anghraine: chiaroscuro shot of leia; text: frozen (leia [frozen])
[personal profile] anghraine
title: per ardua ad astra (3/?)
verse: Death Star
characters: Jyn Erso and Bodhi Rook; Cassian Andor, technically; OCs—Corporal Pralit, Dr Esten
stuff that happens: Even on the Death Star, Jyn gets to appreciate the small joys of life: running water, quality health care, and local news.
previous chapters: one, two

She felt faintly soiled. More than faintly. Did it feel the same to Cassian?

Everything I did, I did for the Rebellion. Not the words of a man who enjoyed the choices he made. Not even the words of a man who believed them right, except as necessary sacrifices for a greater moral end. Perhaps he hated this near as much as Jyn. But Cassian had the cause to live by, even his darkest paths lit by that clear, shining purpose. Jyn—she didn’t quite know what she had, even if she managed to claw their way out of this place. She believed, she hoped, she cared about the fight. She did now. And she wouldn’t give up, ever. She just … she couldn’t see herself existing in Cassian’s stark simplicities, everything bleak or brilliant.

In any case, she felt as if she walked backwards, back to Lianna. None of this for the cause, for some great end, just survival. But not hers alone, she reminded herself. Cassian’s and Bodhi’s. They needed her. That was a cause in itself.

Jyn didn’t know what it said about her that she could recall Cassian’s measurements from a glance at his Alliance profile two weeks ago, but had no idea of her own.

Didn’t matter, anyway. The assistant sighed and sent her to an adjoining chamber, where hovering, ball-shaped droids measured some half-dozen men and one other woman, all in various stages of undress. Ten minutes of pokes and prods later, a slightly more human-shaped droid handed her a provisional uniform, and she escaped back to the requisition center.

Then she had to wait for the assistant again. Adjusting her grip on Kaytoo’s head, she imagined what he’d say, were he—what he’d say. If there was anyone who would find it as ridiculous that she stood there in lines while Cassian fought for his life and Bodhi tried to escape torture, it had to be Kaytoo. An excellent use of your time, Jyn Erso. There’s a seventy-eight percent chance of your being caught and killed or blown into smithereens in the meanwhile. Just so you know.

At last, the assistant looked at her again. In a bored voice, he said, “Are you requesting a new K2 unit, as well?”

“Absolutely not,” said Jyn. She caught herself. “Not yet. We’re hoping to extract valuable data from this one.”

“Measurements, then?”

She didn’t feel seven inches shorter than Cassian. She gave them anyway, the assistant sent in the order, and she was free.

In a trapped-in-the-Empire sort of way.

It took her an hour of vague advice, wrong turns, and wandering identical halls to figure out the way to Room F1813. It took another hour just to get there, by which point she felt like her spine might collapse on itself. She typed Cassian’s code into the key panel and stumbled inside.

Like everything else in the Death Star, Cassian’s quarters were a sea of stark grey metal, bleak, severely regular, and devoid of anything like character. She had no doubt that a thousand other chambers looked just like this one.

A square room with two hard beds on either side. Two metal dressers and narrow closets. Two short lockboxes. Bright, steady lighting. And a refresher.

A refresher. Her mouth nearly watered. If a Starfleet captain didn’t rate luxury, he at least got decent amenities. And for Jyn, it was the closest thing to luxury she’d had in a long, long time.

All because they were caught in the Death Star, she reminded herself, and dread welled up in her again. This was a nightmare. They’d be dead in an instant if anyone guessed the truth, or anything remotely approximating the truth. She’d give just about anything to escape, if she could be sure of taking Cassian and Bodhi with her.

Still, she might as well enjoy this while she had it. Jyn set Kaytoo’s head in one of the boxes and headed to the fresher. There, she found a sink, mirror, toilet, and—Force, a shower. A tiny one, but with real water and soap. She could almost have cried.

Jyn set down the Imperial uniform and started peeling off her own gear, so caked with sweat and dirt that they stuck to her. Never mind that. Wincing, she tore the cloth and leather off her skin as fast as she could. In the mirror, she could see whole streaks of bruises—not like Cassian’s, but bad even for her.

She was alive. Nothing else mattered.

Jyn stepped into the shower. When hot water poured over her, she—maybe she did cry. Just a little. At her feet, the water swirled brownish-grey, even before she began relentlessly scrubbing herself. The soap suds in her hand darkened, too, but she could actually see her skin. Jyn blew stands of clean hair out of her face and smiled.

Force be with you, she thought at Quartermaster Brakas, then remembered what he was. Oh, well.

Now the water poured clear and clean down her body. Jyn lathered up her hands one last time and washed her necklace clean, polishing the crystal as well as she could. She didn’t think it had saved the mission, saved her. Cassian had done that, and Bodhi, and Jyn herself. But still, she thought of breezing through regulations, Bodhi slipping under the radar, Cassian in bacta, and closed her hand over it.

Thank you, Mama.

Ten minutes later, Sergeant Lyr stared back at her from the mirror. At her breast, the crystal shone bright.

She hadn’t come this far to turn back now. Lyra, wherever she was, would understand.

With a sigh, Jyn untied her necklace, sliding it into one of the pockets of her trousers. Then, last of all, she picked up her cap and set it on her neatly parted hair.

Jyn saluted Lyr and strode out.



This time, she managed to find her way in a mere eighty minutes. Bolstered by her uniform, she just marched up to a stormtrooper and asked for directions to the bay on the seventh floor of Quadrant G Northeast. Like most, he obeyed without question.

As she approached the medbay itself, though, her sense of achievement faded. It had been six, nearly seven hours. And she’d heard nothing of Cassian or Bodhi in that time. Nothing of the plans. Nothing at all.

The same medic as before stood at attention in front of the doors.

“Oh,” he said to Jyn. “It’s you again.”

“And you’re still here,” she replied. “Who are you, anyway?”

“Corporal Pralit.” He covered a yawn. “You missed my off-shift. I just started again.”

“Ah,” said Jyn. “Well, as you can see, I’ve been disinfected. May I see my commander now?”

“Let me check his status. Willix, right?”

She nodded, and he tapped into his datapad. After a moment, he swiped across the screen, as lazily as he did everything else. Jyn suppressed the urge to throttle him.

Cassian would be … he wouldn’t be …

She forced herself to even breaths. There was nothing that Jyn, herself, could have done for him. She’d handed him over to—yes, the Empire, but it had been the only way! They all would have died otherwise, or worse. And leaving him alone, well, she had left him to the best care the galaxy offered. It would have been suspicious to stick around like a fretful wife or sister; he’d be the first to say so.

“Alive,” said Pralit.

Jyn closed her eyes, then opened them. To her horror, her legs felt weak and unsteady, almost gelatinous. She hadn’t been off them since before Scarif.

“And?” she demanded.

“He’s been in and out of bacta all day,” he said. His eyes scanned the screen in front of him. “They’ve scheduled another treatment in an hour. Looks like the bones are healing well, so it’s got to be the lung.” Pralit scrolled down. “Oh, sepsis. That explains it.”

“Explains what?” she said.

“Blaster wound must be infected.” He gave her a patronizing look. “It’s shock to the immune system. Usually from bacteria. Even if he’s awake right now, he won’t be able to string two sentences together. But if you insist on seeing him, I can give you access.”

“I insist,” said Jyn.

“Figured.” The datapad beeped. “There you go.”

Walking into the med-bay, she hardly saw anything or anyone in front of her. She just repeated Bed Thirty-One until someone led her to a room with two female medics, a droid, and a man in a raised bed. Behind her, the door slid closed, and the roar of the bay disappeared into the hums and gentle beeps of the machinery.

“You’ll be Sergeant Lyr?” said the smaller of the medics.

“Yes.”

Jyn stepped forward to look down at the man. Cassian, of course—unmistakably Cassian. At the same time, she could hardly see Cassian in the person lying there, weak and pallid and silent. At least a dozen different wires connected him to the machines, as if he were the droid instead of Kaytoo. Liquid slid down the tubes, most of it clear, some bright red.

Cassian himself didn’t so much as stir at her approach. She had seen him sleep before, of course, in snatches between Yavin IV and Jedha and Eadu. But if anything, he’d seemed more off-putting asleep than awake. Still tense, still indifferent, just devoid of any sort of animating spirit, with neither his usual concentrated zeal nor his occasional half-smiles. Now, though, he lay peacefully, the premature lines on his face smoothed out, eyelashes motionless on his cheek.

“He’s still unconscious,” said Jyn. “Why?”

“Induced coma,” the medic said. “It’s preferred to anaesthesia for prolonged bacta treatment.”

“Good idea.” As long as it didn’t mean anything in itself, it might be for the best. Force knew what Cassian could say under anaesthesia.

Dryly, the medic replied, “Thank you for your input.”

Jyn would have prickled at another time. As it was, she only half-heard. She kept her eyes fixed on Cassian’s chest, the slow, even rise and fall of his breath. Her pulse slowed, as if somehow constrained by his.

With an effort, she remembered where she was, who she must be. She turned to the medics.

“He reacts poorly to anaesthesia, doctor. You are Doctor …?”

“Esten,” the medic said. She didn’t bother to introduce the taller medic, who remained silent and exuded an air of deference.

“Dr Esten, what is the captain’s overall condition?”

“Stable,” said Esten. “He’s lucky—”

“Oh, clearly.”

Esten rubbed the bridge of her nose. “Lucky that he didn’t completely shatter the impacted bones. Apart from the ribs, comparatively few were broken, and all have responded well to treatment. The fractures in the tibiae are still healing, but the kneecaps, femura, and so on are in good shape. He’ll walk like it never happened.”

“Apart from the ribs,” Jyn said. She looked back at Esten, whose pale, shrewd eyes peered out from beneath an uneven fringe of greying black hair. She could have been almost any age between forty and sixty, but certainly gave the impression of the latter.

“The ribs are a concern,” Esten acknowledged, “chiefly for the sake of his lungs, though they are healing at a typical pace. We have no reason to expect any unusual degree of trouble.”

There was always reason to expect trouble. Especially now.

“The blaster wound is a greater concern,” Esten went on, “thanks to septic infection. It has been treated and I believe is now controlled, but we’ll be keeping him under observation to make sure there are no recurrences. If it heals improperly, there could be permanent damage to the surrounding tissues and nerves.”

“Right.” At this rate, she’d have to break him out of med-bay. But at this rate, he wasn’t going anywhere soon at all. Brusquely, she added, “What sort of timeline are we looking at?”

Esten regarded her with palpable distaste, which Jyn considered promising. Sympathy would be dangerous—recognition of a deeper attachment, or a different one, than might be expected to exist between a mid-range captain and his aide. And if she disliked Jyn for the sake of an unknown patient, presumably she was a dedicated physician.

“Anything from a few days to a few weeks,” she said. “It depends on his response to the bacta.”

They certainly didn’t have a few weeks.

“Very well,” said Jyn. “When do you expect him to come out of the coma, doctor? I do not mean to waste time watching him sleep.”

Esten’s jaw twitched. “Hopefully tomorrow afternoon, Sergeant. But he will not be equipped for any serious demands on his attention.”

“Of course,” said Jyn. “I will return tomorrow, then.”

She turned on her heel and stalked out of Cassian’s hospital room, through the med-bay, and then out the main entrance, beating back the hot pricking of her eyes all the way. She felt faintly soiled. More than faintly. Did it feel the same to Cassian?

Everything I did, I did for the Rebellion. Not the words of a man who enjoyed the choices he made. Not even the words of a man who believed them right, except as necessary sacrifices for a greater moral end. Perhaps he hated this near as much as Jyn. But Cassian had the cause to live by, even his darkest paths lit by that clear, shining purpose. Jyn—she didn’t quite know what she had, even if she managed to claw their way out of this place. She believed, she hoped, she cared about the fight. She did now. And she wouldn’t give up, ever. She just … she couldn’t see herself existing in Cassian’s stark simplicities, everything bleak or brilliant.

In any case, she felt as if she walked backwards, back to Lianna. None of this for the cause, for some great end, just survival. But not hers alone, she reminded herself. Cassian’s and Bodhi’s. They needed her. That was a cause in itself.

“Lyr!”

Lost in her thoughts, Jyn had been paying little more attention on the way out of the med-bay than the way in. Now her head jerked up.

“Pralit,” she returned, and glanced past him. A chill raced over her skin.

A stormtrooper, heavy blaster in hand, stood waiting.

“This trooper insists on speaking to Captain Willix,” Pralit told her. “Some sort of official message.”

Jyn squinted at him. “Captain Willix is not in any condition to receive visitors, official or not. I am Sergeant Lyr, his aide-de-camp.”

The trooper saluted her and stood at attention. “RK-1301, Sergeant. I have an urgent message for the captain with regard to his last post.”

She’d know that voice to her death.

Bodhi.




Jyn and Bodhi walked purposefully towards nothing in particular. Nobody paid the slightest attention; audacity, she thought, once more carried the day.

But she had only rarely seen lone stormtroopers. Even in costume—in uniform—vigilance gnawed at her.

In a clear voice, she said, “The message, trooper?”

“Uh,” said Bodhi. “It’s with regard to his previous post, at the Scarif facility. Confidential.”

“Of course it is,” she said impatiently, and headed towards a random elevator.

The moment its door closed behind them, Bodhi took off the helmet and rubbed sweat from his face. “So I’ve—”

“Put it back on,” ordered Jyn. “You can never be too careful, trooper.”

Bodhi stared at her, then peered up at the ceiling. “There’s no—right, right. Sergeant.” He put the helmet back. “Well, there’s good news and bad news.”

“Bad news first.” She punched in the numbers for her floor. The elevator just beeped at her.

“Captain Willix feared that the Rebel attack on the Citadel had a … uh, a more specific aim than crippling the facility. He was right.”

“Oh?” This elevator must not even be on the same system. Not that it mattered. She chose Floor Q13(G) and hoped it wasn’t busy.

“The Rebels definitely took something from the Citadel. The brass are furious, so it doesn’t seem like it’s been recovered. That’s what my commander says.”

His commander? Jyn wished she dared ask what on earth he’d gotten himself into. And how. Instead, she said,

“A file from the archives, I imagine. And what’s the good news?”

Bodhi shifted his weight from one foot to the other, head dipped as he adjusted his grip on his blaster. Jyn swallowed.

“Well?”

“We managed to track the file, or whatever it was, to the ship that received it. I wasn’t told the name, but apparently it was some sort of consular vessel en route to Alderaan.” His voice wavered. “We tracked the ship and captured the passengers.”

Abruptly, she felt very far away, cut off from her own body, or some temporary occupant of it. The plans had got out. They really had. And then the Imperials had retrieved them anyway. It was all for nothing. Chirrut and Baze. Kaytoo. All those soldiers who had followed her and Cassian to horrific deaths—all of it, every sacrifice, every moment of it, for nothing.

She laid a hand on the wall of the elevator, steadying the body that trapped her. A very ordinary, clean hand, she saw. No filth, no blood. Not even under the nails. Callused skin over functional bones.

Some small, remote part of her could think of nothing but clenching the hand into a fist and beating it against the walls until it bled, until the bones all broke and—and—

Doesn’t seem like it’s been recovered, he’d said. Even if it had been, of course, a random stormtrooper wouldn’t be told. But stormtroopers might well be told if the higher-ups were enraged over something. They’d be the ones sent to recover the plans, wouldn’t they?

Jyn lived again, the pulse at her throat entirely her own.

“All the passengers?”

Bodhi paused, then nodded. “Yes. Darth Vader himself captured Princess Leia and is bringing her here.”

“Princess Leia,” said Jyn, trying to think of who the hell that was. The Rebellion had a princess?

Of course it did.

“She’s the daughter of Queen Breha of Alderaan,” he said. “And Senator Organa, though she’s had his seat in the Senate for a couple of years.”

“This Princess Leia is a traitor?”

“A Rebel spy,” he affirmed.

Like Cassian. Soon there would be another Rebel here, on this very … well, on this moon-sized base. She might end up hundreds of miles off, or not. But nevertheless, here.

And a captive.

“I was transferred to this quadrant only today,” Bodhi said carefully. “I had no trouble, since Princess Leia and all the rest of it has everything in an uproar. That tells you how chaotic it is right now.”

Through a veil of horror, she replied, “Her capture is … is certainly good news. I am surprised that I hadn’t heard it yet.”

“Nobody knows the details,” he said, “but my commander says that she’s still managing to cause trouble.”

“I can believe it,” said Jyn. Despite her best intentions, her voice shook, either from fear or that sliver of hope. She herself couldn’t have said. But she thought: if they’d gone after this princess to seize the plans, and captured her, and she continued to cause them trouble … she must have done something with them.

Probably.

And whatever it was, if the Empire captured everyone onboard, then—what? Were the plans hidden? Lost with the ship? Or somehow passed on before the capture?

Jyn sent the elevator back to the med-bay’s floor. As they walked out, towards the correct one, she said,

“That doesn’t seem particularly confidential.”

“It’s all the transfers,” said Bodhi. “And the excitement, I think. Things have a way of getting out.”

Jyn thought of her father, and her voice trembled again. “I suppose so.”



During the hour it took them to reach Cassian’s quarters, Jyn either barked orders at Bodhi or closely questioned him, ignoring his nonsense answers. With anyone else, she might have enjoyed it. With Bodhi, she just felt like slime.

Yet again, she wondered how someone as fundamentally decent as Cassian did it. And this was just making someone feel bad, maybe. Not sabotage and assassinations and who knew what else.

Sabotage.
She didn’t think anything they might manage could seriously harm the Death Star. But maybe something—plans or no plans, maybe they could make some use of their presence here. Secret cards up the sleeve for the Rebellion, even though the Rebellion itself could have no idea.

At the door, Bodhi said uncertainly, “Sergeant?”

“What?” she snapped.

“Are you … inviting me into your quarters?”

Despite everything, she had to repress a smile. He sounded profoundly unenthusiastic. A good wrinkle if anyone happened to be observing, and hopefully genuine if they weren’t.

“Don’t be absurd,” said Jyn. “I just need your comlink code in the extremely unlikely case that Captain Willix wants to hear you personally. It’ll only be a few minutes.”

She typed in the passcode and marched inside, pretending not to care whether he followed her or not. After a pause, he marched through just before the door snapped back into the wall.

Jyn sat down on the nearest bed, exhaling a quick breath. “Thank the Force.”

Voice still muffled, Bodhi said, “Have you checked for—?”

Bugs.
With all her paranoia, she hadn’t thought of that. The privacy of the captain’s quarters had seemed like a sanctuary, or the closest thing they had to it.

“No,” said Jyn, and they spent the next several minutes combing the quarters for any sort of surveillance devices. They found nothing, which might or might not mean they existed.

“Never mind,” she decided. “I’ll risk it. We have to be able to talk openly somewhere.”

Bodhi, helmet in his arms, heaved a sigh of relief. “And there have got to be hundreds of thousands of people on this thing. They won’t be watching every random stormtrooper or NCO.”

That made sense. But her nerves still buzzed. She sat down before her legs could buckle.

“I can’t believe we did this,” Bodhi went on, and flopped onto one of the beds, armour and all, staring at his helmet. “I mean, I didn’t really think we could, even when I was trying.”

“You know what they say,” said Jyn. “Fear’s a great motivator.”

“Fear? You?” He turned his head to look at her, brows lifted in almost comical surprise.

She had always been afraid. Afraid of capture, death, loss, betrayal. Always something. The fearless didn’t live for survival alone, as she had. It made for a small, desperate life, but it had been hers. She didn’t even realize how miserable it was, until—

“Yes, me,” she said, meeting Bodhi’s eyes. The fearful didn’t always live for survival, either. “Maybe you noticed that I’ve been a bit over-cautious here.”

He gave an uncertain smile. “I’m not sure we can be over-cautious here. Not if we’re going to survive.”

“We have to do more than survive,” Jyn said. She desperately wanted to lie down, as well, but couldn’t bring herself to do it. Instead, she leaned her elbows against her thighs, chin against her curled hands. “They’re one princess away from getting the plans back. We’ve got to figure out a way of stopping them.”

“Or none of it mattered.” She could hear his gulp from across the room. “But what can we do?”

“I don’t know.” Jyn didn’t think she’d ever been so exhausted in her life, even with Saw. Her head felt like a patchwork of a thousand different bruises, every muscle ached, and she hadn’t eaten for hours. Still, she forced herself to think.

Break Princess Leia out
, Jyn’s instinct said, but they’d never get away with it. Not with no path of escape. Track down the princess, maybe, see what she’d done with the plans. They could figure out their next move from there.

And there couldn’t be a next move until Cassian got better. Squeezing her eyes shut, Jyn pressed the heel of her hand against the jabs of pain in her forehead. She couldn’t help Cassian. Not now; she’d done all she could for him.

“You saw Cassian in the hospital, didn’t you?” said Bodhi. He was no Jedi, nor Temple monk either, but she still eyed him. “He’s the spy, not us. He must have some ideas.”

“He hasn’t woken up yet,” Jyn replied. If she could, she’d wipe the memory of Cassian limp in that bed from her mind. Forever. “They’re keeping him under until the worst is over. So not many ideas, no.”

She regretted the harshness in her voice as soon as she spoke—regretted it with Bodhi, if few others. Rather to her surprise, however, he didn’t flinch or even look that somber.

“How is he?”

“Alive,” said Jyn grimly. But no need to make things worse than they already were. She managed a tight smile. “The doctor thinks he’ll make a complete recovery. It’s just a question of when.”

“When,” he repeated. Sitting up, he set the stormtrooper helmet aside. “No way we’ll get away with this for very long.”

She honestly didn’t know.

“The Willix thing is real,” she said at last. “I mean, what goes for real with Cassian. He gave me his code while you were shouting for help. It’s how I got all this.” Jyn waved at the quarters.

“So we might make it.”

If the Rebellion doesn’t have the plans.
She didn’t feel the need to say it aloud. “It’s possible.”

“I can keep my head down,” said Bodhi. “Is that all we do now?”

“No.” Jyn’s hands balled even tighter. “We need to find out everything we can about what’s going on. Listen to the troops’ gossip, that commander of yours, anything you can hear. But don’t risk your cover. I’ll do the same thing.”

With a heavy breath, Bodhi nodded. “All right.” He rose, his face strained as his armour jangled against him.

“And Bodhi?”

He blinked over at her.

Her thoughts felt sluggish, but they latched onto one thing. With a final effort, she managed to get to her own feet and walk over to him.

“If your unit gets deployed, go. It’ll be your best chance at escape.”

Bodhi did flinch that time. “But you and Cassian—”

Go,” repeated Jyn. Setting her fists on her hips, she scowled up at him. “One of us living is better than none.”

He hesitated, turning the helmet over in his hands.

“You can try and get word to the Rebellion, let them know we’re stuck in here.” She didn’t think they could seriously do anything, but you never knew. Either way, if Bodhi got out, it’d be—worthwhile, in its way. Even if she and Cassian died the way she’d started out, stuck in an Imperial prison.

Finally, he nodded. “I will. But I don’t think it’s very likely for this unit. It’s a mess. Anyway, while I’m here, how am I supposed to get information to you or Cassian? If someone notices that we keep meeting up, then …”

“We can’t meet,” she agreed. For once, though, it was a problem with an easy answer: the very pretense on which she’d led him inside. “Give me your comlink code. I’ll sync ours up as soon as we have them.”

A bit sheepish, he read off the string of letters and numbers, readily accepting that she’d remember. She would, of course, but the easy faith touched her nonetheless. She didn’t even wince when Bodhi suddenly wrapped his arms around her, the panels of his armour biting into her bruises.

“We’ll make it,” he whispered. “Somehow.”

“The same way we’ve done everything else,” said Jyn. Awkwardly, she returned the hug. “May the Force be with you, Bodhi.”

With a determined smile, he put the helmet on his head and headed to the door.

“And with you, Jyn.”

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anghraine: from the 2005 p&p: darcy standing at a piano while georgiana plays it (Default)
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