"If you continue to fight, what will you become?"
THIRTEEN YEARS AGO
"Lianna Hallick. Twenty three. Wanted on counts of forgery, petty theft, impersonation of Imperial officers, association with known dissident groups, proliferation of explosives and fire arms, possession of stolen property, possession and creation of material dangerous to the Imperial cause, assault and battery, resisting arrest." Draven rubs his forehead and sets down his tablet. "And yet all of it pales next to the bounty that would be on your head if they knew who you really were."
She shifts, handcuffs still digging painfully into her wrists. "Look, I told you my real name, at great personal expense. And you still have me shackled to a table?"
It's the first thing she's said in a while, and Draven's eyebrows raise suspiciously. Nevertheless, he signals for an aid who lets the shackles fall to the floor.
"Imagine that! Not wanting to trust a criminal who's reneged on deals with every sort of low life in the galaxy. Not to mention one with extensive connections and continued affiliation with the terrorist group Saw Gerrera calls resistance. Why ever should we trust you, Miss Erso?"
She juts her chin out. "Because I'm the best you've got for this job, and you know it."
"And why ever would that be?"
"You're all rebels, aren't you? Goody two shoes types, politically motivated, all that. This is a job for a fucking criminal. One of your guys is going to try to follow the rules- that's their nature. They aren't gonna be willing to make the hard calls and live outside the law, and they're going to be dead in an half an hour." Feeling her point is made, Jyn leans backwards in the chair, smirking dangerously.
"Jyn Erso would make an excellent candidate. The position will require both her prior knowledge of Imperial language and culture and her extensive abilities as a forger in order to maintain a network of cover identities and undercover agents." The woman- Mon Mothma, Jyn supposes she could just disrespectfully thing of her as Mon but that seems irrevocably wrong- steps into the light. "You know what this will involve, Miss Erso?"
She nods. Dedication- but she's always had that in spades, when she thought the cause was worth it. A certain kind of insanity to ignore the risks, ignore the possibility of dying like so many agents before her, under a false room with no name and no toe nails or teeth or air in her lungs."
"We are looking at a time commitment of fifteen to twenty years."
"You really think the Empire's going to last that long? Take a look at Fest. They're falling apart at the seams. All we need are a few rebels, some more supplies for Saw an-"
Draven cuts her off. "Our think tanks suggest that without intense revolutionary action, the Empire will function for a full hundred-fifty to two hundred years before it fails internally due to sectarianism and the loss of resources from environmental degradation."
Jyn swallows. A hundred fifty years, minimum, unless these fucking rebels can get their heads out of their arses and act on something other than their political self-interest.
"As you can see, Miss Erso, the loss of lives, not to mention the cultural and environmental destruction that could happen in that time period- the Galaxy would never recover." The woman's voice is softer but no less commanding. She's dressed in pure shapeless white, like some kind of guardian angel, innocent of the blood her soldiers shed from their interventions- or worse, when they do nothing at all.
"So what the fucking hell's to be done?"
"Miss Erso-" Draven pretends to be shocked and angered, but she cuts him off again.
"Death. The Empire fucking up the environment and everything. What is it i have to do to stop it?"
"This," Mon Mothma says, and she slides the data pad in front of Jyn.
Jyn's always been smart, and she's never felt insecure in her intelligence. But the only kind of formalized education she had was in pre-school, and the last time she had lessons in anything academic, she was eight years old. The long Aurabesh words swim before her eyes, but she gets the gist, and fuck this is a curveball she never would have expected.
"Marriage?" She squeaks out, followed by- "to who?"
"One of our best agents. A man who will do anything for our cause." Draven says.
"A good man. Only a few years older, and he will never take advantage of this . . . situation." Mothma adds with a smile that is probably supposed to be kindly.
Marriage. Jyn has always been alone. Even in a group, she has never been able to read people, or understand the ways they formed tribes and groups and partnerships. And here she is, faced with the ultimate partnership.
Marriage. To a spy. What will he want with her? She's always been good at compartmentalizing sex from emotions, surely that will help her now.
"Are you still interested, Miss Erso? I promise that undercover, you and your husband will be the fulcrum on which our entire intelligence operation rests. Our own little Imperials, if you will." Mon Mothma walks around the table till the breeze sends the folds of her gown to tickle Jyn's arm. "Do you still want this?"
Fuck. She's never thought of herself as an Imperial, but damn if she doesn't play a damn good when when need be. (Although her previous Imperial personas have always been lowly dock workers and mechanics, the identity assumed for access to the mess halls and medical facilities and showers of colonial Imperial stations. This? This is a whole new level of bullshit.
"Yes. I want to make every single one of them pay."
"You've got to be fucking around with me, mate. The emperor?"
The man nodds, and the hooker's glossy red mouth dropped open. She's blonde, clearly died, a fairly pretty 30-something with a lemon-shaped face that's cute if not necessarily sexy. She tries to speak with an educated, sophisticated rasp, but she's dropped that for a far more working-class twang in her excitement.
A lower-levels chav tying to fuck her way to a higher pay grade. Curious but not smart enough to be threatening, and with no idea the depths she was in.
He has her all figured out.
"At this level, there's not a lot of people he can trust."
"How do I know you're not just making all of this up?" Her voice lilts upward, and even though he has no place doing so in a bar like this, th man feels compelled. So he slides an ID card- government credentials, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE AND SECURITY, Imperial axel embossed in the upper right corner- across the table to her.
She squeals in delight.
"How 'bout we take this upstairs, Mr. Imperial?"
And because he's in the mood for a bit of fun, he can't turn down an offer from so charming a woman.
Forty-five minutes later and he's part way into the fuck of his life.
The blonde is naked from the waste up. Her tits aren't much but they're nice, and she's doing things with her mouth that are making him forget where he is, who he is, who she is.
What his employers would do to him if they found out the secrets he was leaking to a lower levels whore, just because she was damn pretty when she sucked his cock.
Right now, though, he isn't really cognizant enough to make those kinds of distinctions.
"The rebels have put a lot of their scummy motherfuckers in our society. To think of it! Rebels, pretending to be perfectly decent Imperial citizens, living off our hard work and then sabotaging our boys in white every chance they get."
For just the barest second, her body goes frighteningly still under his, but then she's back at it again, whispering in his ear. "Keep going, keep going, keep going."
"We got some of their defectors though- they're giving us the good stuff. And we'll be putting all of them underground. You'll see them on the holos next week, indictments enough to hang 'em for treason in five systems- think of me, cause it was my idea."
She lifts her head, pretty face going slack dumb again. "What's an indictment?"
The first thing she does when she gets back on the ship is ditch the wig. Fucking hell, it always makes her feel fake, exposed. And it itches.
She shakes out her hair, brunette and straight and with a couple more grey hairs then she's like- certainly more than the average put-together Imperial house wife. There's a baggy blue sweater under the console, too and a coat that does a passable job at covering up her current attire (a dress, gold-sequined, cheap, so insubstantial she feels like the air conditioning could just about kill her.) She switches out the criminally high glitzy heels for a pair of flat plimsoles and, feeling rather more like Iliza Sward, appropriate Imperial mother and home maker, she sets the navigation course for home.
The neighborhood is asleep when she gets back. Good. No one sees her park and slip out, opening the back door with the key Joreth hid under the planter like the super-spy he is.
She thanks her lucky stars the house is asleep as well. When she peeks into his room she sees Gael is out cold, fingers clutched at a fluffy stuffed bantha, nightlight on to scare off the monsters he still worries lurk under his bed. ("The only monsters in the galaxy are the ones our minds make, darling" she'd told him the other night, right before she slipped out to shoot a woman who's only crime was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.) Careful not to wake him up, she kisses the top of his head and adjusts the books piled next to his bed, so he won't trip over them in the morning.
If only they could stay that age forever.
She isn't as lucky walking through the living room.
"Mum? Why are you wearing so much makeup?"
Fucking shit. She swears under her breath and turns to see Danika, bent over a pile of data pads and books at the dining room table, light brown skin illuminated by the blueish glow of a data tablet. The soft ends of her long hair brush against the white of book pages and she holds a steaming mug.
Some kind of unfinished, procrastinated-on school project, probably. But which one? Jyn racks her mind, trying to remember if Dani mentioned anything of the sort, but she comes up blank. Fuck, she really should be more involved.
"Dani! Why are you still awake?"
"Mr. Sloan has a final paper due tomorrow morning and Dad said I could stay up and finish it."
"He did, did he?" Jyn pulls out a chair and slumps down in it, almost eye level with Dani. At twelve, her daughter's nearly as tall as she is now. She's more visibly Cassian's daughter in every way, her skin a few shades darker than his- genetics are strange, and the genetics of mixed ancestry, like Joreth's and Gael's and Danika's, are even stranger.
"Even made me coffee to help. Said it helped him finish work when he had too much to do in one night."
Jyn sighs. "Just don't make it a habit."
"I won't. Promise."
Jyn leans over her shoulder. "What's the topic on?" She's too tired to judge for the quality, but Dani's already written volumes, although she's can't tell if that's out of studiousness or the ancient bullshitting strategy of being so verbose the teacher doesn't actually read it but decides it looks long and studious enough.
"How rebel troops have been trying to destroy Imperial culture and short-sell Imperial arms control, and how the Empire has used counter-insurgency methods to quell uprising and bring civilization to outer-rim planets."
"That's a mouthful." Jyn's struck again by the looming possibility that her kids are smarter than she is. Certainly better educated."
"We had to do case studies, so I'm doing Fest."
Jyn almost chokes. "And what did your father say about the paper?"
"Uh, nothing really? He just saw what it was about and got really weird and went up to your room to mope for a bit. Force, sometimes he acts more like a teenage girl than I do."
"It's because you're not actually a teenage girl yet, widget." She smoothes the top her Dani's hair down. "Get to bed soon, alright?"
It's a useless request. Danika is her parent's daughter, and she'll see the project through to the end, even if it means missing sleep.
She pulls herself up and is about to leave the room again when Dani calls after her.
"Seriously, Mum, what's with the makeup? That's a brighter shade of lipstick than I've ever seen you wear. Ever."
"Work function. Those travel agents sure put on a do."
She climbs the stairs, feet hating her after so much time in heels, and opens the door with trepidation. Joreth is still awake, sprawled across their bed in pajamas. Reading.
"You don't have to stay up for me."
He shakes his head. "If something happened . . . "
"The mission went fine. C'mon, help me get out of this ridiculous shit."
She slides the coat off, but the cocktail dress is another story. Glitzy and gold and rather becoming, but the zipper always catches. Joreth makes quick work of it, his fingers ghosting along her back as he's far too careful not to touch her than a husband ever should be.
She pulls on a shirt and climbs in next to him.
"Do you want to talk about Danika's project?"
She takes his silence as a "no." When she turns her head incrementally, she can see something almost like tears but infinitely deeper in his eyes. Dani's project cut him deep.
"Yavin contacted us while you were gone."
"They want us to start on Dani's training."
"Fuck no. No fucking way. She isn't even thirteen."
"How old were you when you joined Saw's cadre?"
Point taken, she ignores his question.
"And they want us to have the defector caught and ready for transport to the base in ten days."
"Fuck no. We're going to kill him."
He shifts, and the two of them are face to face, the position uncomfortably intimate mainly for the way his eyes roam her face.
"Who's the defector, Eliza?"
THIRTEEN YEARS AGO
"You understand, Captain Andor, that everything we say from this point forward is under strictest confidentiality?"
"And that, if any of this information were to be found disseminated to the general populace, it would be our first order to have you assassinated."
Cassian raised his chin to look Major Neekolay Timoshev square in the eyes. The man made him feel unspeakably uncomfortable, but Draven trusted him, and it was not Cassian's place to be making decisions about allegiance and reliability of other agents.
"Yes, Major Timoshev."
"Then we may begin."