Obviously, this owes a great deal (understatement of the century candidate) to George Lucas, and to Michael Stackpole's "X-Wings" and Kevin J. Anderson's "Jedi Academy" series of novels.
No copyright infringement is intended.
That morning Wedge didn’t put on the grey uniform that was winter office wear on Coruscant. Instead, he wore the black one, with the silver buttons and trim on the rather severely cut jacket that fastened down the left and displayed all his awards and combat ribbons in a coruscating, dazzling blaze of colors.
Qwi raised her eyebrows when she saw him. “Have you a hearing this morning?”
“Nope,” he said, and forestalled her next question by adding, “Don’t worry, I’ll be there this afternoon.”
“Who are you going to bully?” she asked, more amused than not.
“I’m not going to bully anyone,” he said, a little defensively. “I don’t bully people.”
“Well, not unless they deserve it,” she agreed, smiling at him.
That was a little close to home for his plans for the day, so he changed the subject. “Did you decide if you want Mirax and Rima next week?”
“Of course,” she said. “With Corran on maneuvers, it’s a good time for them to visit. Besides, it’s Rima’s birthday.”
“She’s three,” he said. “I doubt she’ll remember it.”
“Really?” she asked. “Perhaps not, but Mirax will. And you will. Rima’s your -- can you say stood-for-child?”
He chuckled. “No. You can’t. Though,” he reflected, “it actually sounds better than what we do say, which is advocatory child.” She raised a disbelieving eyebrow at him, and he added, “What we usually say is, ‘You stood for her’. It’s just easier.”
She shook her head at him, her hair catching the light. “What’s the sense of having a thing and not having a name for it?” She didn’t give him a chance to answer, though, continuing, “So -- you stood for her, and you don’t want her to miss a party. Which is really funny, when you think about it.”
“Terriks like parties,” he protested.
She smiled to show she’d been teasing and said, “At any rate, it’s a good time for them to visit. They won’t be any trouble, really. Raqwon certainly won’t care. Go ahead and ask them.”
“Booster might show up,” he warned her.
Her musical laugh rang out. “Good,” she said, “I like Booster.”
He shook his head. “Wonders,” he said, “will never cease. All right, then, I’ll invite them.” He glanced at his wrist-chrono and bent to kiss her cheek. “I’ve got to run,” he said. “See you this afternoon.”
His driver greeted him and shut the door. Wedge returned the greeting, but spent the trip brooding about the afternoon. Reflan was silent as well, but as he halted before the General Staff building he asked, “Will the general be needing me today?”
“Yes,” said Wedge, “I will. This afternoon, about oh, one. I’ll be going to Social Services, on Waijamareea?”
“Yes, sir.” Reflan’s left ear flicked backwards. “May I suggest the general leave at twelve-thirty? Mid-day traffic in that section of Imperial City can be congested.”
“Whatever,” agreed Wedge. “I’ll be here at half twelve, then.”
Reflan got out and opened Wedge’s door. “Yes, sir. I’ll see the general then.”
“Thank you,” said Wedge and walked inside, returning salutes automatically as he headed for the Fleet’s wing and his offices.
“Good morning, sir,” said Sergeant Sunrunner. “You have no messages waiting, sir. Would you like some caff?”
“Good morning, sergeant; thank goodness; and yes, very much,” said Wedge. He went on into his own office and hung up his jacket, and then took the cup of caff that Sunrunner brought in. “Thank you.”
“Yes, sir,” said Sunrunner. “You’re leaving at three today?”
“Ah, no. I’m going earlier, at half twelve in fact. Is that going to be a problem?”
“No, sir. I’ll take care of it.”
“Thank you, sergeant,” said Wedge. Sunrunner nodded and went back to his desk.
As Wedge settled in at his own desk, glancing at his calendar to see what ‘it’ was that he’d dumped on his secretary, Tycho came in with several datapads. The Alderaanian raised his eyebrows, but before he could speak, Wedge pointed at him and said, dangerously, “Don’t start.”
Maintaining a precarious grasp on the pads, Tycho raised his hands in front of him in surrender and said only, “Good.”
Wedge glared at him, but he knew he wouldn’t be able to resist asking. So he didn’t even try. “What’s good?”
Tycho settled on the corner of the desk, placing the pads in a neat stack in front of Wedge. “That I didn’t misread my calendar and put on the wrong uniform today.” He tugged lightly at the open collar of his grey shirt.
Under that open blue gaze Wedge felt a compulsion to explain. He tried to choke it off by saying just, “I’m going to a meeting this afternoon and I want them to pay attention.”
Tycho grinned slightly, and then said, “About the kid? Isn’t that this afternoon?”
Wedge blew out a breath in annoyance. “Yes, it is. And Qwi’s already been at me.”
Tycho’s grin became a real smile. “Qwi is a sagacious and perceptive woman. I agree with her, whatever she said.”
Wedge leaned back in his chair and regarded his friend with exasperation. “When are you getting flight cleared?”
Tycho laughed. “I went there last week; they told me to come back in a month. What did she say?”
“She asked me who I was going to bully,” Wedge surrendered, and then repeated his assertion. “I don’t bully people.”
“Well, you don’t enjoy it,” Tycho conceded. “That’s why you get dressed up for it, to let the medals do half the talking.”
“Oh, thank you,” said Wedge. “I needed that insight. Three more weeks?”
“You want to get rid of me?” Tycho asked. “Go see ‘em today, maybe they’ll step it up.”
Wedge shook his head, smiling ruefully. “Idiot.”
“What’s the problem?” Tycho turned serious.
“Aaaa,” said Wedge. “Too bloody damned much paperwork, that’s the problem. Nothing ever gets settled, that’s the problem.”
“Sounds serious,” said Tycho.
“I’m telling you,” said Wedge, “if Dutch had had this much trouble getting custody of Rom, the boy would have died on Kanraynor.”
Wisely, Tycho didn’t point out all the differences in the two cases. He just said, quietly, “You’re not getting her?”
“You know we were supposed to take her home today,” Wedge said aggrievedly. “Go in, sign papers, set up the final thing for next week.”
“Yeah. Were. Qwi went there yesterday, wanted to take Chalindra to a kids’ concert, had it arranged for weeks. She got there and Chalindra’s gone.” Wedge took a couple of deep breaths to calm himself down.
“Just like that?” said Tycho.
“Just like that,” agreed Wedge. “Her aunt or something suddenly shows up and waltzes off with her. Qwi doesn’t -- we don’t even get to say goodbye.”
Tycho whistled softly. “Alderaan’s Graveyard. That’s not good.”
Wedge felt a lot better. He still wasn’t completely back in the habit of telling Tycho his problems, but he had long ago remembered why he’d had it. “No, it’s not good,” he echoed the Alderaanian’s characteristic understatement.
“You going down there to raise hell, then? What are you going to say? About Chalindra, I mean?” Tycho sounded concerned.
“Chalindra? Chalindra’s gone,” Wedge said. “Blood relatives have first call. But you haven’t heard the worst yet.”
“I wish,” Wedge said grimly. “Qwi shows up, and they stick her in a waiting room with an adorable five-year-old girl.”
“Wha--?” Tycho’s blue eyes widened. “Isn’t that called something-switch?”
“Bait and switch,” Wedge said clearly. “Yeah. It is. And they’ve picked the wrong man to try it on, too, I can tell you.”
“You wanted a three-year-old,” said Tycho, remembering.
“Three, five, that doesn’t matter,” said Wedge. “What matters is they’re jerking Qwi’s emotions around. That stops. As long as this child, Selessy, hasn’t got homicidal tendencies, it’ll probably work out. But they can’t play those games with my wife.”
Tycho grinned at him humorlessly. “I’ll call ‘em up and give ‘em a warning,” he offered. “Send ‘em to the right wing of the war museum, let ‘em see some visual aids.”
“Good idea,” said Wedge, laughing in spite of himself.
“So, you’re thinking about taking this one?” Tycho asked.
“Qwi fell in love with her,” Wedge said. “I’m going to see her this afternoon. I’ve got a very bad feeling about it.”
“Corellians,” said Tycho, half kidding. “If you were Force-sensitive, we might take you more seriously.”
Wedge mimed throwing a pad at him. “How often have I been wrong?”
“I don’t know; I’ve been away,” Tycho pretended to duck. “What don’t you like about it?”
“I don’t know,” Wedge said helplessly, frustratedly. “It just ... feels wrong. It feels like an ambush. Like there’s a lot they’re not saying.”
“Oh, I think you can count on that,” said Tycho. “They’re bureaucrats, and social workers, and my dad used to say the first kind lived to trap you, and my grandmom used to say that social workers only lied when they were awake.”
“I avoided ‘em,” said Wedge. “Social workers, I mean.” Booster had avoided them for him, but it came to the same thing...
“So, I’m going early today. I’m going to see the girl, and I’m definitely going to talk to the agency head. We’re not starting this all over again unless we get the child, guaranteed. Qwi wants Raq to have siblings, no matter what I say about only children being perfectly happy...”
Tycho shrugged. “Like I said, Qwi’s a smart woman. Singleton kids miss out on a lot.”
“You all say that, but I did just fine.”
“Well, you had Mirax around,” Tycho pointed out, just like Qwi always did. “Also, you’re unusual.”
“Another day, we’d go into that,” Wedge punctuated the sentence with a nod and a raised eyebrow. Tycho laughed. “The point is, Qwi wants at least two, and she’s not going through that again. If they give us too much grief, I might just go somewhere impoverished and start flashing cash around.” He was only half-serious, but Tycho nodded in agreement. “I’m telling them today, don’t start if they can’t finish it.”
“Well, if she’s five, she’s probably unplaceable,” said Tycho. “You probably won’t have much trouble getting her.”
“That is not as comforting as you might have meant it to be.”
“Well, it’s half comfort anyway.” Tycho shrugged. “It might be innocuous; maybe she’s only just come into care. But -- my grandmom had some stories, especially about off-world kids, that would curl your hair. Ask the hard questions, Wedge.”
“I will,” Wedge promised. “I’m taking heads if I have to.”
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