The light was so bright... Not so surprising after all; the laser beam had generated something akin to nuclear fusion. It hurt. How could it still hurt when the shock wave had already burnt him into subatomic particles?
“Captain Andor? Can you hear me?”
He blinked as a dark silhouette blocked the light.
“Can you hear me?” the mechanical voice repeated.
The world slowly came into focus. A 2-1B unit was leaning over him, peeling something off his forehead. He was lying on a bed, someone had even put a pillow under his head and around him he could hear the rattle of medical instruments and the distant rumble of engines. A ship. He was on a ship.
“Where...?” he croaked.
The droid put some bandages away before turning back to Cassian.
“Aboard a medical frigate, on our way to Iego. For the moment.”
His mind was immediately flowed with questions: why had they left Yavin IV? Where was his team? How was he still alive and probably in one piece?
“What is the last thing your remember, Captain?” the droid inquired.
He tried to put words on pictures. His tumble down the archives tower? No, after that... shooting Krennic... the elevator... Jyn holding him close on the beach... her slim fingers tight around his in the transport...
“Jyn? Where's Jyn Erso?”
The droid did not answer, busy checking some wound or another.
“Where is she?”
He was still calling for her when the 2-1B injected him with a dose of anesthetic.
Cassian woke again in the same place, the same sounds ringing in his ears. He tried to sit but the ever-present droid pushed him back on the bed.
“You should not try to move too much, Captain. Your spine was damaged during your fall and standing or sitting too soon could undo the treatment currently performed.”
With a groan, he let his head hit the pillow and closed his eyes. He hated being forced into inactivity, as this was not the first time he had to spend several days in the medbay. It made him feel useless, disqualified as a field agent somehow.
This time, however, he did not lack for visitors.
The first one was a young man, no more than twenty, with messy blond hair, kind blue eyes and a skin tanned by a whole life spent outside, who introduced himself as Luke Skywalker, from Tatooine, and freshly-recruited pilot.
Being a newbie had apparently not prevented him from taking the shot of the century at the Death Star. When Cassian pointed this out, the boy shrugged.
“I was not exactly alone, up there,” he said. “And my father was a Jedi, or so I was told, so there may be something to that as well...”
He did not like being under the spotlights any more than Cassian himself but soon he proved friendly enough and he kept the Captain busy with tales of his dustball of a homeworld. Cassian enjoyed that, mostly how the little scavengers named Jawas would strip a crashed ship in less than a day or the way their language had escaped the understanding of all linguists that had tried to decipher it.
“Have you met the others?” Cassian asked, once. “The rest of my team?”
“Only Jyn Erso,” Luke replied, “right before she left Yavin IV. A shame, that. She looked like someone really efficient, and not one to mince her words.”
“She... left? What do you mean, she left? They sent her on another mission, even if she's been injured on Scarif?”
Skywalker looked a bit embarrassed.
“No, I mean... she left the Alliance. Picked her bag and went... somewhere in the Outer Rim.”
Cassian blinked several times.
“Did Draven kick her out?” he growled.
The younger man shook his head.
“I’m not sure. But I'd say she kicked herself out, in a way. She refused to take a commission, packed a bag and left, right after the medic told her you would make a full recovery. I suppose some people are not made for a structure like the Alliance. And she was probably fed up with people giving her weird looks because her dad worked on the Death Star, as well.”
Cassian closed his eyes for a moment, letting out an exasperated sigh. The irrational aspect of that kind of behavior always baffled him. How could anyone blame Jyn for her father's work when she had been left behind at eight and had never seen the man again, save for some precious minutes right before he died? Probably because it was easy for those who had not done anything to destroy the battle station Galen had created. That, or grieving people were not completely logical and looked for the most convenient target.
“Do you?” he asked, and Luke raised an eyebrow. “Blame her, I mean?”
“Certainly not! Wedge Antilles is well on his way to become my best friend here, and he was an Imperial deserter!” Luke protested. “One of my old mates went to the Academy before joining you guys and I almost got there as well. It's not like we have any say on who our parents and relations can be, right?”
Cassian snorted lightly. There was still a certain naivete to Skywalker but at least, he was an honest and kind soul. Those were not so common in the Alliance any more.
Skywalker left moments later, when the medical droid told them sternly that “Captain Andor needed his rest”, leaving Cassian to brood a bit more.
He did not see anyone for a day after that, then Senator Mothma herself paid him a visit. Good. She would be able to give him all the answers Skywalker and the medics seemed to ignore.
“Captain Andor,” she greeted with a warm smile.
“Begging your pardon, ma'am, if I don't get up, but medic's orders... you know how it goes...” he said, wincing at his weak attempt of a joke.
His boss took her time seating on a chair and arranging the folds of her long grey robes.
“I suppose you have already heard all the good things, so I'm afraid I'm the messenger for bad news.”
He tried to remain calm, waiting for the ax to fall. Mon Mothma delicately cleared her throat before delivering the butcher's bill. It matched even Cassian's worst nightmares, and then some.
“Counting Jyn Erso, the pilots who survived the crash of their fighters and yourself, we rescued fourteen people from the surface of Scarif right before the shock wave reached the base. You owe your survival to Hera Syndulla and her Ghost; I suspect the odds don't even exist anymore for them.”
A fleeting smile, then she went on:
“Miss Erso was the only member of your original team to survive, though not without injuries. The others were unfortunately killed during the battle, and could not be retrieved.”
Cassian gritted his teeth against the angry denial that was crawling up his throat.
“Princess Organa managed to send the plans to one of her father's friends before being captured, and she was fortunately rescued by the same people that brought us the blueprints of the Death Star. But we could not...”
She hesitated and he saw her long, slim fingers twitch on the fabric of her robes.
“They fired the weapon once more before we could destroy it, using its full power.”
“Where?” he croaked, dreading the answer.
The word hit him harder than the metal beams that had struck him during his fall in the archive tower on Scarif. It was too huge, it could not be true... They could not have turned a Core world into an asteroids field...
“How many...?” he whispered.
“We don't know exactly. Billions. Bail is dead. We're still trying to reach our contacts, see if some of them were off-world when it happened.”
Her speech was unusually stilted, mechanical. Cassian could not say another word. She rose from the chair, looking as if the weight of the galaxy was resting on her shoulders alone, and left him alone with his nightmares and regrets.
He had known, somehow, that the rest of his team had not made it. Had known, even as he was retrieving the archive, that K-2SO would not greet him when he climbed down from the platform. That Bodhi had probably been killed when their transport was destroyed by a grenade. That Chirrut and Baze were in the middle of a literal firestorm.
How could he have let them go without telling them that he had been very proud, and very lucky, to have them by his side?
And Jyn Erso was probably already on the other side of the galaxy.
He felt as if the battle on Scarif had taken more from him in some hours than the previous twenty years of his life.