770: Part 5
Gillian F. Taylor
Winter had wanted to visit this restaurant for some time, but this, somehow, didn't seem like the right occasion. She watched as Tycho poured the pale blue, sparkling Chandrilan wine into her glass, then filled his own. He was smiling and confident, a different kind of self-assurance to that she was used to seeing. The formal, deep blue tunic he wore set off both his hair, making it seem fairer, and his brilliant blue eyes. He was so handsome, in that elegant way she loved, but the confidence seemed disturbingly close to arrogance right now.
Tycho lifted his glass, saluting her with it.
"I knew you wanted to come here," he said. "So tonight I thought we'd celebrate in style. After all, I'm now commander of the galaxy's most elite starfighter squadron. Cheers."
Winter raised her glass too, but could not bring herself to repeat the toast. She was proud of Tycho's achievements, but couldn't help thinking that it was wrong to celebrate his promotion, when it was a result of his friend's misfortune. After sampling the light, refreshing wine, she called up the holomenu and studied the choices, half-listening to Tycho as he talked. He was telling her about his plans for Rogue Squadron, and his intentions of installing a strong sense of discipline.
"Janson may have been able to get away with playing pranks on Wedge, but that's not my style of leadership. He'll have to grow up at last, and stop pretending to ..."
Winter looked up as Tycho's words trailed away, then turned to see what he was staring at.
Wedge was approaching, striding between the tables towards theirs, a flustered waiter trailing him. He wore casual civilian clothing, including the brown jacket he'd had for years, had a blaster holstered at his side, and seemed to be holding something small in his left hand. Though his clothing was incongruous in the setting of this smart restaurant, it was his eyes that caught Winter's attention. Wedge was looking at Tycho, his face cold, and at odds with the pain that haunted his dark eyes.
Wedge halted abruptly at their table, facing Tycho, his posture upright and military, just as Winter had always known him. The waiter came up close, sputtering indignantly.
"Sir, sir! You have no right to barge in here, disturbing ..."
Wedge drew his blaster in a smooth move, pointing it squarely at the waiter's chest though he never took his eyes from Tycho's face.
"I have many deaths on my conscience already. Right now, I don't care whether you live or die. If you care, go away."
Winter was shocked to realize that she believed what he said. The waiter believed him too, and melted away. The nearest diners discreetly abandoned their meals, slipping away from the confrontation. Wedge lowered the blaster pistol but didn't return it to its holster.
"You did a good job, Tycho," he said bitterly. "You got what you wanted. But you weren't quite good enough. I know what you did."
Tycho put his head on one side as he looked back at Wedge. "What are you talking about?"
Wedge's eyes glowed with fury. "Can't you be honest with me any more, even now? Don't bother pretending, Tycho. I know you altered the data on the Lleyan target file."
Winter stifled a gasp, clutching at the tablecloth. Tycho stared coolly at Wedge, aloof and apparently undisturbed by the accusation.
"Your bitterness is making you delusional," he said. "You can't face up to your error any more, so you need someone else to blame it on."
Every muscle in Wedge's body tensed, but somehow he managed to hang on to his temper.
"Oh, it wasn't me who first thought you'd done it, Tycho. You were the last person I'd have thought of. You were my friend." He took a deep breath. "It was Corran and Iella who found you out." Wedge tossed a datachip onto the table. "You're no slicer. The evidence is clear enough that even I was convinced that my best friend had betrayed me."
Winter's skin prickled at the palpable fury that radiated from Wedge, in stark contrast to Tycho's eerie coldness. She clenched her jaw, trying to control both the nausea in her stomach, and the urge to scream.
"Why did you do it, Tycho?" There was a desperate plea in Wedge's voice. "If you wanted a command, I'd have arranged one for you."
Tycho's composure finally cracked. "I don't want to be given a command because you organized it for me," he hissed. "I want to be recognized as being as good as you are. I'm the one who graduated from the Imperial Military Academy. I trained for years to become an officer. Yet I always ended up following you, Wedge Antilles, graduate of a farm school."
Wedge's face paled, making his dark eyes seem more intense than ever.
"You were always there, blocking me," Tycho went on. "I had Rogue Squadron while you were away with the Wraiths, and I did a fine job, I know I did. I helped you build that squadron, after all. Then you came back and took them away from me. Ackbar kept trying to promote you but you wouldn't go. I should have been made a commander after the Zsinj campaign, but you turned down your promotions, so I never had the chance of one."
There was silence for a few moments before Wedge spoke.
"Why did you have to do it that way? Why didn't you just kill me somehow if you wanted me gone? You had more opportunity than anyone else. You could have arranged an accident easily enough. I'd be dead, you'd have Rogue Squadron; no one else would have been hurt."
Tycho looked down at the table for a moment before meeting Wedge's gaze again.
"You didn't have the guts to do it yourself, did you ?" Wedge said contemptuously. "You didn't have the guts to kill me directly. So you stabbed me in the back and left it for the court-martial to get rid of me for you."
"So now it's my turn for the court-martial," Tycho replied, schooling his face into dignified immobility. "You can clear yourself and take back Rogue Squadron while I count the days to my execution."
"No," Wedge said, the haunted look coming back into his eyes. "You wanted my command, Tycho, but you went too far. You caused the deaths of seven hundred and sixty eight people on Lleyan. You gave me false data and made me responsible for ordering those deaths." He paused a moment. "Justice for them is my responsibility, no one else's."
Tycho swallowed once, but nothing else shook his appearance of icy calm. When he spoke, his voice was firm.
"If you shoot me now, you'll be committing murder. You'll spend the rest of your life in jail."
Wedge shook his head slowly. "My life is already over," he replied starkly. "You've made living too painful, Tycho."
His hand moved. Winter saw the flash of the blaster bolt before she heard the gun fire. Her heart jolted with shock, then again as Tycho crumpled forward over the table. Winter gave an involuntary cry on seeing the hole burnt though Tycho's forehead. She looked up at Wedge, who gazed at her with anguished eyes.
"I'm sorry you had to see this," he said softly.
He moved his hand again, raising the blaster to his head.
Winter closed her eyes, but she couldn't close her ears to the single shot, or to the sound of Wedge's body falling to the floor. When she opened her eyes again, he was sprawled inelegantly on the luxurious carpet, with his head just a couple of feet away from her chair. As she looked at his face, Winter saw that the pain that had haunted his eyes was gone; they were empty, already faintly glazed with death. She moaned and buried her head in her arms, futilely trying to block out the pictures her holographic memory would never let her forget.
The memory of two men, one dark and one fair. A friendship betrayed beyond redemption. Two more lives to be added to the total of those who died on Lleyan.
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