behind. Han is going throw a fit, thought Wedge, and then concentrated on picking his way through so that the Falcon could fit where he was going. At this speed, that wasn't easy.

Behind Calrissian was one last X-Wing, Keevan Rhyst unless Wedge had lost track completely, a handful of TIEs back of him. Three more banking turns, and one TIE took out the X-Wing while another hit the wall. Now there was only Wedge and Lando. With his gunners having a clear field, Lando was able to keep the last TIEs off balance. And then, blessedly, there was the center of the battle station, the heart of the Death Star: the main reactor, out in the open and vulnerable.

Except... deja vu again. Look at the size of that thing... "It's too big, Gold Leader. My proton torpedoes won't even dent that."

"Go for the power regulator on the north tower," said Calrissian. "I'll take the main reactor. We're carrying concussion missiles-they should penetrate. Once I let them go, we won't have much time to get out of here, though."

You're telling me? An unregulated reaction... Wedge shook his head. Let's get it done. "I'm already on my way out." Wedge banked, fired his torpedoes at reach-out-and-touch-it range and, with a cry straight from the springball fields, peeled out of the shaft, accelerating with everything Tyree had ever given the T-65. Behind him, he heard the reactor blow, felt it deep in his bones. He was scatting up through the superstructure where the Falcon couldn't follow; she was much faster than he was and, with him out of her way, she could probably beat the shock wave going back the way they'd come. He couldn't, and if he tried he'd just block Calrissian's way out. He could only go as fast as he could wherever he saw the black of space and hope like madness he could fit. By the time he reached the surface he was moving almost fast enough to go lightspeed.

He spared a second for a glance behind him, and the glory that was the death of Palpatine seared itself into his brain. He didn't slow down, though, and it wasn't until he was on the other side of the Sanctuary Moon that he even realized he was still on visual. As he turned and glided around the moon to rejoin the fleet, he found himself laughing. And when he came in view of the battle, his euphoria deepened: the battle was over. Imperial ships were standing down, or running for hyperspace. It was over.

But as soon as he put that thought into words he sobered. Deja vu one more time, Antilles. He'd had that thought before. Another Death Star, an earlier victory, and yet more years of fighting. Palpatine was dead, if Palpatine was there, but the Empire wasn't embodied in Palpatine. Grand Admirals, Moffs, and Grand Moffs were out there. Imperial bureaucrats and governors. The Diktat. They were all still alive. He shook his head and determinedly pushed those thoughts away for the moment. The Empire might not be dead, there might be years of war still to come, but this was, nonetheless, a signal victory. Take a moment, Antilles, and celebrate. We won here today.

"Home-One, this is Red Leader. You got room for one more?"

"Red Leader, this is Home-One," Headquarters Frigate answered. "Welcome back. And nice work." It sounded like Rhyst's lover; the strain in her voice said she'd heard, that she was on duty said she was coping. And her words said she didn't want anything.

"Thanks," said Wedge. He flew on in silence for a few moments, and then was distracted as an A-Wing spun up to take wingman's position next to him.

"Hey, boss, nice shooting! That'll look good on your crate, two Death Stars. You can flank the rest of your kills with 'em."

"Green Leader, cut the chatter." Wedge could hear the grin in his voice.

"Yes, sir!" Tycho was laughing at him, but Wedge didn't care. He maneuvered into the docking bay, through the magnetic containment field, and set down, Tycho right behind him.

As expected, Tyree was there. He unlatched the cockpit and reached in to take Wedge's helmet. "Was that you, sir? Who got the Death Star?"

"Me and General Calrissian, yes. Confirmed; I can take credit. And fourteen, plus a Star Destroyer." He'd been reckoning up in his mind on the way back.

Tyree punched the air with more emotion than he'd shown since that day back on Verbama when they'd first met. "A good day, sir. A fine day."

"Yes, Tyree," Wedge smiled at him. "You are completely correct. A very good day. As good as they come." And for once, Wedge meant it.

Tyree looked over the X-Wing. "Any damage, sir?"

"I don't think so," said Wedge, realizing with some amazement that he really hadn't been hit. "Some shock wave damage, maybe, but handling very well up to the last. Which, by the way, thank you for that extra bit of speed. Saved my neck."

Tyree ducked his head and muttered something, and then gave Wedge a hand up out of the cockpit. Wedge dropped to the flight deck, caught the helmet Tyree dropped, and said, "Listen, Tyree: don't work on this right away. Celebrate."

"I'd rather check it out first, sir. Then I'll celebrate?"

"Whatever makes you happy makes me happy, Tyree," Wedge capitulated. "Do what you want."

"Yes, sir." Tyree smiled at him and moved back to the R2 unit.

"You're spoiled rotten, you know," said Tycho, who'd moved quietly to his shoulder.

"I know," Wedge grinned. He handed Tycho his helmet, laced his fingers together and turned them inside out, stretching and then flexing his shoulders. Tycho watched him, grinning himself. When he was done, he put out his hand and held both helmets while Tycho worked out his own kinks. "Whyren's Reserve, you said?"

"I did," agreed Tycho, more quietly. "There's a lot of names to drink to, too. I lost eight of mine. And only about half of Blue came back. What about the Rogues? Other than Val and Sharl, I mean."

"I don't know," Wedge said. "Eri and Raey are gone, and Sainsy, I saw him hit. And Rhyst, too, I think. But I lost track in that mess. Let's go find out."

"Sir?" a mech had paused in his trek across the landing bay.


"Lieutenant Sainer? He was picked up by a medshuttle after he ejected; he's on board, up in medbay." He looked pleased to have good news.

"Awoo!" said Wedge, raising his helmet jubilantly and ignoring the way Tycho pretended to step away from him. The Alderaanian was almost as happy as he was. "Thank you, corporal."

"Yes, sir. My pleasure, sir. Sir, the natives on the moon are throwing a party for the pilots and the soldiers who took down the shield. They'll want you there."

"All right!" said Tycho. "A party."

Wedge said, "After I see Sainsy, and check in the ready room."

Tycho rolled his eyes. Wedge ignored him again and headed for the pilots' ready room. Hobbie and Raelay were locked in each other's arms, clearly starting their celebration early. Wes was sitting on the table, hands cutting the air between him and a man in a black flight suit, illustrating some moment in the battle. Wedge could practically see the X-Wing and both TIEs figuring in Wes's story. Tycho leaned in and said softly, "If it was anybody but Wes I'd say he was practicing that for later use." Wedge shook his head, smiling.

Hard on Tycho's words Rom appeared from his particular corner of nowhere (one of the few traits that convinced Wedge he could have been a criminal). "All right!" he said, clapping his hands and rubbing them in anticipation. "Break it up, you two," he nudged Hobbie in the ribs, "Endor and a grateful civilian population await."

The black-clad pilot looked in their direction. "Is that them? Let's go, gentlemen, lady." He came their way. Dark eyes flicked over their flight suits and he held out a hand to Wedge. "Congratulations, Captain. That was some light show."

"Thanks," said Wedge.

"Your man, here," he gestured at Rom, "convinced me to hold the last shuttle till you got back. Everybody else is down on Endor."

"Is this us?" asked Wedge. Five, six with Sainer...

"No," Wes had joined them. "Malina got picked up by a runabout." Wedge grinned broadly on hearing that. "She ended up on the Deliverance where I make no doubt she drove them all mad."

"Ha," Rom said. "The wonder is she didn't hijack the runabout."

Seven. More than half. Though both Tycho and Sainer had flown outside the squadron, so it was really five. Better than I hoped, far better'n I expected. Wedge sighed in relief. The losses he would think about tomorrow.

"So, let's go," said Hobbie, an arm around Raelay.

"I have to check on Sainer," said Wedge.

"Captain," said the shuttle pilot, "I have several people waiting in the hangar..."

"Sainsy's bobbing in bacta, Wedge," said Rom. "He won't know were you there or not."

"I'll know," said Wedge.

"Wedge-" "Captain-" Wes and the shuttle pilot spoke simultaneously.

"Ten minutes," said Wedge.

"Well," the pilot said.

"I'll go with him," Tycho chimed in, "make sure it's only ten. We'll be there."

"Okay." The pilot capitulated. Killing an Emperor could get you that, Wedge realized. "Ten minutes."

"Come on, Wedge," Tycho headed for the door. Wedge hesitated just a moment, and then tossed his helmet down next to Tycho's and followed him out.

"I could do this without you," Wedge said after he caught up.

"Sure," agreed Tycho. "But you wouldn't have."


"You know." Tycho punched for the lift. "You'd have hung around the medbay, asking inane questions, and then, oh my, look. It's fourteen minutes." He snapped his fingers. "Too late."

The lift hissed open. They entered. Wedge punched in the code for medbay. "And you just won't let me miss a party, will you? For my own good, right?"

The Alderaanian leaned back against the wall, propping one foot against it. "Well, I could say that, I suppose." He crossed his arms. "I could say you should go to a party. I could say you should relax, celebrate every once in a while. I could say you know you'll enjoy it once you're there. I could even say that it wouldn't be good for your career to hang out with the likes of Ackbar on the command deck, or, rather, that it would be good for your career but not exactly what you want at the moment. But," he shrugged. "I'm not going to."

"Well, that's a relief," said Wedge, nearly smiling despite himself. "I would have hated to have had to listen to all that."

"Oh, I could give you the exploded version from here to the Endor Moon," said Tycho. "But, like I said, I'm not going to. Under normal circumstances, I'd say you have the right to dig yourself into any holes you want. It's a weird way to celebrate, and not what I've come to expect as Corellian standard operating procedure, but, hey. The thing is," he paused as the lift doors opened.

Wedge walked out into the corridor and turned for medbay. Tycho caught up and continued without missing a word, "this party is more for them than you. So, even if you're miserable, you gotta go, just like you got to go look at Sainsy. I just figure you hadn't thought that far ahead yet."

"You reason like an Imperial bureaucrat," said Wedge. He wasn't ready to admit Tycho was right about his intentions, but he might have been. And he was probably right about him needing to go, too.

"If you mean I'm five steps ahead of a glit runner like you," Tycho smiled, his blue eyes dancing, "you are right."

"I'm always right," said Wedge. "That's why-"

"You're the boss," nodded Tycho.

Wedge was laughing when they walked into the medbay. It was true; Sainer was already deep in bacta. From the look of him, he'd be there a couple of days at least. Wedge grimaced; he'd been in a tank once for four hours and it was all he wanted of the experience. The scar on his ribs occasionally itched, and it wouldn't have (they said) if he'd had been bacta-treated for it, but he'd swap an itch for the near-drowning, near-coma, completely out-of-control phenomenon that was a tank. Of course, it beats dying... Wedge put his hand against the tank.


Wedge turned. The medical droid, a concept that raised Wedge's internal Corellian hackles, stood there. "I'm Lieutenant Sainer's commanding officer. What's his prognosis?"

"Lieutenant Sainer should make a full recovery, sir," replied the droid. "Although his injuries were extensive, he was picked up before the magcon field failed, and thus was not exposed to vacuum long enough for irreparable damage."

"He'll fly again?" asked Tycho. Wedge didn't like medical droids, but he trusted their statements. He found it funny that Tycho, who actually liked having droids around, questioned them.

"Absolutely, sir," said the droid patiently.

"How long will he be in the tank?" asked Wedge.

"That's difficult to say with precision, sir," said the droid. "I anticipate 54 hours."

"All right. Good news." Tycho raised his wrist, tapped his chrono. "Four minutes."

"Sir?" asked the droid.

"Nothing," said Wedge. "If Lieutenant Sainer asks-"

"Wedge." Tycho sounded incredulous.

"That is unlikely, sir," the droid was more polite.

"I know. But if he does, tell him we were here."

"Yes, sir," said the droid, watching impassively as Tycho took Wedge's arm and pulled him toward the door.

"All right, all right," Wedge slapped Tycho's hand. "I'm coming." After the door slid shut behind them he said, "This is ridiculous, you know."


"They'd enjoy themselves without me."

"Maybe. But you should be there, anyway. The princess will want to see you. And Calrissian can only tell the story so many times before he loses his voice."

Wedge punched in the hangar code. "You don't know that man if you think that. He makes his living with his tongue, and it's slick and silver. He could talk a rancor out of eating him, and when it comes to spreading his own tail-"

"Whoa," said Tycho. "I think you just mixed a metaphor but I'm not sure. Spreading his tail? What does that mean?"

"Like I know? Leia uses it; I figured it was Alderaanian. She uses it about Lando, though, so who knows where she picked it up, probably from Han, and he could have gotten it anywhere."

"Whatever," Tycho shrugged. "Note, please, that I haven't asked you for the story yet."

"That has been noted," Wedge said seriously, "and is appreciated. Hey." He suddenly felt better about the celebration.


"It just occurred to me. If we get to go looking like this," Wedge tugged at his flight suit, "it can't be too formal."

"Formal? No, that'll be later. You heard that corporal; this is for grunts, runners, and snub jocks. You thought it was formal? No wonder you didn't want to go."

"Celchu, I have to tell you, as my XO you're not doing your job. How do I know these things if you don't tell me? How do I maintain my aura of omniscience?"

"That's your problem. If you're leaning on me, you're in worse trouble than I thought."

They emerged into the hangar. It was just on eleven minutes by Tycho's chrono, but Rom was sitting in the open door of the shuttle, and they made it without any recriminations. The "several people" turned out to be runners-medshuttle and runabout pilots, including the one who'd picked up Sainer. She was flustered when Wedge thanked her, protesting it was only her job, and trying to thank him in return. Eventually they settled on acknowledging that both of them had only done their duty and retired to opposite ends of the shuttle. Wedge resolutely avoided looking at her. After a couple of meaningful glances, Rom shrugged and went forward to try his own luck.

Tycho dropped into the seat across from Wedge that Rom had vacated and leaned forward, an almost conspiratorial look on his face. Wedge, secure that Tycho knew the limits, leaned forward himself.

"Look," said Tycho softly, "I know as the exec I'm supposed to be on top of everything, but-when did that happen?" He pointed with his chin toward the last row of seats, where Hobbie and Raelay had resumed where they'd left off in the ready room.

Wedge shrugged. "Today, I think."

"Ah," Tycho sat back. "God, I could sleep for a week."

"Don't look at me. You're the one who wanted to come." Wedge was too keyed up to sleep, himself. He could still feel the Death Star exploding in his bones, still see the tempestuous fires of its destruction. He felt like he might not sleep for a week. He wasn't like Wes, who was reliving the battle for two runabout pilots, he didn't want to talk about it, or need to exorcise it in any way. He wanted to hold it inside and contemplate it on his own. And, as always, Tycho knew when to be quiet.

It was hard dark when they landed. Rom, Wes, Tycho, and the others dove into the celebration as if their lives depended on it. Wedge took a moment to look around. There were trees as tall as he'd heard they got on Kashyyyk, but any night creatures had been driven silently away by the bonfires and the music. At least, Wedge figured you'd have to call it music, and you probably would have to call it singing, too. He was no expert on either, but he knew what he liked, and he didn't like this. Another reason not to overstay... But the stars were as spectacular as any he'd ever seen through an atmosphere, and the celebratory spirit was infectious. So, he'd stay a while. He exchanged greetings and congratulations with a number of orange-clad pilots. Somebody handed him a drink; it wasn't exactly Whyren's Reserve, but he'd had a lot worse in his life. Somebody else pointed him at food, and he watched the natives dancing and stared at the bonfires. Open flames both fascinated and terrified him, in the same way that speed scares children; he couldn't take his eyes off them. Then he heard his name and turned in time to see Malina shouldering her way through a group of ground soldiers, part of Han's strike team most likely. He smiled at her and, when she got close enough, pushed her chin affectionately with his fist. "Malina! Good to see you."

She returned his greeting, punching him in the ribs as she did. "Wedge. Good shooting." She showed affection like a Wookiee; he reflected that it was good thing she wasn't built like one. "You had us briefly worried," she said. "We should know better by now, I guess."

"Turnabout is fair play, Afrit," he said. "Did you know they were here?"


"People shorter than you. Hundreds of people shorter-hey!" he said as she dug her fist into his ribs. "I'll have you remember I'm your commanding officer."

She turned the jab into one of her quick, hard embraces, and pulled away again. "Damn it all, Wedge," she said, her face lit by actual joy, "we did it. We killed him."

"Palpatine? He was actually there?"

"Vader," she said, adding quickly, "Palpatine, too, though." She laughed. He couldn't remember when he'd heard her really laugh, not snort impatiently or even snicker at a joke, but just laugh. "It's done. We did it. You did it..." her voice softened and trailed off.

Their eyes met for a moment. What he saw in hers shook him. Don't go there, Antilles. Don't even think about going there. Tomorrow we'll be sober. He smiled at her, made himself speak lightly. "Yeah, it's a good start... Vader was there? And he's really dead this time?"

She was herself again. "Yeah. Skywalker saw him die. Skywalker saw them both die. It's a good day."

He nodded. Luke made it. "Raelay's around here somewhere," he said. "We came down together."

"Good," she said. "I'll find her."

"Make sure you don't trip over Hobbie," he said as she left. She waved her hand back at him dismissively. He shook his head. Hobbie would just have to watch out for himself.

A few minutes later he saw Leia. Han, too, and Chewbacca, but it was Leia he caught sight of. He pushed his way through the crowd toward them. Han, turning around to hear what somebody was saying to him, spotted Wedge. He flashed that cocky smile and gave Wedge a Corellian victory salute, which Wedge returned with fervor, and Chewbacca echoed the sentiment in a long Wookiee warcry. Leia turned to see who it was, and held her arms open. Wedge caught her in a hug that was careful of her injured arm, and she wrapped her good one around him and held him tightly for a minute. She kissed his cheek and he put her down, saying as he did, "What's this?"

"It's nothing," she dismissed it. "Wedge, we heard. I'm so proud of you."

"More lustre for the Antilles legend," drawled Han, reaching over Leia's shoulder to grasp Wedge's.

"Hey, if you hadn't gotten that shield down," said Wedge.

"Yeah, we're all heroes," responded Han, and Chewbacca rowled something about times and places for sarcasm. "Like I said," said Han aggrievedly.

"Have you seen Luke?" asked Leia.

Wedge shook his head.

"I know he's around here somewhere," Leia said, looking around. But she was shorter than Wedge, and he couldn't have spotted Luke in the crowd.

"I'll find him," he said. "When I do, I'll send him your way. Thanks again. Your timing could have been better, but-"

"Ha ha," said Han. "I'll remember that, captain. "

"Uh-oh. I've riled the general," Wedge said to Leia. "It's a good thing I don't want a promotion."

She smiled at them both, and leaned into Han's arm. "Corellians. I don't know what it is about you."

"Sure you do, Highnessness," said Han; the look that passed between them warmed everyone who was near. Wedge smiled at them as Han added, "We're irresistible."

Or so Han wanted to think, Chewbacca commented, and Han said, "Oh, enough from you, fuzzball."

"Enjoy the party," said Wedge. "We can talk later; I've got some more people to find."

"Which reminds me," said Han, "Lando keeps avoiding me. What did he do to the Falcon?"

"To the Falcon? You mean, with her?" Wedge started backing away. "He, ah, he got her out just fine, Han. No problems. In fact, I saw her on the Headquarters Frigate."

"I knew it," said Han to Leia. "I knew he was going to damage her. Didn't I say so?"

Wedge escaped. He wouldn't want to be Calrissian for the first hour or so after Han saw what the Millennium Falcon looked like.

He found Harl with Rom and a handful of Y-Wingers and shuttle pilots. He found Fastholt with the remainder of Blue and passed on congratulations and news of Sainer. He made sure he found the three survivors from Green and talked with them. And finally he found Luke.

The young black-clad Jedi looked like he'd been to hell and back, but he also looked like he was at peace with himself and the Universe. Which wasn't usual for him, and gladdened Wedge's heart. "Luke," he said, holding out his hand. "We got it done."

Luke smiled calmly back at him. "Yes. We did." His blue eyes finally had what Wedge had always heard Jedis' eyes did have, a sort of distance and serenity. He grasped Wedge's shoulder and then released him. "A great evil has gone out of the galaxy tonight, and you played a pivotal role in that. Well done, Wedge."

That was the kind of thing Wedge never knew how to answer. "We all just did what had to be done," he finally said. "That's all."

"No, Wedge," Luke shook his head. "There's no just about it. You never said you'd try; you always said you'd do. And then you did. That's the heart of the Rebellion, and it's in you. That's why we won today."

Wedge was very fond of Luke, but sometimes he was difficult to talk with. He fell back on changing the subject. "I saw Leia and Han. How did she get hurt?" It proved a bigger success than he had imagined.

"I didn't know she had been," said Luke, a brief worry on his face.

"It's not serious," said Wedge. Luke's tension dissolved as Wedge spoke, but Wedge could tell the other man had started to relax before he'd gotten the sentence said. Jedi... you're getting better at it. You really are.

"I need to go talk to her," said Luke. "And Han." Wedge could tell he knew, and accepted. He even sounded pleased. "I'll see you on the Frigate later?"

"Sure," agreed Wedge and watched Luke slide through the crowd, no pushing, no shouldering, no anything but walking where people stepped away for him, even if they had their backs to him.

Back to the Headquarters Frigate. That sounded good, now that Tycho wasn't around. He wasn't tired, exactly, but he'd had as much party as he could stand. Every conversation he'd had, every conversation he'd overheard, had the same underlying assumption to it: the Empire was dead. You'd think we could move into Imperial Center tomorrow, he thought. It's not going to be that easy. Even in its death throes, the Empire is going to need to be hacked to pieces. Tonight wasn't the time for that thought, but he couldn't keep it away any longer. So he should go where he didn't bring others down with him. He headed to the field and waited for the first shuttle to return to the Fleet. If nothing else, he could relieve some picket-flying pilot and send him down here to celebrate. From the looks of it, this was going to go on for days. Like after Yavin.... Well, let 'em enjoy it while they could. Ackbar wouldn't fall into that trap. They'd gotten this job done, but there were more waiting. A lot more. He spotted a pilot climbing inside his shuttle and waved at him. The man waited in the doorway until Wedge trotted up. "What can I do you?" he asked.

"You going back up?"

"Yeah, headed for Renascent," the pilot said. "Where you going?"

"Home-One," Wedge said with slightly questioning intonation.

"Flagship?" The man shrugged. "Sure, why not? Climb aboard, snubby." It was a friendly invitation. Everyone knew the snubs had died in dozens today, and everyone knew they'd brought down the Emperor. Today, everyone loved the snub jocks.

The End


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