Wedge was pleasantly surprised to see a smiling Luke when he answered the page. "Luke!" he greeted his old friend. "To what do I owe this pleasurable and very pricey trans-system call?"
The image flickered, but Wedge could see a smile quirk at the corners of Lukeís mouth. "Unfortunately, my dear comrade, nothing good."
Wedge raised a sardonic eyebrow. "Is anything ever truly at peace in this Sith-forsaken galaxy?"
Luke laughed out-loud. "The battle is never really won."
"The life of the warrior."
"Tell me about it."
"So, why are you calling?" Wedge had seen Luke only sporadically since the Emperor had died. They always met at major diplomatic events when Admiral Ackbar and Princess Leia were both successful in forcing them to attend. Other than that, they had brief, friendly conversations whenever their paths happened to come within a few lightyears of one another.
Through the static of the poor connection, Wedge saw Luke lick his lips. "I need information on one of your pilots."
Wedge laughed dryly. "Sorry, but youíll have to be more specific; Iím in charge of twelve."
Luke laughed nervously and Wedge realized that this was not the time to make jokes. "Bror Jace."
Wedge knew that his face fell. What had happened to Bror Jace had been tragic, simply because he had never had an opportunity to fight his way out of the trap that had been laid for him. No doubt that irked Jaceís ego wherever he was now. But that was the Empire, ambush with enough firepower not to give your intended victim the chance to fight back. "Why," and here Wedge chose to tread carefully, "do you need information on Jace?"
Luke rubbed at his eyes with the palms of his hands. "A friend of mine wants to know the details."
"Iím sorry, Luke, but thereís a bunch of red tape with this incident involving treason on the part of someone else. Granted, Iíve never been one to follow rules, but it would be nice if I knew who this friend of yours is and that theyíre absolutely trustworthy." That had hurt like hell to say. Wedge hadnít meant it to sound as if he didnít trust Luke, but given that the accused was his executive officer and best friend, he wanted to keep it as quiet as possible in order to protect Tychoís reputation. Even the hint of scandal could ruin a career and Tycho would never deserve that. Particularly because heís innocent, Wedge added in his head.
"Mia Theron," Luke answered after a momentary pause.
That caught Wedge by surprise. "How did you run into her?"
Luke shook his head. "Long story and Iíll tell you the whole thing later, but right now Iím expecting her to wake up any minute, so this needs to be quick."
Wedge had a dozen questions that he wanted to ask, starting with why Mia was involved at all. Still, he knew that Luke would keep his word. He shrugged. "Jace was on leave and pulled out of a hyperspace jump only to be ambushed by the Imps while he tried to plot the coordinates for the next one. We found the remains of an X-wing, right where his scheduled plans said heíd be, and no Imp remains." He paused for a second. "Corran Horn says that no dead eyeballs seems decidedly odd, considering that Jace was clearly one of our best pilots. Still, if I had a credit for every time a talented pilot with a bright future found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, I could retire immediately."
Luke nodded. If that wasnít the Forceís own truth.
"I can send you his file if you want."
"Iíll be making a trip to Mon Calamari as soon as I get the opportunity, so if you send it to Leia, sheíll make sure that I get hold of it." Luke looked up. "I should go. Miaís growing restless again."
Wedge felt his eyebrows knit together. "Youíre not together again, are you?" he asked, puzzled about why Mia would be with Luke if they werenít sleeping together. They could barely be in each otherís company for five minutes before they would slip away to the nearest utilities closet or empty X-wing cockpit.
Luke shook his head. "No. Iíll tell you whatís going on later. The outer-Rim connection is starting to fail."
Wedge had to agree as he missed the several words of that response as the connection failed. "Tell Mia I said hi."
"I will; goodbye, Wedge." The transmission ended.
Wedge reached over and shut off the portal screen. Pilots came and pilots went. Those who were lucky survived, those who werenít, didnít. All of Bror Jaceís charisma, wit, talent, and wealth had not been able to keep the Imps from killing him, and in the end, nothing would stop the same thing from happening to anyone else.
It was moments like these where Wedge had trouble remembering that a pilot was a human being with loved ones. He always tried to remember, to make his staff remember. When they had gotten news of Jaceís demise, Wedge had had a close talk with the pilots that Jace had been closest to in a variety of different relationships and had found out quite a bit about the man that he had never known before hand.
For one, at least according to Rhysati Ynr, the man was remarkably quick-witted and clever. Wedge had heard some of his acid tongue in the few months that he had worked with him, but, as a commanding officer, had never been on the receiving end of it. That right seemed reserved for Corran Horn. From Nawara Ven, Jaceís roommate, Wedge found out that Bror was a notorious womanizer and a classy dresser. Going through the personal effects that Jace had left behind, packing them up to send back to his family, he learned that Jace liked dark clothing, green, and silver accenting. It would have gone well with his slender figure and light complexion.
Wedge did not consider it his business to look at more personal items such as momentos and holograms. Those were for the eyes of Bror and anyone he left behind; no one else.
The purpose of the exercise, however, had been achieved successfully. Now, Wedge reached into his desk and pulled out the special bottle of Whyrenís Reserve that he had stashed in there when he thought about the many pilots who had been lost under his command. Bror Jace was just another in a long string; a bit more talented then most.
As if that really matters in life and death, Wedge thought cynically and tossed his drink down his throat, enjoying the burning sensation it gave him.
But itís all worth fighting for. He propped his booted feet up on his desk. Always worth fighting for, and Jace knew and respected that when he signed on.
It was the same thing he always told himself.
To be Continued...
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