anghraine: carrie fisher and mark hamill grinning widely; text: laughing & half-divine (luke and leia [laughing and half-divine])
anghraine ([personal profile] anghraine) wrote2017-01-16 07:40 pm

spy games are not all they're cracked up to be

title: per ardua ad astra (4/?)
verse: Death Star
characters: Jyn Erso, Bodhi Rook, Cassian Andor; OCs—Dr Esten, Corporal Zekheret, Sergeant Bain Efrah, various nameless Imperials
stuff that happens: Jyn doesn't like spying, news at eleven; Bodhi gets news from the stormtrooper grapevine; release of How To Annoy Xenophobes, a book by Cassian Andor
previous chapters: one, two, three

To her annoyance, he mentioned nothing of substance beyond his opinion that things would be better with Governor Tarkin running the Death Star.

“Can’t be worse than Krennic,” said a sergeant across from them, one of the only female ones Jyn had yet seen. “Backwater creep who thinks he’s better than the people doing the real work. I saw him flouncing around in that cape once, like he’s Darth fucking Vader. Ugh. It’ll be just our luck if he made it off. I bet he has.”

Jyn felt an unexpected glow of benevolence. Cheerfully, she said, “No, he didn’t. Some Rebel shot him in the back.”

As Bodhi marched out of her quarters, Jyn stayed in the middle of the room, staring at the door. It slammed down behind him, and she still did nothing.

With a low whirr, it locked. Jyn staggered to the nearest bed and collapsed.

It was hard, and narrow, and an unimaginable relief. Finally, she let her muscles relax, soreness cascading through her body. She’d learned long ago that it was a worthwhile, and necessary, trade for constant tension. When you lived off your body, you had to take care of it. Pretty rich coming from Saw, but still.

A vague thought that she should remove her uniform touched the edges of her mind. A wrinkled uniform would draw more attention than none at all. But she let her tired eyes close, just for a moment, and immediately sunk into unconsciousness.

Jyn slept like the dead for ten hours. It might have been more, if not for the banging on her door.

Blearily, she opened her eyes and fumbled for a chronometer. Nothing. Nothing at all, just air. Her other hand lay numb under her cheek.

“Sergeant!” someone shouted. “This is Requisitions!”

The Death Star.

Grumbling to herself, she crawled out of bed and made it to the door. A pair of stormtroopers stood outside, a long metal cart between them.

“Here are the supplies requested by Captain Willix,” one of them said.

“How punctual,” said Jyn, in her closest approximation of chilly approval. She’d have to ask Cassian how he did it. “Bring them in, troopers.”

Obediently, they wheeled the cart into her quarters. She chose to assume it wasn’t an elaborate plot to kill her; that seemed unlikely, when they could just shoot her if they wanted. No elaborate plots needed on the Death Star, except her own.

Again, she couldn’t help but imagine Kaytoo. A seventy-one percent chance against being riddled with holes may be technically favourable odds, but I would hardly consider them good. Not that I’m the one with weak fleshy organs at stake.

She didn’t think they’d exchanged above three civil sentences, but she’d give an arm to have him back.

Not an invitation, she thought at the Force.

At a gesture from her, the stormtroopers unloaded piles of uniforms and underclothes onto Cassian’s bed, along with chronometers, communicators, standard-issue datapads, a cylinder, emergency packages, and assorted other kits she didn’t recognize. Last, they lifted a long, flat, evidently heavy metal box off the cart.

One of the stormtroopers gestured at the passkey on the large box. “The code is”—he checked his datapad— “Zero six one five eight five six two seven nine two. Any questions?”


“Then sign here.”

She paused. Everything she’d managed so far had passed under the shield of Cassian’s persona. The more of a data trail she left, the more likely it was to be caught. But she couldn’t think of anything else to do, so she went over and scribbled out Isidar Lyr as indecipherably as possible. The stormtroopers just saluted her and rolled the cart out.

Jyn seriously considered going back to sleep. There’d be no standing orders for the nonexistent Sergeant Lyr, after all, only whatever Willix was supposed to be doing. By now, though, she felt decidedly awake, and almost queasy with hunger. She showered and dressed, the fitted uniform actually more difficult than the other one. She’d just have to say she’d gained weight on Scarif, she decided, trying to replicate the regulation folds.

On the way out, the new lockbox caught her eye. She stopped, then turned back and ran the stormtrooper’s code through. Sure enough, the box clicked open.

Jyn smiled. Not the tight half-smile she allowed herself now and then, not the amusement that sometimes broke through reserve or fear, but a real, open smile.

The box was full of blasters. A good long rifle with assault and sniper settings. Three mid-sized ones, variations on the usual Imperial standard. Two smaller ones. Still grinning, she set aside the maybe third-best blaster she’d stolen from Cassian, and shoved the smallest of the standard-issue blasters into her belt.

Imperials didn’t do much well, in Jyn’s view. But they made damn good weapons.

Snatching up her comlink and a datapad, she headed out to find a mess hall. It didn’t take long; each floor of each quadrant turned out to have one, full of mildly repellent smells, humans crammed into lines and clusters, and cooking droids. Jyn didn’t like crowds, but she was very hungry. She headed in, ignoring the little flashes of pain as people jostled her bruises.

It took forty minutes to acquire some sort of slop. In the meanwhile, she listened as closely as she could to the conversations around her. But even the other NCOs—no, just the NCOs—didn’t talk about anything important. She learned that a new speeder had come out, and either rendered the old model obsolete or made it seem like a Corellian fighter. She learned that Brakas’ conviction that no fraternization existed on the Death Star was a pleasant fantasy. She learned that nobody much cared about Scarif beyond the archivists, and even some of those viewed the disaster as a blessing in disguise, should it further their dreams of overhauling the filing system.

“No standardized format,” a tall man said heatedly, “yet no decent encryption, no redundant systems, no duplicate copies, no failsafes, nothing! No wonder that place looked like a gold mine to the Rebels.”

“Not any more,” said the woman he spoke to. “It’s all gone now.”

The man groaned.

Also, Jyn learned that everyone hated the food. She couldn’t judge them for that much. It tasted as awful as it smelled and looked. She’d had worse, though, and she was starving. Jyn all but inhaled it, to the amazement of the Imperials around her.

“Been awhile?” said a corporal.

Jyn wiped her mouth. “Just a day. But it was a long one.”


She nodded.

Indifferently, he said, “Heard it’s hell down there.”

She just nodded again. Even for their cover, Jyn wasn’t about to willingly dredge up memories of the little bit she’d seen from their vantage point in the Citadel. The corporal, in any case, seemed no more interested than he was in his stew, but he kept talking pleasantly enough. To her annoyance, however, he mentioned nothing of substance beyond his opinion that things would be better with Governor Tarkin running the Death Star.

“Can’t be worse than Krennic,” said a sergeant across from them, one of the only female ones Jyn had yet seen. “Backwater creep who thinks he’s better than the people doing the real work. I saw him flouncing around in that cape once, like he’s Darth fucking Vader. Ugh. It’ll be just our luck if he made it off. I bet he has.”

Jyn felt an unexpected glow of benevolence. Cheerfully, she said, “No, he didn’t. Some Rebel shot him in the back.”

“Good riddance.” The sergeant poked her fork into an indistinct mass at the bottom of her stew, and lifted it up to peer at it. “Think it’s safe?”

“No,” said the corporal.

She ate it.

“Let me know if you get the runs,” he said.

“Fuck you, Zekheret.”

He grinned. “Is that a promise or a threat?”

Pointedly turning towards Jyn, the sergeant said, “Anyway, who are you?”

“Isidar Lyr,” said Jyn, fear spiking beneath her rib cage all over again. She let her smile turn roguish. “I’d tell you what I do, but I’d have to kill you.”

“I’m Bain Efrah,” she said. “Mind killing him for me?”

Jyn laughed. “No problem. But you’ll have to hide the body.”

“It’s a deal.”

“You can try,” said Zekheret. Jyn glanced at his hands, wrapped as loosely as possible around the utensils, as if they might contaminate him. His skin was pale and smooth. She doubted he’d seen a day of action in his life. “I’ve got a foot on you both and twenty pounds of muscle.”

“Because that matters so much against a blaster,” Efrah replied. Leaning towards Jyn, she said in a perfectly audible whisper, “This is why he’s still a corporal.”

“Hey!” he protested.

An indistinct alarm touched Jyn. She rose, mumbling something about her commander, and picking up the metal dishes. “I’ll see you around, maybe.”

Zekheret winked at her. “Hopefully.”

Behind him, Efrah rolled her eyes. “Later, Lyr.”

As Jyn strode away, her muscles remained strung tight. She didn’t think anything of moment had occurred, much less that they suspected her. She didn’t feel like she escaped death with each body she passed. Yet something in her screamed danger, and it didn’t stop until she made it out of the mess hall.

Far too many people, Jyn decided. For as much of her life as she’d spent in cities, Jyn didn’t like them, the way you got stuffed in with strangers at best and left to rot at worst. And the Death Star seemed like nothing so much as the unholy spawn of Imperial City and every military base in the galaxy.

Beyond that, she—she didn’t much like intelligence work, either. Not this undercover nonsense. It was one thing to become another person; it was quite another to just pretend, ceaselessly.

But it had to be done, if they were to have any chance of accomplishing anything in here. Jyn thought of Jedha, of Chirrut and Baze and Kaytoo, the laser striking Scarif, her father dead in her arms. Cassian in her arms, too, gasping out codes and blood.

She squared her shoulders and marched on.

With little else to do, Jyn stalked the halls of the Death Star, trying to listen to everything without drawing suspicion from anyone. In two hours, she heard nothing but the tedious or inane, and finally gave up, wandering down to the med-bay. A new medic was stationed at the door, both less irritable and less accommodating than Pralit. But he added her comlink code into Cassian’s information and said someone would contact her when he woke, so she supposed it counted as success.

Nevertheless, she started when the comlink buzzed. Thankfully safe—safeish—inside an elevator, Jyn switched the button to accept the channel. Cassian shouldn’t be awake yet. Had something happened? Had …

“Sergeant Lyr?” said Bodhi.

She smiled. “This is Lyr. What is the situation?”

“Uh … normal. I’m in a fresher.”

Jyn stayed silent for a moment. Then she said, “Good for you?”

“Alone,” he added. “So. It, uh, turns out I have substandard aim, but that’s not as unusual as I thought it would be.”

Jyn, who had outrun her share of stormtroopers long before Jedha, nearly snickered. “I imagine not. Well, as long as you aren’t demoted to sanitation …”

“You can’t be, really,” he replied. “There’s a rotation, so nobody gets—we’re supposed to be equal, right? My unit’s rotation ended just before I arrived.”

She said, “Lucky you.”

Bodhi’s laugh was a little shrill. “That’s me.” He cleared his throat. “Anyway, my commander decided to just have all the new transfers practice with the rookies until they can get us straightened out. So I am … fine? I think.”

“Glad to hear it,” said Jyn. “Does your commander have a name?”


“JA-1813,” she repeated.

“We mostly just call him the Commander.” His nervous whisper dropped still lower. “It’s quiet around here, but he says we should be ready. Darth Vader himself is bringing Princess Leia here to be questioned, and anything could happen after that.”

Darth Vader. The name sounded vaguely familiar, apart from Efrah’s sneer at Krennic. Must be someone important, since she’d never paid much attention to the inner workings of the Imperial hierarchy. And not military, with that … title? It sounded like a title.

Whoever he was, if he managed to extract this woman’s secrets—Jyn’s stomach roiled. Maybe she’d hold up. If she had anything like Cassian’s resolve, she might. But Cassian was extraordinary. Jyn trusted him; that trust did not extend to everyone else in the Alliance. It didn’t extend to anyone else in the Alliance. And she knew nothing of Leia Organa.

“He’s right,” said Jyn. “Be ready. Whatever happens, we’ve got to be prepared for it.”

“I’ll try,” Bodhi said.

We’ll need to do better than try, thought Jyn, but—it wouldn’t help. Bodhi’s nervous attempts had accomplished more than all her years of escapades, anyway.

They clicked off, and Jyn checked the time. 13:05. Still early, but just in case, she headed to the med-bay and lurked outside. Fortunately, as it turned out: not fifteen minutes later, her com activated again.

A toneless voice said, “Sergeant Isidar Lyr.”


“You are the primary contact for Captain Cassein Willix. Captain Willix is currently being removed from his final full bacta immersion.”

Another jolt in her chest, this one a mix of relief and anxiety and hope. “Thank—”

The channel broke. Undoubtedly it had been a droid, and not one with Kaytoo’s sophistication. She sprang up, barely pausing for the gatekeeper’s authentication before racing into the bay.

I’m his sergeant, she had to remind herself. Three times. His aide, not his—whatever she and Cassian were. More than ally, less than … she didn’t know. Something in her prickled at the idea of them as less than anything. They’d lived more in these three weeks than most did in decades. Risked more, done more, for the fight and for each other.

That wasn’t helping. Lyr, she reminded herself. She had to be Sergeant Lyr, faithful right hand to a difficult but heroic captain. She had never been anyone like that, but she had been people unlike herself many times. She could do this.

Slowing her steps to a confident stride, Jyn pushed welcome home and all the way and your father would be proud of you to a distant corner of her mind. Isidar Lyr did not care about such things. She cared about serving the Empire in general and her commander in particular. She respected the captain’s good qualities and worked to ameliorate the bad. She valued the good working relationship built up over a half-dozen years. In those capacities, and those alone, she concerned herself with Cassein Willix’s welfare.

“Ah, Sergeant. You are extremely punctual.”

At the door to Bed 31, Jyn halted, then turned around to sneer at Dr Esten.

“Yes, I am.” She compressed her lips. “I received the alert about Captain Willix. Has he regained consciousness?”

“No.” Esten jabbed at the passcode panel so quickly that Jyn almost couldn’t track the numbers. Almost.


She led Jyn into the room, very much as it had been before. An assistant waited in the corner. Machines hummed, if fewer of them, only attached at the wrist. And Cassian lay in the bed, still disturbingly pale and tranquil.

Jyn blinked. “You shaved him.”

“Yes,” the assistant said. “It’s standard procedure.”

“He’s going to murder me.”

A muscle in Esten’s jaw twitched. “He will not be murdering anyone soon, Sergeant. Now—”

“Don’t underestimate him.” With a glance at the vitals, Jyn barrelled past to sit herself in the chair beside Cassian’s bed. It was the only chair.

“If you have any higher concerns than the state of your commander’s beard,” said Esten, “we have placed a full medical log in his file. It contains a complete list of his diagnoses, the treatments prescribed and given, and his status at each stage. He should regain consciousness at any moment, but you may wish to consult it while—”

Jyn made a dismissive gesture. “Later, perhaps. I trust you haven’t killed him.”

“No,” Esten said tightly.

Cassian’s hand lay within inches of hers. Foolishly, Jyn recalled grasping each other after he shot Krennic, his fingers clutching at her waist as they waited to get blown out of the sky, her nails digging into his palm and wrist every time he faded. She felt swamped by the impulse to reach out again, comfort herself with their lives running together, hold that link fast and corporeal. Instead, she clasped her hands in her lap.

The minutes ticked by, silent but for Cassian’s slow breaths and the others’ shallower ones, and the assistant checking on Cassian’s vitals now and then. Nothing, Jyn had thought, could seem longer than those hours in Requisitions, but this did, stretching on and on and on.

Something beeped on one of the machines, and Jyn tensed up.

“Is he—”

Cassian opened his eyes.

Now, she couldn’t help it. Jyn seized his hand, the tension in her body at once dissolving into relief and tightening still further. He blinked several times. She’d never seen him less like himself—dazed, pale, beardless. Nevertheless, here he was. She just had to hope for the best.

Jyn retained the presence of mind to say loudly,

“Captain Willix? Do you recognize me?”

Cassian’s dark eyes focused, glancing from the machinery on his right, to Esten, to Jyn, to the data station and assistant behind her. Then they settled back on Jyn.

“Yes,” he said. Trying to sit up, he immediately started to cough.

“Water,” snapped Jyn.

Although the doctor could not have appreciated the usurpation, she said nothing, just gestured at her assistant, who filled and brought a cup to them. Esten herself handed the cup to Cassian.

His hand shook—not enough to spill the water, but until the fall, Jyn had never seen him anything but steady. He regarded either his grip or the water with distaste.

“No contaminants, sir,” she assured him. “We’re safe on the Death Star. All friends here.”

Esten snorted.

“Allies,” Jyn amended.

“Good enough,” said Esten. “I may not say this again, but for now, listen to your sergeant. This is Medical Bay Three on the finest Imperial facility in the galaxy. You’re in good hands, Captain Willix.”

Cassian’s gaze flickered to Jyn, and she nodded. Without another moment’s hesitation, he gulped down the entire cup of water.

There was trust, she thought, and then there was trust.

He coughed again, but when he spoke, he sounded more human. “What … happened?”

“You were shot in a Rebel attack on Scarif,” said Esten. “You fell a considerable distance and fractured many of your bones in the process before Sergeant Lyr rescued you. You’re lucky to be alive.”

“Lucky?” Cassian looked down at himself. “Clearly.”

With a triumphant smirk, Jyn said, “I loaded you into a shuttle and tried to escape Scarif, but I wasn’t sure you’d make it, sir. Thankfully, the Death Star showed up then, and I took the liberty of seeking access. You’ve been in bacta ever since.”

“Not the entire time,” said Esten. “But frequently, yes.”

“How … long?” His careful speech might be affected, but Jyn didn’t think so. His breathing remained shallow, every exhalation near a pant, and his voice hoarse.

Belatedly, she detached her hand. “Just over a day, sir. I requisitioned a set of quarters and equipment, so everything will be in order once you get discharged.”

Cassian looked at Esten, who had walked to his other side and now studied him with a neutral expression.

“I am ready to go now.”

“Absolutely not,” said Esten. Jyn, to her own dismay, agreed with her. He looked even paler than he had asleep, drawn and exhausted.

She forced a laugh. “Captain, I feel certain you don’t get discharged until you can walk under your own power.”

“I can—” Breaking into another coughing fit, he scowled.

“Mmhmm.” Esten sounded even more unimpressed than when she spoke to Jyn. “We didn’t spend all these hours and resources on you to see you throw it away. I know your sort.”

Even through his coughs, his eyebrows rose.

“I doubt that,” said Jyn scornfully.

Esten ignored her. “And you can go back to working yourself to the bone after I’ve washed my hands of you, Cassein Willix. You will remain under observation until all possibility of complications has been eliminated.”

Cassian glared at her.

“Consider my doubts rescinded,” Jyn said. She levelled a stern look at him, noticing his increasingly heavy blinks as he tried to keep his eyes open. “Captain, you’ll be no good to anyone in this state. You need to rest. We’ll get everything straightened out once you’re better.”

“Quite so,” said Esten.

He mumbled something that couldn’t have been complimentary to either, but didn’t protest further. Jyn could only consider that proof that he had no business going anywhere, and nearly said so. Instead, she held her tongue like a proper aide, a half-dozen poorly defined emotions churning inside her as he leaned his head back against the pillows. In moments, he was asleep again.

“Some exhaustion is to be expected,” Esten said coolly. “He should be more himself once he gets real sleep and the bacta finishes its work.”

“Very well,” said Jyn, the flash of panic subsiding into mere worry. She rose, and turned to Esten. “I will leave him to rest, but remain nearby. Contact me when he wakes again or if his condition changes.”

A flicker of irritation crossed the doctor’s face. “Of course.”

“Also,” said Jyn, watching the irritation deepen, “I would make a suggestion, though naturally I would not dream of questioning your expertise.”

Esten’s mouth pursed so tightly that her lips all but disappeared. In a voice dryer than Jedha, she said, “Naturally.”

“I gather that excitement of any kind can have dangerous effects in this stage of recovery.” Jyn dared another glance at Cassian, working to hold her blank expression. “It would be best, I think, if those around him refrained from mentioning any news. Good or bad, I fear the effect on him may be harmful.”

Don’t tell him about the princess.

Esten looked startled, annoyance fading into a sort of reluctant respect. “Very likely. I already reached that conclusion, but your judgment does you credit, Sergeant. You may be assured that he will hear of nothing from us.”

Jyn nodded and left. Sooner or later, he’d have to hear about the fate of the plans—sooner, certainly. But not yet. And not from a stranger.

Her thoughts briefly drifted to Esten. She seemed as competent and disciplined a physician as Jyn first hoped. Part of her, in fact, wished it hadn’t been necessary to hide behind antagonism. She didn’t want to make friends of Imperials, but she respected skill. Skill wasted on the Empire, though.

Why did someone like Esten do it? The pay? She imagined so for Brakas, but surely Esten could find work anywhere. Maybe she just wanted reliable equipment and regulations. Maybe she wanted to see the galaxy. Maybe it had seemed the most straightforward career for whatever reason. Maybe anything. But it didn’t seem malice, at all. Jyn couldn’t help but wonder how many people like that filled the Empire. How many Bodhi Rooks were there with just that bit less awareness and courage, and no Galen Erso to prompt them down another path?

More of them than men like Krennic, she felt sure. And far more of them than resisted the Empire in any capacity. Those like Esten probably never harmed another person in their lives, while Force knew how much blood Cassian had on his hands. No doubt she lived a serene life of conscience, while he could only cling to hope for a better galaxy as he pulled his trigger, over and over and over. But, well, if you lived a life of conscience under the Empire, what was your conscience worth, anyway?

Already tired, Jyn stalked into the waiting area. Three others sat there; all of them looked like murder when she tapped her fingers on the arms of her chair, but she had to do something. She couldn’t just sit here and torment herself with ethical philosophy. Finally, she took out the datapad and brought up her supposed commander’s profile. She’d have to learn it all, anyway, and sooner better than later.

Cassein Willix, she discovered, was a thirty-four-year-old man from some Alderaanian backwater. He’d attended university in the ancient planetary capital itself, and still listed Aldera, Tirátlan as his off-duty residence. He spoke something called Serepta natively, along with Basic, Huttese, and for some reason, Rodian. He was an only child, both parents dead, with no other kin. He owned a KX droid. His skills mixed command training, actual field experience, and proficiency with data programming, specializing in droids. He’d occupied posts throughout the galaxy, under a wide variety of commanders, his record of service detailed enough that even she would have readily accepted his existence had she not known better.

Jyn, something of a connoisseur of false identities, nearly whistled. It was one thing to manufacture a basic one, though even that could be difficult enough. But to manufacture one at this level of complexity, and maintain it—that took doing. Cassian aside, Rebel intelligence must have some first-rate people.

Not that she hadn’t learned that much on Scarif. But though all the Partisans had some experience of everything, she’d specialized in slicing. This would have taken her months with far better equipment than she’d ever touched. And the records went on past that, seamlessly linked to real outposts, real bases, real officers. Yet nobody had ever broken the identity. Amazing.

Jyn spent the next hour admiring and memorizing Cassein Willix’s information, until Bodhi contacted her. She left the med-bay to talk, however discreetly, in some semblance of privacy. They had little enough to exchange, however, beyond assurances of mutual survival. He hadn’t discovered much today except the name of the planet where Darth Vader caught up with Princess Leia—Tatooine. Some Outer Rim hellhole controlled by Hutts, but more to the point, astrographically near to Scarif. She hadn’t gotten far. The only thing like good news were rumours that Vader sent troopers to the surface of the planet. But the Death Star stormtroopers neither knew nor cared about the details; they only mentioned it at all in sympathetic dismay at the idea of a mission on Tatooine. Rather to her horror, Bodhi apologized for the paucity of news.

“I’ve learned less than that,” said Jyn. “Most of all, I want you to take care of yourself. Don’t do anything dangerous.”

“Anything dangerous? On the Death Star? No, ma’am.” He laughed, then hurriedly said, “I didn’t mean—”

“I know what you meant,” said Jyn. Then, as far as she dared, she told him about Cassian waking up. “A great relief to us all, of course. He was tired, but acted exactly as Captain Willix ought.”

“Thank the …” Bodhi coughed. “Uh, the doctor. That’s—that’s great.”

“Yes,” said Jyn. The word felt harsh in her mouth, and entirely insufficient, yet nothing else fit.

He started to ask more, but broke off. Jyn couldn’t quite hear; by the low murmur of voices, it didn’t seem disastrous. Bodhi returned with a groan. “We’re headed to the shooting range. I’ll report again soon, Sergeant.”

“See that you do,” she replied, in her most sergeant-ish tones. She hoped he didn’t take them too seriously.

Afterwards, Jyn thought of exploring or eavesdropping more, but she couldn’t bring herself to stray that far from the med-bay. With the drugs and bacta draining out of Cassian’s system, anything could change. If he needed her, she meant to be there.

It was evening, or what went for evening on the Death Star, when her comlink rang again. This time, the voice that came through sounded very human.

“Sergeant Lyr? Please come to Bed Thirty-Nine immediately.” Jyn could hear raised voices in the background. “The captain is, uh, alert.”

“Of course.”

Cassian causing trouble sounded vastly more hopeful than Cassian wan and accommodating. In what might be record time, Jyn rushed down the now-familiar route to 39. On the way, she wondered if Esten had noticed her memorizing the code, or simply forgotten. Instead, she found the door still withdrawn into the frame, the passage open.

Even before she got there, she could hear Cassian.

“I am an officer in his Imperial Highness’s fleet,” he was saying, his accent much heavier than usual, and his voice much quicker. But there was nothing thin or breathless about it. “I have much better things to do than sit here wasting my time and yours!”

Jyn laughed outright.

“Please speak more slowly, Captain Willix,” said Esten, in the tone that Jyn already recognized as striving for patience. “I cannot understand you.”

“I—am—a—Starfleet—captain. Can you understand that much?”

“Of course, but—”

“Good evening, sir,” Jyn said, walking up behind the doctor.

For the first time, Esten seemed relieved to see her. “Sergeant Lyr. Perhaps you can talk some sense into the captain.”

Doubtfully, Jyn turned to look at Cassian. The moment she did, relief washed over her. He sat as straight as ever, features set into the same unimpressed glower, colour high, and arms crossed over his chest. It was somewhat more impressive when he wasn’t wearing a hospital gown—somewhat—but she’d never been happier to see Cassian Andor scowl. Jyn bit down hard on a smile.

“Perhaps, Lyr, you will talk sense into the doctor,” he snapped, still in that deliberately thickened accent.

Jyn glanced between them. “What am I talking sense about?”

“I am healed, but—”

“He is not healed! Three of his ribs are still fractured, and the regenerative process has not completed on that wound. There remains possibility of infection, and considering the history of septicemia—”

“Not a history,” he insisted. “One incident.”

“One incident yesterday!

“The Empire doesn’t pay me enough for this,” Jyn muttered. The assistant, huddled in the corner, gave her a look of intense agreement. “Captain, you demand an immediate discharge?”

“Captain or not,” said Esten, “he does not have the authority to demand anything within these walls.”

Jyn rubbed her forehead, pretending to ward off an incipient headache. In reality, it had long since arrived. “He demands it of me, I meant.”

“You don’t have any authority, either.”

She wasn’t sure, but she thought Cassian might be genuinely annoyed.

“Doctor,” he said, “you do not seem to comprehend the urgency of—”

“I beg your pardon, sir,” said Jyn, deference already grating on her, “but may I have a moment with Dr Esten?”

He stared at her, eyes narrowed. Then he grumbled, “Fine.”

Willix seemed a hell of a charmer, thought Jyn, amused as well as tense. He and Lyr made quite the pair.

“Doctor,” she said, tugging Esten aside, “what is his real status at the moment? He seems much more … energetic.”

“Of course he does, after that much bacta,” Esten muttered. “Anything but a drastic improvement would be disaster.” She hesitated. “I do not expect major problems at this point, but I am not in the habit of paranoia. The ribs will be extremely painful as they heal. Infection is a real danger. And for the sake of his lung in particular, he must be kept from over-exertion.”

“I can manage the exertion,” said Jyn. “I requested shared quarters because I knew I’d need to keep an eye on him. If he no longer needs specific medical care, perhaps we can move him to his quarters and he can recover there. Could you provide me the necessary instructions?”

“Certainly not,” Esten said, though she seemed thoughtful. “You have no training. You won’t know how to recognize infection.”

“He’ll need some exercise, won’t he?” She glanced at Cassian, who was giving an exceptionally good impression of a man on the verge of bolting. “I can bring him here for a daily examination if you think it necessary. It seems an unfortunate waste of valuable space and equipment to just keep him shut up here.”

That seemed to give Esten more pause than anything else. “How far are his quarters?”

“I’m not sure of the distance. There’s about half an hour of walking altogether,” said Jyn. “The rest is just waiting in the elevator for an hour.”

“Hm. That’s still too long on his feet, I think, at least immediately.” Esten’s mouth twisted to the side. “With a hoverchair, perhaps …”

Jyn did her best not to look too excited.

“And I don’t want him eating that refuse in the mess hall. I’d have to send a pack of nutrient milk with you.”

Cassian stopped pretending not to listen and said, “I will not live off nutrient milk.”

“If it’s good enough for Darth Vader,” retorted Esten, “it’s good enough for you.”

He regarded her with even more disgust than before. “I am not a cyborg.”

“You will be if you try my patience much further,” she said, turning back to Jyn. “You’ll need to keep him drinking water, too. No alcohol.”

Jyn could nearly have punched the air in victory. Instead, she dared not even smile, just giving a dutiful nod. Cassian, whom Jyn doubted had been drunk a day in his life, groaned.

“Or you can stay here another three days,” Esten told Cassian severely.

“Ah, no.”

At a word from Esten, the beleaguered assistant ran for a hoverchair. The doctor, meanwhile, triple-checked Cassian’s vitals and re-bandaged his wound. To Jyn’s surprise, it hardly existed at this point, beyond a long scab and still-shiny skin.

“Will his ribs need bandaged while they heal?”

“No,” said Esten. “That actually impairs recovery. They’ll fuse on their own. Just have him take deep breaths in regular sessions to help the lung.”

“I’ll put it in his schedule,” Jyn promised.

The assistant returned in short order, pulling a large, floating chair after her, the arms and undersides covered in buttons and panels that Jyn couldn’t have begun to understand. Beneath the seat, a metal bar extended in winding circles until it reached a flat black surface. Cassian eyed the chair with suspicion.

In fairness to Cassian—or rather, Willix—it did look like it might double as an execution device. But most things on the Death Star did.

Esten, her mood improving by the moment, extracted a square metal box from a cupboard, then marched over to the chair. When she pushed one button very much like all the other buttons, the metal circles on the chair somehow bent aside, and she set the box on the bottom surface. With another touch of the button, the bar wound back around.

She and Jyn both moved to assist Cassian, but he rolled his eyes and walked over to sit in the chair, wincing as he did so.

“I hope your pride was worth that,” said Esten dryly.

“It was.”

While he made himself comfortable in the chair, or some approximation thereof, Esten reached into the cupboard once more. This time, she extracted two black bottles that she handed over to Jyn as Cassian peered at the panel nearest his hand.

“You’ll want these, Sergeant,” she said.

Jyn squinted at the bottles, but she couldn’t see any identifying labels. “What are they? Nutrients?”

Esten lowered her voice. “Sedatives.”