Obviously, this owes a great deal (understatement of the century candidate) to George Lucas, and to Michael Stackpole's "X-Wings" -- in fact, this is a POV reworking of a scene from Rogue Squadron, except for the bookend tags with Mirax and Tycho. The dialog's his, the thoughts are mine...
No copyright infringement is intended.
Wedge had set himself to work very hard at not letting Corran Horn know how much he hated his father. He turned it into a mantra, which he recited five or six times a day, Horn’s not his father. Horn’s not his father... And he’d succeeded. He actually liked the cocky young pilot, even when he was slapping him down for, if not his own good, then the good of the squadron. But it hadn’t been easy.
When they’d first told him that Corran Horn, from Corellia, you know him? (like Corellia was all there was to the System, let alone the Sector), was applying for the squadron, he’d told himself that it might not be the same Horn. It wasn’t like it was Antilles, after all, there must be dozens of Horns on Corellia itself, hundreds in the System, thousands in the Sector... but it had been. Corran Horn had even been in Corellian Security himself, with that green and black X-Wing and that damned CorSec attitude. What had made the first week or so work at all was Wedge’s deliberate distance from what he thought of as the youngsters; things were different all over now. He wasn’t their friend and equal, he was their commander and their teacher, and their lives were in his hands. It didn’t make for intimacy, which meant it didn’t lead to chats about their pasts. He didn’t even know how much Horn, who couldn’t have been more than fourteen or fifteen himself at the time, knew about Gus Treta, and he was content to leave it at that. He’s not his father.
And he wasn’t. He was, to Wedge’s way of thinking, more flexible and less steelbound. He was a damned good pilot, too, one of the best in the squadron. Neither he nor his only competition, the Thyferran Bror Jace, could touch Tycho, of course; after nine months’ imprisonment Tycho could still take any one of the kids and two of most of them, and did so regularly in the simulator. But Horn was good, if resistant to teamwork. More than once Wedge despaired of making him believe in his gut that the squadron was no better than its worst, not its best, pilot, but slowly Horn was coming around. Someday he’d make a good section leader; if he lived long enough, Wedge wouldn’t be surprised to see him commanding his own squadron.
But all of that hard work was about to be sucked right over the event horizon. He’d watched Tycho pull Horn out of harm’s way, privately logging the kills as Tycho’s, and then he’d called Mirax. “Hi, there.”
“Wedge! What are you doing in the Cholax system?”
“Lose ships. Right. It’s good to hear you!”
“I’ll bet,” smiled Wedge. “Had your hands full, didn’t you?”
“Idiot. It’s always good to run into you.” She was laughing.
“Likewise. Do me a favor?”
“For you, Wedge, anything... almost. What?”
“Pick up my pilot? We could bring him along in the shuttle, but we don’t have so many X-Wings we can afford to lose any.”
“Sure, Wedge, can do. See you in a few?”
“Absolutely.” He’d taken the rest of the squadron through to Talasea then, knowing they’d beat Mirax there if she was going to go back for Horn and clamp his fighter to the Skate to bring him along. When he’d heard they were arriving, he came to the field as quick as he could. It wasn’t quite quick enough.
Horn and Mirax were facing each other like mortal enemies. Wedge got there in time to hear the end of Horn’s impassioned “-I’d have stayed out there.”
This is going to be some fun. “I can see you two have already met?” he startled Horn, anyway, who whirled and saluted. Wedge returned the salute.
Mirax fisted her hands on her hips just like Booster and said, “You didn’t tell me who this pilot was because you knew I’d not have transported him, right?” Her pedantic word choices were a better clue to her anger than her tone, if you knew her. And her tone was clue enough.
Wedge ignored Corran’s expression. “I suspected there might have been some friction.” He smiled at her. “How have you been, Mirax?”
“Paying for spare parts and fuel, Wedge,” she smiled back suddenly, and kissed him on the cheek. “I’ve also been collecting stories about you from all over the galaxy. Your parents would have been proud.”
Wedge nodded at her quietly. “I’d like to hope so.”
Horn had gotten the look his father had had so often. “Sir, you realize the Pulsar Skate is a ship with a well-documented history of smuggling,” he said dangerously, and also rather formally; he must be as furious as Mirax, Wedge realized, “and that Booster Terrik is one of the more notorious smugglers who ever flew out of Corellia?”
Wedge smiled, barely not laughing. Booster would have loved that description. ‘One of’, indeed. “I know all about the Skate, Lieutenant Horn,” he said. If Horn really didn’t know about the past, he needed to, and if he thought Wedge was going to hide it, he needed to be set straight on that. “I was about fifteen years old when I helped replace the fusion chamber on that starboard engine. Mirax’s father regularly used my parents’ fueling station for repairs and refueling.”
“But,” protested Horn, “Booster used to smuggle glit...”
Wedge silenced him with a single look. Horn wasn’t his father, but he wasn’t trashing Booster to Wedge. “He also helped me track down the pirates who destroyed the fueling station and killed my parents-pirates who destroyed it while fleeing Corellian Security and whom CorSec never caught.” The formality was catching, he realized; Commander Williard would have been stunned he’d gotten the whom right-those months of listening to Marcan and Rom had paid off. He’d barely managed to keep the elder Horn’s name out of that. He also refrained from saying he’d run glit once or twice himself.; it wouldn’t have the right effect on Horn’s son.
“And that makes it all right?” Horn said with that righteous simplicity he had.
Wedge pitied him for a moment; everything was so black and white for him. “No, Lieutenant,” he said, almost gently, “it just puts things in perspective.” He hugged Mirax’s shoulders. “Mirax isn’t her father. Ever since he retired, she’s been running a lot of supplies for the Alliance.” He gave Mirax a stare, too. “And Corran isn’t his father, either.” He willed her to see how important it was to him. “If he’d not made some last-minute adjustments to the course we were taking, we’d not have ended up in the Cholax system to save you.” That had been totally inadvertent on Horn’s part, but Mirax would have to acknowledge it.
Mirax’s eyes flared for a minute as she realized what he was doing, and then she looked down. “You’re right, Wedge,” she admitted. “I’m still bleeding off the stress of being jumped like that. The Black Asp came out of hyperspace right on my exit vector and gravved me in place. Someone sold me out.”
Horn snorted. “No honor among thieves.”
Wedge frowned at him. Damp it down, Horn, can’t you? “More like Imperial credits buying more loyalty than the promise of Alliance credits.”
Mirax shrugged, gave him a sideways glance with laughter in her eyes. “Some of us find those promises more... safe than letting the Empire get their hooks into us.” She half-smiled at Wedge, and then, and extended a hand to Horn. “I want to apologize for my behavior, Lieutenant.”
Horn shook her hand. “Apology accepted, and I apologize as well. I’m still rattled after getting fired on by a cruiser. My R2 is down and I’m a bit worried...”
She smiled at him; Wedge saw him relax. Interesting...
“I understand,” said Mirax. “If I can help?”
“I appreciate the offer.” Horn looked at Wedge. “I should probably see to getting the X-Wing unloaded and Whistler’s getting repaired.”
“In a minute, Lieutenant, I want to speak with you first.” Wedge had already talked with the rest of the squadron; Horn would be harder on himself than anyone, though. But first.... “Mirax, do you know where your shipment was going?”
She shook her head. “I was supposed to rendezvous with a ship for transfer, or coordinates.” She shrugged, knowing what was in his mind. “According to the manifest, it was a lot of basic stuff for setting up a base. You could probably use most of it here,” she offered.
“I don’t doubt it,” Wedge agreed. He sighed briefly and then pulled out his commlink. “Antilles to Emtrey.”
“Emtrey here, sir,” said the fussy voice of the protocol droid. “I’ve been trying to reach you since we landed-”
Wedge looked starward for strength and cut the droid off. After he’d arranged for the droid to see to keeping the shipment if they could manage it, he cut off and buried the commlink deep in his pocket. Sorry, didn’t hear you... He shook his head and said, “Tycho said he didn’t have any trouble with the droid on the trip out here, but why not I can’t imagine.”
Mirax raised an eyebrow at him in an expression that was pure Terrik. “So you send him out here to talk to me?”
“Believe me, he’s not the worst protocol droid on our side, not by a long shot. Just give him the datacard, retreat to the Skate, and threaten to shoot him if he comes aboard.” Wedge winked at her.
“Make sure you shoot twice,” Horn offered.
“I’ll remember that, Lieutenant,” Mirax said, and then looked at Wedge, sighing a smuggler’s sigh. “Wouldn’t it be easier if I just downloaded the manifest to your central computer?”
Wedge couldn’t help but wince. “Right now, he is our central computer.”
Mirax laughed at him. “True, this isn’t exactly Coruscant Rimward. It makes the Outlier Worlds look civilized.”
“I’m glad you understand,” said Wedge pointedly, and then gave her the sketchy salute he’d been giving her since Gall. “We’ll talk more later, Mirax.” She nodded at him. “Lieutenant, if you’ll follow me.”
They walked off through Talasea’s swirling mists. “You wanted to say something to me, sir?” asked Horn. He looked like he had about a dozen things on his mind. Wedge intended to address only one of them if he could get away with it. However, as Horn’s CO he might have to do more than he wanted. Teach me to accept a promotion, he thought.
“It’s never again going to be quite like that first time,” said Wedge. He smiled suddenly, remembering Booster telling him, there’s only one first time for anything, and you never, never know what it’s going to be like, no matter how many times you eavesdrop... “Taking on fighters is one thing, but fighting in the shadow of a capital ship, that’s enough to get to anyone.” He could see Horn evaluating that statement for truth, the way he did everything. He must have found some, because he relaxed.
“I appreciate the perspective, sir.”
“I also wanted to congratulate you for the way you recovered yourself out there. You were in a very difficult position and you got yourself out of it very handily.”
Horn demurred, “It was more luck than anything else, sir. If that second blast had caught me square on, I would have been on that Interdictor and Talasea would be under assault.”
Learning modesty, are we? It becomes you, even if you don’t mean it. Let’s reinforce it. “Call it what you like, Mr. Horn, you did well,” Wedge repeated his praise. “Getting those two interceptors after your systems were down was very impressive.”
“As I told Captain Celchu, he did the hard part, I just pulled the trigger. If they’d broken his lock, I would never have hit them.”
That is true enough.
“Which brings up a question, sir?” said Horn, halting.
“Yes?” responded Wedge; thinking about Tycho’s wasted skills, he got broadsided by Horn’s question.
“Captain Celchu was able to get a torpedo lock on those two interceptors. Why didn’t he shoot them himself?”
It was a perfectly reasonable question. Wedge wasn’t sure why he had no answer prepared; that Tycho was never supposed to be anywhere around combat wasn’t a good enough explanation, because Wedge knew as well as anyone how often ‘supposed to’ crashed and burned against ‘is’. Worse, he could see suspicion in Horn’s green eyes as he hesitated. “The Forbidden is being modified for training purposes to simulate the profile of an assault gunboat,” he said finally. “While it has the sensor package for concussion missiles, it doesn’t carry any. And couldn’t shoot them if it did.”
Horn pounced like a cop... which he was. “Then why didn’t he take them with his lasers? Lambda-class shuttles have lasers.”
Wedge said simply, “The Forbidden does not.” He could hear the anger and frustration in his voice but was unable to suppress them.
Corran Horn glanced down at the ground for a moment, and then said, carefully, “Commander, I saw Alliance Security escorting Captain Celchu around on Folor. He’s never had fully powered weapons on his Z-95 Headhunter, and you’re telling me his shuttle had the lasers removed despite our travel through contested sectors of the Core? What’s going on here?”
Wedge took a deep breath, and then let it out slowly. This was not good. “Have you told anyone else about the security escorts?”
Wedge interrupted him. “Lieutenant, I want you to understand two things: First,” he caught Horn’s eyes with his own and willed him to hear the truth, “I have the utmost trust and confidence in Captain Celchu. I have no reservations-none-about him, his service, his skills, or his commitment to the Alliance. Do you understand?”
“Second, the matter to which you allude is a private one, concerning Captain Celchu alone. Because of it he has agreed to have limitations placed upon himself.” Wedge could hear how stilted the words were, but that was better than raving, which was how he always sounded when he went at this topic with Ackbar or Salm. He needed to stay calm. It was important that he convince Horn. “Discussion of it is up to him, but both he and I believe bringing the issue up will only serve as a distraction to the squadron.” That’s one way of putting it.
“Does that mean I can’t ask him about it?” Horn sounded as though asking were his right.
Wedge wanted to hit him, so he crossed his arms instead. “Corran,” he said carefully, using the man’s first name to avoid any of the emotions the surname evoked as well as to try to be as convincing as possible, “you were a law-enforcement officer, so suspicion comes easily to you and trust does not. Ask yourself this question: if you could trust him to help you shoot those two interceptors, don’t you think you can trust him all the way around? He didn’t have to save you,” and most people would take that into account, “but he did, knowing full well he was as dead as you were if the interceptors turned on him.”
Horn thought for a moment, and then nodded slowly. “I see your point, sir. Doesn’t mean I may not ask, unless you order me not to, but I won’t tell anyone else about it. And if the captain refuses to answer my questions, I’ll have to let it go, I guess. He saved my life. I owe him that much, at least.”
“Good.” Wedge felt relief. The last thing Tycho needed was a single-minded CorSec pursuer on his tail. He had damned little privacy as it was. He started to walk on, but Horn stopped him.
“One more thing, sir.”
Now what? “Yes, Lieutenant?”
Horn looked over his shoulder, to where they could have seen the Pulsar Skate if they could have seen anything more than five feet away. “Back there you mentioned that Corellian Security never caught the pirates who destroyed the Gus Treta station and killed your parents. My father got that case and worked hard on it. He didn’t give up, he just didn’t have your connections on the other side of the law.”
That so? Wedge didn’t say anything.
Horn swallowed hard. “I think,” he said with some difficulty, “if my father had known about Booster Terrik helping you find them, he’d have cut him some slack and Booster wouldn’t have done time in the spice mines.”
Do you? Good thing you don’t know the whole story. Ten-to-one we’d have both done time on Kessel, and more’n five years. But, you aren’t your father... and that cost you to say. Wedge slapped Horn’s shoulder lightly and said, “Booster clearly wasn’t a Jedi. Nor was he Sithspawn. The time on Kessel got him out of the business. In a more candid moment, Mirax will probably admit the five years he spent in the dark was good for her father.” At least he’s not wanted any more, and he’s not dead, either.
The distraction worked. Horn’s eyes went sideways and down, and he said, “I doubt she and I will share many ‘candid moments’, sir.”
“Really?” Wedge said with malice aforethought. “I think you two would get along quite well together.” And chasing Mirax might pull you off Tycho’s trail.
“Our fathers openly hated each other, sir. Not the best foundation for a lasting friendship.” Horn shook his head, adding, “Besides, she’s your friend...”
“But just a friend,” said Wedge, keeping his amusement hidden. Then he added, seriously, “More like a sister, since she stayed with us when her father was on dangerous runs.” Though where he saw fit to take her would curl your hair.
Horn smiled, apparently involuntarily. “I’ll take that under advisement, sir.”
“Do that, Lieutenant. Having friends never hurts.” And if you get one or two, maybe you’ll understand trust.
Then Emtrey showed up. Wedge was able to unload him on Horn and escape. He knew he needed to tell Tycho that one ex-CorSec investigator had his nose down on the Alderaanian’s trail.
Predictably, Tycho wasn’t concerned. “He’s nosy,” he shrugged, “but he can’t find out anything that isn’t on record. Somewhere.”
“Tycho,” Wedge pushed stuff off the corner of the crate Tycho was using for a table and sat down. “It may be on the record, but here I’m the only one who knows anything.”
“Well, and my watchdogs,” grinned Tycho. “Who are a little giveaway in themselves.”
“The squadron doesn’t come down this way,” pointed out Wedge.
And Tycho riposted, “Another oddness. I mean, the XO only shows up to beat their brains out in the simulator?” He laughed. “It was bound to be this way. They don’t know me from the captain of the Katana.”
“They know you where it counts,” said Wedge, not entirely certain that was true of all of them.
Tycho echoed that. “Do they? I’d like to know how.” He reached out and slapped Wedge’s knee gently. “Relax, Wedge. What’s the worst that can happen? Horn finds out Salm doesn’t trust me, and you do. You he should know.”
“You saved his life.”
“He knows it. And I knew this was going to happen; you had to know it, too, Wedge. Somebody was eventually going to notice that Forbidden had no weapons. They might get kidded my Headhunter didn’t so I wouldn’t accidentally fry one of them, it might even make them perform a little better to think I’m pulling punches like that. But Forbidden’s a different matter altogether. I knew it when I went after Horn.” He shrugged. “It’ll work out. So, tell me; was that your girlfriend in that yacht?”
“Very funny. No, it’s just Mirax.” Wedge caught himself and added, “She’s not a girlfriend. She’s a friend.”
“Well, if that’s your story, you stick to it.”
“Someday you are going to be available for her to meet,” said Wedge, “and on that day you’re going to die.” He gave up, there wasn’t any sense in arguing it with Tycho when he was in this mood. It would just end with Wedge irritated, and the guards getting a show, because Wedge didn’t believe for a minute, nor did Tycho though he was better at pretending he did, that they didn’t listen. And maybe Tycho was right, after all; maybe Horn would believe the best. It wasn’t much like a cop, but who knew? Occasionally Corran Horn acted like a human being.
“Yes, so you keep saying,” needled Tycho. “I’m sure she’s going to want to eat with you, girlfriend or not. You’d better not keep her waiting.”
“Idiot,” said Wedge, standing.
“Likewise, I’m sure,” said Tycho. “Relax.”
“You say that like you get royalties on it,” groused Wedge.
“It’s just so novel knowing a Corellian that has to be told to.”
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