Brief-Lived Star Rating: PG
Gillian F. Taylor

He shouldn't have died.

Of course, no one should die because of war, not even Imperials. In an ideal galaxy, there would be no war, and no one would die young, or at any age, because of it. But this galaxy isn't perfect, and so people continue to risk their lives and lose their lives to try and improve it. He was one of them.

They awarded him another medal, posthumously. A bit pointless, but it's nice to know that officialdom took notice of his actions, and of his passing. Of course some of them, like Princess Leia and Admiral Ackbar sincerely mourned him, as we do. Not sure about Fey'lya though. He saw the memorial service as a way to win back some friends after that fiasco at the Katana Fleet, by making a big speech. I saw Luke Skywalker's face, while Fey'lya was speaking, and I swear he was considering using the Force to choke the Bothan's words in his throat, like Vader used to do. I wish he had; it would have cheered us up a bit.

He shouldn't have died.

It's not long since we celebrated his 30th birthday. In other times, or if he'd chosen to do something else with his life, he might have lived to 130. I know he wanted to marry someday, and have children. Family meant a lot to him, after losing his parents and his sister. It's what drove him really, I think. He didn't fight the Empire just for abstract reasons like freedom; he did it so families wouldn't be broken up and live in terror. He'll never grow old with his loved ones now; fate, or something, robbed him of that. We'll always remember him with dark hair, no grey, slender, strong and youthful.

I saw him go.

The war against Thrawn is over now. Wedge didn't see that final moment of victory, but he gave his all to help bring it about. Bilbringi was a trap, in spite of our best efforts to convince Thrawn we were going to attack Tangrene. With Thrawn's Interdictors to hold us there, we had no choice but to fight. We were outnumbered, and outmanoeuvred. Wedge, as always, was looking for some way to improve our odds. Grand Admiral Thrawn was an excellent tactician, no doubt about that, but he did all his planning in advance. I don't think even Thrawn was better at improvising in the middle of a battle than Wedge was.

Well, Wedge decided that if we attacked the shipyards themselves, we could force Thrawn to move his fleet and break up that nice trap he held us in. The only thing was, to attack the shipyards, we had to take out at least one of those Golan II Defence platforms. Golan II's carry 35 turbolaser batteries and 10 proton torpedo launchers, and are shielded too. That's a lot for one starfighter squadron to cope with, but we are Rogue Squadron. If Wedge said we had a chance, we believed him.

The plan was to make two runs using proton torpedoes, sharing targeting data so to create the biggest impact possible. The first run would punch a hole through the shields, and the second would hit the station. 24 torps all hitting the same spot was something even a Golan II couldn't ignore. Of course, it wasn't as simple as that. There were TIEs trying to tangle with us, and the Golan's own gunners aiming for us.

Wedge led the attack, with Tycho on his wing. He was concentrating on getting the targeting data, finding the best point to strike. Tycho flew in his effortlessly brilliant way, keeping the TIEs off both of them. I couldn't spare too much time to watch, of course, as I was pretty busy myself. I was doing a scissors move with Wes, to throw off a persistent TIE, when Wedge's voice came over the comm. "Targeting data locked in. Fire on my mark."

He sounded calm, focussed on what he was doing.

He shouldn't have died.

The TIE that had been bugging Wes tried to follow him, and side slipped right in front of my guns. A single linked blast, and he was dust. I switched to torpedoes even as I was glancing at my scopes to look for other TIEs.

"Mark!"

I fired automatically at the command. I was so used to obeying Wedge, I'd have probably jumped from the top of a Coruscant skyscraper if he'd given the command unexpectedly.

The torpedoes soared out from the X-wings, all arcing together towards that terrifying chunk of metal we were fighting. Wedge's hit first, making the shields ripple and flicker. Then the others struck, so fast and so close together you couldn't tell whose was who's. Not that it mattered. What mattered was that the Golan's shields tore apart and collapsed. The last few torps struck directly against the hull, sending a gout of flame briefly into space. I heard cheering: one of them was Wes, definitely Wes.

"Good work, folks. Now let's hit them again before they get their breath back."

The Golan's turbolasers were still firing, chasing us as we sped away and circled around for the next attack. That's how we lost Kenn Nitram. I didn't hear or see that, but the next time I checked my scopes, Rogue Four was missing. Anyway, as we circled around to make the next run, a wave of TIEs came boiling towards us.

"Take out any that get in your way," Wedge ordered. "Don't stop to play with them. Concentrate on getting into position for the next torpedo run."

I concentrated most of my shield power to the front and started juking around as we closed with the TIEs. They started firing first but I didn't let it bother me. They were nervous, hoping for a lucky shot to damage us before we got real close.

I think Corran was the first Rogue to fire. His shot singed the wing of a TIE and caused the other eyeballs to skitter away from it. One dropped neatly into my sights and I vaped it. Then we were past them and starting our turns to line up on the Golan again. A blast from the Golan's gunners forced Tycho to break abruptly, sending him wide and high. My turn brought me up pretty close to Wedge. I stayed on his starboard wing, keeping one eye on the TIEs that were turning around to chase us.

Wedge led the way, diving towards the Golan, keeping his X-wing dancing around enough to stop the gunners from getting a solid lock on him as he sought to acquire our targeting data. I weaved close around him, making a confusing image for their targeting computers. Wes had pulled away from me, pairing up with Tycho. I glanced at my scopes and put about two thirds of my shield power to the rear, where the eyeballs were chasing after us. Green streaks of light flashed outside my canopy as the Golan kept firing at us, but there was nothing close enough to worry about.

More flashes of light came from behind as the TIEs caught up with the other X-wings. The Rogues twisted and jinked, but we couldn't stop to take them on. I heard a hiss of delight from Ooryl over the comm. He'd managed to scratch one of the eyeballs without losing position. We had to be ready to take the data and fire at the Golan when Wedge gave the order.

My scope showed a cloud of TIEs catching us, spreading around us as we dived for the Golan. It made my skin crawl, seeing them and not turning to fight. We weren't helpless, but it seemed so, as we lined up for our run.

"Targeting data locked in!" Wedge was excited, proud.

Then I saw the two TIEs leaping out from the shelter of the Golan, rising up towards us with their guns raking towards the bellies of our ships.

"Wedge! Break!" I yelled, throwing my ship into a roll to port.

Wedge barrel-rolled port too. I saw the TIE's shot graze the underside of his X-wing, saw his shields flicker and his ship shudder, before my roll took him out of my sight.

"Wedge!" Tycho's voice.

"Nothing serious." Even as he completed his roll, Wedge was firing at the TIEs that had attacked us. His lasers stitched one, and mine winged the other. "Fire on my mark."

I flicked over to proton torpedoes, marvelling at how in control he sounded, in spite of the chaos surrounding us.

"Mark!"

He shouldn't have died.

As I fired, I saw the brilliant flash of light on my port side. It was as though a small star had suddenly erupted into being there, before dying away. Even with my visor, and the automatic darkening of my canopy, I was dazzled for a few moments. Ahead of me, flames were spurting from the Golan as it cracked open. To my left I saw, at first, nothing. I could hear people yelling over the comm, but I didn't understand them. As I continued to look, I finally saw the remains of Wedge's X-wing. I saw the tip of the fuselage, just the nose cone really, tumbling one way. The very rear of the ship, with the remains of the two upper s-foils, was spinning in the other direction. That was all that was left.

A squeal from my astromech brought me to my senses long enough to pull up before I continued my dive into the mass of the exploding Golan II. Tycho's voice finally drowned out the others, even though he was half-choked.

"The Golan's down, but we've still got the rest of Wedge's plan to follow. Let's get into the shipyards and pound everything we can, so the Imps have to move their ships." So that's what we did.

I believe it was not long after that, that Thrawn's bodyguard killed him. If only he'd done it earlier. But Thrawn was dead, and we'd spoilt their nice trap, so the Imperials retreated. And we went home to mourn.

It was the recordings from the holocams on my X-wing that eventually told us what had happened. Wedge probably had his shields set mostly to his stern. That graze from the TIE penetrated the shields on the underside of his fighter, and damaged the proton torpedo launch mechanism. Wedge must have known his ship had taken some damage, but he was still flying, and thought it wasn't serious. He may have thought it was the cargo capsule that was hit. We'll never know.

The techs who watched the recording said that when he tried to fire his torps at the Golan, one exploded in place, instead of firing. That set off the other torpedoes he was carrying. The torpedoes are stored almost immediately under the cockpit. That white flash I saw was Wedge's death.

He told me once that the Twi'leks on Ryloth pronounced his name as Wedgan' tilles. They said that way, it meant 'Slayer of Stars', in their language. Wedge liked that, and I guess it was fitting. When those proton torps exploded in his X-wing, they lit up the Bilbringi sky like a new, brief-lived star. And at the heart of that star was Wedge Antilles. Perhaps it was fitting for him, to die as brightly as he had lived, to shine in death as he did in life.

I wish he hadn't died.


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