The prisoner is a vision in white.
She moves as if she does not feel the ground. Her hair is trimmed short, accenting the kind yet unflappable smoothness of her face. The prisoner holds her head high even with iron cuffs around her wrists. She is older than the assembled, but she wears her age as a badge of honor. Experience sharpens her gaze as she examines every inch of the Rebel command post.
The captive, Mon Mothma of Chandrila, is led to the center of the room. Two SpecOps officers stand behind her. One, Cassian Andor, is the Rebellion's most valuable Intelligence agent. The other, Ruescott Melshi, keeps a wary eye on their prisoner. Jyn notes the swelling bruise beneath his eye.
“Hello,” Jyn greets. “I hope your trip was comfortable.”
Mon smiles, a vague touch at a corner of her lips. “Far more comfortable than Wobani’s Labor Camp. Thank you for my unexpected release.”
“You have the Rebellion to thank,” Jyn says. She stands opposite their command table, a grand circle around which the rest of the room orbits.
Jyn nods to Andor. He and Melshi take their leave.
Alone with their captive, Jyn scales the outline of the table until they stand directly in front of each other. Mon's gaze meets hers, curious but restrained. “Learning of your sentence was a surprise, Senator,” Jyn remarks. “Political prisoners tend to receive fairer accommodations.”
“The Senate is a memory," Mon says. "There is no distinction between dissenters and criminals.” Her voice remains low and gentle. “Chandrila branded me a traitor for desertion. But you already know that.”
Jyn knows everything about Mon Mothma. Her rise through the Senate ranks. Her alliance with Bail Organa and the late Padme Amidala. Her unwillingness to accept the extended rule of Emperor Palpatine. She fled her Senate post and homeworld years ago and devoted herself to peaceful acts of protest and charity.
Peace is unimaginable in these times. Even more so with a bounty on one's head. The ex-Senator is lucky Imperial forces found her before a hunter. The price on Mothma is dead or alive.
“Why not contact your old friend Bail Organa for help?” Jyn asks. “Our cause is a similar one.”
Mon inclines her head. “Our methods could not be more different.”
Mon is a beautiful woman. This was clear enough in holo-vids, but she is striking in person. It's her poise that resonates with Jyn. She now understands Bail's unwavering devotion to Mon. Mon commands respect, even with power and status stripped from her. It is clear why she continues to be a leading voice for freedom in the galaxy.
“You’ve already judged me.” Jyn sees this too, in the glances Mon gives her disparate appearance. Gray cargo pants and green top with gray flight vest. At her waist, her blaster is visible from its holster. Her hair is tied back for ease. Her boots are scuffed and dirt-flecked.
Mon shakes her head. “Why did you free me from Wobani? Was it on Bail’s request?”
“We’ve yet to inform Bail of your release,” Jyn says. This, it seems, surprises Mon. Her expression remains still, but there is a touch of concern in her eyes. “We will,” she assures. “But I’d hoped we could chat first, before you two reunite.”
“Until he greets me in my holding cell, you mean,” Mon says.
"That all depends on you.” Jyn leans against the rim of the table.
Mon exhales an almost-laugh. “I’m afraid there’s not much help I can be to you…”
“Jyn,” Jyn offers, filling in the space. “Jyn Erso.”
Mon’s brow creases. “Galen Erso's daughter? The Imperial scientist?”
The smile falls from Jyn’s face. “No one has heard from my father in 15 years," she says. "He’s dead now, I hope.” Mon’s expression does not offer sympathy, but she does not seem pleased either. Death, Jyn knows, is not an uncommon presence in Mon’s life. Nor is it in Jyn’s.
“We think you can help us,” Jyn continues.
“My face is a recognizable one.” Mon shakes her head. “Even if I were willing to engage in your illegal operations, the Empire will find me. Your cover will be blown.”
The phrasing is not lost on Jyn. Illegal operations. Maybe, in Mon's world, dissention is only acceptable when it involves crimes of ideology. But leadership has taught Jyn when it is appropriate to argue. Here, she backs down. “That isn’t what we’re asking for,” Jyn says. “And the picture you’ve been painted of the Rebellion is wrong, Mon. There are extremists for the cause, yes. Like my surrogate, whom you know.”
Mon nods. “Saw Guerrera. A good man. Troubled.”
Jyn agrees with the assessment. “We know you’ve retained key contacts within the Imperial Senate.”
Mon tilts her head. Jyn can almost see her mind at work, attempting to place the words with where they may be leading. “Reaching out would put them, and us, in danger," Mon argues. "The Senate’s power is in name only at this stage. The Emperor has taken complete control. Those remaining are monitored closely.”
Jyn's expression brightens. “It just so happens, we make a living out of bypassing Imperial trackers." Mon shakes her head again, but she does not deny it. "If we can transmit your message without endangering the lives of your contacts or their people, would you speak on our behalf?”
Mon lowers her head. The expression disapproves, but it is not an outward no. “You overestimate their desire to risk themselves for freedom.”
“Maybe,” Jyn agrees. “But we need open channels in the days ahead. Even the smallest gain in communication is vital.”
Mon's eyes narrow. She knows something is being kept from her. If Mon joins this campaign, she will need to be told about the weapon. What had, for a time, existed only as rumor has become very real over the past few weeks. Their time is short, and they must act quickly.
Her kyber crystal hangs warm against her breast.
“If I refuse?” Mon asks.
Jyn shrugs. “We could put you back where we found you on Wobani. But that would be wasted manpower. If we leave you at the nearest outpost, it won't take long for the hunters to find you. It is quite the bounty you've earned for yourself.”
“Thank you.” Mon does not smile, but her eyes seem to dance.
Jyn grins at the wry humor. “Does that mean we can count on your support?”
“I’ll consider it,” Mon says.
Jyn would have been disappointed if Mon gave in on the first try. “Fine by me,” she answers. “I’ll walk you back.”
“You won’t be calling your officers from before?” Mon purses her lips. “I feel awful about that bruised eye. I'd hoped to apologize.”
“Between us?” Jyn hides a smile. “Melshi looks better with it.”
Time passes quickly behind the old warehouse walls of the Yavin 4 Rebel Base. Early reports about the Empire's weapon become hauntingly concrete.
It’s called a “planet killer,” they say. Somehow, the mining operations on Jedha are involved. An Imperial pilot defected to deliver the message, at great personal risk. Word has it that he is seeking refuge with Saw Guerrera. He’ll be dead soon if he isn’t already. There isn’t much time to retrieve him.
All this, Mon Mothma knows as she crosses hallways to the officers' quarters. Despite her tenure with the Rebel Fleet, she still prefers her robes. Soldiers part for her in respect. Her initial captors, Andor and Melshi, lift hands in feigned surrender as she passes.
Time has healed bruises and mistrust. But it, unfortunately, is no medicine for the hardships they now face.
Jyn is waiting in her quarters. The door shuts behind Mon with a soft click. “They will come,” Mon says. “But, even with the new evidence from Kafrene, they won’t be swayed. If the pilot’s leads are vague, it will be another lost opportunity.”
An open green duffel sits on Jyn’s cot. She nods, looking at it. “We could find the pilot with the weapon’s plans in his hand. The more evidence we find, the more afraid they become.” She smiles at Mon. “If only your former colleagues shared your vision.”
“I understand their hesitation.” Mon embraces her. “They worry for their people.” Her fingers are long and practiced under the collar of Jyn's shirt. Jyn stands inches shorter than the former senator. Mon greets her forehead with a kiss.
Jyn sighs, hands on Mon’s sides. “They still think the Emperor will spare them if they keep quiet. The galaxy is changing too fast for them.”
Mon kneads a hand between her shoulders. Her smile grazes Jyn’s hair. “You'll go to Jedha. Safely. And find this pilot. From there, we'll have to hope.”
Jyn’s amused gaze flicks upward. “I’m always safe,” she protests.
Mon tips her face higher. “No need to lie when we’re alone, commander.”
Jyn hums agreement. “In that case,” she amends, “I’m safer than some.”
Their lips meet. Jyn's face is soft beneath Mon’s touch.
Sometimes, she remembers how young their leader is. Mon vaguely recalls a galaxy that would not have tasked its youth with the weight of war. Maybe one day in her lifetime she will see it again.
“Is Captain Andor accompanying you?” Mon asks.
“And his droid." Jyn rolls her eyes, mouth quirked in resignation. “At least our hate is mutual.”
Mon smiles. Her thumb crosses the arch of Jyn’s cheekbone. Her eyes seem larger from this angle. Their lips pause inches apart, maintaining the distance of duty. Other evenings together do not require such restraint. Even now, Mon feels Jyn’s body. Firm and compact beneath her combat clothes.
She reminds Mon of the revolutionaries she once knew. An echo of a time of hope, before the dark days of Palpatine. Jyn’s belief is young and ravenous. It excites Mon, despite all attempt to maintain her rationality. Hope alone will not win over the holdouts from the Senate. But hope is the most powerful weapon they have.
“You’ll be careful,” Mon says.
Jyn’s eyes dance with humor. “Is that an order, senator?”
Mon chuckles, coaxed by the nose that rubs teasingly against her own. “A suggestion, commander. A good suggestion.”
“A very good suggestion,” Jyn agrees. As their lips meet, Mon knows their young leader has no intention of following it.