Final Choice part 4

Coruscant 80 ABY

“I think Wedge might have broken down altogether if Winter hadn’t been there to look after him,” Leia said. “She called a medic and had him sedated so he would get some kind of rest and quiet. He didn’t have the will to argue, he just let her take charge. I don’t think anyone had seen Wedge so passive before.”

Leia paused before continuing.

“I got to Coruscant a couple of days later and went to see him. He was so fragile, not just physically, it was in his eyes too. Winter was staying in his quarters at the refugee station, and Wedge said it helped. He liked hearing her moving about the place. He said it would have been too empty if he’d been on his own. Of course, he kept thinking it would be Iella there with him, and then he’d remember that she was dead. It hurt every time, but he said it was better than being in a silent place, with no one around.

Mirax Horn arrived on planet with her father, Booster Terrik. Booster had been a friend of Wedge’s parents; he’d known Wedge since he was born. Mirax was much the same age as Wedge and often stayed with him and his parents while Booster was away on smuggling trips. They supported Wedge when his parents were killed and they were all as close as family.”

Han interrupted. “Corran Horn once said that Wedge was Booster’s son, while he was only Booster’s son-in-law.”

Leia nodded. “Wedge started to recover, outwardly at least. He saw Reda Grahl again once; he wanted to hear everything she could remember about Syal and Myri. She’d spoken to the commander of the station and told him that they’d hidden Syal’s body in the heat plant of one of the buildings near where she died. The group didn’t want to leave her for predators to get at, and there was no way to bury or cremate her, so they used a storage unit as a tomb for her. The commander sent out a retrieval party and they found her there still. The storage unit was dry and warm, so Syal’s body was quite well preserved. Wedge didn’t actually see her body, but he was pleased that there was something physical left of her, something he could say goodbye to.

Winter and Mirax helped Wedge to organize a memorial service for Iella and Syal. He seemed to become more focussed; I guess it was because the memorial was something he could actually do for his family, after those months of not being able to look for them or help them.” Leia glanced at Han, who nodded agreement.

“It was the only thing left he could do for them,” Han said.

“Wedge spoke about meeting Iella on Coruscant, when Rogue Squadron were there undercover,” Leia continued. “He said that pretending to be an ordinary person there, living a normal life of job and family, made him start to think about his own life as a pilot. As the years passed, and he was still flying and fighting, he felt he’d never have the love and raising a family kind of life. He missed having a family and a proper home and that side of his life became very empty.

Of course, he and Iella did get together and have a family. Wedge said it was a dream come true for him; the happiest and most fulfilling part of his whole life. Then he looked at the holos of Iella and Syal in the memorial hall, and said ‘The dream is over’.”

Leia paused there; Han took her hand.

“It sounds as though General Antilles’ friends did everything they could to help him,” Vesa said.

Han nodded. “Wedge made a point of thanking everyone at the memorial. He really did appreciate it.”

“Wedge gave up any chance of finding his family during the war by staying in the military to fight the Vong. He chose to stay where he could help other people, other families. When it was his turn to need help, no one who knew him could have refused.”

“Wedge didn’t deserve to be kicked up the arse by the universe,” Han asserted. “There were profiteers, and self-serving cowards, like the senators who commandeered fleet ships to save themselves during the fall of Coruscant, who deserved to lose the most precious things in their lives. Though they could always go out and steal more credits if they needed to; Wedge couldn’t just go out there and get replacements for Syal, Iella and Myri.”

There was a brief silence. Vesa broke it by gently asking:

“Did General Antilles ever find out what happened to Myri ?”

Han nodded, the anger fading. His face became resigned as he settled himself more comfortably.

“Wedge started looking for Myri almost as soon as the memorial was over,” Han said. “Tycho, General Celchu that is, was back on Coruscant and was assigned to help Wedge with the refugee stations. That was the official statement, anyway. Tycho was closer to Wedge than anyone else alive and they worked great as a team. Leia suggested that Tycho should be there to support Wedge; kriff knows how, but the military saw reason, and took her advice.”

“I’m glad they did,” Leia said. “Tycho and Wedge were closer than most brothers are. Tycho said afterwards that being with Wedge during those months was the hardest thing he’d ever gone through.”

“And Tycho was imprisoned by Isard, and tortured while she tried to brainwash him,” Han interrupted. “And he lost his family too, when Alderaan was destroyed. But he could get angry about those, and fight back. He said he was angry at the Vong for what they’d done to Iella and the girls, and for how it hurt Wedge. But they’d already been defeated so there was nothing more he could do then. Tycho told us how Wedge, his best friend, just got quieter and sadder as the weeks passed.

Wedge just withdrew; if he wasn’t focussed on work, particularly on searching for Myri, he hardly spoke. He wasn’t eating properly and Tycho thought he wasn’t sleeping much either. Wedge didn’t seem angry at the Vong. Tycho said that Wedge didn’t seem to care any more about how or why his family had died. He knew that Iella and Syal were dead and that was the important fact. The only thing left that mattered was finding out about Myri.” Han’s voice trailed off and he slumped back into the sofa.

Leia looked at him anxiously, rubbing his arm. She seemed to read something in his face that Vesa couldn’t see, and nodded. She turned her attention back to the young Twi’lek and started speaking.

“It did take months to find Myri, four or five. Reda told Wedge where she’d last seen Myri, and the territory that her group had lived in. Myri had got lost just weeks before the Vong were defeated. They’d had the planet for two years, near enough. Winter couldn’t search using security cams, as she had for Iella; most had been smashed by the Vong, and virtually none had power. That sector was still being cleared out and so the only way to search was armed teams going room-by-room. Thousands of beings had died just in that area alone and the searchers found plenty of remains. There were several false alarms – human children, girls – but eventually they found Myri.

She died along with a man and a female Bith. There was a Vong plant, some kind of fungus, growing in the room they were in. It was laden with poisonous spores; if you got within a meter or so of it, the fungus released a cloud of spores. The search teams had been warned about them by refugees, so they were wearing biosuits, but Myri and her companions hadn’t been so lucky. A heavy dose of spores could kill someone of Myri’s size in a couple of minutes.” Leia paused and shook her head sadly. “I remember they said it wasn’t a pleasant death, but at least Myri didn’t suffer long. The man must have lasted a few minutes longer, and I think they said it looked as though the Bith had had it much worse. I think the hardest thing for Wedge, though, was that they found Syal’s datapad with Myri’s things. Myri had been keeping a diary on it, and the last entry was three days after the Vong were finally defeated. She survived all the way through the Vong occupation, and died, because of this fungus, just before her father got back to look for her.”

“That’s dreadful,” Vesa said. He had pulled one of his lekku over his shoulder and had been stroking it, as if to soothe himself as he listened. “So cruel, that General Antilles’ search should end that way.”

“It was,” Leia agreed. “Two years it took for Wedge discover what had happened to his family after the fall of Coruscant. He found out in the end, but it was only when, where and how Iella and the girls had died.”

Vesa said. “There are beings alive today who still don’t know what happened to family trapped on Coruscant then. In that respect, General Antilles was one of the lucky ones.”

Han sat up, scowling. “Lucky ?”

Coruscant 30 ABY

The vines and creepers had been eradicated from the outside of the building. Power had been restored and some of the apartments were being renovated. However, the rooms that had once been Wedge’s home were still as they’d been on his return to Coruscant, over six months ago. The smell of decay and neglect was stronger, but he didn’t notice. The top of the low table in the centre of the living room was the only clean spot in the house, gleaming from just having been wiped. Wedge sat on the musty sofa and stared at the three items he’d arranged on the table.

In the centre was the anniversary ring he’d given Iella, the two blue stones gleaming in a shaft of light that shone through a clear spot on the otherwise dirty windows. On either side were two, small sealed pots made in gold. The delicately engraved, shining exteriors held the grey ashes that were the only physical remains of his two daughters. They were children he’d wanted, and feared he would never have. Now they’d been taken away from him, along with their mother. Myri had almost been in his grasp, but she’d slipped through his fingers at the last moment.

Wedge couldn’t cry; he simply ached. He was the one who’d been a soldier. He’d flown against two Death Stars, fought countless battles and cheated death time and time again. Wedge was good at figures, but back around the Battle of Hoth he’d given up trying to calculate the odds of himself surviving another year. In the end, he’d been a soldier for some twenty five years and had seen combat in every one of those years. He’d survived long enough to find Iella and marry her, and to become a father. And somehow, in some twisted quirk of the universe, he was the one still alive while his wife and his children were all dead.

A beep from his comlink startled Wedge, breaking him from the reverie into which he’d fallen. He fumbled in his pocket, half-resentful of having his thoughts broken into, and switched the comlink on.

“Antilles.” His voice was dry after his long silence, and snappish.

“It’s Tycho,” came the familiar voice. “I’m sorry if I disturbed you, Wedge.”

“No, it’s OK.” As he spoke, Wedge refocussed on the tabletop.

“Good. Whereabouts are you ?”

“I’m at the old place.”

“Ah, I stopped by your quarters to see if you were in.” Tycho said. “I haven’t seen you in a couple of days. I thought maybe you needed some company.”

The words were simple but Wedge had known Tycho for almost thirty years. Even though his thoughts were mostly elsewhere, he still heard the unspoken concern and love in his friend’s words. His eyes stung, and he blinked hard.

“Wedge ?”

Wedge cleared his throat. “I’m still here.” He thought for a few moments, his gaze on the items arranged on the table. “Are you still at my quarters ?”

“Just outside your door,” Tycho answered.

Wedge nodded. “Come over here, please, would you ? You remember the code, don’t you ? You can let yourself in.”

“Of course. I’ll see you in about twenty minutes, Wedge.”

“Right. Thank you, Tycho,” Wedge said. He took a deep breath. “I’m sorry I’ve…caused you so much trouble. Thank you for everything.”

“You’d do the same for me,” Tycho answered. “We’re wingmates, remember ?”

“Yes,” Wedge said quietly. “Wingmates.”

“So I’ll be on your wing in about twenty minutes.”

“OK. Goodbye.”

“’Bye,” Tycho answered.

Wedge switched off the comlink and automatically put it back in his pocket. He was glad Tycho had called; his business here was finished now. Leaning forward, he quickly touched the three things that linked him to his lost family: the ring and the two sealed jars. The people were gone. The laughter, the happiness, the love were all gone. Wedge was ready to go too.

He straightened up, military sharp, never taking his eyes from the tabletop, and picked up the blaster pistol waiting ready on the sofa beside himself. With no hesitation, Wedge lightly touched the muzzle to his temple, and pulled the trigger.

Coruscant 80 ABY

Han slumped back, shaking his head. “Sorry,” he mumbled. “I know what you meant.” He sighed. “Yes, at least Wedge got to know what happened to his family. He said he would keep on going as long as there was still hope for Myri. He was her father; the only thing that could destroy his hope of finding her alive would be proof of her death. So long as she was just missing, there was still a hope of finding her, and he’d keep searching for her. When they did find proof of her death, it took away that last thread of hope Wedge was clinging to.”

“It was Tycho who found him,” Leia said. “Wedge shot himself, in his old home. Tycho felt so guilty of course. He’d spoken to Wedge on the comlink just before going over there, but he said he didn’t realize how desparate Wedge was. Wedge sounded sad, but then it was only three days after the memorial service for Myri. I hadn’t really thought Wedge would kill himself, but…Survivor’s Guilt, you know ? He’d lived when so many others had died, right back from Biggs Darklighter getting killed in the trench on the first Death Star after Wedge had to pull out. It’s a hard burden to live with, especially for a good officer like Wedge. His family helped him cope and feel normal. Then they got killed and Wedge survived.

We’d all tried to help and comfort him. He held together through the war, while he was needed and had a duty to do. Afterwards, there was nothing left for him, just the guilt.” Leia paused and wiped a hand across her eyes. “Tycho went to visit him because he thought Wedge shouldn’t be alone; he thought Wedge needed company.”

“Wedge didn’t want help by then, or company,” Han said. “He’d wanted his family; his wife and his daughters.Those years of not knowing slowly crushed the heart out of him. And when he got his answer, it was that his family were dead. Wedge knew he’d never see them alive again, so he saw no reason to stay alive himself. I don't think he killed himself on a sudden impulse: it was a deliberate choice to die too."

Leia took in an unsteady breath and let it out slowly.

“It hurt the friends he left behind, but no one was truly angry at him for it.” she said. “Wedge had been hurt so badly. We consoled ourselves by thinking that he was at peace at last. Wedge deserved peace but there was so little of it in his life. He lost friends to war, and eventually he lost his family to war. He didn’t die in a war, but he died because of a war. That’s how the Vong war, any war, could affect a family.”

Vesa stirred himself, leaning forward to switch off the recorder.

“Thank you,” he said. “What you’ve told me is invaluable; it deserves to be recorded. I swear I’ll do my best to honour General Antilles and everyone I study for my doctorate. This is a case history about a family in war, but it’s also a story about people who were hurt and scared. People who cared about one another and who had friends who cared about them. I won’t forget that, especially when watching these recordings. Princess, General Solo, thank you for trusting me with this.”

“Just make a good job of it,” Han growled.

Vesa nodded, lekku swaying, and began to gather his things.

“I can copy those holos of Wedge to your datapad if you’d like ?” Leia offered.

“Thank you.” Vesa passed her his datapad.

There was more polite chat as the young researcher took his leave. When Vesa Lin had left the Solo’s apartment, Leia fetched cool drinks and they sat down again on the sofa. Neither said anything at first; Han and Leia sat close together, sipping the drinks. Eventually Han put his arm around Leia’s shoulders and she leaned against him.

“We did the right thing, didn’t we ?” he said quietly. “Telling him about Wedge ?”

“Yes.” Leia tilted her head up to give her husband a quick kiss. “I haven’t thought about Wedge in a while. It’s amazing how it all came back.”

Han stared across the room, brooding. “Wedge was a proper Corellian: tough and stubborn. I remember Luke once saying he couldn’t always tell through the Force how Wedge was feeling because Wedge was too strong-willed to read easily. I’d never have put Wedge down as the type to commit suicide. But I came apart after Chewie’s death,” he admitted. “After Wedge killed himself, I tried to imagine how I’d feel if you and the children had been killed.” Han shuddered. “I couldn’t think about it much; I scared myself. I think I’d have made the same choice Wedge did.”

“His family were his strength and his weakness,” Leia said. “I don’t think it was really much of a choice for him in the end. His family were his life, so why live on without them ?”

“It’s not a choice anyone should have to make,” Han answered.

He turned and wrapped both arms around Leia. They kissed, and then sat holding one another in silent gratitude that neither one had yet been forced to make that final choice.

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