Evan Quinlan

A Peace Offering

In Fan Fiction, Fiction, Short Stories on January 10, 2011 at 5:35 pm

Rylen didn’t care that he’d attracted the attention of the guards on duty as he marched angrily toward the small door on the other side of the compound.  Afterimages of blood-stained fields and charred corpses still reeled in his mind and, upon bursting into the office, he lost no time in firing his words at the unimposing man who looked up from the map spread out on the desk before him.

“You treacherous, incompetent coward!” he exclaimed.

A sergeant near the corner reached for his blaster but the unimposing man raised a hand, ordering the motion to a halt.

“I’m sorry, Commander Rylen,” said the man, who wore a pilot’s uniform.  “What seems to be the problem?”

“You should be executed,” Rylen spat.  “You left my men out there to die!”

“I never leave men to die,” replied the man.  “I leave men to live.”

This seemed so nonsensical to Rylen that he opened his mouth then closed it again, unable to think of any reply.  The man continued, calmly:

“If we had pressed on, the Imperials would have picked us off with long-range cannons.  Once they mounted an energy shield my fighters couldn’t penetrate—”

“—You didn’t even try—” Rylen cut in.

“—and you lost your armored transport—”

“—because you failed to cover us—”

“—all we would have achieved would have been death.”

“Then we’d have died!” Rylen shouted.  The silence that followed the outburst was too quiet, telling Rylen that even people outside the office had stopped to listen.  The air was tense.

The pilot across the desk studied him levelly.  Rylen took a breath.

“General… my men would all rather die than bow to the Remnant,” he said.  “We would die for our queen and we would die gladly for Naboo.”

The pilot-general seemed to acknowledge Rylen’s remission and nodded almost imperceptibly.  Then he said to the Rebel in the corner:

“Sergeant, on second thought… give me your blaster.”

Rylen tensed.

The sergeant removed his firearm and handed it to his superior, who, in turn, handed it to Rylen.  Rylen took it with trepidation, his anger visibly faltering.

“In 80 hours I give you permission to shoot me in the head with this blaster,” the general said to him.

Rylen was stunned.

“What?”

“Consider it… a peace offering.”  The general sat down.  Rylen, not knowing quite what to do with the weapon, held it awkwardly.

“Let me tell you a story,” the man continued.  “It happened not very long ago but it feels like an entire lifetime has passed since then.  Before I founded Rogue Squadron I flew with the Rebel fleet at the Battle of Yavin.  It was Hell in the sky.  A lot of men died… good ones and bad ones.  I was almost one of them.  A pursuing TIE fighter shot up my stabilizer and I had to pull out.  I actually had to leave the battle.”  He paused.  “Do you know what it’s like to have to make the decision to flee?”

Rylen shook his head.  “I may have, today… but you took that away from me.  You made the decision for me when you ordered the retreat.”

“Consider it a favor,” the general said with an empty smile.  “It makes you feel like a failure.  An incompetent.  A… ‘treacherous coward,’ it’s true.  I thought I had let the Rebellion down that day, and I probably should have died.”

“But you didn’t.”

“No.  I lived.  And do you know what I did later?”

“Yes.”

The general smiled; genuine this time.  “Yes, I thought you might.  I destroyed the Second Death Star.”

Rylen lowered his eyes to stare at the pistol.  He was now thoroughly embarrassed that he had publicly insulted this man credited with the destruction of the Empire’s second-greatest weapon.

Wedge Antilles leaned forward and traced his finger on the map.

“At random increments exceeding no more than two hours, starting immediately, a pair of my X-wings will make attack runs on the energy shield.  The intermittent attacks will be ineffectual, of course, except to serve one purpose: they will force the Imperials to keep their energy shield live.”

The light of understanding began to cross Rylen’s face.

“Between two and three days from now the Imperials will run out of energy and be forced to abandon their position for open ground.  The same open ground from which you just came.”

“That’s a bad position,” Rylen said.

“Yes, it is.  So you see, less than 80 hours from now you’ll be free of the Imperial Remnant on Naboo for good.  They’ll be easily overwhelmed.  And if they decide to stay where they are, one of my bones will nuke them from the stratosphere.”

Rylen blinked.

“One of my Y-wings,” Wedge clarified.

“Sir, I…”

“So,” Wedge said, standing.  “You can shoot me, if you want, when the time comes.  But you want to know why I ordered the retreat?  The reason is because I’ve learned the difference between cause and effect.  People revere both martyrs and heroes… but martyrs die for a cause and heroes live for an effect.”  He met Rylen’s eyes once again.  This time, though, his face was soft.  Almost kind, as Rylen imagined it was naturally when the man wasn’t fighting wars.  “Which one would you rather be, Commander Rylen?  A martyr… or a hero?”

After a long moment Rylen placed the gun on the desk.

“I won’t be needing this, sir,” he said.

“Good,” Wedge said, leaning back in his chair.  “Because I know a few bucket heads with itchy trigger fingers that love shooting at moving targets, and I don’t think they’d take too kindly to you if you took me up on my offer.”  He added, “You’re dismissed, Commander.”

Rylen saluted and left the room.  Wedge let out a sigh.

“With boys like that in the Rebel army, it’s no wonder the Empire lost,” he said.

Less than a year later Wedge retired for the first time.  Having achieved peace through battle and victory through survival, he would be known as a hero throughout the galaxy for generations to come.  The warrior who lived.  The Rebel who made the most difficult choice of all.

You can’t do any good back there, the voice in his memory said.

Oh yes I can, he replied.

 

Wedge Antilles’ biography.

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  1. Force-ghost Aesop is nodding his glowing-blue head in approval. And I thought I was the only one who took Star Wars fan fiction seriously. Good show.

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