Obviously, this owes a great deal (understatement of the century candidate) to George Lucas.
No copyright infringement is intended.
Luke and Leia followed the techs with Artoo up the corridor. The commander was ahead of them, and Han and Chewbacca were still back at the Falcon. Luke liked the arrangement. In many ways Han made him feel young and inadequate, but the princess seemed to be put off by Han’s mercenary ways. Somehow, Luke felt that there was more to the smuggler than money, but he had to admit he was glad that Leia didn’t think so.
He stole a glance at Leia and let it turn into a real look when he realized she wouldn’t notice. Somehow it hadn’t really dawned on him that she was from Alderaan until the commander had greeted her. She hadn’t shown any grief, had been strong and more in charge than he had, certainly... he couldn’t imagine what she must be feeling. He wanted to say something comforting, but he couldn’t think of anything. He wanted to hold her hand, but he didn’t have the nerve. He sighed.
She looked at him and smiled. “Don’t worry about the droid, Luke. It’ll be okay.”
Luke couldn’t think of anything at all to say.
Then, from ahead of them down the corridor, they heard a voice calling Leia’s name. Luke saw the flash of gladness in her eyes as she turned her head, and he faced forward as well, to see an orange-clad man pushing his way past the commander and the antigrav sled. “Leia!” the man said again, joy in his voice, and opened his arms. Leia almost flung herself into them, and Luke dodged as the man swung her around, hugging her tightly. She was holding him as closely, and when he put her back on her feet she retained hold of his hands.
“We thought...” the man started. Luke realized the orange was a flight suit, and the man was a Rebel officer.
“Oh, Wedge,” Leia smiled at him. “It’s so good to see you.”
Luke saw the commander open his mouth as if to say something; then he closed it, shook his head in annoyance, and walked off. Leia linked her arm through the young pilot’s and followed the techs. Luke, an unfamiliar emotion roiling his stomach, went along.
“We heard about Alderaan,” said the pilot, Wedge. “I am sorrier than I can say, Leia, especially about your father...”
Leia squeezed his arm. “I know you are, Wedge, and I’m grateful. We’ll talk later, if we have time.”
One eyebrow rose in the pilot’s thin, sharp face as he looked at her. “If?” he asked.
“I’m sure General Dodonna will be briefing all the pilots,” she said. “But,” she paused, glancing at the techs, and then stopped walking and turned to face him. “Wedge, Alderaan was destroyed by one single battlestation, not a fleet. And I’m sure it’s on its way here.”
Wedge whistled. “Dead stars. Well, I guess we’ll be earning our pay today.”
Leia smiled almost involuntarily. “I suppose you will,” she admitted. She glanced over her shoulder, but Han wasn’t in sight yet. She looked at Luke and reached out a hand to him. “Wedge, this is Luke Skywalker. He helped me escape from the Imperials, with the data on the battle station. Luke, this is Wedge Antilles, one of our hottest pilots and an old friend.”
The pilot held out his hand and took Luke’s in a firm, friendly handshake, grinning at him. “Anybody who helps Leia...,” he said. “Welcome to the Rebellion, though it sounds like you might have picked a better day to show up.”
“Thanks, it was nothing.” Antilles...that name was both very strange and yet familiar, somehow, and then Luke placed it. “These are your droids, then?”
“No.” That was quick and forceful, and Leia laughed. “Leia,” Antilles said plaintively, “you promised me that you would have that taken out of that protocol droid’s memory!”
“I’m sorry, Wedge,” she said, “I must have forgotten.”
“So it seems,” he said.
“Wedge,” she teased, “he says former master...”
“Why you had to use my name,” he groused.
“I’ll take care of it,” she promised.
Luke was heartened by the whole exchange; it didn’t seem very loverlike to him.
“You a pilot, Skywalker?” asked Antilles.
“Call me Luke,” he answered, “and yes, I’m not bad.” Somehow, he couldn’t see bragging to a Rebel officer. He had a feeling everything he’d seen since meeting Ben was nothing compared to what this man had been through.
“Luke’s good,” confirmed Leia, sending a thrill of pleasure through him, “but surely you aren’t trying to recruit him, today?”
“Sounds like we’re going to need him, today,” said Antilles.
“You are,” said Luke soberly, thinking of the size of the Death Star.
“Your Highness?” called the commander. “General Dodonna is waiting.”
“I have to go. Luke, stay with Wedge, he’ll take care of you. Wedge,” she kissed him quickly on the cheek. “If I don’t see you in time, good luck.”
“Later,” he nodded at her. “I’ll avoid the commander, if you don’t mind.”
She smiled quickly at him, a little longer at Luke, and then was gone.
Luke looked at Antilles. They were the same height and build, but Antilles was darker, and had that same air of confidence that Han had. He wasn’t as old as Han, though; Luke thought he and Antilles were close to the same age, but this pilot, too, made him feel gawky and young. Antilles leaned back against the wall, grinning at Luke, and asked, “You ever fly an X-Wing, Luke?”
“No,” he said. “But I am pretty good. I had a T-16 back home. It’s not a fighter, of course, but we used to fly Beggar’s Canyon-” he broke off at the expression on Antilles’s face. “Is something wrong, Captain?”
“It’s Lieutenant, but just Wedge, please, and no. It’s just, Beggar’s Canyon? Are you from Tatooine?”
“Yes,” said Luke, surprised. He couldn’t place Wedge’s accent, but he wasn’t from back home, Luke was sure of that. The name, if nothing else, made that impossible.
“I have no idea how many people really live there,” said Wedge, “it sounds like next to none and spread out at that, but do you know Biggs Darklighter?”
“Biggs!” Luke was startled. Biggs had gone to the Academy, was in the Imperial Fleet... “Yes. Yes, I know him, we grew up together.”
“I thought so,” Wedge shook his head. “Beggar’s Canyon... T-16s... womp rats. Two of you.” He was still shaking his head, but he was grinning.
“Biggs is here?” Luke could hardly believe it, but deep in his heart he was very glad. His best friend and ... Leia... on the same side, the right side. It would also explain why Huff Darklighter, Biggs’s father, had been closemouthed about Biggs lately.
“Believe it,” said Wedge. “He’s our hottest pilot, not me. He’s on patrol right now, but he’ll be back pretty soon. If you came up on 16s like he did, you’ll have no real problems adjusting. Easier, in fact; no contamination from Sienar’s TIE design. Incom makes both the T-16 and the T-65 X-Wing. I never flew a 16, but I’m told the cockpit design on one is pretty close to that of a 65.” He quirked his eyebrows, grinning, and added, “Barring the S-foils, extra three engines, proton torpedoes, and hyperdrive, of course.”
“Of course,” said Luke. It’ll be a breeze. “You started on what, XP-38s? Or 32s?” Once that would have made Luke envious beyond belief. Now it was just conversation.
“No,” Wedge shook his dark head. “I started on Tanasi’s KhY Skippers, and then a Maudie yacht, and owned my own Cal V.”
Luke didn’t know what any of those were. He was spared the need to answer by Wedge’s continuing, “Still, they’re all pretty much the same when you strip off the paint and brandnames. T-16s are a good grounding. A helluva day to make your first blood, though,” he added.
“Actually,” said Han, who’d come up to them unnoticed, “the kid’s got two TIEs to his credit already. Which is all you need in one day, Luke. You’re not thinking about doing somethin’ stupid, are you, kid?”
“Han-” Luke started, but he was interrupted by Chewbacca, who rowled something long and loud, shaking one arm in Han’s general direction, and grabbed Wedge. It looked to Luke like the Wookiee was killing the pilot. “Han! Do something!”
“It’s all right, kid,” the smuggler said, and added, “Who is he, Chewie?... You sure?”
“Hey, come on,” gasped Wedge. “You’re gonna break something. Like me.”
Chewie dropped him to his feet and ruffled his hair while talking to Han over Wedge’s head.
“Yeah,” said Han, “I do remember. You’ve grown, Antilles,” he added to Wedge, who had ducked out from under Chewbacca’s hand, raking a hand through his brown hair to get it straight.
“I hope so,” Wedge snorted. “That was years ago.”
Chewbacca’s next remark was addressed to Han, who got that ‘how am I supposed to know’ look; Wedge, startling Luke at least, answered. “It was six. That’s a while, for us anyway.”
Chewbacca turned his head in obvious surprise, his eyes widening. Even Luke could hear the interrogative tone.
“Yeah, I do. My mom taught me,” said Wedge. “I don’t get much chance to use it, though, so I’m glad I remember it.”
“How are your parents? They like your new job?” Han asked.
Wedge’s eyes seemed to acquire a greenish light and Luke felt a change in the pilot. “Actually, they’re dead, Solo,” he said quietly.
“Oh, Sith, I’m sorry to hear that,” said Han, and Chewie keened something.
“Thanks,” said Wedge, and turned to the Wookiee. “She liked you, too.”
“He didn’t stop talking about that whateveritwas for months,” said Han.
To Chewie’s response, Wedge shrugged. “Sorry. I never got the recipe.”
Chewie ruffled the pilot’s hair again, this time more in sympathy than affection.
“It happens, Chewbacca,” Wedge shrugged again. “How’s the Falcon?”
“She’s fine,” Han said. Chewbacca added something of his own, which made Wedge snicker while Han looked wounded. “We’re doing fine.”
“Jabba’s nobody to mess around with,” said Wedge, reverting to serious. Luke was surprised to hear the local thug’s name on the pilot’s lips, and then decided Biggs must have mentioned the Hutt.
“We’re fine. Assuming we get paid, that is,” Han said meaningfully.
“You’re in luck. We’re solvent today,” Wedge said lightly.
“Han,” remonstrated Luke, “there’s more to life than money.”
“Yeah, that may be, kid, but not much more. Where would I go to find your payroll office, Antilles?”
“Like I’d know, but you can find General Dodonna and Commander Williard up that way,” Wedge pointed. “One of them will know where to get your money.”
“Thanks, Antilles,” Han slapped him on the shoulder as he went by. “See you around, Luke.”
Chewbacca lingered a moment longer, whuffling something that had no snarl-quotient in it at all.
“Thanks,” said Wedge quietly, “I mean that. It’s taken care of, though.” He punched the Wookiee in the ribs, not bothering to pull it much. Chewie rowled at his usual decibel level and ruffled Wedge’s hair again before following Han down the corridor.
Wedge ran both his hands through his hair, swiped at it a couple more times, and then gave up on it. “You and Leia came in on the Falcon with them?”
“Yes.” Luke couldn’t believe Han was just going to leave. It made him a little short with Wedge, for which he was immediately sorry. His apology was brushed off.
“Han Solo takes people that way sometimes. He’s rough around the edges, that’s all. You still want to come in with us?”
More than ever. “You bet.” Luke was determined.
“Come on, I’ll-”
“Hey, Wedge! The general’s called a pilots’ briefing, now!” A blackhaired pilot was calling at them from the end of the corridor.
Wedge raised a hand at him. “On our way, Rom.” He looked at Luke. “So it starts. Come on.”
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