A series of one-shots dealing with possible changes in Wedge's life in the spirit of the Star Wars: Infinities comics.
Head to Head: A Different Trench Run.
There was no way out.
After the middle TIE fired on him and his controls turned to sludge, Wedge knew he was done for.
Luke seemed to feel otherwise, ordering him to clear of the trench:
"Get clear, Wedge. You can't do any more good back there."
Can't do any more good? Wedge thought, Kriff that. The Imps just hacked most of my squadron out of the air. Except for Syal and Mirax, everyone I know is either dead, incarcerated, or right here. Luke's making a run for the exhaust port, and Biggs won't stay alive long enough to cover him when I go. I'll be dammed if I do nothing.
Time seemed to slow as he came to a realization, and his veins turned to ice at the prospect.
I have nothing to lose. The Imps have a whole dammed battlestation on the line.
It was the work of a microsecond in that icy state for Wedge to decide on his course of action:
"Plug," Wedge growled to his R2 unit as he kept an iron grip on the stick, "Get ready to kill the ethertic rudder and set both of my torps for proximity detonation. I've got a plan."
"Wedge?" Luke's voice came frantically through the scratchy comm, "Why haven't you left yet?"
"Just picking a good time." he murmured back, abstractedly calm, "Picking... a good...time..."
Darth Vader fumed as he tried to reacquire the annoyingly rugged X-Wings maneuvering desperately in the trench's tight confines.
The Incom Corporation has much to answer for.
The Sith Lord stewed under his armor, noting the fighter he had damaged was still keeping pace with its wingman.
Still screening its wingmates with smoke and sparks puffing from the vessel's tail, dissipating into the vacuum of the Death Star's Polar Trench, and further disrupting his target lock.
These Rebel pilots are more skilled than Intelligence said they would be. Isard has...Disappointed me...
Vader briefly amused himself by wondering which pilots were smugglers, which were Imperial defectors, and which ones were stupid enough to be idealists before pushing such idle thoughts out of his mind. The rebels would be irrelevant in seconds, anyway.
They would be dead.
That thought brought satisfaction as he stretched out with his senses only to be taken aback at the sheer Force presence emanating from the leader. Clearly untrained, but shining like a star gone nova, screaming out a challenge to Vader.
His cracked lips formed a brief, painful smile beneath the glassy-eyed obsidian mask.
At last, a challenge from someone worthy, unlike that decrepit relic Kenobi.
The brief distraction from the damaged snubfighter would prove to be Lord Vader's undoing. As he well knew, one second was an eternity in space combat...
"Okay Plug!" Wedge shouted to his astromech, "Do it now!"
The droid tootled an acknowledgment, and Wedge dropped the throttle to zero while pulling back on the stick, trying to maneuver the craft in a manner it hadn't been designed for...
"The force is strong with this one." Vader mused, so distracted by the leader's Force presence that he didn't notice a change in the damaged fighter until it had dramatically swapped nose-for-tail and headed directly for him, its engines sparking and spitting flame.
Then his eyes widened as he the sleek gray and red fighter vomited two torpedoes at him before spiraling drunkenly off into open space.
Impossible! Vader raged, and stretched out with a knife of his anger towards the speeding projectiles, frantically firing his guns and searching for the missiles' activation circuit. Finally, he clenched an outstretched fist trying to push them out of the way.
Any other pilot would have been vaporized instantly. As it was, Vader nearly triumphed. He destroyed the first torpedo, disabled the activation mechanism of the second and dodged it with inches to spare on either wing array, to no avail.
The dead torpedo corkscrewed into one of his wingmen, punching a hole straight through the cockpit and killing the man with pure kinetic energy. The explosion from the first torpedo shredded Vader's shields and made him twitch ever so slightly as the pilotless TIE veered into him, knocking the TIE Advanced out of control and into the trench wall.
The millisecond it took for Darth Vader, Sith Lord and right hand of the Emperor to hit the wall was an eternity of fear. But somewhere, deep down, the weakened embers of a man once named Anakin Skywalker stirred, acknowledging a worthy adversary as he became one with the universe and took the third TIE with him.
"You're all clear Luke!" Wedge crowed jubilantly he sped away from the Death Star, "Now blow this thing!"
Then his comm failed, his engines lost power, and the last green lights in his cockpit display turned amber. The broken fighter sailed off into the void propelled only by its inertia.
Wedge exhaled deeply and relaxed into his chair, bathed a corona of light from the explosion of the Death Star less than a minute later.
Luke had done it!
Alone with the universe, the abnormally restrained Corellian finally reverted to type, whooping with joy and pumping his fist triumphantly. At the end of the day, he'd saved two of his wingmates and had pulled off a maneuver that gave veteran pilots nightmares just thinking about it.
All in all, Wedge mused, It had been a good day for flying.
Just when Wedge started to worry about how he'd get back to Yavin Base, two carbon-scored X-Wings formed up on either side of his cockpit as the ventral section of a battered YT-1300 freighter settled into view above him.
YAVIN 4 MAIN HANGAR
FOUR HOURS LATER
Half of Yavin Base was drunk. The other half was on the way, and the candy, creds and other high-value items offered to people for standing watch sober had made a few abstentious Rebels very wealthy in the only currency that mattered on a hidden insurgent base.
As the base staff and the raid's few survivors; Wedge and Luke, Keyan Farlander and Biggs Darklighter drank, they made sure to toast the twenty some others who didn't make it back in the fashion of those who had been about to die that morning.
In short, one hell of a party was in swing.
The only problem with the the celebration was that the two men of the hour were each insisting that the other had made the greater contribution. Luke insisted that he never could have made that shot if Wedge hadn't scraped the TIEs off of them, and Wedge maintained that he'd never have been able to land the exhaust port hit as well as the farmboy from Tatooine.
All the lum had been expended in an effort to get them both to stop being so modest, which had failed because there were only so many things for Luke to to do around Tosche Station with his friends, and Wedge was Corellian, so now bottles of rotgut Whyren's were being passed around.
"Seriously, Antilles, one hell of a piece of flying." Solo says for the fifth time, still genuinely impressed, "Chewie and I could use you the next time we make the Kessel Run. Teach those Imperial slugs a thing or two about flyin' like a Corellian."
"By which you mean like a Bantha that's been in the sun too long?" Biggs asks, and he and Luke dissolve into laughter as Solo knocks back another tumbler of Whyren's and attempts to explain how the even the hypothetical Bantha would be able to outfly the Imperials, with the exception of maybe a pilot Han was at the academy with named Fel.
With the amount of alcohol he's taken on board, Wedge is amazed the older man can still speak coherently, let alone remember his Academy shenanigans.
Just like he wonders what exactly the smuggler was doing near the trench.
A sudden attack of conscience?
Wedge almost asked Han to join them, almost tells him about his past, almost says,
"I used to be a smuggler too. I was , practically raised by Booster Terrik after my folks died. We could use a good pilot like you."
In the end, he doesn't. It took Wedge a while to find the Alliance on his own, and no amount of pushing would have convinced him to join up beforehand.
Solo wasn't there yet, and with the money to pay off Jabba sitting in his hold, Wedge doubted he would be desperate enough anytime soon.
Instead, he just smiles at the story and passes Solo's Wookie copilot another bottle of bad brandy.
"Where the hell are you putting that anyway?" Wedge asks. The critter's got one hell of a tolerance.
Solo and the Wookiee share a laugh at that, and explain that to Whyrens may as well be a kids' drink to Wookiees.
Wedge silently resolves to never accept a drink from a Wookiee, and hears a soft voice in his ear.
Wedge turns to see the Alderaanian Princess behind him, still looking beautiful in the simple white dress she had worn that morning. She was smiling with her mouth, but her eyes looked hard and tired. She hadn't joined them for the celebration until now.
Understandable. It's a bit hard to celebrate when you've just lost your world. Still, doesn't mean I can't include her in the group.
"It's just Wedge tonight," he said, indicating a blank uniform collar "No décor at a time like this."
"Call me Leia," She said, smiling for real this time, and they shook hands. "I hate to be the bearer of bad news Wedge, but you may want to find some insignia. General Dodonna wants to see you in the command center for debriefing. If you can walk there."
Wedge nodded, swayed a bit, and stared down at the tumbler in his hand, before managing to grab another from a mechanic with a tray of them.
"I'll have one for the road."
He credits the later friendship with Leia to the fact that he didn't spill it on her as he passed it over.
"You'll need this."
He held up an empty hand, raised the one holding his tumbler, and the room quieted.
Wedge spoke four quiet words, "To vengance for Alderaan."
A stab of pain flashed across Leia's face, turning into resolve as she heard the rest of the Rebels echo the toast.
As normal conversations gradually picked back up, Wedge pointed the Princess to a thick knot of people containing Luke, Han and Biggs. Leia turned to thank him, but he was already making his way carefully out of the hangar bay.
YAVIN 4 COMMAND CENTER
Wedge swayed at a position approximating attention while trying to work out if General Jan Dodonna was suppressing a smile behind his magnificent beard as he stared the young pilot down before speaking,
"I suppose you're wondering why I haven't called in the MP's yet?"
"The thought had crossed my mind, sir." Wedge said as he suppressed a smile.
The beard still indicated nothing, but the General's eyes softened a bit, "We just lost most of two squadrons. Doesn't matter if we just put a small-moon-sized hole in the Tarkin Doctrine. We pay the due to our dead. Tomorrow we have a ceremony for them. Tonight we say goodbye."
Wedge blamed the whiskey for the next bit, "Thank you sir, we're not out of drinks yet if you'd care to come down."
He could have sworn Dodonna's eyes twinkled at that.
"Perhaps later. Right now I need to figure out why we lost so many fighters on the final approach. That's why you're here."
Wedge nodded, and focused on his memories of the battle.
"It had to be that unique TIE model I vaped. The basic Eyeballs weren't too bad, but this guy, he went on a rampage until I got desperate enough to try that crazy inversion."
"Good thinking," The General said, stroking his beard pensively, "But if it was a secret weapon, more could be produced, further endangering the Alliance's cause. We can see if the prototype's pilot has any unique markings on their flightsuit."
"Mr. Martuz," Dodonna said to a nervous tech manning a computer terminal, "Access Antilles' flight recorder, and take us through his inversion maneuver, frame by frame."
The three men watched a pilot's eye view of Wedge's dangerous maneuver as the playback advanced slowly, and the screen jerked frame-by-frame toward the cockpit of the other craft.
"Got a look at the cockpit." The tech muttered, "I just need to run a light filter to clean it up, and..."
Jan Dodonna saw the black lensed mask of Darth Vader staring back at him. Then the entire command center saw their seasoned sixty-year-old commander use some very outdated, anatomically impossible slang terms as the command center staff goggled incredulously at the screen.
"Lock the room down!" barked the General, "We need to decide what to do with this."
"Blazing Sith! Did I..." Wedge trailed off, at a loss for words, Vader's mask sobering him further.
"You did. The footage shows you vaping Darth Vader with that insane maneuver." General Dodonna said gently, patting him on the shoulder, "Exceptional piloting, son. Damn exceptional."
The young pilot gulped, "So, I get a medal or something?"
"Yes. Psyops will probably suggest High Command announces it, pulls you off the front lines and starts a propaganda tour. You're about to get very famous."
"No sir." Wedge said, and the General's bushy eyebrows shot up "I didn't kill Vader. Not right now, at any rate. The last thing I want to do is paint a target on my head."
His eyes hardened, "I'm not going on a cushy propaganda tour either. Wes is getting over his bout of fever and we've got Imps to vape."
"Besides," Wedge said, beckoning the General closer, "Word gets out that I killed Vader, then ImpSec and COMPNOR check my background and find out that Coruscanti actress Wynssa Starflare is really my sister Syal, and her life isn't worth a dicred."
Dodonna nodded, "What about Vader then? Acknowledging his death would be a great boon for our cause."
Wedge's expression hardened, lending his youthful face an uncharacteristic maturity; "I killed a lot of people yesterday sir, in the battle. It'll never be more than that, and it won't bring the rest of Red Squadron back. I'll tell Luke that the man who killed General Kenobi is dead, but as far as anyone else is concerned, Vader died on the station."
"Hell, just classify it for fifteen years. I'll either be dead or off the flight line by then."
He paused significantly,
The older man smiled beneath his beard, "A Corellian. Who successfully debriefed with god knows how much whiskey in him, doesn't want to brag about shooting down the most feared pilot in the galaxy, and is telling high command how to run propoganda? With that kind of self-control you'll be standing where I am in about ten years."
"Me sir?" the younger man's hardened expression vanished, replaced by a grin, "A General? We'd be pretty kriffed if it came to that. I hate doing paperwork."
"Learn." Dodonna said abruptly. "And learn fast. I'm Brevetting you Captain. You're in charge of what's left of our fighter force on-base."
"You heard me Captain," The General replied, "Mr. Martuz, note that in his file."
Wedge sketched an enthusiastic salute, "Orders, Sir?"
Finally Dodonna smiled, slowly returning the salute, "Go on back to your friends, tell them what you know, and drink some more of that distilled fighter fuel they call whiskey. I think we'll be moving on soon."
"Yes Sir!" Wedge replied, and the General watched him go.
As talk in the Command Center resumed, there was a new undercurrent of energy there that hadn't existed that morning.
The Alliance had won a huge victory, and Jan Dodonna felt as if maybe the galaxy was spinning just a little bit differently.