anghraine: alderaan blowing up; text: alderaan shot first (alderaan)
[personal profile] anghraine
I swear I'll catch up. And that plot will happen eventually, though not here, lol.

(Tumblr tags: #jyn: his hair is VERY ANNOYING that's why i want to touch it #this makes perfect sense #later: *jyn comes out with bare shoulder muscles and loose hair* #so about princess leia #cassian: who)

(This is a serious fic on a serious blog.)

title: per ardua ad astra (9/?)
verse: Death Star
characters: Jyn Erso, Cassian Andor; in absentia, Bail Organa, Mon Mothma, Padmé Amidala, Leia Organa; repressed but very definite Jyn/Cassian
stuff that happens: Jyn tells Cassian about their new destination, and they speculate about the reasons and possible consequences; Cassian explains his background with Leia, and the seeds of the Rebellion for Alderaan.
previous chapters: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight

“She tried to kill the director who took my father.” Jyn’s lip curled. “Krennic. You met him.”

He lifted a brow. “I did?”

“Well,” she said, “you shot him. In the Citadel.”

“Ah.” Cassian considered that, then met her eyes again with a slight smile. “Good.”

Smiling back, Jyn felt less gratitude than fierce satisfaction. “Good.”

Jyn hadn’t thought any elevator ride could possibly feel longer than the one that took Cassian to their quarters, with the possible exception of the hellish four minutes she spent hurtling through the Citadel with Kay’s head. Yet the entirely painless trip from Requisitions seemed like it must be the longest of her life.

When the doors finally opened on their floor, she had to remind herself that everyone would notice if she tried to hurry. I can’t run. Can’t run. Can’t run. The mantra circled through her head as persistently as Chirrut’s ever had. With all the composure she could grasp, Jyn marched out of the elevator and down the halls.

It must have been good enough; nobody paid attention to her, though by the time she reached the door, she’d burned through so much of her resolve that her fingers shook as she punched in the code. She stumbled inside, never more grateful to hear the door slam shut behind her.

Everything was exactly as she’d left it, except Cassian. He lay stretched out on his bed, asleep. Probably he needed it—she hoped he hadn’t smoothed his way with Esten’s sedatives—but Jyn didn’t hesitate on her way over to him. She only paused in the very act of reaching down to shake him awake, realizing it would rattle his ribs. Pretty much anything from the shoulders down could.

Jyn almost settled for just flicking Cassian’s hair away. It had fallen over his face again, which she always found intensely irritating, for some reason—not that it mattered—but, no. Instead, she touched his jaw.

“Cassian. Wake up.”

His eyes flew open before she’d finished speaking. After one blink, they focused on her.

No drugs. Thank heavens that his antipathy to Imperial everything extended to sleeping aids.


She yanked her fingers back, and Cassian sat up, wincing a little as he braced himself on his hands. With as much time as she’d spent around soldiers, and in her own head, she knew better than to offer help.

“What happened?” His face tightened, but only to his usual expression—guarded and alert.

During all those empty minutes on the elevator, she’d had time to decide how to tell him. Jyn said,

“Darth Vader has interrogated Princess Leia and they’re taking her to Alderaan.”

Cassian’s eyes widened, a twist of surprise unmistakable for a full second. Once, she thought that she would give anything to see him shaken out of his equanimity. Now she realized she’d been a fool. Only disaster would do that. Disaster for everyone, not just himself.

“To Alderaan?” He climbed out of bed, and along the edges of her mind, Jyn noticed that it seemed less painful, the movement quicker and more fluid. “That cannot be true. Why—”

“You think I’d lie to you about this?” she said sharply.

“No,” said Cassian, without appearing to think very much about it. “I do not see … if she talked, they would have her killed and go straight to the base, not return her home. If she resisted, they still—you are certain?”

“It’s what I heard,” Jyn replied, mollified, “and it’s what Bodhi’s hearing, too. We must be hours into hyperspace by now.” Her skin crawled. She didn’t mind going into hyperspace, never had, but not even knowing it had happened was something else. Papa, did you have to make this thing so big?

He nodded absently, hand curling about the bar of his bed frame as he leaned into it. But his grip stayed loose, the line of his body contained rather than stiff. “I heard that Senator Organa was headed back to Alderaan. That might have something to do with it, but …”

“They can use her against her father.” Jyn’s mind skittered back to the green fields of her home, the stormtroopers searching the house as she huddled down to watch. Krennic’s voice, more familiar than his face. It was years ago now, but those few minutes burned clear and precise in her memory, even while everything around them faded. You’ll all live in comfort. “As a hostage.”

“The Empire doesn’t usually take hostages,” said Cassian. Though they stood just feet apart, he let his gaze drift around the room as they talked, studying everything without settling on much of anything.

“Sometimes they do,” she told him. “Or they try.”

At that, Cassian’s eyes immediately lifted to hers. “You?”

Jyn gave a short nod. She had meant to leave it at that, but the inexplicable impulse to speak, to remember, struck her again. Before she could suppress herself, she said,

“My mother and me. They meant to take us with my father, to—” Her brain caught up with her mouth. She could have stopped there, almost did, but instead, she gave a strangled laugh. “To keep him honest, I suppose. But my mother attacked them, with a unit of stormtroopers right there, and I … I hid.”

Sometimes it seemed that she’d never stopped. Even with the Partisans, and certainly after, until she lost her father, as well. Until … perhaps after that, too. Until she calmed enough to think, Galen’s explanation of his painstaking sabotage sifting into Cassian’s indignation and Saw’s horror. Everything had whirled inside her mind, around and around and around: the slight burden of a child’s body in her arms, her father’s weight dragging her down, some of us just decided to do something about it—all of it fusing into a bright clarity.

“That is how she died?” said Cassian, very calm. “Stormtroopers?”

If he hadn’t been, she would have drawn back in an instant. As it was, Jyn considered him carefully, wary of pity and warier of weakness. She saw neither, nothing beyond interest touched by a hint of sympathy. But Cassian was not a chance ally who would turn on her the moment it benefited him. She knew him, as well as she knew anyone. Probably better. He might sacrifice her to fight the Empire, but no sooner than himself. She’d do the same, these days.

“Yes. She tried to kill the director who took my father.” Jyn’s lip curled. “Krennic. You met him.”

He lifted a brow. “I did?”

“Well,” she said, “you shot him. In the Citadel.”

“Ah.” Cassian considered that, then met her eyes again with a slight smile. “Good.”

Smiling back, Jyn felt less gratitude than fierce satisfaction. “Good.”

After a long moment, they both looked away; she couldn’t have said which did it first. Maybe neither. Comfortable and uncomfortable all at once, she folded her arms over her stomach and examined the featureless floor. It was almost a relief to return to existential dread.

“If the princess won’t collaborate with them,” Jyn said, “she could be turned into a hostage to hold over her parents. That does happen. The question is how probable it is.”

Not a question she could answer, frustratingly. She didn’t want to keep asking for Cassian’s judgment, as if she couldn’t reach any conclusions on her own, or trust the ones she did reach. She’d got them this far, Jyn reminded herself. Survival and endurance were her strengths. Information and analysis were his.

She glanced up at Cassian again. Deliberately or not, he’d also folded his arms and fixed his eyes on the nothing beneath them. Between his Imperial uniform and thoughtful frown, he made for a peculiar mirror of herself, both opposite and the same.

“Not very likely, at the moment,” he said, at last. “If they gave up on extracting information and found another use for her, they would not balk at exploiting it. But it’s been less than a day. It is highly improbable that they would give up after so short a time.”

Jyn, through sheer insignificance, had managed to avoid torture in her assorted exploits. But she’d been knocked around by Imperials plenty, enough to grasp the horror of a day’s concentrated attention. Maybe she grasped it better than him, in some ways. More than a day was the sort of thing that churned out Saw Gerreras, as immediate survivors or vengeful mourners. Cassian was right, though, that the Imperials didn’t seem to understand the traps they sprung on themselves. None beyond a few naysayers. A day of torture would ordinarily be a trial run for them.

“You said that Darth Vader is a Jedi,” she reminded him. “It could have something to do with that. He’ll have his own ways of knowing things.”

“True.” His head still tilted down, Cassian looked back over at her, the thoug calculation in his face nothing like the simple, straightforward assertiveness he’d shown around Efrah. Exactly as he’d been at Yavin, though. “The real question is why they would even pretend to offer a chance at survival to a traitor. The Empire does not tolerate the appearance of weakness.”

“The Empire uses fear,” said Jyn. “That’s why the Death Star is so—ridiculous, really. Actually destroying whole Imperial planets is a terrible idea. It’s the power to do it that’s meant to cow people, with a few atrocities to back it up. Is the royal family popular on Alderaan?”

“Yes,” he said, without hesitation. “Very. Queen Breha has little power beyond Aldera, but enormous …” Unusually, Cassian seemed at a loss for words. He gave a slight wave of his hand. “Stature. The senator did have real power, and is a great advocate of, hm, Alderaanian principles and interests.”

In that order, to go by the naked approval in his voice.

“Then killing their daughter above the very surface of the planet would be a serious blow,” she said. “They’ll make a martyr of her, but they don’t see that. Perhaps the idea is to put fear of the Empire into Alderaan.”

“Then they do not understand Alderaan,” said Cassian firmly. But he nodded. “Which is likely enough. It wouldn’t be the first time.”

Jyn thought, again, of the opaque disaster that had happened on Alderaan while she toddled in Coruscanti apartments. Whatever it was, they’d only managed to turn Alderaanians into implacable enemies of the Empire. Senators and six-year-olds alike.

“I’m sure,” she said, remembering her father, the havoc she wreaked with the Partisans, the greater havoc with the Alliance. Her mouth tugged to the side. “The Empire excels at underestimation.”

“It does.” Another obscure something shadowed his face as he stood there, considering. It took her a few moments to recognize; she’d seen it in others, countless times on countless faces, but never so unobtrusively. And never in him.

“What is it?” Jyn demanded.

Cassian tilted his head, puzzled.

With a sigh that hopefully buried her dread, she said, “I didn’t know you could feel fear, Cassian. You’re afraid of something, though.”

He stared at her. Not angry, but—taken aback. No doubt most people didn’t read him that easily. Or at all.

Most people didn’t know him. And most people weren’t her.

“I fear you are right,” he said slowly, “and that this is a hostage situation.”


“But not the one you propose.” His face had gone smooth, his voice very even. “The Empire is not trying to extract information from Queen Breha or Senator Organa. It is Princess Leia herself who has what they want. And everyone she cares about is in Aldera, at this moment. Everyone she has a duty to protect, also.”

Jyn caught her breath, more in horror than shock. She wasn’t surprised at all; though she hadn’t thought of that, it must have lurked somewhere in the back of her mind. Not consciously, not the bleak lines traced from one point to the next, but root and soil of the strangling fear she’d felt from the moment she heard.

“You think Aldera is the hostage?” Of course. Of course it was. She’d been on Jedha, on Scarif, she knew how few qualms the Empire had. But— “We’re not talking about an Outer Rim facility. I know it’s your home, but it’s also the capital of a Core planet. If the Empire wrecks Aldera, that … it’s one of the most beloved cities in the galaxy.”

“Yes,” said Cassian. Before she could think to stop him, he strode over to his chair and extracted one of the reviled nutrient milks. “It is a popular city, that is. An important one.”

“Not your home, then?” she said, keeping a sharp eye on him. He’d just briefly touched a hand to his side, and only when he bent down, so nothing seemed very alarming. Still, whatever he might say, Jyn knew he was exactly the sort of person who would sabotage himself at the earliest opportunity. She should know.

Unsealing the milk, Cassian gulped down half the tin. “The Rebellion is my home.”

He did not, she noticed, say it was their home. Just his. Absurdly, she felt herself smile.

“Of course.” Jyn paused. “And you’re from Vaes, not the capital.”

Cassian eyed her with open curiosity. “I am. Not that it will make a difference if the Death Star attacks.”

She remembered Jedha, the destruction that radiated out from the immediate wreckage.

“No. If Aldera falls, it will pull down half those mountains with it,” said Jyn. “To go by the Holy City … that would wreck a quarter, maybe a third of Alderaan outright. Devastate the planet. They couldn’t hide that. It would be—”

“Idiocy,” said Cassian. A lot more things than that, but the utter contempt in his voice managed to encompass all of them.

“Well, yes.” Small comfort, but Jyn hung onto it. Jedha had been bad enough. Even the Citadel had. “If the Empire collapses a spire of Aldera, the galaxy will know. You’ll have recruits from a hundred planets begging to join.”

“Even I would not choose that method of getting them,” he said, and drank the rest of the milk.

She felt sure that, three weeks ago, Cassian wouldn’t have so much as considered saying a sentence that included the words even I. In fact, Jyn felt sure that he still wouldn’t, with—almost anyone else. Not that it told her anything she already didn’t know or couldn’t guess, from what he’d said on the way to Scarif and before. But nevertheless, shame made for its own kind of faith.

“Obviously,” said Jyn. “Let’s hope the Empire isn’t stupid enough to do it.”

“They were with Jedha,” Cassian replied.

Jedha, home to a dozen sects. She’d heard enough in the ship to know that a good quarter of the men who followed them were either Jedhan or religious. Another snare that the Empire had built, then latched onto its own foot. Throat tight, she nodded.

“I—” He ran his fingers through his hair, pushing it out of his eyes. “I don’t mean that we should despair, only that we need to understand the situation as it is. That is not comforting, I know.”

She told him, “I don’t want comfort.”

Once Jyn bullied Cassian into taking another dose of analgesics and lying back down, she escaped into the fresher to wash. Her skin had felt clammy with cold sweat for hours. Though lies and tricks came as nothing new, she’d never depended so incessantly on them, on keeping quiet and unobtrusive for days on end. It wasn’t a taste for subtlety that had left her with assault records under half a dozen identities.

“Cassian?” she called out, tearing off the miserable suffocating jacket.

He sounded completely alert. “Yes?”

“Don’t go back to sleep. I’m going to have to take you to Esten in another”—she checked the time, calculating the assorted detours—“half-hour.”

“I wasn’t planning on rest,” he said.

“Okay.” Jyn soaked a rag and started washing her face. “Since we’re being realistic, everything we just said assumes that Princess Leia hasn’t revealed anything, and won’t. Last night, you thought she would probably resist. Just how sure are you?”

“We can never be sure,” he said. “From what I know of her, I would say it is very much more likely that she will not speak. At the least, I believe that breaking Leia Organa would require more than a day’s work.”

For all the talk of uncertainty, a bright vein of assurance ran through his voice.

Jyn caught her own eyes in the mirror, wide above the cloth that hung over most of her face. “How well do you know her?”

There was a pause from the room: not a long one, but a pause nevertheless.

“Well enough,” said Cassian. “I helped train her.”

She started, the cloth dropping from her hand. It didn’t matter. She’d already scrubbed her face red, as if she could somehow scour herself clean of Lyr and Lianna and all the rest. Jyn picked the cloth up and tossed it into the sink, washing her hands.

“And you were her handler,” she said. “Liaison. Whatever it was.”

“For a time,” he replied. With what seemed real distaste, he added, “The network in Imperial City was a disaster. I already had to spend months there.”

She’d known at least a dozen excellent engineers forced to work with shoddy materials. Cassian sounded exactly like every one of them.

Jyn smiled at herself. Probably, he wouldn’t appreciate the comparison. But professionals were professionals, the galaxy over. In another life, he might have fit in just fine with the Partisans’ perpetually aggrieved technicians and medics.

“I bet you did,” she said. “Well, if you’re the one who trained her, I can take your word for it.”

“Not the one,” said Cassian. “There were several of us. Intelligence couldn’t afford any negligence, with Princess Leia slated for work under the Emperor’s nose and no local support worth speaking of. I assisted.”

Sure you did.

“Sounds like you.” With a sigh of relief, Jyn unpinned her bun. Remarkable, really, how petty inconveniences could live side-by-side with terror, but she was almost tempted to liberate some of Cassian’s pills. At least the headache subsided as she shook out her hair. “Captain Teamwork.”

“Thank you,” he said dryly.

“So,” said Jyn, walking out of the fresher, “is that why you got saddled with my case?”

“What?” Cassian had been typing something into his datapad, but glanced up as she entered his range of vision. He looked surprised—perhaps at the question, though it seemed odd that one of his quicksilver reactions would linger that long. Quickly, he returned his gaze to the datapad.

She headed over to her bed. “Experience dealing with difficult women. Unless my impression of the princess is very wrong.”

“Not very, I think,” Cassian said. “But I would not describe her that way, no.”

“Really?” said Jyn, privately amused that the denial extended only to Leia. “What was she, then?”

If he noticed the amusement, he didn’t share it. Even graver than usual, he replied, “Not a woman, and not particularly difficult.”

“Not—” Then she remembered. “A girl, you mean.”

“Yes,” he said flatly. Though he didn’t look away from his datapad, he reached around to switch it off.

She knew that. Or she’d guessed, at least, just a few hours ago, before everything managed to degrade from terrible to nightmarish. Jyn slouched against her bedframe, the metal cold against her bare arms.

“Right. Born into the Rebellion,” she said. “Just how old are we talking about, here? The Rebellion itself can’t have been around that long.”

“She was fifteen when I trained her.” Leaning his head back, he laid the datapad aside, even that small movement careful and controlled. “Four years ago, but she was already a Rebel through-and-through. She’d do anything.”

Cassian, she thought, was not one to use anything carelessly. And—Force, nineteen. Not as young as she’d feared, but still, the fate of the entire galaxy hung on the fortitude of a nineteen-year-old girl.

Only three years younger than me, Jyn had to remind herself. In fact, Leia would be closer to her age than Cassian was, if only by a year. But those three years gaped open behind her; nineteen-year-old Jyn Erso felt a lifetime away. Then again, so did the twenty-two-year-old Jyn of a month ago.

She shifted uncomfortably. These days, her skin didn’t seem to fit quite right, aside of the chills and sweats. Aside of Lyr. Lianna Hallik would never have contemplated a fraction of what Jyn had risked in the last day alone. Certainly, she wouldn’t have risked her survival in probably-doomed attempts to protect the galaxy and the people she cared about. Lianna didn’t have people to care about. But Cassian, however restless, fit within himself as he’d always done. He behaved differently with her, yes—frank and loyal where he’d once been slippery. But he remained what he was, knew what he was, even if he despised it.

Jyn, though. It would be easier, in some ways, if she had died. Jyn Erso would mean only a criminal turned unconventional hero, and there have an end to it. Instead, she lived, somewhere within Isidar Lyr. And if she kept living, then what?

“The Rebellion’s existed for nineteen years?” she asked, because she had to say something.

“Twenty,” said Cassian.

“The Empire itself has only been around for nineteen,” Jyn pointed out. That extra year, again.

His fingers folded over his stomach. He held them loosely, the gesture casual rather than tense—or she’d think so if he made casual gestures.

“The Empire is daughter to the Republic. There wasn’t much difference by the end.” Cassian turned his head to settle a sober gaze on her. “It is all the same people, after all.”

She’d thought that more than once. Krennic, Tarkin, her father—they’d been part of the Republic. This strange Darth Vader had, whatever he once called himself. Literally everyone out of their teens. Jyn herself had babbled her first words under the Republic, taken her first steps, even if she didn’t remember them. The Alliance could gild the Republic’s memory all they wanted; she’d learned of its incompetence and corruption at Saw’s knee. Even when she rejected the rest of him, she easily held to that contempt. A Rebel, though?

“Is that so, Captain Andor?” Jyn folded her arms.

“Don’t sprain your tongue,” said Cassian. “Yes. It is.”

“And you want to bring the galaxy back to the way it was?”

The planes of his face hardened. “No.”

With no apology whatsoever, she said, “Sorry. I thought you were an officer in the Alliance to Restore the Republic.

“The Rebellion,” he told her. “I don’t care about the Republic. I care about fighting the Empire, about democracy.”

“And if we win?” Jyn demanded. She, herself, didn’t know why it offended her so much.

He blinked, gentling in some indistinct way to the Cassian she’d already grown accustomed to. “Then the galaxy will be free.”

Not if they didn’t have something to replace it. That was the trouble with idealists, they didn’t think of the hows and what thens—but they had the senators and generals for that, of course. Their Republic, however flawed, would be something. It was Cassian specifically who didn’t care. As if you could care about democracy and not about government. Plainly, he’d never thought of an after.

Neither had she, in all fairness. But she never expected to live that long.

Jyn pressed her lips together. He wouldn’t have, either. Part of her wanted to live just to spite … something. The galaxy, maybe.

“This is the stupidest argument we’ve ever had,” she said.

Just like that, Cassian broke into a smile. “Have we disagreed about anything?”

“I don’t think so.” Unsure what she’d been waiting for, Jyn let herself fall onto her bed and shifted about on the mattress until she felt comfortable. Ish.

“It’s only been a month,” he said thoughtfully. “Give us another week, and I’m sure we can surpass ourselves.”

Without intention, without even thought, she laughed. Another thing foreign to Lianna, but she couldn’t mind this one—even though Cassian, as ever, stayed quiet. But he regarded her with the pleased, softened expression he got sometimes, one that seemed to share in whatever she felt. Useful for a spy, no doubt, but she’d never seen it directed at anyone but Kay.

“I’ll withhold judgment,” said Jyn. “But really, why is the Rebellion against the Empire older than the Empire? They must have formed it for a reason. Senator Mothma and Senator Organa and …”

“Senator Amidala,” he said. “Others took part, but the three of them were the true leaders.”

She couldn’t begin to remember all the names she’d heard at the Council, but that one sounded unfamiliar. “I’ve never heard of her.”

“She died early on,” said Cassian. “It was Senator Mothma and Senator Organa who kept the dream alive.”

Jyn managed to hold off her instinctive flinch, but her breath shuddered in her chest. In those days of the infant Rebellion, Saw had been … what? Out there, somewhere. Probably bombing something. Probably right about the Republic before anyone else could see.

“Senator Organa in particular,” he continued. “He was the most committed to resistance, to action. Mothma preferred caution back then—most did.”

“Still do,” said Jyn, irritably.

“Imagine what they were like before the Empire.”

That provoked another laugh. “The mind boggles.”

“Mothma, at least, didn’t trust the Chancellor,” Cassian said. “She worked to raise concern and build contacts, I’ve heard. I don’t remember, but it seems likely. She’s always understood that better, and she didn’t have Senator Organa’s reasons.”

He stopped there, plainly considering his words. Only a moment’s hesitation, yet all that she needed. Senator Organa of Alderaan, fiercer and more urgent than the others. Clonetroopers in the Alderaanian snow; clonetroopers sent to Organa’s planet by Palpatine himself. An ostensible Separatist raid that wrecked an Alderaanian city, and its valuable mines, and the lives of its children. Cassian at six, drawn into a fight that had scarcely begun, and Cassian at twenty-two, training the senator’s daughter, and Cassian not an hour ago, saying that the Emperor had underestimated Alderaan before. Twenty years, not nineteen.

“Organa was angry about Vaesda,” Jyn said, “wasn’t he?”

From his bed, Cassian drew a quick breath. The hands loosely clasped on his torso twisted together. But he didn’t say anything, or look at her.

“I don’t know what happened,” she added. “Beyond the Imperial version. Propaganda, obviously.”

He unlinked his fingers, which tapped an irregular beat against his stomach. “There was a certain amount of sympathy for the Separatists on Alderaan. Not the methods, but—we believe in the right to self-rule, to democracy.”

“You have a queen,” said Jyn.

“We have twenty-eight queens,” he replied, “and nine other heads of state, who all happen to be the same person.”

She squinted over at him. “Saw was always more about tearing governments down then explaining how they worked, but I’m fairly sure that doesn’t make sense, anyway.”

“Alderaan is not one state,” said Cassian, finally tilting his head enough to meet her gaze, his own direct and clear. A faint but unmistakable pride touched his face, his voice quickening. “It is a confederation. Each country has total rule of itself, apart from a handful of planetary matters—and those are decided by the Senate of Alderaan, not the queen. Like I said before, Queen Breha has little real power, except as Viceroy of Aldera.”

“A figurehead.” Saw did have plenty to say about those. “So there was a bit of sedition on Alderaan, after all?”

“The Emperor—the Chancellor, then—saw it that way,” he said disdainfully. “He thought anything other than cheering on the glory of the Republic counted as sedition.” Cassian shifted, a little, fingers tapping that unsteady beat all the while. “There were some protests, that sort of thing.”

“They sent clonetroopers over protests?” The Empire did it all the time, and she’d heard of many worse wrongs perpetrated by the Republic, but not many that nonsensical.

“Protests supposedly funded by the Separatists. Who were supposedly threatening the mines.” The flash of pride had drained out of his voice. “We only ever had a few raids, that far into the Core, and all of them failures. The real reason was that Senator Organa signed a pointless petition that offended the Chancellor.”

“A petition,” Jyn repeated. That sounded even more inane. “And posting clonetroopers in one city was supposed to teach all of Alderaan a lesson?”

“No.” Cassian’s lips thinned, but he didn’t turn away, this time. “It was supposed to teach Senator Organa a lesson.”

Jyn, half-leaning on her hand, nearly fell back in sheer annoyance. The Republic might have been better than the Empire, but only because literally anything would have been. In what sort of byzantine hellscape did anyone post troops to—but her mind caught up with her. She’d seen it before, on the petty, backstreet scale that she’d lived. Minor ringleaders, thief takers and the like, corrupt officials.

“They meant to prove that Organa couldn’t depend on his own people.” Remembering Ioanath Vyld’s takeover in her quadrant of Imperial City, her eyes narrowed. “That he couldn’t protect his own people.”

Cassian nodded. With unmistakable resentment, he said, “It was a humiliation.”

It was a protection racket, she thought. Undermine trust, offer better deals, extract a price later. But it hadn’t worked. Not as intended, anyway.

Jyn had seen Cassian’s resentment before, too. Not on him. Others, though—the approach could backfire, if you were clumsy about it, or underestimated someone’s level of support. One misjudgment, and supporters wouldn’t consider it an opportunity but an insult to them all. She’d probably seen divide-and-conquer tactics fail more often than succeed, meet with the same sullen indignation. And Cassian’s could only be absorbed from others; he wouldn’t remember it, at his age.

“I’m guessing a lot more people than the senator felt humiliated,” she said.

“Everyone did.” Cassian slipped back into his usual reserve, hands flattening into restraint. “Vaes is poor and cold and filthy. Most people on Alderaan didn’t care about it, didn’t even think about it. But everyone cared when the Chancellor sent clonetroopers there.” He paused. “For our protection.

“I bet putting Alderaanians under Republic guard for no reason did wonders with the protests,” said Jyn.

“After a manner of speaking,” Cassian said, with a quirk of his mouth.

She thought about it. “I think I’ve misjudged the Empire. I thought antagonizing their own citizens and sacrificing thousands of troops for indulgent gestures was their own innovation. They couldn’t even do that.”

“No,” he agreed. “Well, the Chancellor believed he’d made his point once Vaesda blew. He expressed condolences, withdrew the troops, and everything seemed to quiet down. But Senator Organa had rushed home to Alderaan as soon as he heard. He saw it with his own eyes, and—you were right.”

Jyn didn’t bother pointing out that Cassian had neatly skipped past the obliteration of his home. They both knew. It wasn’t like she said much to him about the Partisans.

“Organa lost interest in petitions, I take it,” she said.

“The Chancellor really thought that he’d taught him a lesson,” said Cassian, which was answer enough. “I suppose he did, if not the one he intended.”

Jyn’s memory flashed back—Lyra, crumpling to the ground, and Galen, passively acceding. Or Krennic thought so. But he died knowing he’d failed.

Someday, she promised herself, the Emperor would, too. They all would.


1) "Senator Organa": Of course, it's Leia and not Bail who is the current Senator Organa; he must have resigned his seat to her. But "Princess Leia" always seems to supersede that, and in any case, it's always going to mean Bail to Cassian.

2) "her father’s weight dragging her down, some of us just decided to do something about it": Bodhi told Jyn that her father inspired him by saying he could "do something about it," so when Cassian lashes out with the exact same words—well, I think it's notable that it's where their argument ends and she's gung-ho about fighting the Empire when we next see her. I definitely imagine that it's the thing that hit her hardest.

3) "Actually destroying whole Imperial planets is a terrible idea": while the characters definitely know in RO that the Death Star can destroy planets, they've only seen focused attacks on individual cities/stations so far. Those are still devastating and massive strategic missteps (as Anakin rightly points out), but less than the Death Star's capabilities. Jyn and Cassian don't underestimate the Death Star so much as they overestimate Tarkin & Co's intelligence.

4) "Twenty years, not nineteen": Of course, I'm thinking of the proto-Alliance in the ROTS cut scenes. I'm somewhat ambivalent about the scenes as they actually exist, but I've always been very interested in the idea of them, and I'm definitely intrigued by the fact that the Rebellion was first formed as resistance to the Republic's government in that year leading up to the Empire's formation, not as a consequence of it afterwards. And also by the fact that Bail Organa is very noticeably more forceful and intense than, uh, everyone.

(Though I like to imagine that Padmé shifted more to his side, given how close they seem at the end of ROTS.) Anyway, that coincides with Cassian's age well enough that I don't really see the need for Clone Wars handwaving. At least for me, it was more interesting to imagine how a small boy could have gotten swept up in that very early phase of the Rebellion, and Bail's much more decided antagonism to Palpatine was the obvious opportunity.

5) "Senate of Alderaan": partly inspired by the ROTJ script, mostly by Alderaan's Earth-like imagery. I like the idea of at least some places having a sort of commonwealth/association of autonomous communities rather than one unified government. I was thinking specifically of something like the historical Corona de Aragón with bonus democracy.

6) "Protests supposedly funded by the Separatists": The fic is mostly my place to hide from RL politics, but, uh. *whistles*

7) "A pointless petition": Specifically, the petition under discussion in the cut scenes. It seemed the obvious catalyst, even if Sith Lord vs Strongly Worded Letter is amazingly disproportionate. (While Cassian a) doesn't personally remember this and b) doesn't know Palpatine is a Sith Lord, he is ... ah, not exactly a fan of fighting tyranny through petitions.)

8) "Ioanath Vyld's takeover": Completely unimportant. I just liked the idea of Space Jonathan Wild floating around some seedy underbelly of Coruscant.
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