770: Part 3
Gillian F. Taylor
"Thanks for letting me stay here," Wedge said to Mirax and Corran. He was in the living room of their apartment on Coruscant, a few days after his conversation with Booster.
Mirax hugged him tightly. "You're family, Wedge. We couldn't turn you away."
Wedge smiled, comforted by both her words and the hug. The door buzzer sounded, saving him from the need to articulate his thanks. Whistler beeped and chirped, rolling towards the door. He opened it to reveal Iella Wessiri, who smiled in delight when she saw Mirax and Corran's visitor.
Mirax stepped aside as Iella hurried across to Wedge and also enveloped him in a hug. Wedge held onto her a little longer than he had Mirax, revelling in the closeness. Reluctantly, he released her, stepping back a pace so they could look at one another.
"You've lost weight," Iella said, her brown eyes concerned.
"Haven't had much appetite," he replied.
Iella frowned slightly, and changed the subject. "It's good to see you; you didn't tell me Wedge was back on planet," she added, addressing the latter part of her remark to Corran.
"That was my call," Wedge told her. "I don't want to draw attention to myself so I came here under a false identity."
Mirax chuckled. "You should have seen the wig he was wearing. Blond and curly really doesn't suit him."
Iella looked stunned at the image. Wedge took the opportunity to pull her down onto the sofa beside himself. Corran and Mirax seated themselves too. Mirax picked a yellowfruit from the bowl on the low table and juggled it from hand to hand before biting into it.
"I came back to Coruscant because I needed your help," Wedge said, looking at his three friends in turn. "You've got skills and access that I don't have. I need you to help me find the person who set me up to order the attack on the Gaudaron school."
"You think it was a set-up?" Corran asked, leaning forward.
"Booster thought of it first," Wedge told them. "The data identifying the school as a target was on the file when I used it to plan the raid. It wasn't there when the file was sent to me, and it wasn't there afterwards. The logical explanation is that someone tampered with the file."
Corran shook his head. "We were on an isolated base. The only people there were Rogue Squadron and its support crew."
"There's been traitors in Rogue Squadron before," Wedge reminded him. "And not just Erisi. Way back before you joined the squadron, Corran, before Endor even, one of our crew chiefs was bribed to reprogram Wes's astromech so it took control of his X-wing and tried to vape Luke."
"I remember that being discussed after Tal'dira tried to kill you," Corran said, his voice tinged with regret at being forced to kill the brainwashed Twi'lek.
"So we have possible motivations of politics, credits and brainwashing," Iella said, making notes on her datapad. "All the usual suspects."
"Apart from sex," Mirax added.
"If someone thought that getting me court-martialled would improve their sex life, then their fantasies are way stranger than I can imagine," Wedge said.
Mirax was on the point of answering when Iella interrupted.
"Staying on topic," she said firmly. "We're going to have to do a lot of data slicing. I'll have to get into personal accounts and records to look for anomalies, and just getting into the files without authorization is going to take time. If you took your suspicions to General Cracken, I'm sure he'd listen."
Wedge shook his head stubbornly. "Don't forget it was an Intel file that was used to set me up. It could have been someone in Intel behind it all. If we can't find any suspects in Rogue Squadron I'll consider it, but when someone set me up to order those deaths they made it very personal."
"My authorizations won't be valid any more," he continued. "But I can give you some useful codes and passwords. Tycho may have changed some or all of them, of course, but you might as well have them."
"You don't want us to tell Tycho about this?" Corran asked. "It would be easier if we could get authorization from him to access files."
"He's got plenty of other things to worry about right now, I bet," Wedge said "And we don't want even a whisper of this to get out, or whoever tampered with that file will be off quicker than a Bothan spotting a chance to stab a rival in the back."
Iella nodded. "Everyone in the squadron has to be a suspect until proven otherwise. No one but us must know about this."
Wedge almost protested that statement: there was no way he could consider Tycho, Wes or Hobbie to be behind this. But Iella was right. The fewer people who knew about their investigation, the better. He picked up his datapad and held it out to her.
"It's my service datapad; I managed to keep hold of it. It still has the copy of the Intel file I viewed."
Iella smiled as she took the datapad from him. "At the very least we should be able to prove that the file was tampered with, even if we can't find out who did it."
"With that much, you can appeal the court-martial and get those nek-brains to admit they were wrong to throw you to the rancors to save their own slimy hides," Mirax said hotly.
Wedge smiled at her, then grimaced. "Just think how much datawork there'd be, with Tycho and Hobbie being reassigned back to their previous roles." He looked at Corran. "How's Rogue Squadron doing?"
"Your dismissal hit everyone pretty hard," Corran said, weighing his words. He met Wedge's gaze. "It's been a real shock to think that you're gone permanently, not just off with the Wraiths. Tycho's keeping us all busy, encouraging the squadron to move forward, reminding us that Rogue Squadron is an elite unit, and that the unit is the main thing, not the individual members."
"He's right," Wedge said. His head agreed thoroughly with Tycho's words, and it was good to know that the unit he'd helped to found and build could continue without him. At the same time, his heart ached to be with the comrades he'd shaped into that elite unit, out where his skills could do the most good for the galaxy.
Something of his feelings must have shown because Iella put her hand lightly on his arm.
"We'll help you through this, Wedge. You'll get justice."
"It's not just about me," he said. "It's for all those who died on Lleyan."
If they could just prove that someone had tampered with the datafile, and that he hadn't made a terrible mistake, Wedge would be able to forgive himself. But even then, he'd never forget the results of the order he'd given.
* * * * *Time passed slowly for Wedge. He didn't want to leave the apartment for fear of being recognised and attracting the attention of sludgenews journalists. They'd been there at the court-martial, following him with repulsor-mounted holocams, and thrusting microphones at him for quotes. Wedge had never liked media attention, even when it was for good reasons. Right now, it would be unbearable.
For the first couple of days, there was little for him to do other than watch the holoviewer or pace restlessly. Then Corran brought back the first of the personnel files that he and Iella had managed to copy. With Whistler's help. Wedge began sifting through the mass of material, searching for anything that seemed out of place. The next night there were more files, plus Iella with some encouraging news.
"The Lleyan intelligence file on your datapad was definitely tampered with," she said, smiling. "Our suspect is an amateur so far as data-slicing is concerned; they only did the most basic deletions to substitute the data. Once I started going back through the layers, I found the alterations almost at once."
"Maybe they were working in a hurry," Mirax said. "They may not have had much time to access Wedge's datapad."
"Or they weren't expecting the file to be checked, so they didn't bother doing a fancy job," Wedge suggested.
Iella shook her head to that idea. "A real slicer would have made a more sophisticated job of it: professional pride."
Corran spoke to Wedge. "The file tampering is sufficient evidence to take to High Command. They'll have to clear your name."
Wedge shook his head. "Not yet, Corran." He leaned back on the sofa, gazing up at the ceiling, before continuing. "Someone used me to cause the deaths of hundreds of people on Lleyan; hundreds of people. I don't know whether they were the intended victims, and I was the fall-guy, or if they were sacrificed in order to bring me down. Either way, someone made me responsible, in part, for those deaths, and I take that very personally." He lifted his head and looked at his friends; pain and determination shone in his eyes. "This isn't just about clearing my name, it's about putting right the wrong that someone tricked me into doing."
"We'll keep digging," Iella promised. "We know for sure there's a suspect now. They can't hide from us for ever."
"Whoever it is thought he was only taking on one Corellian," Mirax said, with a broad grin. "He's got four after him now."
"That's odds even a Corellian might pay attention to," Corran added.
Wedge was suddenly almost overwhelmed by the sense of how much the loyalty of his friends meant to him. For the first time he started to think about what he'd asked them to do for him. Corran and Iella had broken the law for him, by illegally accessing files, and could also lose their careers if caught. Mirax was a willing accessory, and could lose her trading licence or face imprisonment. Yet none of them had once spoken a word about the risks they were taking for his sake.
"I ... I can't thank you enough," Wedge said, his voice a little husky. "I'd never be able to solve this on my own, and I appreciate your friendship more than I can say."
"You'd never let a friend down." Corran spoke for all three of them. "How could we do any less for you?"
Slowly, a fragile sense of hope began to grow in Wedge's heart.
* * * * *
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