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Farewell to Yesterday

Major Myke "Wolf" Krenn

[ Forest Moon; Endor ]

Sentients of all species from the Alliance were gathered in celebration, victorious in battle relieved at being alive. Their Ewok allies drummed and hooted their small voices into the wilds, one by one until the forest was alive with music. Huge bonfires pushed back the darkness, illuminating faces joyous and devastated. Pilots detailed their most daring maneuvers with their hands, while soldiers described the most harrowing moments of the shield capture.

Lieutenant Myke “Wolf” Krenn walked the platforms as if lost. He still wore his flight gear, his helmet dangling from the fingertips of his left hand. He was lucky to be alive. His A-wing had been torn to shreds by his attack on the Pride of Tarlandia but he’d made it back. There was still no word on Condor’s condition, but SAR teams reported he’d made it to the Medical Frigate after his ejection.

Looking down, he touched the small tear in his flak jacket, a near miss when a laser blast turned his instrument panel into slag. It could have been him instead. But it wasn’t. He was here, and Condor wasn’t. Neither were all those people who had gone down with the Pride.

He stared up into the sky, seeing the fireworks light up the night sky. He wondered who got to fly that gig. It would be better than walking around here, alone and lost.

A piercing laugh made him turn and he caught sight of Knight dancing with a zeltron woman. The ugly patch over his squadmate’s eye made him curious but by the way he was laughing right along with her, he was all right.

There he saw some A-wing pilots from Red and Green Squadrons, toasting something. He thought he recognized one or two of them, but not enough to interrupt their companionship. Two of them were embracing, a sight that told him a story in moments. It made his heart ache.

Reaching into his vest pocket, he pulled the flimsiplast sheet from where he’d kept it. It was creased, worn, degrading as only a well-loved thing does. He opened it slowly with one hand, thumbing the crease apart. On it were words, her words.

Myke,

Don’t believe everything you hear about Alderaan. Something is very wrong with the Empire. I’m leaving, tonight, and I’m not coming back. I hope that maybe, one day, I’ll see you again. If I don’t, thank you for showing me freedom, even only for an hour. Delete this message immediately after reading it. Stay safe.

Rieko.

For four years he’d carried that in his pocket. He’d taken her words to heart and she was right. There had been something very wrong with the Empire. It had cost him his freedom and his father. But tonight, they’d won part of it back. They’d done it.

At first, he’d done it for her. He’d been comfortable at the Clinic with his dad, his job, his life. But she’d shown him something, that sometimes dad wasn’t always right. That sometimes the world is bigger than one tiny clinic. When he’d been rescued from that transport, he vowed to be something different. To do something about it all.

It still didn’t stop his dad’s words from echoing in his mind. You are made to heal, not to kill. Your hands should save lives, not take them.

Wolf couldn’t help but see his hands now, holding a flimisplast letter from a girl long gone and a helmet stained with sweat from battle. He’d watched the Pride go down, burning up from the inside. He refused to tell himself what he’d done was good. Those were men and women on that ship and he’d sent them to their deaths. It was necessary. It helped win the battle, maybe the war.

But he still felt like dad’s little boy and dad wasn’t here to tell him it was all right anymore.

Someone jostled him, laughing. When he looked up, a female human commando laughed harder on the arm of a twi’lek male. She yelled out that she was sorry before promptly vomiting off the walkway. The sight made him smile. Maybe it was time to party a little himself. Maybe not enough to throw up though.

Taking a deep breath he turned and froze.

He saw her through the flames. Standing with a group of soldiers, her hand grasping a bottle. She was smiling ear-to-ear in the way he remembered. Her black hair was cropped short, but he’d recognize the slope of her jaw, the sharpness of her cheeks anywhere.

Rieko.

Light bloomed in his chest. After everything, after all the fighting and the death and the terrible nights, they’d won. They’d beaten the Empire and here, at the end of everything, here she was. He looked down at the flimisplast letter again and then back up, making sure she wasn’t a mirage or a dream.

She wasn’t a dream and she turned just as he stepped around the fire. At first her laughter continued until she really saw him. The change was gradual, her eyes uncrinkling, going wide with disbelief. Her mouth changed from a joyful grin to a thin line of shock. She took two steps towards him but he felt rooted to the spot.

He’d dreamed of seeing her again for four years, recited the words a thousand times, but now they were gone. He stood there, frozen, his heart pounding so hard he couldn’t even hear the ewok’s screeching.

“Myke?” she said, blinking rapidly, her mouth opening and shutting before finally forming more words. “What are you doing here?”

Unable to speak himself, he simply held up his helmet and then looked up into the sky. How could he tell her about it all? It was suddenly too much, too enormous to speak of.

“You… you’re a pilot? You…” Rieko shook her head and then took one more step, placing her just an arm’s length away. He suddenly realized how badly he smelled, how sweaty his hair was, how terrible he looked. This wasn’t how this should go.

“Say something, Myke. Are you okay?”

He was shaking, his jaw clenched so tight his teeth ached. For four years he’d fought for the chance to see her again, and here she was. What did that mean? Unable to find the words still, he held up the letter.

She took it with confusion, her eyes scanning the words and then rocking back on her heels. “You were supposed to destroy this.”

“Deleted it,” he said, his voice hoarse and mouth too dry. “Printed this to keep.”

“Why?” she asked.

Why did he keep it? To feel close to her? To remind him why he was doing things? No. No, he knew why he kept it, but he couldn’t voice that.

He shrugged instead, slowly, afraid to make the wrong movement. “I missed you,” he said and then he felt the walls chipping away when he saw her expression warm a little. “I thought I could find you. That one day I’d see you again.”

“And here you are,” she said, her tone one of amazement. “Just like that.”

“Just like that,” he said with a grin. In the firelight, she was even more beautiful than he remembered. He could just make out the little gold flecks that danced in her eyes, eyes that had captivated him for years and haunted him in his sleep. Hope blossomed more and more and the words came unbidden, unrestrained, and unrehearsed.

“I love you.”

Her eyes widened and her smile fell. Her whole stance seemed to shrink and he watched her gaze slide back to her group, where a young man stood waving to her. Confusion, and then devastation welled up like a wave, pressing against his psyche, but he ignored it. They’d won. They’d done the impossible. He’d searched the whole galaxy for her and here they were, just like it was supposed to be.

“Myke, I …” she began, then folded the letter and offered it to him. He took it, his fingers shaking. She looked uncomfortable and the devastation he began to feel was joined by shame.

“I’m sorry,” he said quickly. “I don’t… I don’t know why I said that.”

“Hey, ‘Ko! Bring your friend over, we got more lomins to kill!”

It was the young man from the group. He was waving, bottle in hand. He’d called her ‘Ko.’ A familiar name. Even he hadn’t called her that.

“You should go,” he said, feeling terribly uncertain of his voice.

“I … yeah, Myke, look. Um. What you said--”

“Forget it,” he said, holding his hands up in front of him, helmet and letter like a shield. “It’s okay. Forget I said anything.”

“No. This is important. Myke, we … we were kids. Do you understand? I was barely eighteen. It’s been four years.”

He didn’t want to hear any more. He couldn’t hear any more.

“It’s …” he said but the tears burned hard in his eyes, betraying him.

“We’ll talk again, okay? Later. Now that I know you’re in the Alliance, I can find you.”

He nodded, the painful cramp of a sob in his throat. She backed away and turned, returning to her group without a look back. Retreating quickly, he headed across a small footbridge. He didn’t know where he was going, but it just had to be away from there.

Where he found himself was another platform with another bonfire with another group of pilots, drinking, laughing, and in two instances, making out. He turned from the sight and leaned against the railing, placing his helmet on the post and resting his forehead against the cool metal. It stank of sweat-soaked leather and wet metal.

In his right hand, the letter crinkled. Sniffing, he stared at it again, reading the words, her words, again. There were no words of love in this letter. No longing. No destiny. He’d been deluding himself.

“Kark it,” he spat and crushed the letter in his hand. The flimsiplast refused to crush, pushing back against his grip. Growling in frustration, he tossed it off the edge of the platform. The letter opened, unhurt, and began a slow, graceful descent into the darkness below. Instantly he felt regret and loss mix with anger and resentment. He reached out, trying to grasp the letter but it was too far out.

It was gone, forever.

“I’m so stupid,” he muttered, sliding to his knees and staring into the abyss.

“Hey, A-wing!”

The call cut through the fog and background music. He turned, confused, until he spotted a young humanoid woman in a Y-wing’s flight suit waving at him. She was seated around a bonfire with other pilots, mostly Y and B-wing drivers by their gear. He frowned and touched his fingers to his chest, as if asking if she meant him.

“Yeah, you! Get over here!”

Her commanding words were matched with a friendly smile, and he couldn’t sit here staring at the loss of his letter forever. Pulling himself to his feet, he grabbed his helmet off the rail and made his way over.

“Told you, Rat, A-winger,” the woman said with a smirk at a Zabrak male wearing a B-wing’s flight suit. He tossed a bottle of something to her in response, which she caught, opened with a twist of her hand and offered to Myke.

“Sit down, A-wing. Drink this.”

Up close, he saw her skin was pink, or red, and her hair was black as night and nearly as short as his. The bottle she handed him smelled incredibly intoxicating. He sat on the makeshift log bench and felt the warm, comforting heat of the bonfire for the first time.

“I’m Too-Wide,” she said, then waved her bottle at the other two. “The big guy with the horns is Rat, the Twi’lek passed out over there is Smalls.”

He chuckled at the names, starting to feel the pain in his chest numbed by the woman’s friendly tone and the easy smiles of the others. He took a sip of the bottle, which replaced the pain with utter agony. Coughing, he gasped for breath, doubling over as the others laughed.

“Welcome to Rat’s Hooch! We dragged it down off the Defiance! Good stuff, huh?”

He gagged and sputtered until he could finally breathe again. Sighing, he shook his head, turning to Too-Wide. Her name didn’t describe her at all. She was tall and slim, with the rugged handsomeness of someone who spent too much time on the move. Her smile lit up her whole face and for a moment, he saw her eyes and not Rieko’s.

But only for a moment.

“I’m Wolf,” he said. “Yellow Squadron.”

“Nice to meet ya, A-wing. What brings ya by our neck of the woods?”

Stupidity, he wanted to say but shrugged instead. “Not sure where to go.”

Too-Wide nodded, not pressing him on it. She took a sip of the bottle and glanced up at the stars.

“You should take another drink.”

“Not really my thing,” Wolf said, holding the bottle between his knees and looking at the fire burning. The music of the native ewoks reached a crescendo before starting all over again. In the distance, he saw Rieko pulling the young man off towards the huts. His heart ached.

“Everything ends, A-wing,” Too-Wide said, nudging his leg with her knee. “Maybe you don’t drink, but tonight… tonight you should drink to endings.”

“It’s not over,” he said, ignoring how prophetic that felt. “Empire is still out there.”

She took a drink from her bottle and shrugged. “Maybe. Been fighting this war a long time. Something’s different. I hear things are going to change fast. Rumblings about a new Republic coming around. Telling you, A-wing, something ended today.”

She turned to look at him and he found himself unable to look away. “So take a drink with us. I dunno what tomorrow will bring, so tonight, we’re gonna celebrate endings.”

Wolf brought the bottle to his lips and for a time, he drank. The burning eventually felt good, warm, soothing. Rat took Smalls somewhere to sleep it off and Too-Wide took his hand.

“C’mon, A-wing. Let’s go celebrate an ending.”

He blinked, flushing from neck to ears. “We barely know each other.”

She stood, pulling him with her. Her smile was almost as intoxicating as the alcohol. “Soon, everything will change, I can feel it. I want to feel alive tonight, and I think you do too. Dunno if you lost someone, but it’s not a good night to be alone.”

He thought of the letter, floating down into the darkness and all the years he’d kept it. He hadn’t lost someone. He’d never had her. Yet it was a loss all the same. He felt different, changed somehow, and so he followed when she tugged at him to follow.

In the morning, she was gone. Things were different, he knew it the moment he stepped out into the sunlight. The future felt bright and open and he felt lighter.

Yesterday was over, but today was full of new possibilities.