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Private Ghost Pilots

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Luke Skywalker

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Tag: @Wedge Antilles.
Date: 23rd December, Year 110.

Oh, it just wasn’t his day.

Luke stood in front of the turbolift, plastered from head to foot in viscous mud and dripping it on to the polished tiles. A large sign had been taped to the doors that read in bright red letters: “Out of order.”

Seriously? He was gonna have to schlep mud up all those stairs to his apartment? Luke was already tired and aching after a rough, demanding week out on a StarsX excursion. He was looking forward to taking a long, scouring hot shower, then relaxing with a holofilm and bantha pepperoni pizza.

Well, he certainly wasn’t getting up to his apartment by willing it with the Force.

Luke huffed out a conceding sigh. “C’mon, Artoo. Let’s hit the stairs.”

The little droid warbled his agreement, before rattling after him. He was likewise covered from dome to treads in the same thick, greenish brown mud, though Luke had smeared it off his photoreceptor. Artoo was gonna need a shower, too, once they got to the apartment. That slimy gunk sure wouldn’t do his parts any good.

Luke started up the endlessly winding stairs and his boots squelched with each footfall. He could feel the mud oozing between his toes, moist and chunky. Artoo trailed behind, laboriously navigating the stairs by lowering and lifting his middle tread. That’d been another reason why Luke had wanted to use the turbolift.

They passed people from time to time heading the other way, who gave them a wide berth, their faces screwed up in disgust. Some even pinched hold of their noses or let out a choked gag, which was loud and harsh in the quiet stairwell.

Luke did not take offense to their reactions. He stunk as bad as the corpse of a rancour that had been left to rot and fester in the middle of a blistering Tatooine day. It was amazing that he hadn’t passed out from the heavy, gassy, feculent odor when he’d been sealed up in the cramped confines of his cockpit. Boy, he couldn’t have flown back to Elysium quick enough!

He had no idea how he was gonna get the awful smell out of his X-wing. He’d only just recently aired out the last traces of wet dog after Red’s visit.
 

Wedge Antilles

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While he’d known for some time that his fellow pilot lived in the same building in Elysium, Wedge had, so far, missed catching Luke in residence in part due different schedules. For one, he was taking on missions that took him further in this strange space than was probably necessary, and for another, it seemed Luke’s schedule was along similar vein. The only difference there was between StarsX and New Republic outposts was that they were shot at less - generally speaking, that was.

Wedge still wasn’t certain if it was a good thing, not that he missed the dogfights.

Coming almost nose to nose with said pilot and droid pair, thus, was something of a surprise, even as it took Wedge a bit to recognize who it was under the muck and slime dripping down the stairs due an out of service elevator.

“Luke?” He double-checked, though the presence of an equally muck-covered droid solved the need for it. R2 units were rather singular to their universe, and very hard to confuse for anything else. “Hey, Artoo. Where’ve you guys been? No offense, but you guys look like you’ve dropped by a swamp on your way here.”


@Luke Skywalker
 

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Wedge! Hey!” Luke said, cracking a grin. “Fancy seeing you here!”

Heh, he’d been waiting to use that one ever since he had found out the other pilot lived in the same apartment complex.

Artoo burbled a greeting, his bright, amiable tone conveying that he was pleased Wedge had acknowledged him. He warbled a question, which Luke thought might have been an inquiry about Mynock’s health and wellbeing.

“Ugh. You got it in one,” Luke replied, wrinkling his nose and scowling down at his brown soiled flight suit. “Artoo and I got sent to check out this new planet that I'm pretty sure is ninety-nine percent swamp. It’s the only thing in this galaxy that smells worse than us.”

The planet had reminded him an awful lot of Dagobah, sans a certain small green person.

“Where’ve they been sending you lately?” Luke asked. “You on your way out now?”

Oh, that would’ve been just typical! He never got time to talk to Wedge these days! It was as if the person responsible for putting together their schedules deliberately wanted to keep ‘em apart. He should talk to his father about that some time...
 

Wedge Antilles

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Wedge had to smile briefly at Luke’s greeting. “How long were you waiting to use that one?” He asked, glancing at his ‘pad to translate Artoo’s cheerful whistles.

“Mynock’s fine, Artoo, just somewhat less dusty than you. He’s recharging after our last mission. We’ve been to Waystation again,” he continued for Luke’s benefit, focusing on the other pilot. “They’re considering a more thorough exploration of it, and I’m apparently one of the pilots they have with refueling station experience willing to fly that far out.”

One of the few available for it, anyway, but who’s considering that. Much better than the higher-ups suggestion of taking a break. Who knows of all the similarities there is between a vacation in Pandora and one that’s typical for the Rogues...

Shaking that thought off, Wedge glanced over the dirty pair with a mix of sympathy for them and amusement at his own thoughts. A visit to a swamp planet was not exactly anyone’s favorite pastime. Neither was finding out what exactly Pandora defined as a suitable vacation. It seemed they were in for interesting times, all around.

“As it happens, my schedule’s free for the next few days,” he added, sticking his keys into the pocket of his jacket. “Something about taking some downtime before they send me out again somewhere. Think there were rumors about negotiations of some sort with Harmony Point, for one. Need a hand with that? I could take care of Artoo while you clean up.”

Luke’s apartment was closer to the stairs than Wedge’s, so their destination was obvious, and both of them could handle cleaning a droid. Like with minor repairs, it only made sense. It was these minor details that made a pilot’s life much easier on more than one occasion. This occasion probably counted.
 

Luke Skywalker

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Luke cracked another grin at Wedge’s question. “That obvious, huh?”

He was real pleased to hear the other pilot had some time off - and at the same time as him! Luke guessed he’d been too hasty jumping to conclusions about the schedule organizer at StarsX. The stuff about negotiations with Harmony Point drew an internal yawn out of him. Leia was the one who had inherited all of their mother’s diplomacy genes. He just wanted to steer clear of politics, fly a starfighter, (re)learn the ways of the Force.

“Well that’s great! I’m free too!” Luke said with outspread, goo dripping arms. “You don’t have to help clean up Artoo, but you’re welcome to stop by my apartment. In fact, I’ve got something a little odd to show you. An attendant at the Gem-Port just gave it to me.”

Luke tried to brush past Wedge on the stairs (and without sliming him), so he could lead the way up to his apartment. He was talking about a small, hollow trinket that had been carved into what had resembled an infant with a ringed insectoid body, its face stretched wide in a silent wail. Pretty creepy.

But through the Force he’d picked up on a great power radiating like heat off the strange object. Could it have been some kinda sacred Jedi artefact? Though Wedge could not feel the Force, Luke was eager to talk over theories with him!

After leaving a green brown trail on the remaining stairs and floor, Luke reached his apartment and unlocked the door. He stepped into a large open plan room, which was more workshop than living quarters. Every available flat surface, from his synthwood dining table to his synthmarble countertops, were covered in metal components. A three seater couch sagged unhappily under the weight of a whole sublight engine.

Oh, blast it. He’d forgotten all about that junk.
 

Wedge Antilles

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Pressing back against the wall to allow Luke passage on the stairs, Wedge hummed softly in interest, though he stayed quiet for now. Someone just giving things out by itself was nothing new. Someone giving things out that was strange enough to interest his friend, on the other hand, could be noted as odd. Either case, he was certain Luke was going to tell him all about it in the next few minutes, and he didn’t need to be a Jedi to notice that.

His friend seemed to be practically vibrating in place with wanting to do just that.

Following the two dripping companions to Luke’s apartment, Wedge ignored familiar clutter aside from an amused quirk to his mouth. His own apartment wasn’t that much different. Moving to avoid heavier pieces of equipment and metal spread all over the place, he glanced over at the little droid.

“What do you say, Artoo? Do we make things go a bit faster or wait for Luke to sort everything out?” He offered quietly. From what he could tell, sorting everything out was going to take a while for the other pilot, although he’d probably go for whatever that mystery artifact was first.

That was probably a good thing. The sooner a mystery was solved, the sooner the pair he accompanied here was going to get clean. Wedge didn’t mind, but he was rather thinking Luke would, especially if he read him right earlier.
 

Luke Skywalker

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“I got the artefact right here,” Luke said, patting the swamp slimed pocket of his flight suit. “Lemme just get cleaned up and then I’ll show it you. Artoo can help you work the holoprojector if you wanna watch anything while I’m gone.”

Luke couldn’t stand the thick, putrid stink a second longer! He figured it must’ve been pretty offputting to Wedge, too.

Already tugging at his soiled flight suit, he ducked into the refresher, which was thankfully clear of metal components. Luke peeled off his sodden, reeking clothes and leapt into the shower. He cranked the water up as hot as he could bear it, figuring that he might need to scald off his first layer of skin to get rid of the bacteria and green brown stain of the swamp.

As the dark, discolored water gurgled down the drain, he wondered if he could salvage his flight suit or if he was better off setting fire to it putting it out with the garbage. The latter would’ve been way easier, but flight suits didn’t come cheap.

By the time he shut off the shower, he could barely see ‘cos of the dense steam swirling around the refresher. He fumbled around in search of a towel.

“Everything all right, Wedge?” he called out to his guest, raising his voice so that it would carry through the churning fog and the thick synthwood of the chamber door.
 

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“Got to be able to see the holo projector to see anything from your databank right now, right, Artoo?” Wedge murmured in amusement, reaching to wipe muck from the projector and the rest of the astromech while he was at it with the rag he picked up from Luke’s work table. “Fine, Luke, take your time,” he called back to his friend.

He could take his time, too, especially as for once, he was in no hurry. He wasn’t kidding when he told his friend he was on a break of sorts, and the next mission wasn’t until January, an escort to one of the closer planets in this strange space, which should be easy.

On the other hand, I’m used to milk runs turning to light fights for survival, he thought humorously, thankful like he never was for his X-wing being with him, though he sometimes used another ship for an Academy mission. At least, in Pandora the chances of that happening seem to be far less than they had been in New Republic space.

He’d be glad for the time spent with his friend, though, especially as Luke’s been right with that line. Fancy seeing him in the very building where their apartments were almost next door. Then again, he was not used being in relative peace. The disparity in their schedules was perhaps as much on him as it was on Luke. Without all the things that had to be done to manage a squadron, he supposed it’d take time for him to find purpose. All the exploring he’d been doing so far was to figure it out as much as to help as needed.


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Luke towelled himself dry, then put on a new white tunic, which he estimated would last a week at the most. He had a drawer full of them in the refresher, all neatly folded and patiently waiting their turn to get ripped or splattered in unpleasant substances. Oh, boy.

He retrieved the strange little artefact from his slimy flight suit, then stepped out of the refresher along with a thick, swirling column of steam. Despite his merciless scouring under the hot water, Luke thought he could still detect a faint grassy bog odor oozing off him. It would probably take a dozen more hot showers before he could purge it completely.

“Hey, Wedge,” he said, approaching his friend. “This is the artefact I was given.”

He reached out and proceeded to place the odd object in the palm of Wedge’s hand. Luke studied it again and found himself shaking his head wonderingly at the round face, bulging eyes and ribbed cocoon body.

Who had carved this half insect, half human figure? What was it supposed to represent?

Luke figured he would give Wedge some time on his own to examine the artefact, so padded over to his living space to begin hauling starfighter parts off the furniture, specifically the places where they could sit. He would need Wedge’s assistance with shifting the larger, bulkier items.

“What d’you think?” he asked after he had cleared metal clutter from two armchairs.
 

Wedge Antilles

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“Hm.” Wedge turned the strange ornament in his hands once Luke placed it there. He’d seen plenty of strange things, both outside and in Pandora, but he’d not seen anything the like before. If it was supposed to represent something, he really couldn’t say. Really, Luke was the one who’d be able to tell better if there was anything odd about it.

To Wedge, the frankly disturbing toy was precisely that. A toy.

“Nothing I can tell about it,” he noted, passing the ornament back. “Seems to be just a Christmas toy, if somewhat spooky one, and plenty of those around this time of the year. Why, does it register odd for you somehow?”

If he was to hazard a guess, it’d be precisely why Luke kept it in the first place. Neither of them used to have enough space for gathering odd trinkets and the like, for all that being in Pandora somewhat changed things. Wedge himself still had his apartment in that threadbare state of ready to go at moment’s notice, a force of habit that saved him from this sort of clutter. Keeping something because he wanted someone else to take a look at it would be why he’d keep an artifact, no matter how strange it looked.
 

Luke Skywalker

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“Oh,” Luke said, accepting the strange object back.

Huh, it kinda did resemble a toy from that festival most of the people seemed to celebrate in this galaxy. As Luke had hoped, Wedge had pointed something out about the object that he’d missed. Too bad it wasn’t anything more unusual.

Oh, how he was gonna regret that later…

“Something feels off about it,” Luke admitted. “Through the Force, I mean. It’s a faint impression. If I had more training, maybe I could figure it out… I don’t know…”

Luke huffed out an impatient sigh and shook his head. For what must have been the millionth time, he found himself wishing he was old again. With his expertise in the Force, he wouldn’t have struggled to pick up just the faintest murmur from the object. He would have got everything figured out in seconds!

Well, all right, maybe he was overestimating his older self’s abilities just a little…

He had to remind himself that if he’d been old, he couldn’t have spent time like this with Wedge, ‘cos a fifty-three year old hanging out with a twenty-seven year old was kinda weird. Then again, Wedge had always exuded an air of being at least three decades older than his actual age.

“You wanna order takeout?” Luke asked as he absentmindedly tossed the object on the dusty, crushed seat of an armchair.
 

Wedge Antilles

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“Bad place for it to be if it feels off,” Wedge noted, eyes following the toy to where Luke tossed it. “Why don’t we keep an eye on it while we manage that takeout. If it’s nothing, we’ll stash it somewhere later. If it’s something, well. We’re used to strange, right?”

Didn’t Jedi go on about trusting one’s instincts? Wedge wouldn’t be one to ignore those when his friend mentioned them, considering it saved his life a few times. Whether it was a good idea to ignore a strange toy that gave Luke an odd enough feeling to bring it it back in the first place remained to be seen.

After everything their own universe and Pandora dropped on their heads so far, Wedge wouldn’t be surprised if there was more to that toy than met the eye. He was going to have to follow Luke on this one, though. They’d find out about it sooner or later, if anything.


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“Right,” Luke laughed. “That thing’s pretty normal compared to some of the strange stuff that’s happened to us.”

Though Pandora had their home galaxy beat when it came to strangeness. Boy, Luke didn’t think he could go a whole day without something happening to him!

“But on the subject, you seen any action lately?” Luke asked.

He rummaged through the clutter on one of his counters and drew out a stack of dog-eared fliers advertising various eateries in Elysium. Free delivery! promised most of ‘em. He was always receiving ads in the mail, and then forgetting to throw ‘em out with the trash, though it had worked in their favor this time.

“There’s a seafood place here that’s offering free gooberfish sticks with every meal,” Luke said as he began to sift through the fliers. “Or this one’s offering half price nerf burgers. I wonder how well they cook ‘em.”

It was creeping up to that strange time of the month where he liked his meat rare, or better yet, raw and bloody.
 

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“Probably not the sort of action you’re referring to,” Wedge mused thoughtfully, eyes still on the strange ornament. “Though I think I’ll be taking the higher ups on that vacation that apparently was my due for a while.” He rolled his eyes, clearing up after himself and giving a much cleaner Artoo a light pat on the dome. “Though I honestly don’t remember a leave that stayed such. Do you?”

Luke’s comments about the food from the fliers went in one ear and out the other, though Wedge caught the gist of it enough to indicate his preference for the second while looking for a place to dump the dirty rag he’d been using. The latest mission was probably more tiring than he thought, but it was also probably the time in the ship catching up to him. Maybe crashing early was a good idea this time.

Maybe taking up his higher ups on that offered vacation time was also a good idea, especially before it became an order. He could probably use it to see more of Pandora - it took time to get really used to the place.
 

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“Oh, yeah?” Luke said. “Where do ya think you’ll vacation?”

He could sure recommend some places from all his travels! He’d stayed at the Crystal Palace Beach resort in the Crystal Vales once, which had been real pleasant. They had served pretty delicious burgers in the evening.

Luke wondered if the nerf burgers they were gonna have tonight would taste just as good, if not better. He sent a comm off to the place with their orders.

“Well, that’s just charming, Luke,” spoke up a new, albeit familiar voice behind him. “I get blown up over Yavin and you don’t think to order me anything.”

Luke spun around so fast that he almost stumbled and crashed into Wedge. He was too shocked and astonished by the black haired, mustachioed figure standing there to apologize about the near miss collision. They were wearing a flight suit and had a distinctive checkered helmet tucked under one arm.

Biggs!” Luke burst out. “You’re alive!”

He wanted to dash over and throw his arms around his best friend from Tatooine, but something was off about Biggs. His flesh had a discreet gray or blue cast to it as though he had spent far too long out in the cold, and his flight suit should have been bright orange, but it was more of a dull, cheerless one.
 

Wedge Antilles

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About to answer his friend’s questions, Wedge felt his eyes widen at the latest arrivals instead, those answers dying in his throat. Hands automatically reaching out to steady his friend as Luke almost crashed into him, he ignored Biggs for the moment. Instead, he focused on the point just behind the other pilot’s shoulder and the young woman standing there who most certainly should not have been.

“Exploring trips getting too peaceful for you, Commander?” Her voice had the same tone as Biggs’ had, her appearance very similar to him in that bluish-grey lit skin and colorless dress. Though she was a pilot, she wasn’t in a flight suit. Wedge remembered that outfit because that’s what she’d been wearing when they’d found her. “No one dies during those.”

“Rogue Eleven,” he rasped, his throat dry.

The young woman bowed her head in acknowledgement, long brown hair obscuring her face.

“Sir.”

Neither of them spoke each other’s name, but it made sense to Wedge’s confused mind. For one, they hadn’t had a chance to get to know each other that well. For another, Luke never met her that Wedge knew of. It was the first death from the new squadron - from his squadron - and it was still eating at him.

“Can you see her?” He asked Luke, nodding to the young woman, who smiled and waved from her spot, making him crack a small smile despite himself. Living nightmare or whatever the hell this was, he was glad to see her. The check with Luke was mainly to ensure he wasn’t losing his mind in the process.

One thing he was fairly certain about - Pandora wasn’t responsible for depositing these two in the middle of Luke’s living room. Something else was.
 

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“Yeah,” Luke said. “I see her.”

He had to resist the dumb urge to wave back.

Luke couldn’t put a name or any memories to her young blue tinged face. He would have assumed she was a friend or even romantic partner of Wedge’s due to the sense of familiarity between them, except he’d referred to her by one of their callsigns.

“Rogue Eleven?” he asked, his lifting tone of voice inviting Wedge to elaborate.

Seriously, Luke?” Biggs huffed at him with mock exasperation. “You're more interested in some girl rather than your best pal in the whole wide galaxy? That’s me, not you, by the way, Wedge. Sorry, buddy.”

Luke felt a little warm with embarrassment. That wasn't true about his friends. He had grown up with Biggs on the planet farthest from the bright center of the universe. They had bonded together through their risky races in Beggar’s Canyon, their displeasure with living on a dusty, backwater planet, and their dreams of leaving it one day. They had stood apart from the other kids at the Tosche Station, who would never amount to more than moisture farmers, garage technicians, and tavern-keepers if they were lucky.

He had met Wedge later in life, but they’d been brought together fast by the dangers of being starpilot fighters in the Rebel Alliance. It felt to Luke as though he had known Wedge just as long as Biggs ‘cos of all those hard, pressurized times.

“I sure hope you’re better at picking up girls now than you were on Tatooine, Luke,” Biggs remarked with a big bark of a laugh.

He crossed over to Luke and slapped him hard on the shoulder. His hand was as cold as ice, and Luke had to suppress a violent shiver. He was too puzzled and disturbed by the coldness to feel particularly embarrassed about Biggs dragging up the less than dignified aspects of his life on Tatooine.

“Hey, Wedge,” Biggs said. “D’you know what the kids at the Tosche Station used to call him?”

Oh no…
 

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Wedge shrugged absently at Biggs’ reply. Were he younger, say, Luke’s current age, that comment might’ve ruffled his proverbial feathers, but he was currently distracted by a more present demon.

Not to mention, Biggs was probably right. Wedge himself was now much closer to Tycho than he had been to Luke despite sharing the same danger and innumerable death-defying stunts. There was also no helping the inevitable distance that yawned when Luke chose to begin reviving the Jedi order, which meant he had to leave the Rogues.

“That’s right, you wouldn’t have known her. She joined a few years post Endor along with a couple of other kids,” he replied absently, oblivious to Luke’s consternation and Biggs’s rambling. “She’s our first casualty out of five... to date that I’m aware of.”

Each of those casualties hurt. Each one’s been responsible for his going along with that mad plan of taking Borleias. That she showed up here and not one of the others... well, Wedge didn’t quite know what to make of it. He should probably be grateful for it, though. He didn’t think he was quite in the right headspace to deal with pretentious shit.

“Yeah, Rogue Squadron has a rep for that, including pilots getting killed in their sleep,” the young woman said cheerfully, bowing to the men with a mocking smile. “How’s Horn, my wingmate, and the kid, sir?” Her eyes flicked toward Biggs in amusement, and Wedge grimaced. The kid she referred to was Biggs’s cousin, not that it needed coming up at the moment. “Anyone take over Five’s astrogation exercises yet?”

“Banged up but alive,” Wedge said wryly. “Sheer dumb luck in all their cases, and we’ve more problems than astrogation exercises. Five’s learning on the fly, his wingmate’s keeping an eye on him.”

The young woman hummed, nodding as she listened to his summary. They both knew that sheer dumb luck was also business as usual for the Rogues, and the ambush which almost cost Wedge four pilots instead of one was not something they could’ve predicted.

Wedge held back a shiver himself. Standing in the same room as a pair of dead pilots only reminded him of those that were alive, especially Tycho. Being aware that he was still there dealing with the squadron’s problems was one thing. Being physically present here with no way of knowing if that was really so... now that could really mess up with one’s mind, and now, if he was honest, was with his.
 

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“Oh,” Luke said rather lamely at Wedge’s explanation.

He tried to dredge up memories of the Rogues post Endor, but his mind was frustratingly blank. Partly ‘cos he’d been forced to drift away from ‘em, but mostly ‘cos he had a real hard time remembering events between Endor and the catastrophic night that he had failed his nephew. He was pretty sure the forgetfulness was the fault of his accident in that enchanted lake.

Luke glanced between Wedge and Rogue Eleven, blinking repeatedly at their private conversation. He couldn’t help but feel a little left out, which was sure dumb. She was a ghost after all, just like Biggs. That was the only way to rationalize the blue cast to their flesh and Biggs’s icy touch, as well as the flippant manner in which he had spoken about his own death!

To try and open up the conversation, Luke asked the two pilots with wide, awestricken eyes: “Why are you here?”

“I don’t know about her,” Biggs said, cocking a thumb at Rogue Eleven. “But I’ve got a message for ya both. From General Dodonna.”

General Dodonna!” Luke exclaimed.

Excitement that was edged with confusion flitted through him. Could Biggs’s ghost have crossed through time, space, dimensions to relay them an important message from General Dodonna? What could he possibly want? Was this about the Rebellion? Could Emperor Palpatine have resurrected himself again?

“What did Dodonna say?” Luke pressed him.

“He said…” Biggs hesitated as he made to stand between Wedge and Luke, then draw them close by putting his arms around their shoulders.

Luke once more felt that cold touch, this time on the nape of his neck. He shuddered violently, but the experience was made all the more uncomfortable when Biggs lowered his head towards them conspiratorially. His breath, icy as the wind on Hoth, billowed across the side of Luke’s face and stung his skin. There was a discreet smell to it, too. A near imperceptible whiff of rot, like a mouse had died beneath floorboards.

“He said you’re both a disgrace to the Rebellion,” Biggs said. “You fled, Wedge, during the battle of Yavin. You’re a coward. And you, Luke. You don’t deserve all the credit you got for blowing up that Death Star. If it wasn’t for all those pilots giving their lives - me included - you would never have gotten the chance to blow that thing.”
 

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Post hoarding this weekend as I’m not feeling too hot!
Thancred Waters wrote on Ruby Rose's profile.
Well, well, well. Look what the cat metaphorical and/or literal god dragged in.
Went to school for 14 years just to never use 80% of of what they taught me. Crazy.
Daniela Dimitrescu wrote on Bela Dimitrescu's profile.
Bela!!!!!!!!! i've missed you so much ;;

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