DOUBLE-EDGED LUCK





Iíve often been told that Iím lucky. Like when Mum and Dad decided to send me to farm school on Corellia. Some of my friends, and my parentsí friends told me how lucky I was. They said Iíd enjoy all the stuff you canít do on an orbital station, like swimming in lakes, and sailing a jet boat and riding thaks and slopewings. In the end it was fun, but when youíre just ten years old and small for your age, and youíre watching your parents flying away and leaving you with strangers for the next six months: well, I didnít feel so lucky then.

I guess farm school turned out to be lucky in another way, because if Booster hadnít been bringing me back from there at the end of term, Iíd have been at home when Buzzzer lifted off and set the depot on fire. The first few months afterwards, I spent a lot of time thinking about how that might have turned out. Mum and Dad would have told me to evacuate with everyone else, but I never figured out if Iíd have done it. Iíd have wanted to go back in there with them, to fight the fire while Dad released the depot from the station. If Iíd done that, Iíd have died with them. If Iíd done like they wanted, and got to safety, Iíd have always felt like I abandoned them. Instead, I didnít have to make that choice. I was with Booster on the Skate; safe from the danger but close enough for communications, and to hear them say that they loved me for the last time. Lucky, I guess.

It was a similar mixed luck for me at Yarvin. When Vaderís shot hit my X-wing, he damaged the stabilizer. In the close confines of that trench, and at those speeds, I was a danger to my wingmates. I just didnít have the fine control you need for flying like that. When, not if, but when, Iíd lost it, not only would I have been a smear on the side of the trench, but I could have taken Biggs or Luke with me. So I did like Luke said, and pulled up and away. I tried to loop up and around to drop in behind the TIEs, but by the time Iíd wrestled my ship into place for the dive, Han Solo had come back. And Vader had vaped Biggs.

So I guess I was the lucky one there, but it didnít feel like it. Luke and I were the only ones who came back out of Red Squadron. Some people, especially those who arenít pilots, thought Iíd pulled out at the first chance, and abandoned Biggs and Luke to Vader. They wanted me to feel guilty but I didnít need their help. For months afterwards I would think of other things I could have done. Instead of pulling out, I could have abruptly reversed thrust, slowing so suddenly that the chasing TIEs rammed me and we all went out in a grand explosion, leaving Luke and Biggs in peace to blow the Death Star and survive. It wasnít until some time later that we learned it had been Vader in the Interceptor prototype, and that fantasy collapsed. Vader wouldnít have fallen for that trick; somehow heíd have avoided me and gone on to kill Biggs. So weíd have both died.

I guess itís lucky for me I didnít think to try that trick at the time. And Iím lucky because Vader only damaged my ship, but he vaped Biggsí. I lived: Biggs died.

And thatís how itís been for so many years. I live: others die. Dak, Zev, Herian, Dllr, Ibtisam, Lujane, Shiel, Ton, Castin, Jesmin, Falynn, Grinder, Lyyr, Slee: so many others. Most of them under my command. I remember after Distna, telling myself it was lucky that Colonel Vessery had showed in time to save most of us, and that it was good that eight of us had survived. But of the four missing ones, only Wes survived. He was the one I most desperately, selfishly, wanted to find alive, but itís hard to feel truly lucky when three others died in that ambush.

Iíve been interviewed quite a few times in my career. The PR people tell me I look splendid in my dress uniform, with all my battle honours and medals displayed, even though I sometimes feel more like a display mannequin than a soldier. In the course of discussing all the engagements Iíve taken part in, the journalists often make some remark about the odds against my surviving for so long, and with so few injuries at that. Which leads to the question about luck. How much of my survival is skill, and how much is luck ? I donít really know. I usually make a joke about not being as lucky as I seem, or else Iíd have won a fortune at sabacc and retired years ago.

Itís still early; the light filtering in through the bedroom window is greyish. Many, many nights Iíve slept badly, or woken early, because of dreams about the ones who werenít lucky. Today, though, Iíve just woken early: no dreams. Iíve been relaxing in the warmth of my bed, enjoying the peace. The only thing I can hear is the soft sound of my wife breathing as she sleeps by my side. Even after nearly six years of marriage, I still get a thrill from the words Ďmy wifeí. Iellaís hair is tumbled across her pillow and the light cover outlines her slender body. Sheís beautiful, intelligent, loyal, courageous and the best partner I could wish for.

In a room across the hall are our two daughters, both still asleep, judging by the absence of noise. Marrying Iella filled an empty space in my life, but our girls have completed the holo. They are as beautiful and as smart as their mother, and I love them without question. This apartment is no longer just my quarters, the place that was assigned to me. Itís home. My home; our home. Meals are cooked here, toys are scattered across the living room, the bathroom smells of lush, feminine shampoo and shower products, and thereís laughter.

A little over twenty years ago, my first real home was taken from me. My home and family exploded in a ball of burning fuel. The military became a substitute; it gave me something to do, people to be with, and somewhere to live. But it couldnít really fill that gap in my heart.

Now, I have a home and family again. I love and am loved.

I am lucky.




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