1 The necklace
They had played the game so many times, but it never included this. Mama’s necklace, that she never took off. Why was it hanging in her hands now, being held out, offered to Jyn like a gift? She couldn’t wear Mama’s necklace, she couldn’t carry everything that meant. It was no gift, not a toy or a wildflower. It wasn’t hers to take. This wasn’t supposed to happen.
The fear on her mother’s face, the desperate love, the desperate words. “Trust the Force.” A terrible thought, to carry from that moment, that she should trust the Force even though Mama and Papa who she trusted more than anything were no longer there. But it was Mama’s hope, and now she must carry it for her.
The necklace went round her neck, the clasp was closed, and she carried that too.
She hid it, the crystal secret under her clothes, and she hid the faith too, deep inside her like a beast’s treasure, denied and buried in the underground bunker of her heart.
She never went unarmed. A full-size blaster or a derringer, a rifle or a belt full of grenades; a good solid baton or a stout stick cut from the forest. She had three vibro-blades over the years that she thought of as her own, and a dozen others passed through her hands. Even in prison, her world reduced to rock and cold and sweat, to hunger and lack of sleep, but Jyn found a piece of flint and chipped it to an edge. If all else came to dust, she could at least cut a throat or two before she fell. Her own included. There were worse ways to go than a rapid bleed-out.
She carried marks on her, scars from knives and fists, shackles and burns. A toenail never straight again after being pulled half-off in a fight; a knee forever weakened by a patella fracture left untreated for days; hairline cracks forever undetected and knitting slightly askew, on ribs where too many enemies (soldiers, law officers, prison guards) had slammed their blows.
Every scar was a memory, every memory another stone in her heart.
Her memories were heavier by the year, and could never be shed.
Everyone she’d trusted, everyone who’d trusted her, all of them leaving something on her back and in her heart, another weight to carry when they no longer could. All their faces, the ones she recalled with the precision of a nightmare, and the ones that blurred unhappily into her general shame. Family, friends, comrades, allies. Every remembered face; and with them, guilt and grief, anger and broken hopes.
Her mother’s faith, her father’s message, Saw’s dream, all of their legacies her responsibility. Memory coiled hard inside; the will to fight, a snake, or a heavy stone chain. A burden she’d never asked for and had no idea how to set down.
5 Her hope
She carried a dead thing, a rock inside her that was once a child’s hope. Somehow she was never quite able to let it go, even though all it did was drag and chafe at the back of her mind. Even on Wobani, where not one living soul had anything inside them save a rock and another rock, she couldn’t shed it. She tried to; she hated it, mocked it, told herself and anyone who would listen that she no longer believed in it and it was no more, it had never existed, was less than a fistful of dust. The rock stayed nonetheless. Another weight, in an existence burdened on every side. Jyn could not have explained its persistence, until the day it came to life and was not a rock at all but a seed.
Rebellions are built on hope. Trust the Force.
The cavern of her heart was still there, but its emptiness suddenly filled with light and green. Hope watered by hope, germinating, growing with wild energy.
She carried it still, then, though she’d never believed she could; hope, trust, faith, not stones at all but crystals like her necklace, unshattered, a dragon’s treasures in the deep dark of her.
6 Her faith carried him with her
Jyn would have called them all nothing, she was so used to carrying them, the uncounted burdens of her past. Long-dead faith, long-denied hope and rejected love; a handful of stones, a pocketful of nothing. She would have called it weakness, but in the end it was strength.
It was enough to carry her, and to lift another life, one that broke itself restoring hers. Shattered but certain, more alive than they had been in years too long to count, they carried each other in pain and in hope. They climbed, they fought, they won. They sent the message.
When he fell at the waters’ edge she tried to lift and carry him. It was too much weight, and it was too far to move, too little time. All the things she’d carried, but this last one would be too much, and she just wanted to lie down beside him and rest, because this was the end, here at the waterline.
There was a voice shouting above the whirlwind. A figure hung out of the hatch of a hovering freighter, bloodstained hands reached out to help her.
She got up, one more time.
Cassian had fallen beside her, sprawled in the rutted sand.
She was only strong enough to drag him, but it was enough.