770: Part 1
Gillian F. Taylor
My new fic is a response to a challenge on Downtime:
' "There is no man more dangerous than one with nothing to lose."
Your fic must be a tale of revenge and desperation in which one of the Fab Four must be the one with nothing left to lose.
The desire for revenge must stem from another member of the Fab Four be it revenge for something that happened to another Fab Four member of revenge on another Fab Four member (however, no revenge for pranks here! Not evil enough!)
Must involve at least one Rogue who is not a member of the Fab Four.'
Wedge looked at his reflection in the refresher-room mirror. His dress uniform was pristine, the simple white jacket set off by his array of medals. Wedge brushed his hand across the decorations, bitterness showing in his dark eyes. With an effort, he forced a neutral expression onto his face, and returned to the court room.
The military court had already been through the background of the mission, and the reasons for this court-martial. Wedge knew the numbers by heart: he could never forget them. 315 people had died in the school that Rogue Squadron had destroyed, 280 of them children. Another 453 people had died in the rioting that had followed.
The government of Lleyan had been fighting insurgents who wanted to take control and return the planet to Imperial command. The Lleyani had asked the New Republic for help, so Rogue Squadron had been sent. Intelligence from Lleyan had pin-pointed military targets in the rebel-held city of Gaudaron, and Wedge had planned a way to destroy them.
"The city had substantial shields that we needed to take out before the attack runs could commence," Wedge told the court. He addressed the head of the court, Admiral Ackbar, forcing himself to look straight at a being he admired greatly as he told his shameful tale. "Captain Celchu and myself went in first. We approached the planet through space controlled by the Lleyan government, then flew in terrain-following mode over the mountains to avoid detection by the rebels in Gaudaron. The city is surrounded by mountains on three sides, and we used a narrow pass to reach Gaudaron without being picked up on their sensors. We were into the air space above the city before they had time to react and raise their shields. Captain Celchu and I destroyed the shield generators, then the rest of the squadron could approach more directly."
"The other members of the squadron then bombed targets that you had designated for them?" Ackbar asked.
Wedge could give no other answer than the truth. "Yes."
"One of those targets was a school. A non-military target," General Madine said, staring across the courtroom at Wedge. Madine, Admiral Ackbar and General Cracken were presiding over the court-martial. "Why did you authorize an attack on a civilian target?"
Wedge was merely repeating what he had already written in his report, which the other men had read, but it had to be said for the court. "According to the Intelligence information I received, that building was a factory being used as a refuge by terrorist forces."
General Cracken glanced down at his datapad. "Copies of the intelligence file sent to you, and the copy found in your personal datapad after the event, do not list that building as a target."
"It was in the intelligence report I saw when I planned the mission," Wedge repeated helplessly.
"Then how do you account for the fact that it does not appear as a target in any known copies of the report, including the one on your own datapad?"
Wedge shook his head slowly. "I can't." His composure cracked suddenly. "Why would I deliberately order anyone to target a school?" he pleaded.
The three senior officers all looked uncomfortable. Wedge had worked closely with both Ackbar and Cracken, and even General Madine knew him as an honourable soldier. None of them believed that Wedge would deliberately order an attack on a civilian target, yet it seemed that such a thing had happened. The court martial eventually drew on to the conclusion that Wedge had expected from the beginning. Admiral Ackbar gravely announced that Commander Wedge Antilles was henceforth dismissed from service with the New Republic Armed Forces.
Wedge resisted the urge to bow his head, instead fighting to keep his feelings from showing as he faced the court. Inside, he felt sick and angry, unsure if he wanted to throw up or shoot something. Keeping his head high, he walked from the courtroom to face the barrage of holocameras and microphones that awaited him.
* * * * *Back in his quarters, the last remnants of his pride deserted him. Wedge made a half-hearted attempt at packing some of his belongings. Having been dismissed from the service, he was no longer entitled to military accommodation and would have to leave the rooms he'd had since the New Republic had conquered Coruscant two years earlier: a victory he'd played a major role in. Abandoning his packing, Wedge dropped onto his sofa and gave himself up to his misery.
Somehow, much as he needed to, he couldn't cry. Wedge thumped the arm of the sofa repeatedly, trying to relieve his feelings. At length, he jumped off the sofa and strode across the room. Snatching up a bottle of whiskey, he rapidly unscrewed the top and drank directly from the bottle. When he finally lowered it, he looked thoughtfully at the new level for a minute. Then he deliberately took another long slug, screwed the cap on again, and put the bottle down.
The chime of his doorbell made him jump. Wedge automatically moved to the door, then hesitated. A muffled voice came from the other side.
"Wedge? It's us, Wes and Hobbie."
Wedge dithered for a moment, then hit the door release, knowing that if he tried to ignore them now, they'd only be back later.
Janson and Hobbie entered, greeting him with hugs. When Hobbie released him, Wedge staggered back a pace, the whiskey beginning to make itself felt. Janson steadied him. "C'mon, sit down."
Wedge ended up on the sofa, seated between his friends. Hobbie glanced around at the half-packed belongings.
"Are you leaving tonight?" he asked.
Wedge shook his head, and started it spinning in a way that made him grateful he was sitting down. "In the morning."
"Where are you going?"
"Booster," Wedge replied. "He already commed me and said there'd always be a place for me on the Errant Venture. And if I don't want to stay there, the Venture's a good place for a pilot to find work. Freighters, smuggling, mercenaries; there's always work for a good pilot, no references required."
"You can't just give up like that, Wedge, and spend the rest of your life flying rusty freight buckets around the galaxy," Janson protested. "Can't you appeal against the court's decision? You've risked your life for them for what, ten years? How much does the New Republic owe you? Sithspawn, Wedge, you're the most decorated pilot in the fleet, the Conqueror of Coruscant. And now they're dismissing you without your pension, benefits, anything. Ackbar knows you; he knows you'd rather cut your own arm off than order an attack on a civilian target!"
It was Hobbie who answered.
"They do know Wedge. If they believed he'd ordered the attack on the school deliberately, he'd be in prison now, facing the death sentence."
Janson looked at Wedge, appalled. Wedge nodded agreement to Hobbie's words.
"Then why?" Janson asked plaintively. "Why dismiss him from the service and ruin his reputation?"
"Because they needed someone to blame for the deaths on Lleyan," Hobbie said, his expression genuinely dour.
Wedge spoke up. "Seven hundred and sixty eight people died on Lleyan. Hundreds more were injured. Homes and businesses were destroyed in the rioting. Billions across the galaxy are blaming the New Republic. The Empire is using the Lleyan Massacre as a propaganda tool. The New Republic had to find someone to blame. I'm the logical target."
"But it's not fair!"
"Warfare is rarely fair," Wedge replied. He leaned against the back of the sofa, letting his eyes close. "I gave the order," he added softly. "I killed those children." Tears leaked from beneath his eyelids and slid down his face.
"It wasn't you who fired the torpedoes into the school, it was Asyr," Janson reminded him. "You never even saw the building."
"She was following my orders, acting on the information I'd given her," Wedge replied, his voice husky. "It was my error, and nothing can change that." His face contorted briefly in anguish before he got it under control again.
Hobbie put his hand on Wedge's arm. "No matter what happened at Lleyan, we're your friends, Wedge. We'll listen any time you want to talk."
"Going to stay with Booster is probably the best thing for you right now, but don't disappear. Keep in touch, please," Janson added, as serious as Wedge had ever heard him.
Wedge nodded. "Thanks for your support. It means a lot. " He let out a long sigh, making the effort to control his feelings. Opening his eyes again, he looked at his friends. "So, how's the squadron shaking down?"
Janson grinned. "Tycho's not the only one who's got an extra pip on his uniform." He nodded at Hobbie. "I never saw anyone look so gloomy at getting a promotion."
Wedge turned to Hobbie, who, like Janson, was in civilian clothes. "Congratulations, Captain Klivian. I take it you're now Rogue Squadron's second in command?"
Hobbie looked miserable. "One pip in exchange for a whole lot more datawork. I told Tycho he should have chosen Wes, but he just laughed at me."
Wedge smiled at that, for what seemed like the first time in days. "I'm going to miss you two. But I won't miss Lt. Kettch."
Janson grinned and saluted him. "Yub, yub, Commander."
On his other side, Hobbie did the same. "Yub, yub, Commander."
Tears sparkled in Wedge's eyes as he smiled. "Yub, yub."
* * * * *
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