This is a work of fan fiction. No monetary profit has been gained from its production and no copyright infringement is intended. The Star Wars characters and events used in this fan fiction are the property of George Lucas. Mike Stackpole, Aaron Allston, and Timothy Zahn invented or shaped most of the characters with whom I'm playing, so my special thanks go to them for writing such great novels and comics. If you would like to republish the fanfic, please ask me. Any comments are very welcome at cailyn@xwpilots.de.

Family Ties

*Why can't this be a nightmare? Why can't I simply wake up and find that none of it had happened?* Jag stared at the holos of his siblings that stood in his father's study without really seeing them. His mind was too numb to focus on anything but the awful sense of deja-vú. It was only months since he'd last stood in this room, had stared at the holo of his dead brother and wished that it wasn't true. Cherith had comforted him then. But now…. If only he could turn back time….

"Don't blame yourself. You are not responsible for her death." His father's footsteps came closer as the baron crossed the room, but Jag didn't turn around. He couldn't face his father, not now.

"It was my plan. My decision," he contradicted tonelessly. It was easier to keep his voice emotionless than he'd thought. The pain was different this time. He felt empty.

"And it was a good plan. The battle was won, and our casualties were lower than initially expected," his father pointed out.

"What does it mean when one of them is your sister?" Jag remarked bitterly. "If I hadn't suggested splitting up the fighter groups, if I'd been with her group…."

"You would have protected her?"


"Don't taint her memory by suggesting something like that." His father's retort was sharp, but he softened it by placing his hands on his son's shoulders. "Cherith was a fighter pilot of her own right. She didn't need her brother to protect her. She was not your responsibility. Your squadron was."

Jag didn't reply. What could he have said? His father was right, of course, from a military point of view. But it had been his younger sister who had died out there, not any other pilot, and while it shouldn't make a difference, it did. And there was nothing anyone could say to ease the pain.

At least his father seemed to understand that. He squeezed his son's shoulders slightly, then left him alone. Outside the room, Jag heard him speak quietly to his wife, and he tensed even more. He wasn't ready to face his mother again. When he'd seen her grief-stricken face upon his arrival home and had heard her sob quietly a few times during the funeral, he had needed all his hard achieved composure not to break down.

As he had back on the ship. After the battle, when he'd learned of his sister's fate. Ignoring his tasks as squadron commander, all he'd been able to do was to run to his quarters before he broke down crying. He'd even forgotten to activate the lock.

Fortunately, it had been Shawnkyr who had come to fetch him. And to his relief, he had detected no contempt in her features or words, just sympathy. Family ties were important in the Chiss society, and she understood his special emotional attachment to his siblings. Furthermore, she had pointed out to him – to his utter surprise – that he had never seen a Chiss cry not because they didn't show grief, but because they didn't show it the same way as humans. Even after all these years, he had still made the mistake to assume that physiological reactions of two species were the same just because the two species looked similar.

"Jagged?" Despite his mother's quiet tone, he almost jumped. *I can't. I cannot talk to her now.* But rudely keeping his back turned to her was out of the question. With his father, he had dared to do so, knowing that the baron would clearly state any displeasure he might feel about his son's behavior. His mother would just be hurt, and he couldn't do that. Carefully he schooled his features into a neutral mask before he turned around.

His mother regarded him searchingly for a moment. She looked composed, but foremost Jag noticed the deep sadness in her eyes that he'd had first seen when Davin had died.

"Soontir said that you blame yourself for Cherith's death." A careful statement, almost a question.

"Yes." Jag couldn't bring himself to explain further. Likely, his father had already told her about the events in the briefing room. And he didn't want to talk about it. There was nothing his mother - or anyone else - could say to lighten the responsibility he bore.

She lightly brushed his arm when she moved to stand beside him. "Lately, I spent a lot of time thinking about the choices I made, and about their consequences. When Davin died – or actually, for the first time when we had to sent Cem away – I though a lot about some of the decisions I made in my life, and how they affected the lives of my family. And maybe," she smiled sadly, "if I'm allowed to indulge myself, even the history of the galaxy."

Despite himself, Jag was intrigued. The conversation didn't go into a direction he'd expected, and he wondered what decisions his mother was referring to. Certainly she couldn't have done anything to prevent her children's deaths. And changing the course of history?

While he still couldn't bring himself to speak, his mother must have noticed a reaction in his face, and smiled at him. "You are not the only one who looks back and wonders if he should have acted differently, Jagged." She carefully leaned against the desk. "Did I ever tell you about my family?"

"A little," Jag replied uncertainly, not sure how much his mother had told him and how much he might have forgotten. "I remember that you ran away from home to become a famous actress, and that your parents died some years later in an accident."

"Yes. But I never mentioned my little brother, did I?"

"Not that I remember, no."

She smiled sadly. "You would remember if I'd told you, I'm sure." She hesitated briefly. "He was – is – ten years younger than I, and was only six when I left home. We got along quite well, but we were never really close. He was a little boy happy to tinker with every piece of machinery he could get his hands on, and I was a rather snobbish teenage girl dreaming of being a celebrity and touring the galaxy. My parents owned a fueling station near Corellia; not what I had in mind for my future. For my brother, it was paradise." Absent-mindedly she gathered her hair in a ponytail with her hands, momentarily lost in the past or perhaps searching for the right words to continue.

Jag was curious now. When his mother had started, he'd assumed that she simply wanted to take his thoughts of his dead sister, but by now he'd gotten the impression that there was something important she wanted to tell him. She didn't like talking about her family, that much was clear from her body language. Strange that she'd chosen today to do so nevertheless.

"When a pirat running from the Corellian security forces took of without properly disengaging the fuel lines, the station was set on fire. My parents were able to separate the fueling station from the main space station, so when it exploded, no one at the space station was killed. But my parents died onboard their fueling station." She sighed. "At that time, I'd been away from home for almost ten years, already a famous actress, and I only learned about the accident by chance several weeks later. The news coverage I found only reported two casualties; there was no word about my brother. And I didn't try to find out what had happened to him."

She looked Jag square into the eyes. "Hard to understand, isn't it? Looking back, I don't understand it myself. It would have been so easy. I had the resources; if I'd tried, I would have found him in no time, I'm sure of it. But I didn't. I had a new life, the one I'd always dreamed of, and my family was just an embarrassing part of my past."

That statement shocked Jag. Family was important to him, as it was to his parents. Or so he'd thought. To hear his mother talking about her own family as embarrassing….

"Yes, I know." Syal gently touched her son's arm. "It's nothing I'm proud of, and at that time I wouldn't have admitted to it, but looking back, and being honest with myself, that is the truth behind my decision. Coming from a working-class family was something that I wanted to forget about, and there was no place for my brother in my glamorous life. So I told myself that he would have never abandoned our parents in an emergency situation, that he was most likely dead, too. A part of a distant past, but with no relevance to my future." She chuckled mirthlessly. "How wrong I was. That selfish, uncaring decision of mine was going to change my life forever, and maybe even the fate of the galaxy."

There it was again, the fate of the galaxy. But how could it be? "What became of your brother, mother?"

"Well, you know my first name, my real first name, Syal, and you probably remember that I went by the name of Wynnsa Starflare during my time as an actress. But I never told you, or anyone else for that matter except your father and his family, my maiden name. It is Syal Antilles, and Wedge Antilles is my brother."

Jag stared at her open-mouthed. He was only vaguely familiar with the current events in the New Republic or however it was called nowadays, as they usually had no relevance for the 'Empire of the Hand', but he knew enough about the Galactic Civil War to recognize that name immediately. General Wedge Antilles. One of only three surviving pilots in the Rebel's attack on the first Death Star. One of the pilots who had destroyed the second Death Star. Long-time leader of Rogue Squadron, the Rebel's elite fighter squadron. A squadron his own father had even flown with for a short time period, though he'd never talked with his son about it.

"You know who he is, don't you?" Jag just nodded, still too stunned to speak. "Four years after my parents' deaths enabled me to put my past life behind me forever, or so I'd thought at that time, just after the battle of Yavin, I discovered my brother's face and name on an Imperial wanted poster. And I realized that if anyone ever found out that Wedge was my brother, I would be dead." She looked at Jag apologetically. "Again, a very selfish reaction. But at that time, I was mainly mad at him. How could he become a Rebel? Endanger his sister?" She sighed. "Well, a sister he hadn't heard anything from since he was six. A sister who could have prevented this 'career' if only she had cared enough to take him in after our parents' deaths. But I hadn't, and now the result was hunting me.

"Shortly afterwards, I met your father, and when he asked me to marry him, I told him about my secret. He was loyal to the Empire, as was I, but we both knew that if my relation to Wedge was ever discovered, we would both be dead. So we expected the worst; he told me to prepare to fly to a safe place unknown even to him if anything ever happened to him, and I did." She suddenly smiled. "Not the cleverest plan we ever had, as it turned out. But for the time being, I stood by and watched while my husband became the leader of the most elite Imperial fighter squadron and my brother lead the most-elite Rebel fighter squadron, and I dreaded the day they would be fighting against each other.

"That day came, during the battle of Brentaal. And it ended with Soontir a prisoner of war. When I learned about it, I fled immediately. And without the resources to find me, he offered to defect to the Rebel forces if they would help him to find his wife." She chuckled again. "As I said, not one of our cleverest ideas. So Soontir ended up in my brother's Rogue Squadron."

"Did he know?" Jag inquired. "Wedge, I mean. That father is his brother-in-law."

"Yes, but only because Soontir told him. He had no idea about my identity before. And when he knew, he probably really wanted to find and help me. As least that's what your father thinks. Well, you know what happened in the end. Soontir was captured by Ysanne Isard and brought to Nirauan, to Grand Admiral Thrawn.

"And there comes the next decision we made that I can't help having second thoughts about. You know, your father saw all the dangers lurking here, and felt the duty to oppose them. But I think for him, and most definitely for me, it was a way out of a dilemma. The Empire we had been loyal to for a long time was gone, the current political leadership not worth our support. But we both never felt comfortable with the Rebels either. So coming to Nirauan was the ideal solution. I never imagined what a prize we would have to pay for it."

Jag saw tears glittering in his mother's eyes, and he awkwardly touched her shoulder to comfort her. "You did the right thing. If we weren't here fighting, protecting the rest of the galaxy, we would be fighting elsewhere. I don't think anyone of us would ever opt for a civilian life as long as there are enemies out there."

"But not at such a young age," his mother whispered, more to herself then to Jag, and he chose to ignore it. They'd had this discussion several times during the last years, and he simply couldn't understand why his mother still regarded him - and even Chak – a child. Maybe he would understand one day when he had children himself.

"Did you ever contact your brother again after you came here?"

His mother shook her head. "No. Foremost because our base was to be kept secret, of course, and Wedge had the resources and maybe even the motivation to search for us thoroughly if he'd learned that we were still alive. But what could I have told him anyway? We are probably both better of without the other to worry about."

Jag doubted that. If any of his siblings would ever disappear without a trace, he would never be able to just forget about him or her and go on with his life. "Do you think your brother feels the same?"

"I don't know. After Jedi Skywalker and Jade found our base, I half expected Wedge to turn up here. He and Luke Skywalker are close friends, so he will know of my whereabouts by now. But he never came. He's probably given up on his sister. And who could blame him for it?"

"Or maybe they didn't tell him,” Jag countered. “We were on alarm for months afterwards, waiting for a New Republic attack or at least a scouting mission which never came." Jag had been at the academy at that time, so he knew only second-hand reports, but obviously the two Jedi had been able to cause a lot of turmoil. Cherith - he felt a sudden stab of pain and tried to keep it from showing - Cherith had told him that their father had seemed almost devastated for some time, which was strange, as effectively there had hardly been any lasting damage. Perhaps he had expected a major attack on Nirauan by the New Republic. But it had never come, and Jag assumed that the Jedi had not shared their knowledge with the New Republic government. Politicians would never have been able to refrain from using such information.

"That is possible, of course. I wish..." She trailed off, leaving the sentence unfinished. A strange silence hung between them for some time. Eventually Syal looked searchingly at her son. "Are you ready to join us for dinner?"

Jag nodded. Despite the fact that he hadn't eaten anything but some nutrients for days, he didn't feel hungry at all, but he couldn't remain in his father's study forever. He felt composed enough to face his father and siblings again without breaking down. *And I should talk with them, now that I have the chance. Who knows if I'll ever see them again.* The thought hit him suddenly, and he had to struggle again to keep grief from showing on his face.

He had grown up in a military society in times of war, and loss had been a constant in his life. Family friends that had never returned from a mission, school friends who had lost a parent, later comrades that had died right beside him. But until a few months ago, his family had been spared, and subconsciously he had expected it to continue. He'd known the dangers, of course, his brain had, but his heart had been sure that his parents and his siblings would always be there. Until that day that he'd been called to General Darekh's office.

*I have a holomessage for you from your father.* The general's choice of words should have warned him, should have told him that something was wrong. Not 'from General Fel', but 'from your father'. But he hadn't noticed. Even though his father rarely sent private messages to one of his children via military lines, Jag hadn't thought the message to be special. In fact, he had expected it to be from his mother, who regularly sent family news to Chak, Davin, Cherith, and Jag to enable them to keep in touch with home.

But the moment he'd started the message and seen the look on his father's face, Jag had known that something was wrong. Terribly wrong. Still, the words had come as a shock to him. *Three days ago, Davin was killed in action.* He had heard the words, had known what they meant, but nonetheless at first he hadn't been able to fully comprehend them. It was unthinkable. As long as Jag could remember, Davin had always been there. Even when their respective duties had separated them for months, he had always known that his brother was out there somewhere, that he could contact him whenever he wished.

But Davin was dead. And now Cherith was gone, too. During the previous months, he had learned the hard way not to take anything for granted anymore. Time could run out at any moment. He looked at his mother, who waited patiently for him to accompany her to the living room. "I’d recommend that you try to contact your brother again, after all these years." His mother stared at him. Jag sighed inwardly. That had come out a lot more formal than he had intended. And he wasn't sure if his mother was perplexed by the seemingly non-sequitur or by his presumptuousness to advice her in private affairs. "I'm sorry, mother. I didn't mean it the way it sounded. It's just that I realized the hard way how blessed I am to have a family I can always fall back to, that will always support me, and that I should never take that for granted."

His mother sighed deeply. "You're right, and I know it, of course. But my brother, after all these years...." She considered her next words for a while. "I'll think on it. Maybe there is a way. And perhaps it is worth the try." She quickly changed the subject again. "Dinner?"

Jag inhaled deeply to gather his strength. "Yes, I'm coming."

(c) Petra Genske, January 2013

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