Shad - part three

Shad gazed at the holocube he was holding. It was set to cycle slowly through a series of still holos, each image fading out to be replaced by the next. He saw himself in several pictures, but not a self he knew. The man in the holos, usually wearing a garish orange flight suit, looked confident, relaxed, self-possessed. Most of the pictures were of celebrations, formal and informal. Here was Wedge Antilles, with his friends and comrades, at the moments important enough for him to keep these holos as reminders. Yet Shad felt as though he was looking at the life of a stranger.

Medical tests had initially confirmed that Shad was indeed this Wedge Antilles, then the New Republic’s techs had gone through Moff Raworth’s files and had found the records of his interrogation and breakdown. It seemed that everything that Moff Raworth had told him had been a lie. It was possible that these people were the liars, but Shad found it unlikely. Moff Raworth had kept him locked away, out of touch with the galaxy, and had, Shad reluctantly admitted to himself, taken advantage of him in every way possible. It hurt to know how his trust had been abused.

The New Republic people treated him in quite a different way. They’d brought him here to Crieffs Base and given him quarters near the psychiatric medcentre. He was free to go almost anywhere he liked on the base; he could visit the bar, the canteen, the gym and spa, the simulator room, the rec room or even the hangars. His workstation had full holonet access and he could watch any channels he liked on the holoproj. Wedge Antilles’ belongings had been given to him, and although nothing jogged his memory, it was clear that the clothes, datachips, washkit, holos and other memorabilia represented a real person. Shad had gazed at the medals in awe, wondering what kind of person he’d been.

His musings were interrupted by a knock on his door. Shad started, then put the holocube on his desk and went to answer the door. It slid briskly aside to reveal a dark-haired man, no taller than himself but broader in the shoulders. The stranger’s youthful face lit up in a bright smile.

“Wedge ! Am I glad to see you again !”

The stranger swept him into a backslapping hug before Shad had time to realize what was happening. Shad panicked for a moment, his body tensing, then his brain caught up with his reflexes. This man was in many of the holos stored on the cube: this was one of his friends. Shad managed to relax just before the stranger released him. The newcomer stepped back, disappointment clear on his face as he looked at Shad.

“Wedge ? You don’t remember me ? I thought I was unforgettable,” he added, forcing a smile.

“It’s J…Janson, isn’t it ?” Shad shook his head as Janson started to smile again. “I’m sorry. I don’t remember you; I don’t remember knowing you. But I’ve got holos, Wedge’s holos, and I’ve been told who the people in them are.”

“Oh.” Janson seemed to be at a loss.

Shad felt embarrassed, sorry to have disappointed someone who seemed to care about him. He moved back and gestured into the room.

“Please, come in.”

“Thanks.” Janson paused, and smiled. “I’ve got a better idea. There’s got to be a bar round here somewhere. Let’s go have a drink while we talk.”

“Okay.” Shad’s stomach had tensed up, but he knew that this was something he needed to do.

As they walked through the residential block, Janson told him that he’d just arrived on Crieffs, being on leave from his work training new pilots.

“Me and Hobbie were so relieved when we were told that you’d been found. First you went missing, then Tycho went off on some secret mission, and we still don’t know where he is. We needed some good news, and Kapp finding you was it. Of course we wanted to come and see you as soon as possible, and luckily the doctors think it’s a good idea for you to meet people you used to know. General Salm said he could only spare one of us at a time though, so Hobbie and I tossed a cred for it.” Janson grinned. “Someday, Hobbie will learn better than to let me be the one tossing the cred.”

Shad couldn’t help but smile at Janson’s mischievous grin. He identified the names ‘Hobbie’ and ‘Tycho’ with faces in the holos he’d been looking at, but he had no sense of the people who had those names.

Janson continued talking as they walked, amusing Shad with stories of his escapades with the new pilots, and of life on Folor Base. As they left the residential block, and headed across to the social centre, Shad laughed less, his attention wandering as his pace slowed. Janson halted, studied him for a moment, and quietly asked.

“What’s wrong ?”

Shad managed a faint smile. “When I was with Moff Raworth, I was confined just to his quarters and mine. Not being able to remember anything before arriving there, not even knowing what the rest of the building was like, that was frightening. I felt safe in our rooms. The longer I stayed in there, the more frightened I was of what lay outside. It was all unknown.” He paused and took a slow breath to calm himself. “I’m still getting used to coping with the outside world again.”

Janson looked sympathetic. “You feel vulnerable away from your room here ?”

Shad nodded.

“We could go back there if you like ?” Janson suggested.

“No. I can’t get into the habit of avoiding everything that worries me. I’m all right once I’ve been to a place a few times. It’s just that first step of entering the unknown.”

“This is going to take some getting used to,” Janson remarked. “You are Wedge, but you’re not. Wedge was…is…pretty self-reliant and confident. I’ve seen him, you, give a briefing to a roomful of pilots then lead them into battle. Which you’re not capable of doing at the moment. But the way you just spoke about facing up to your fear, that sounded like the Wedge I know…knew. Blast it ! I don’t even know what tense to use, you walking paradox !”

Shad couldn’t help laughing at Janson’s indignant expression. “For the time being, call me Shad. You knew Wedge before, you know Shad now.”

“I can make you laugh, whoever you are.” Janson’s expression was half proud, half indignant. He became more serious. “Sometimes I might forget who I’m talking to. If I say something like ‘But don’t you remember when..?’, it’s because I’m stupid, not because I’m trying to hurt or offend you.”

Shad nodded. “I’ll remember. There’s nothing wrong with my short-term memory.”

Janson grinned, and flung his around Shad’s shoulder. “Let’s go get those drinks.”

At this time of the afternoon, the bar was quiet. With Janson’s cheerful company, Shad found it less intimidating than he would have if he’d ventured here on his own. As they settled in a booth near the window, a serving droid appeared. It was a rather curious-looking object, apparently cobbled together from a collection of spare parts, and most of those well-used. The main body was an R2 unit painted yellow and black, with a tray attached to the top of its head, and a vocalizer unit welded to the barrel.

“Preferred drinks, gentlebeings ?” Its voice was blatantly mechanical.

“My treat,” Janson declared. “Lum for me and Corellian whiskey…wait.” He turned to Shad. “I’m sorry; I was ordering what Wedge likes.”

“Whiskey sounds fine,” Shad told him.

“Corellian whiskey, Whyren’s Reserve if you’ve got it,” Janson told the droid.

“Order accepted,” it intoned, and whirred away.

Shad frowned. “Isn’t Whyren’s Reserve expensive ?”

Janson put on an exasperated expression. “You never were a cheap date.”

The phrase reminded Shad of one of the questions that had been haunting him. Did Wedge Antilles prefer men or women ? Did Moff Raworth turn me into something I’m not ?I’m sure Janson will know about Wedge. He cleared his throat.

“Um, speaking of dates, was I seeing anyone when I was captured ?”

Janson shook his head. “You split up with Reina, Reina Falour, a month or so before you went off on your PR tour.”

That sounds like a woman’s name. “What happened ?” Shad asked.

“Well, she’s a gorgeous woman, and you two certainly had the hots for one another. Not that you’re the sort to tell tales, but you always had a big grin on your face the morning after a date. Anyway, Reina has a wonderful figure, but she’s rather too obsessed with keeping it that way,” Janson confided, leaning over the table. “She always skipped lunch to exercise, and her idea of a date was to go swimming, or to the gym or for a run. Evenings, she liked to go out and socialize, preferably dancing. You’d be tired and stressed, wanting a quiet night in together, and she’d want to go out dancing. You took her out to a nice restaurant once, and she fussed about the salad dressing and the sauce and wouldn’t eat a dessert. It lasted about three months before you’d had enough.”

“I see. Thanks.”

The droid returned with their drinks. Shad took his glass, as Janson swiped his credcard through the droid’s payslot, and slowly inhaled the warm, woody scent of the whiskey. Taking a sip, he savoured the taste before swallowing. Catching Janson’s eyes, he said.

“Some things haven’t changed. I like this, thank you.”

Janson lifted his own glass in a salute, which Shad returned. After taking another drink, Shad leaned back in his seat. He realized that he was enjoying Janson’s company.

“Thank you for coming to visit me,” he said.

“You’d have done the same,” Janson replied.

Shad believed him. For the first time, he began to get a real sense of what he’d lost when he’d lost his identity as Wedge Antilles. Not just a name and a rank and medals, but friendship and loyalty. A sense of belonging somewhere. Shad became aware that Janson was watching him, and raised a smile.

“You look better than I expected,” Janson remarked. “Healthier, I mean.”

“The Imps looked after me physically, at least,” Shad replied.

Janson nodded. “I’m going to risk being rude and ask what the doctors are doing to help you.”

Shad took another sip of his whiskey. “I’m under the care of one of the psychiatrists here, Dr Jansz. She explained to me about dissociative amnesia, how it’s a defence mechanism. I used it to escape the interrogation, and to protect the knowledge they wanted from me, by blocking it off. Dr Jansz has also been helping me cope with things like being scared of new people and places.”

“What about the amnesia though ? Can they cure it ? Will it cure itself ?”

“Dr Jansz says that being back in something like my old life will help,” Shad explained. “I’ve got my old clothes, holos and so on; I’ve been studying the rebellion and learning about my past life. And meeting an old friend,” he added, smiling.

“Old ! I’m a year younger than you,” Janson said indignantly.

Shad gave him a patient look. “Hopefully something will start to bring the memories back.”

Janson looked thoughtfully at his glass of lum. “And if it doesn’t ?”

“Then Dr Jansz is going to try hypnotherapy. Apparently that’s often successful in helping with dissociative amnesia.”

“You’re very difficult to hypnotize, Wedge…Shad,” Janson said. “There was a woman in Rogue Squadron, Lilia Torin, who used to hypnotize volunteers as a sort of party trick. She tried on you a couple of times, but you wouldn’t go under. Still, a professional should have a much better chance,” he added confidently.

“Maybe Shad’s easier to hypnotise than Wedge,” Shad commented.

Janson nodded. “That could be.” He took another mouthful of lum and gazed around the bar. “It’s good to have some unexpected leave. So, Shad; what’s there to do round here ?”

The three days of Janson’s leave were spent exploring the base together. With Janson as company, Shad visited new places and found his self-confidence increasing. Janson treated everything as an adventure, looking for fun in new situations and laughing at their minor misfortunes. His attitude was infectious and Shad gradually became less self-conscious, and relaxed more. Shad was sorry when Janson’s leave ended and the pilot had to return to duty.

The visit was on his mind the next day during his appointment with Dr Jansz.

“You were smiling when you arrived today,” Dr Jansz commented. “I haven’t seen you smiling much before. Tell me about Lt. Janson’s visit.”

Shad talked about the visit while Dr Jansz listened carefully. Her ability to really concentrate on her patients was one of the things Shad liked about his doctor. It was as reassuring as her plump figure and motherly air. She was dark-skinned and all comfortable curves from her round cheeks to her soft fingers. When he’d finished talking, she asked.

“Do you feel you learned more about who you were – about yourself as Wedge ?”

Shad nodded slowly. “Janson told me a lot about what I’d done, what I liked to eat, that kind of thing.” As he paused, she smiled encouragingly. “There was the way he talked about Wedge too. Janson really cared about him. And I think he respected him a lot too,” Shad went on. “Just things he said now and again, like saying that General Crespin didn’t know half as much about starfighter tactics as Wedge did, and how he and Hobbie like to use sims based on missions Wedge commanded for their trainees.”

“How do you feel about that ?” Dr Jansz asked.

Shad knotted his hands together. “It’s strange to think of people looking up to me, respecting me. Wedge earned all of it, the rank, the medals. It’s hard to believe he could break down and turn into me.”

“It happened under extreme circumstances,” Dr Jansz reminded him gently. “And in a way, you were still doing your duty. The amnesia protected the knowledge that the Imperials wanted from you. And ‘Shad’ may be a stronger character than you realize. Moff Raworth took advantage of your impressionable state to dominate you.”

To dominate me, and twist me, Shad thought. He looked away from his doctor, staring at a holo of a waterfall instead. “I learned something else from Janson,” he said quietly. “Wedge Antilles was heterosexual.”

He didn’t need to explain more. The New Republic techs had found Moff Raworth’s recordings of his sexual activities with his body servant. Shad had been told about them, and knew that Dr Jansz had been given access to them. “What about Shad ?” the doctor asked. “You’re free to choose your sexuality now you’re away from the moff; do you know which gender you prefer ?”

Shad shook his head, his gaze still fixed on the holo.

“Do you believe that homosexual relationships are wrong ?”

“No,” he answered. “I mean, not for people who are…that way, who always have been. But Wedge isn’t that way.”

“Sexuality often isn’t as fixed as many people think,” Dr Jansz said. “Many individuals experiment for a while, or like something different now and again. Others are truly bisexual. Some fantasize but never take it any further. Janson may believe Wedge to be firmly heterosexual, but that doesn’t make it true.”

Shad frowned. “But how will Wedge’s friends act if they know about me and Moff Raworth ? They may not care what the moff did with other men, but Wedge ? They respect him so much; they don’t expect him to be letting an Imperial moff fuck him !”

“It was beyond your control, Shad,” the doctor said gently. She leaned closer and put her hand over his. “You were manipulated by the moff when you were vulnerable. He abused you. No one can blame you for that.”

Shad knew that Dr Jansz was right, that the moff had taken advantage of his ignorance about himself. But it’s not that simple. I believed the moff when he said we’d slept together before, because I didn’t remember otherwise. I had no reason not to believe him. But that doesn’t explain why my body responded to him. Why I got hard when he stroked me. The times I begged him to make me come.

Wedge would hate to know what he became when he was Shad.

Shad couldn’t find a way of expressing those thoughts to Dr Jansz, so he sat in a miserable silence.

Dr Jansz spoke again. “Don’t forget that none of Wedge’s friends know about what happened between Shad and Moff Raworth, unless you choose to tell them. The official story is that you were held prisoner at his residence. A few, like Lt. Janson, know that he made you his servant. Those in the New Republic who know the full truth will never divulge it, and Moff Raworth was killed in the assault, so he can’t tell. You’re worrying unnecessarily, Shad.”

Shad wished he could believe her, but he didn’t believe that any secret would remain so for ever. Sooner or later Janson, and Wedge’s other friends, will find out what Moff Raworth turned their friend into. Their faith in him would be shattered. Shad was weak and naďve; people feel sorry for what happened to him. Wedge Antilles is a hero, strong, brave. Heroes don’t behave like Shad did.

Shad wished he didn’t feel as though he’d betrayed Wedge Antilles.

Janson’s brief visit and departure made Shad all too aware of how empty his life was. He had no friends on the base and nothing specific to do with his time. He didn’t care much for working out in the gym – it reminded him too much of the training he did to please the moff. Instead, he spent time in the swimming pool. The downside to swimming was that he didn’t know whether he preferred looking at the women in their swimsuits, or the men. He admitted as much to Dr Jansz, adding that he still felt as though he was drifting aimlessly, now he didn’t have Moff Raworth making his decisions for him.

Dr Jansz suggested a part-time job, somewhere on Crieffs Base. Even the process of choosing something, and working out what skills he had to offer, gave Shad some sense of purpose. He found himself attracted to the vehicle hangars; the smell of the lubricants and fuel, and the whine of repulsor engines was somehow familiar and comforting. After proving his mechanical abilities, Shad began helping out as a vehicle technician.

While he was working, he was able to forget that he’d once been called Wedge Antilles. When Shad was concentrating on stripping out components, he wasn’t feeling guilty for letting Moff Raworth seduce him. Although the chief technician knew about his past, the other techs accepted him simply as Shad. As the days passed, he settled into his new identity as a vehicle tech. The holocube with pictures of Wedge’s life was switched off; Wedge’s flightsuit, helmet and medals were hidden at the back of his closet.

Even while he felt himself developing as Shad, he wasn’t allowed to completely forget that he was also Wedge. He visited Dr Jansz every week, and he had to cope with the visitors who came to see Wedge. The first was Mirax Terrik. She was delighted to see him, and Shad tried to respond to her enthusiasm. Mirax had brought more family and childhood holos but Shad only saw strangers. As she talked about their past, Shad grew more uncomfortable. He liked Mirax, he liked her straightforward nature and her warmth, but he didn’t want to hear about Wedge’s family and childhood. Mirax was too smart for him to fool. Sorrow gradually replaced the sparkle in her brown eyes as she looked at him. Shad felt relieved, but guilty when she said she had to leave. As she said her farewell, Shad hugged her and whispered.

“I’m sorry.”

Mirax blinked back tears and caressed his face. “I’m sorry too. You’re a nice person, Shad, but you’re not my big brother. I…” She gave him a quick kiss on the cheek, and hurried away.

A few days after Mirax’s visit, Hobbie Klivian arrived on leave. Again, Shad was greeted with a warmth and enthusiasm he couldn’t respond to. He tried to distract Hobbie by visiting bars and asking about Hobbie’s activities. Every time Hobbie started to talk about Wedge, Shad did his best to change the subject. Hobbie was disappointed and Shad grew irritable. Eventually, he lost his temper and snapped.

“I’m not Wedge; I’m Shad !”

The hurt expression on Hobbie’s mournful face haunted him for days.

The change in climate would have told Princess Leia where she was even if she’d been blind and deaf. Most of the base was kept at the warm, dry conditions that humans and most mammalian species preferred, but the air in Admiral Ackbar’s office was cooler and humid. In spite of the conditions, Leia liked Ackbar’s office, decorated in calming blues and greens, and with bright fish swimming in a globe of water that hung in mid-air between two repulsors. She also liked and admired the Mon Calamari admiral who was sitting behind the curved desk.

“I hope I’m not interrupting anything urgent,” Leia said, seeing his display screen lit up. “I was hoping you could spare a few minutes to discuss the Coruscant agenda.”

Ackbar opened his mouth in a Mon Cal smile, and gestured to a seat.

“You timing is fortuitous, Councillor,” he said, in his gravely voice. “I will be pleased to discuss Coruscant, but I have just received a report that I know you will be interested in.” He turned his display so that Leia could see it too. “It is the latest report from Dr Jansz concerning Commander Antilles.”

“Wedge ! Oh, yes, I want to know how he is.”

Ackbar pressed a button and Dr Jansz’s report started.

As she watched the holo-recording, Leia’s sense of optimism faded. Wedge seemed no closer to recovering his memory, in spite of the visits from his friends. Dr Jansz’s concern was clear, even through her professional tone.

“I felt it was time to try hypnotherapy, which can often be of value in treating cases of dissociative amnesia. Under hypnosis, the patient has access to memories which are not available to the conscious mind,” Dr Jansz explained. “The first attempts at hypnotising Commander Antilles failed; approximately one in ten of the human population cannot be hypnotised. I suggested that in the next session, a drug be used to make the Commander more susceptible to hypnotic influence. He agreed, but he was evidently somewhat reluctant to make the attempt.

At the second session, I gave Commander Antilles a dose of egohexadride, which affects the conscious will and makes the patient more suggestible. I then attempted a standard hypnosis. Unfortunately, this proved even less successful than before. Commander Antilles was evidently apprehensive about the hypnosis, and the egohexadride inhibited his ability to control his anxiety. I believe that the situation unconsciously reminded him of his interrogation, with a drug being used to enable one person to exert their will over his. He became distressed, and I was forced to stop the attempt at hypnosis, and administered a mild sedative.

Hypnotherapy is clearly an unsuitable technique in this case. Even if Commander Antilles were willing to try again, I feel there is an unacceptable level of risk to his mental status. The ‘Shad’ personality is currently quite stable and capable of functioning normally within society. As the hypnotherapy essentially recreated the conditions which lead to the amnesia, further attempts could damage the ‘Shad’ personality.”

Here, Dr Jansz paused, gathering her thoughts for the next part of the report.

“The conventional methods of treating dissociative amnesia have thus been ineffective in Commander Antilles’ case. I believe that, consciously or otherwise, the failure is due to resistance on the part of Commander Antilles himself.

As ‘Shad’, he has developed an idealized image of ‘Wedge Antilles’. Shad believes himself to be a weaker, less charismatic character, and fears that if he returns to being Wedge, then some part of the Shad persona will adversely affect the Wedge persona. Shad also cannot reconcile the image of the strong Wedge character with his knowledge of the person who was mentally and sexually dominated by Moff Raworth. In addition, Shad remains confused about his sexuality. There is no doubt that he gained pleasure from homosexual activities, but the fact that he was tricked into believing himself homosexual has left him uncertain about himself. He does, however, believe that Wedge Antilles is not homosexually inclined and this is another source of internal conflict. My recommendations at this point are to continue therapy sessions with Commander Antilles but with a different approach. I believe that to continue to push for memory recovery at this stage would be detrimental. The internal conflicts must be resolved first. At present, Shad’s insecurities are causing him to protect Wedge by continuing to block him off, just as he was blocked off to protect him from the interrogation. I need to work with Shad to resolve his insecurities. Only then will he take the risk of releasing his memories and exposing Wedge to the trauma of learning about his breakdown and his time as Shad.”

Dr Jansz paused again here, leaving time for her listeners to absorb what she’d just said. In spite of her technical, formal language, the warmth in her eyes reassured Leia that she cared about the subject of her report. Wedge wasn’t just a patient to Dr Jansz, but a confused and anxious person she was trying to help.

“It’s difficult to estimate a timeframe for Commander Antilles’ recovery. His experiences with Moff Raworth have made him suspicious of any attempt to influence his behaviour and beliefs, even when he knows the motives are good. It will take time to build up his trust in me, so he becomes receptive to my help and is willing to participate fully in psychotherapy. There’s no way this process can be hurried.

It is unlikely that Commander Antilles will be fit for active service in less than six months. A full recovery could well take longer. I expect that he will recover his memory in time, but there is always the possibility that his experiences may make him unsuitable for combat duty. Careful assessment will be necessary.”

Dr Jansz finished her report, and Admiral Ackbar switched off the display.

There was a silence, until Leia sighed. Ackbar rolled one eye in her direction.

“I, too, was hoping for better news,” he said. “Every time I ordered Commander Antilles into battle, I was prepared for the fact that he might not survive. I have been prepared to mourn the loss of a good man, someone I admire very much. When he disappeared, I knew it was likely that the next news we would have of him, would be of his execution. I was ready to accept his death, but not for this kind of loss.”

Leia blinked back sudden tears at the admiral’s words. “I know what you mean,” she answered. “It’s painful knowing that Wedge is alive, but so…damaged. If he’s dead, he’s dead; we learn to accept that and move on. But seeing him so hurt, and not knowing if or when he’ll recover.” She shook her head.

“He’ll have the best medical care the New Republic has,” Ackbar said.

“It’s the least Wedge deserves,” Leia said fiercely. “He’s given so much over the years. We wouldn’t be able to provide the kind of support he needs now if it wasn’t for him and all those he’s led and inspired.”

Ackbar nodded slowly, copying the human gesture. “I sincerely hope that one day Wedge will be fit to return to command. I regret his incapacity at a personal level, but even more so as his commanding officer. We are still at the early stages of planning our move on Coruscant, but I wish I knew whether Commander Antilles would be available as part of my forces.”

“From what Dr Jansz says, it would seem better to assume Wedge won’t be fit to fight,” Leia said, leaning back in her chair. “And with Tycho Celchu still missing, I don’t know who we’d have to lead a re-formed Rogue Squadron.” She sighed, and gazed across the office to the globe of water. “I had thought I might take a brief vacation and go visit Wedge, but it probably wouldn’t help. I just wish there was some way to help him.”

“I think we must put our trust in the specialists, like Dr Jansz,” Ackbar replied. “She will find the right approach”

“She’ll do as much as anyone can,” Leia agreed. “If only she could reach into his mind and heal it like a surgeon can heal a damaged body.” She paused, frowning, then her expression suddenly cleared. “Luke ! Luke might be able to reach Wedge and bring him back.”

“Through the Force, you mean ?” Ackbar asked.

“Yes ! There are some Jedi techniques for reading memories and he knows Wedge well.” Leia was sitting bolt upright on the edge of her chair.

Ackbar was more cautious. “Luke may be able to help in ways that Dr Jansz can’t, but there could be a risk to Commander Antilles. Your brother is not a trained psychologist. He could unintentionally make things worse, as Dr Jansz nearly did with the hypnotherapy.”

Leia considered this. “Then we’ll consult Dr Jansz. Luke can talk to her and take her advice on how to proceed.”

Ackbar nodded. “I, too, am anxious to see Wedge well again. If Luke thinks he can help, I am willing for him to do so.”

Leia smiled, a true, bright smile. “I’ll find Luke and get him to Wedge as soon as possible,” she promised.

It took ten days for Leia’s messages to reach Luke Skywalker, and another four days before his X-wing landed at Crieffs Base. Luke felt rather guilty at not coming here earlier. He'd been worried when Leia had first told him that Wedge had gone missing, but she’d assured him that General Cracken had assigned Intelligence units to the search. As weeks had passed, Luke had considered leaving his quest for further understanding of the Jedi, in order to help look for his friend, but then news had come that Wedge had been found. Luke had been aware that Wedge needed treatment to recover, but had allowed his attention to be absorbed by Jedi practices. Now, he hoped that some of what he had learned recently would be of value to the friend he’d neglected.

Following Leia’s suggestion, Luke visited Dr Jansz and talked to her before making contact with Wedge. He took to the smart, motherly psychologist at once, sensing nothing but the desire to help and heal in her. After a long discussion of Wedge’s condition, she consented to Luke’s offer of help.

“But here, in this office,” she told him firmly. “And I’ll be in attendance. If, at any point I ask you to stop, you must do so. Commander Antilles’ health must be our priority.”

Luke nodded. “I understand. I’d never intentionally hurt Wedge, but this could be a difficult task.”

“I suggest that you go and rest, eat, meditate or whatever you need to do to prepare yourself,” Dr Jansz said. “I’ll talk to Commander Antilles and see if he’ll consent to this experiment. I’ll do my best to persuade him, but if he refuses, we’ll have to accept that.”

“Of course. I just hope he agrees.” Luke wasn’t sure if he could help Wedge, but he sincerely wanted the chance to try.

In spite of his talk with Dr Jansz, Luke was still unprepared for the shock when he finally met Wedge, and found himself being looked at by a stranger. There was no recognition in Wedge’s eyes, but a wary reserve where there had once been trust. Even Wedge’s force sense was subtly different. Luke restricted his greeting to a handshake, instead of the hug that would have been so natural before. He let Wedge sit in his usual chair, with Dr Jansz close to one side, and pulled a light chair up close.

“Thanks for agreeing to meet me,” he said to Wedge. “I can understand that this is a bit strange and nerve-racking for you.”

Wedge glanced at the doctor before answering. “Dr Jansz trusts you. She wanted me to try this.”

His force sense rippled with anxiety and a touch of resentment but Luke could feel something else; a yearning for trust and peace of mind. Under the fear and confusion, Wedge/Shad wanted to be whole again.

“This is going to feel strange,” Luke told him. “But it won’t hurt. I’ve made contact with you before through the Force.”

Curiosity replaced worry on Wedge’s face. “When was that ?”

“It was at Endor, when you intercepted a drone with a message and set off the self-destruct,” Luke told him. “You went EV to stop it exploding by jamming your hand into the mechanism.” At Wedge’s look of astonishment, Luke added. “No, it wasn’t a very sophisticated approach, but you didn’t have time to do anything else. Anyway, I came out in my X-wing to help, and as your hand was being so badly crushed, you asked me to help control the pain. I made contact with you through the Force and got the pain under control.”

Wedge was looking at him in wonder. Luke could feel a similar emotion from Dr Jansz, but he kept his attention on his old friend. Wedge wasn’t completely relaxed, but Luke could feel a willingness to trust growing in within him.

“Are you ready ?” he asked quietly.

Wedge took a deep breath. “What do you want me to do ?”

“Just lean back in your chair and relax. Close your eyes if you like; let your mind drift.”

As Wedge obediently relaxed into his chair and closed his eyes, Dr Jansz put one hand on his arm to reassure him of her presence.

Luke opened himself into the Force, reaching out to Wedge’s bright presence. Very delicately, he touched Wedge’s mind. Surprise and apprehension rippled through Wedge’s sense; his hands clenched into fists but he didn’t resist Luke’s contact. Luke began to probe Wedge’s memories, touching lightly on those at the surface of his mind. He glimpsed Shad’s recent life, his time at Crieffs Base. Luke sensed a dark knot of other memories, still of Shad but something held very privately. He let those alone and probed deeper, trying to find Wedge’s memories.

All he found was a very definite block. When he tried to push through, Wedge gasped and Luke felt him begin to resist. Luke lightened his contact, giving Wedge the chance to relax and calm down. As he waited, Luke considered how to approach the problem. Not being a Force-user, Wedge could only resist him so far. If Luke wanted, he could push through the barrier in Wedge’s mind and touch the memories hidden behind it. It was a brutal approach, which would certainly cause Wedge distress, and could harm him mentally. Luke needed to find a more subtle way through.

He began searching Wedge’s mind again, sliding through Shad’s memories, trying to find any memory that might connect in some way to that block. Luke made the briefest contact with each memory, more interested in its associations than with what Wedge/Shad actually remembered. In spite of his effort to intrude as little as possible, he could feel Wedge’s growing disturbance. He could feel Wedge’s heartbeat as clearly as his own, feel Wedge’s pulse rate rising and his blood pressure increasing. As Wedge became more agitated, his feelings set off a chain reaction of memories and associations in his mind. Somewhere in the whirlwind of impressions that Luke received, he felt one that he instinctively knew was important. His mind flickered that way, chasing the brief glimpse.

Wedge made a small sound of protest as Luke chased after the elusive memory. Luke was having to work harder as resistance grew. A moment later, Luke found the memory of a fire, of dreaming of fire. The memory seemed to reach through the block that separated Shad from Wedge. Luke understood in a heartbeat. Shad had dreamed of the fire that killed Wedge’s parents. Luke reached into the memory of the dream and followed it through the mental block to its connection to Wedge’s own experience. From there, Wedge’s memories opened up around him like a star going nova. From the fire to Booster Terrik, to Loka Hask and being imprisoned on Mrlsst. Flying his X-wing, flying through the heart of a Death Star, flying down the trench of another Death Star. Millions and millions of impressions, memories barely glimpsed by Luke. Wedge cried out as the block crumbled and his memories burst back into his conscious mind.

Luke immediately lightened his mental touch, just keeping a light contact with Wedge’s presence. Wedge was shaking his head, struggling to make sense of the conflicting memories and self-knowledge in his mind. He opened his eyes, looking at Luke and Dr Jansz in bewilderment.

“Where…what’s happening…who ?”

“It’s okay, Wedge,” Luke said, sending reassurance through the Force.

“You’re going to be all right,” Dr Jansz added.

Wedge stared at one then the other. “I know you,” he said to Luke. “And you,” he said to the doctor. “But I don’t…I know you both but you’re both strangers…I…” He curled up in his chair, covering his face with his hands.

“Breathe slowly,” Dr Jansz instructed him, rubbing his shoulder. “You’re in shock. Just breathe slowly and try to relax.”

Her Force presence was suffused with warmth and a confidence that reassured Luke. She didn’t seem to be as alarmed by Wedge’s reaction as he’d been. Luke reached into his own centre, letting his anxieties bleed away. He needed to be calm now. After a minute or so, he sensed Wedge beginning to calm down too. The initial wave of shock had passed, and Wedge lowered his hands. His eyes were stormy with emotion but Luke was relieved to see that the panic had gone.

“I’m Wedge. I became Shad; he told me my name was Shad. The moff. That’s what happened, isn’t it ?”

“That’s right,” Dr Jansz reassured him. “Dissociative amnesia brought on by the stress of interrogation.”

Wedge nodded, his eyes fixed on her motherly face. “You told Shad that. I remember you telling me, but it’s like it happened to someone else.”

“In a sense, it did,” she told him.

Wedge shuddered. “He broke me,” he whispered. “He made me…” His voice trailed off and Luke felt a sudden surge in his emotions: anger, humiliation, disgust and guilt.

Luke knew what Wedge was remembering. Dr Jansz had briefed him fully on the relationship between Shad and Moff Raworth, warning him that Shad’s conflicting feelings about his sexuality could cause problems. Luke felt desperately sorry for his friend, but for all his growing Jedi powers, he didn’t know how best to help.

Dr Jansz also knew what was on Wedge’s mind now.

“We know what he did,” she said gently. “Shad talked about it with me; do you remember ?”

Wedge hesitated, then nodded.

“Remembering your time as Shad hurts, doesn’t it ?” she asked.

Wedge dropped his gaze, nodded in a quick, jerky gesture, then looked back at the doctor’s face as though clinging to a lifeline.

“Did you ever, as Wedge, get drunk or angry, and do or say something you regretted later ?” Dr Jansz’s voice was still soft.

“Yes. I have,” Wedge answered.

“And if someone, say, shouted at you when you didn’t deserve it, and then later they apologized, would you forgive them ?”

“I guess so.”

“Becoming Shad, and knowing what Shad did, that hurts and it’s going to take time for the hurt to fade, but it will happen,” Dr Jansz said. “You, Wedge, weren’t in control when you were Shad. You can’t blame yourself for anything that Shad did. You have to forgive Shad, and remember that he didn’t really know what he was doing; he was manipulated. Think of him as someone who hurt you when he was drunk, and who has apologised. Do you understand ?”

“I think so.” Wedge closed his eyes. “It’s…it’s so difficult.” His voice grew hoarse and he struggled to choke back a sob.

Dr Jansz leaned forward and wrapped her arms around him, pulling him against her comfortable body. “Go ahead, cry. There’s no shame in it.”

Wedge buried his face against her shoulder and wept.

Luke simply sat by and kept quiet, not wishing to disturb Wedge. When the worst pain had passed, and the sobs had eased into tearful sniffles, Luke used the Force to move a box of tissues to the table beside Dr Jansz’s chair. She saw the box floating across the room from her desk, and her eyes widened, but she said nothing. She continued to cradle Wedge, making gentle soothing sounds as he gradually recovered.

“That’s good, Wedge. Crying like that is very healing. I’m here to help you.”

When the sobs had ceased, and Wedge lifted his head from her shoulder, Dr Jansz calmly offered him a tissue. As Wedge recovered his composure, Luke quietly got up and fetched a glass of water.

“Here.” He offered Wedge the glass.

“Thank you.” Wedge drank most of the water in one go and slumped back into his chair. “I feel a bit better now.”

“You’ve still got a lot to come to terms with,” Dr Jansz said. “But you won’t be alone. I’m here to help you and support you for as long as you need it.”

“You’ve got your friends too,” Luke put in. “I can stay on here a while if you’d like me to.”

“Yes, yes I think I’d like that,” Wedge answered.

He still sounded frail, but Luke could see a new determination in his face. It was the determination of a man who would fly a snubfighter against a Death Star. Luke smiled in relief: Wedge would win this battle too.

For Wedge though, this was harder than fighting a Death Star. He’d known, with utter certainty, that the Death Stars had to be stopped, so his choice had simply been to destroy them or die in the attempt.This situation, the jumble of memories and difficult emotions, had Wedge deeply confused. While he was in Luke’s company, he felt he had a docking grapple to anchor himself to. When he said goodnight to Luke, and found himself alone in Shad’s quarters for the first time, he felt as though he were floating free in vacuum.

The room, the belongings, were familiar but strange. Dr Jansz had told him that Shad’s memories would soon become less vivid but at the moment he seemed to be seeing everything through two sets of eyes.

Those coveralls: I wear them when Shad’s repairing repulsors. Here’s my flightsuit, at the back of the closet where Shad put it. One moment they seem strange to me, the next moment, they are as familiar as my face in the mirror. Who am I ? Who am I going to be ?

He closed the closet door and leaned against it, closing his eyes. Memories of his time with the moff resurfaced in his mind, and he shuddered.

“I did it,” Wedge whispered. “I let him use me. I begged him to…” He shook his head fiercely and tried to push the thoughts aside.

Trying to keep his mind a blank, he readied himself for bed.

Bed. Shad’s bed. Wedge’s bed now. Shad’s bed. In the morning I’ll ask to be transferred to another room. Bed. Moff Raworth took me to bed; took me in his bed. It was Shad he took, not Wedge. I’m Wedge ! Same body. It was this body that responded to him. This cock that got hard at another man’s touch. Wedge was never interested in that: was I ? I don’t know myself any more.

Wedge flung the covers back and scrambled out of bed. The room lights came partway up, sufficient for him to see the bottle on the shelf near the door. It was a parting gift from Janson: Whyren’s Reserve. Wedge wrenched the cap off and stared at the bottle for a moment.

This is a stupid idea. But here and now, I can’t think of a better one.

He upended the bottle and gulped a good portion of the amber liquid. Fumbling the lid back into place, Wedge replaced the bottle and returned to his bed. He drew the covers up over his head, and waited for sleep.

When he met up with Luke again the next morning, life seemed to make more sense to Wedge. Conversation distracted him from painful thoughts, and he found himself slipping back into his role as the Wedge that Luke knew. At breakfast, they reminisced about past meals in places long since abandoned or destroyed. The memories were strong in Wedge’s mind and his spirits rose as the old bonds of their friendship were renewed. All the same, after eating, he put in a request to be assigned to new accomodation. A few minutes later he had the keycard to a new room, and was soon back in the old one, packing his things.

As Wedge began folding his rather limited supply of clothes, Luke started on the other odds and ends about the room. He picked up the holocube and switched it on. Wedge glanced up, recognising the first image displayed as one from Hoth.

“That was the first snowball fight I ever had,” Luke recalled.

“Wes started it,” Wedge said.

Luke chuckled. “Wes always starts it, whatever ‘it’ is.”

Wedge smiled in return, thinking how true that statement was.

Luke continued to study the holos displayed by the cube as Wedge got on with his packing. He commented on each one, remarking on how much younger some people looked, sharing his own memories of the occasions he’d been part of. Deliberately or otherwise, his words strengthened Wedge’s slowly growing sense of self. As Luke talked so easily about things Wedge had seen and done, the less real the memories of Shad seemed to be.

Opening the closet, Wedge found himself looking at Shad’s coveralls. They smelt of vehicle lubricant, a powerful and very real smell. Wedge hesitated, reluctant to touch them.

Maybe I should leave them behind, just forget all about Shad. But it won’t happen that easily, will it ?

Wedge lifted the coveralls from the closet and turned back to see Luke, looking at another holo and smiling.

Luke knows all about Shad. He was in my head. He knows what Shad and the moff did, how Shad yielded and begged for pleasure. But he’s not thinking about that. He’s disassociated what Shad did from the Wedge he knows. He doesn’t despise me for what I did when I was…sick. Like Dr Jansz said, Shad wasn’t really responsible for what he did; he was trying to protect Wedge, and survive somehow. And I did escape the interrogation by becoming Shad. And Shad did keep Moff Raworth from killing him, me, by doing what the moff wanted.

“Are you all right ?”

Wedge suddenly realized that Luke was staring at him.

“Uh, yeah. I was thinking,” he answered. “About Shad.”

Luke set down the holocube. “What were you thinking ?” he asked gently.

“That if I hadn’t become Shad, I’d probably be dead by now,” Wedge answered. “I guess I owe him.”

“You’re a survivor, Wedge, even if it means doing something unconventional like losing your identity for a while.”

Wedge managed a smile. “A strategy of rather limited applications, but it worked this time.” He began to fold the coveralls. Maybe becoming Shad wasn’t such a symptom of weakness and failure. Yielding, instead of fighting, may have been the right thing to do. I think that’s how Luke sees it, so that’s why he doesn’t despise me for what Shad did with the moff. And if Luke Skywalker thinks it was acceptable, then I can learn to live with it too.

He packed Shad’s coveralls neatly into his bag.

That night though, sleep still didn’t come easily. Wedge shifted restlessly in his new bed, tired but unable to sleep. Without company to distract him, there was nothing to keep the anxious thoughts at bay. Unlike the night before, he was less worried about who he was. If someone had unexpectedly asked his name, his automatic answer would have been ‘Wedge Antilles’. Remembering his time as Shad was still disconcerting, but it was beginning to take on the quality of an extended dream.

The part he couldn’t forget was the intimate times with the moff. Moff Raworth had used him and manipulated him, but that didn’t change the fact that he’d responded physically.

I enjoyed being held by another man. I liked the touch of his hand on my penis. I got pleasure from him making love to me. I’d never seriously thought about having sex with men before. I didn’t think I was that type. Now, I don’t know; I just don’t know what I want.

Wedge rolled over onto his other side, drawing the covers up around himself. He stared across the room, seeing only the faintest shapes in the dim light from the window. He knew consciously that being homosexual was no big deal in most human cultures, and that most aliens simply wouldn’t care. Wedge didn’t care who his pilots slept with, so long as all parties were adults and consented to whatever they did. His only concern was whether anything affected flying skills or morale. If he’d declared himself to, say, Tycho or Wes as homosexual under ordinary circumstances, he was sure they would have accepted it.

So why is this getting to me so badly now ?

Wedge gave up any attempt to sleep. He sat up in bed, drawing his knees up and wrapping his arms round them.

It’s discovering I’m not who I thought I was.

He leaned forward, resting his head against his knees and closing his eyes against the sting of unshed tears. Wedge wanted to cry, although he wasn’t even sure why he did. It was partly the frustration of trying to hit a moving target. He was just starting to re-establish his sense of identity as Wedge Antilles, but a fundamental part of that identity had changed. All that frustration and anxiety welled up in him, spilling out in tears that slid silently down his face.

A quiet tapping at his door startled him from his misery. Wedge looked up, wondering if he’d imagined the sound. When it was repeated, he hastily wiped a hand across his face and climbed out of bed. Pulling on his robe, he opened the door to find Luke outside. Wedge blinked at him, puzzled.

“What is it ?” He hoped Luke wouldn’t notice the croakiness of his voice.

Luke’s expression was soft. “I thought you might want a friend with you.”

“Well, I…” Wedge didn’t know what he wanted. “How did you know..?”

“My room’s only a couple of doors away,” Luke reminded him gently. “I could feel your disturbance through the Force.”

Wedge sighed. “Come in.”

He put the lights half up, and retreated to sit on the bed again. Luke settled himself on the chair at the small workstation.

“You seemed a bit steadier today, more at ease with yourself” Luke said quietly. “Am I right ?”

Wedge just nodded, then forced himself to speak. “I think Shad’s…fading. I don’t feel so much like two people in one head any more. I’m Wedge, but…I think…I don’t know. I don’t know if I’m the same Wedge any more.” He blurted out the last sentence, then stopped suddenly and drew himself into his defensive posture, with his arms around his knees.

“What’s changed ?”

Wedge looked across at Luke, trying to guess how much he knew or could sense. He could see sympathy and concern on his friend’s face. Luke’s blue eyes were steady, concerned only by how he could help. Wedge took a deep breath, trying to collect his thoughts.

“It’s what I did with the moff,” Wedge said slowly. He forced himself to bring his worries into the open. “It wasn’t my idea, I never considered having sex with a man before, but I enjoyed it.”

“Did you enjoy it just because it pleased the moff ?”

Wedge shook his head. “I don’t know. If someone had come up to me before all this, and pointed at Wes, for example, and said “Do you want to sleep with him ?”, I’d have said “no”. I wasn’t interested in men. But, when I was with Moff Raworth, it was good. He tricked me into doing something I’d wouldn’t have chosen to do, but it felt good. Something always felt a little wrong about having sex with him, but I think it was because I knew he was using me.” Wedge paused, swallowing a lump in his throat. “Shad knew there was something wrong in that relationship but I didn’t know what. Moff Raworth was all Shad had in the galaxy and the moff created that situation and took advantage of it.” He stopped again, trying to keep himself on track. “I was uneasy because Moff Raworth was the wrong person to be having sex with, but when he started touching me, it turned me on. I wanted him to make love to me and make me come. I enjoyed having sex with a man !”

“I’ve never known you condemn anyone else for their sexuality,” Luke remarked. “Why are you bothered about it in yourself ?”

“I don’t know !” Wedge wailed. “That’s what I can’t make out.”

Luke sighed. “I wish I knew how to help, Wedge, but I’m not Dr Jansz. You might notice though that I haven’t run away screaming just because my friend’s told me he might be gay.”

Wedge couldn’t help smiling at that. “I guess you’re right there. And I’m not showing much faith in my friends if I think they’ll abandon me so easily.”

“Is it the way you found out you might be gay ?” Luke suggested. “The deception involved, or the fact that your first partner wasn’t someone you’d normally choose ?”

Wedge frowned and shook his head. “No, though those aspects probably do muddle things for me.” He sighed and leaned back against the wall, suddenly longing for a good shot of whiskey. “I’m trying to kind of blank off what happened with the moff; that was something that happened to Shad, not Wedge. That’s the easiest way for me to deal with it right now.” He tried to recapture his earlier thoughts. “I’m trying to become Wedge again, but something I thought I knew about Wedge has changed.”

“And you don’t like it ?”

“No, that’s not quite it.” Wedge tensed up, clenching his fists. “It’s not just about whether I want to be gay or straight, or bi.” He took a deep breath. “It’s that I knew I was straight. From the first time I started thinking about girls, I was thinking about…girls. I guess I wondered what gay sex was like, but I wasn’t inclined to try it. If you’d asked me for some facts about myself, I could have told you that I have brown eyes, I’m right handed and I’m heterosexual. Basic, unchanging facts. And now it’s like waking up one morning and discovering your eyes have changed colour overnight. Or more like discovering you’ve got breasts instead of a dick.”

Luke’s eyes widened as he contemplated this. “I’m beginning to see what you’re getting at. I suppose it’s like how I felt when I first really experienced the Force. That changed everything for me. It certainly changed who I am.”

Wedge nodded, feeling a sudden lift at finally grasping the problem and knowing someone understood.

“That’s it, Luke. I thought I knew who and what I was, but suddenly it’s all changed. And I feel lost.” He gazed at Luke, needing reassurance.

Luke thought before answering. “It won’t last forever, Wedge, the feeling. You’ll adapt in time, like I did after discovering that Darth Vader was my father.”

Or like I did after my parents died. That hurt, and it changed me, but I survived. Wedge fought back the surge of pain that came with the memory of his parents’ deaths. If they hadn’t died, I probably wouldn’t have joined the Rebellion. With the Rebellion, I’ve helped deliver people from a life of fear. The galaxy is and will be a better place for what we achieved. And the gender I chose to sleep with makes no difference to my ability to fly an X-wing. He let out a long sigh.

“Getting things in perspective ?” Luke asked.

“Reading my mind ?” Wedge replied.

Luke smiled. “I don’t need the Force to guess how you’re thinking at the moment.”

“I guess not.” Wedge relaxed, straightening his legs and leaning back against the wall again. “You’re right; I’ll get used to the idea that I can get turned on by men as well as women.”

“It’ll double your chances of getting a date,” Luke pointed out.

Wedge laughed aloud. “That sounds like something Janson would say.”

“Well, he’s not here so I figured someone had to say it.”

Wedge gave an exaggerated groan. “One Wes Janson is enough for any galaxy. But thanks for coming here, Luke. I feel better now.”

Luke rose. “I’m glad I could help. It’s what I’m here for, remember ?”

Wedge nodded.

“Good night then.” Luke touched Wedge on the shoulder, and left.

Wedge sat in the semi-darkness for a few minutes, trying to let his mind slow down and relax. It’s still strange to think of myself as someone who may chose to sleep with men. It’s going to take time to assimilate that. But I can’t run away from what I did and how I felt. Some part of me has changed deeply, but some things are the same. I still want to fly, and fight. I’ll try to concentrate on those things, and let my sexuality sort itself out. What will be will be.

He took off his robe, turned the lights out and slid down till he was stretched out comfortably in his bed. At last, he closed his eyes and slept.

The night before Luke left Crieffs Base, they went to the bar together. It was busy, but they found a small table and a couple of stools. They chatted amiably for a while, sharing memories of bars on other worlds and other bases. The conversation lapsed a little, until Wedge spoke.

“I never really said ‘thank you’,” he remarked. “For coming here and helping me.”

Luke smiled. “I’m glad I could. It makes a change to use my Jedi abilities to help someone specific, a friend, rather than thinking in galactic terms.”

“Makes me feel how lucky I am, to have a friend who just happens to be the galaxy’s only Jedi.” Wedge grinned wryly.

“Some people believe you get the luck you deserve,” Luke answered. “I’m just happy to see my friend getting back on his feet again.”

“I’m pretty much there,” Wedge said. “I’ll never quite forget being Shad.”

“How do you feel about Shad now ?” Luke asked quietly.

“Mostly, I feel sorry for him,” Wedge said. “He was deceived and abused, he knew that Wedge’s friends wanted Wedge, not him. He was confused about himself in every way. Dr Jansz has really helped me get Shad in perspective.”

“Can you forgive him ?”

Wedge nodded. “He was a victim. I can accept what happened to Shad. It’s part of my, Wedge’s, life, and I can’t change that, but I can accept it without letting it swamp me. It’s not easy, but I’m getting there,”

“What about your other worries ?” Luke asked.

“Dr Jansz reminded me of something she told Shad,” Wedge answered quietly. “That sexuality isn’t always as fixed as we think it is. I’m not going to make any choices at the moment; I want to get used to the idea that I have more choices than I thought I did.” He shrugged. “It may just depend on who or what comes along. I’ll try not to worry about it.

Wedge paused, then his face brightened, half-smiling. “I’m beginning to look forward to leaving here and getting on with things again.”

“Do you know what you want to do next ?”

“Yes.” Wedge looked straight at Luke. “As soon as I’m passed fit, I’m going back to Starfighter Command. They may want me to do some more PR work at first, but I intend to fly an X-wing again. I haven’t finished fighting the Empire.” He saw Luke’s slight frown. “I’m not after revenge for what happened to me. Moff Raworth is the only person who can be blamed, and he’s already dead.”

Wedge paused, biting softly on his lower lip as he tried to get his thoughts straight.

“That whole system needs to be destroyed. I was a prisoner in the Imperial system, and yet I vanished from within that system. Moff Raworth had the power to put me in hiding, and no one could question what he’d done, or what had happened to me. The people who worked at his residence knew that Shad was locked in the Moff’s quarters, that he was some kind of prisoner, but no one either cared enough, or dared to say anything about it. No one should be able to wield that kind of power over another being, to do what they like without being held to account. That’s what I want to destroy, and I can do it best from an X-wing.”

Luke looked at him admiringly. “That sounds like the Wedge I flew with.”

Wedge chuckled and held up his glass of whiskey. “To flying, and to the return of Rogue Squadron.”

Luke raised his glass too. “To flying, and to Rogue Squadron.” He echoed the toast.

They drank.

The morning after Luke’s departure, Wedge made his first visit to the simulator room on Crieffs Base. He’d avoided it when he was Shad, unwilling to test himself in a place where Wedge excelled. Now he was in his comfortable orange flightsuit, his helmet under his arm. Wedge settled himself into one of the X-wing simulators, a pleasant pulse of excitement in his veins. He strapped himself in and tugged his helmet on, actions as familiar as brushing his teeth. The cockpit lit up around him as he adjusted the controls to suit his height and flying style. The main display unit offered him a choice of sims to fly, and Wedge felt a touch of pride in seeing that several of them were based on actual missions he’d commanded. He selected one almost at random, then hesitated briefly over difficulty level. It was over six months since he’d last sat in a cockpit, virtual or otherwise. With a grin that any being in the galaxy would have identified as ‘pure Corellian’, Wedge selected the hardest level of difficulty. A computerized voice spoke to him through his helmet speakers.

“Please state your name and a squadron designation, if applicable.”

He smiled. “Commander Wedge Antilles, Rogue Leader. Four lit and ready to fly.”

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