The award ceremony was considerably more decorous than the party afterwards. Everyone had come within a hair of death today. But they were alive—alive and laughing, dancing, drunk. All because Han Solo had turned back, and because Lucy Skywalker had fired the torpedoes.
Gods only knew why that ship even had torpedoes. But that was a question for another day, or better yet, never.
Leia Organa watched the celebrations more than she participated in them. She was tired, by now, and—and—
Well, she had still more meetings. More authorizations to sign, more plans to set in motion. Always something. She’d spent her allotment of joy, and it was good to keep herself occupied.
Her gaze returned to Lucy, easy to spot in eye-smarting yellow. She was laughing, but something struck Leia as slightly off about her. She couldn’t have said what, but it didn’t matter. Leia’s instincts never led her wrong. Setting her glass of wine down, she headed straight for her friend.
Up close, she could see that Lucy was exhausted. How long had it been since they’d swung through the Death Star, their lives hanging on a bit of cable and Lucy’s arm? Just hours. It certainly didn’t seem alcohol talking; she had a near-untouched glass in one hand, an Alliance datapad in the other.
“Leia!” Lucy exclaimed, and the two pilots with her started, then mumbled deference. Leia didn’t have to be a Jedi to see the pleading in Lucy’s eyes.
“Sorry, Lucy, but I have to steal you,” she said. Briefly at a loss, she told the men, “Fittings. Your uniforms aren’t going to fit her.”
One of the pilots considered Lucy’s lean five feet, and nodded. The other looked away uncomfortably.
Once they escaped, Lucy heaved an enormous sigh.
“Thank you. You saved me.”
Leia repressed the obvious response. Lucy had endured enough fawning for one day.
“I guessed you needed it,” she said instead. “You looked like you might pitch over at any moment.”
“I felt like it,” admitted Lucy. “But nobody else noticed.”
Leia turned right, towards her own quarters. Lucy stumbled at the swerve, drawing a sharp hiss of air. The undersized boots, of course. Leia, not used to shortening her steps for anyone, slowed.
“Most people aren’t very observant,” she said. “I’m just impressed that you stayed upright.”
“It’s the boots,” said Lucy, very seriously. “They’ll take my feet off if anything bends.”
Leia smiled, and punched in the code. Tempting as her bed looked at the moment, she didn’t dare step in. Lucy gave her an uncertain look.
“Go on,” said Leia. “You can change out of all that and get some rest. I’ve got work to do, but I’ll be back in a few hours.” Glancing sidewise at her, she added, “Unless you’re already up to trouble.”
“That’s me.” Lucy held up the datapad. “Trouble.”
Somehow, Leia still had a laugh in her. “Go to bed, Lucy.”
The meetings and paperwork and planning extended beyond even Leia’s worst expectations. It was at least three hours later, maybe four, that she returned. She found Lucy deeply asleep, datapad clutched to her stomach. Apart from the lightsaber, Leia wasn’t sure she owned anything else. But she felt much too tired to think about it, and she didn’t have the heart to wake Lucy up. Instead she kicked off her boots, unwound her braids, shoved Lucy and the blankets to the side, and fell asleep.
Against all expectation, her dreams were pleasant. More than not, in any case, though she only remembered—or they only passed—in fits and snatches. A little boy and girl, with somber eyes and grimy cheeks, smiled at her. Two men swept through half-familiar streets in entirely unfamiliar robes, faces turned from her. Another man, nervous, shoved a datacard into his boot. When he turned and saw Leia behind him, though, he didn’t panic.
“Thank you,” he said.
“For what?” Leia asked. It was too late. He had already vanished, and Leia too, whirled back to the dirty streets she almost recognized.
The boy and girl stared up at her. But she’d never been any good with children. Not knowing what else to do, she took their hands and marched towards … something. In the dream, she knew.
With a scowl, the girl tugged her hand away. “You’re not my mother.”
“Where is she, then?”
“Gone,” said the little girl.
“Gone,” the boy repeated, but when Leia looked down at him, his mouth curved into a cautious smile. “You’re here. I know you’re not like the rest. You’re stronger. Better.”
“Not better than mine,” the girl said stubbornly, and Leia laughed.
“I don’t want to be your mother. But let’s find our way out of this awful place, okay?”
The boy, with a determined set of his small jaw, nodded. The girl looked suspicious, but then her hand crept back into Leia’s.
“Maybe he’s right. You’re just like I thought you’d be,” she said.
The boy kept his crushing grip on Leia’s wrist, but leaned forward enough to scowl at his companion. “I told you, but you won’t ever listen.”
“Quiet,” said Leia. Sand billowed in front of her, clouding her sight. Alone once more, Leia tried to peer through it. She could just make out two indistinct figures. One, the bulkier of the two, said,
“It’s over, isn’t it?”
“No,” said the other, his voice calm and confident. “We were waiting for something to happen. Now, it has. May the Force guide us.”
The first just snorted.
Leia. Her name pounded like drums. Leia, Leia, Leia. Listen to me. Are you ready?
Leia squared her shoulders. “I’m always ready. For anything.”
“Don’t say that,” said the girl, from … somewhere. She sounded older. Just a bit younger than Lucy and Leia, maybe.
The boy added grimly, “You never know what the galaxy is going to throw at you.”
“I know plenty,” Leia said, but all she heard in reply was a woman saying sweetheart and run! And a man, one she felt she should recognize, said, Come with me. You’re safe now.
The pair of men from before stalked through the sand, faces tilted to the suns above them. They spoke in unison, one voice rough, one clear.
“May the Force be with you.”
She didn’t remember anything beyond that. Or maybe she dreamt nothing else. But she woke quietly, in something like calm. The room was silent and peaceful.
Something clicked. Absently, Leia reached out for … something, but there was nothing there. Lucy, she remembered. Lucy must have left.
She heard another click, and another. Annoyed, Leia sat up and looked around.
Lucy hadn’t left. She sat in a wide chair not far from the bed, half-hunched over her datapad. With her pale hair hanging down, Leia couldn’t make out her face. But she felt sure that something—the idea slid away, with the last fragments of her dream.
Lucy lifted her head. She looked pensive, even unhappy, but she smiled at Leia. “Feeling better?”
Leia nodded and clambered off the bed. “What are you looking at?”
“The other Rogues,” said Lucy. “I wanted to know about them. Names are important.”
Leia felt sure she was missing something, either too groggy or dense to understand. “I guess so?”
“Aunt—Aunt Beru always said that. She said that’s why they kept mine. Words matter, names matter, even when everything else is gone. I don’t want to forget any of it.”
By now absolutely certain that she’d missed something, Leia walked over to stand behind Lucy’s chair.
“You don’t have to memorize all the names in the Rebellion right away,” she said. But she broke off as she peered over Lucy’s shoulder, then gave a short laugh. “I don’t think there’s an Imperial droid in your squadron, Lucy.”
Without a word, Lucy hit next.
Cassian Andor gazed out of the datapad.
Leia’s fingers curled around the back of Lucy’s chair, knuckles paling. Even in miniature, he looked every bit as grim and determined as in life. She’d known him, though she couldn’t say that she knew him well, in the end. Leia didn’t imagine anyone could, except Kaytoo. But she’d known him, and she felt punched in the ribs all over again, breathless and bleak. She forced herself to say, “Those Rogues.”
Lucy’s head bent once more. She flipped back to K-2SO. Then to a grainy image of Chirrut Îmwe. A grainier one of Baze Malbus.
“Leia, do you know who chose the name?”
She could have meant her squadron. But Leia stopped her on a new picture.
“Him,” she said. “Bodhi Rook.”
They both stared at the datapad. This image was of far better quality—Krennic and Tarkin had plastered his face across half the galaxy. If they’d needed to recognize him, they probably could have, from that picture alone. Not that they ever would. Even the corpse would have been vapourized.
“Another Imperial,” said Lucy. She didn’t sound contemptuous or horrified, just puzzled.
“An Imperial defector,” Leia found herself saying.
Lucy lifted her head, just enough that Leia could see a weak smile. “Now I see. Rogue.”
“He was a cargo pilot for the Empire,” said Leia. “He carried a message from Galen Erso, the man who designed the Death Star. That flaw that let you blow it all up—he built it in and sent the message to his daughter. We just needed the plans to target it.” She released Lucy’s hand, let her keep thumbing through the records. Another Imperial image, clear and distinct. “That’s her. Jyn Erso. They say she was some sort of criminal, but with the Empire, that can mean anything.”
“Did you know her?” said Lucy, looking up.
“No. We never met.” But they might have, if things had gone just a little differently. She’d been there, above Scarif, while Jyn Erso led that first Rogue team to the base. “The Empire found out what her father had done, and … I don’t know. I wasn’t there. But afterwards, she was determined to get the plans. I expect she wanted it to mean something.”
Lucy’s fingers curled against the screen. “The Rebellion let her? Is that why—”
“No,” Leia said, “they—we—they wouldn’t authorize the mission. There was no proof of the message, except her word. But she went looking for the plans, anyway.”
“Another rogue,” said Lucy, almost lightly. The datapad shook in her hands, enough that Leia feared for its survival. She took it away.
“Move aside,” Leia told her. The chair was large enough for both of them, but not with Lucy sprawled in the middle.
Lucy complied readily enough, and Leia sat beside her, datapad in hand. She switched back to the two grainy images. “That’s Chirrut Îmwe and Baze Malbus. Your people, Lucy.”
“Alsarai?” Lucy paled, her blue eyes wide. “That’s impossible!”
Leia didn’t know what that meant. “Jedi. Or the next thing to it. They were guardians of the temple on Jedha, until the Empire came. I don’t know all the details—I didn’t really know them—but I gather that Chirrut followed the Force, and Baze followed him. The place was crawling with Imperial troops, but they still passed on what they saw, and heard, until …” She swallowed, her hands just a bit steadier than Lucy’s. “Well, Mon says that they came to us after the Empire wiped out even the ruins.”
“Chirrut Îmwe,” Lucy said slowly. She studied the image without trying to reclaim the datapad. “His eyes … was he blind?”
“Yes.” A new wave of weariness crept on her. “Apparently, he believed that he didn’t need to see since the Force was with him, or something like that.”
“That sounds like Ben.” Her hands clenched together, Lucy blinked rapidly. “He always talked like that. I bet he would have liked him.”
Though Leia didn’t doubt her, she couldn’t say for sure. She had never met Obi-Wan Kenobi, only watched him die. Him, and—sometimes she thought she’d never be clean again.
She clicked back. “That’s K-2SO. I did know him. Another Imperial defector.”
Lucy gave a strangled laugh. “A droid?”
“We got rid of the Empire’s programming.” And the restraint bolt, though that had been Cassian’s doing.
Leia glanced at Lucy. Threepio and Artoo had lost their restraint bolts, too, by the time they returned from Tatooine. She felt pretty sure she knew who was responsible.
“Kaytoo was …” He had slapped her blaster out of her hand once. She must have been fifteen or so, struggling between training and instinct as she prepared to go into the Senate. She would be no mere sympathizer, either, but a true agent of the Rebellion. Even were they inclined, none of them had time for niceties. And Kaytoo certainly hadn’t been inclined. “He was abrasive, independent. Resourceful.”
“Not like Threepio, then,” said Lucy.
“No.” Leia considered it. “Not much. He would calculate odds and complain about them. But Kaytoo was designed for different functions, with … uh. Higher processing power.”
A flicker of amusement touched Lucy’s face, straightened her spine a bit. Leia suppressed the urge to warn her against slouching.
With a deep breath, Leia skipped a final time through the records of Rogue One, settled on that last, horribly familiar, face.
When she didn’t say anything, Lucy asked curiously,
“And that one? Another rogue?”
Rogue could only mean holovid heroes to Lucy. Bold and dashing scoundrels like Han—avaricious at worst and careless at best. She wouldn’t be thinking of the cautious, calculated work of it, the consumption of scruple and distillation of hope.
“One of our own,” said Leia. The four words felt like slivers in her lungs. Only by force of will could she bring herself to add, “Cassian Andor.”
Lucy must have sensed something of what she felt. With a sympathetic look, she said,
“You knew him, didn’t you?”
Leia’s throat burned. “We were in intelligence together.”
“Oh!” Clearly at a loss, Lucy clasped Leia’s hands. “You were a spy. I keep forgetting.”
It would be easy to take offense. Leia, though, didn’t hide from herself. Pushed unproductive feelings and truths aside, certainly. But she knew they were there.
“Not much of a spy,” she admitted. “It’s not—it wasn’t how that sounds. I wouldn’t have called him a colleague. Or, he wouldn’t have called me one. He was more like my keeper, when I first became …” Leia shook her head, hardly knowing why the words kept tumbling out of her mouth. Lucy wouldn’t understand. “Later, he was generally my liaison with the Rebellion when the Senate was in session. I had valuable information, but it was dangerous to coordinate agents under the Emperor’s nose. They had to send their best.”
“He was the best?” Lucy’s fingers gripped hers.
“Intelligence thought so.” A vague impulse urged her to turn from Lucy’s innocent sympathy, withdraw her hands and shift away. A stronger one rejected it. “He couldn’t have been more than a few years older than us. Younger than Han Solo, definitely. But he’d made captain already by the time he trained me.” Twenty-two, twenty-three. He had seemed impossibly remote and world-weary to her.
Lucy studied the picture. “He doesn’t look that young.”
“It’s not an easy life,” said Leia tightly. “He was good at what he did. Brought up to the Rebellion, like me.”
She doubted Lucy even understood what it meant for someone like Cassian Andor to be good at what he did. Certainly, she seemed puzzled.
Frowning a bit, Lucy said, “He didn’t think you were good at it?”
Oh. Leia had to stop and think, dredge up memories of … damn. Only two years ago. She’d never make it undercover, he’d said in his distant way. But she is not undercover, is she? Leia has good nerves and good memory. I say keep her there.
From him, it felt like a compliment. Leia had hated him for three months, suffered a short-lived infatuation, then settled for bemused trust. By the time he asked her what she’d done with the body of some goon of Palpatine’s who discovered her data, she thought she liked him more than not.
Burned it, said Leia, defiant. Excuse me if that was a mistake. Somehow I missed the corpse disposal lesson.
Good job, Cassian said coolly. Not two words that often left his mouth, she knew, much less touched by that faint note of approval.
She hadn’t expected to ever hear it directed her way. By then, Leia already anticipated the day when she’d be free to fight openly for the Rebellion. She knew she wasn’t suited to this.
I didn’t like it, she admitted. Any of it.
Cassian gave her one of his shrewd looks. Then, to her still greater surprise, the approval crept into his face. You should not like it.
The months in Imperial City, cut off from everything familiar and decent, already weighed on her. The least offensive, the sympathizers and outright supporters in the Senate, seemed half-hearted cowards at best. After that, a real Rebel felt like a breath of fresh air, even in this most unlikely conversation—a report on murder.
If you forget why we do this, he said, there is no point to any of it.
That’s right, replied Leia, with a firm nod of her head. Does Draven think so?
I don’t know what Draven thinks about anything, Cassian said, and I do not want to know. All right. We’ll need to extract you, if you think you might break. You’re—
Leia rolled her eyes. Too important. I know.
Too visible, he corrected. Are you there yet?
Fiercely, she said, Never.
“I don’t know,” Leia told Lucy. “We respected each other, I think. We both knew we’d do anything for this fight.” Or endure anything.
Lucy’s eyes widened again. “You said that the Rebellion wouldn’t agree to the mission to get the plans. But he was part of it?”
“He obeyed every order he was ever given,” said Leia, “until he …”
Lucy had the sense, or at least the taste, not to say went rogue.
“Until he didn’t?” she said.
Leia insisted, “Even then, he did it for the Rebellion. He and Erso—no, all of them—believed the plans were worth the risk. And they were.”
That much, she thought, Lucy could understand. And she seemed to, nodding a little. Quietly, she asked,
“Did any of them make it out alive?”
After a long, heavy pause, Leia said, “No.” She straightened up. “But I knew Cassian Andor. I knew Kaytoo. Nobody could have been more dedicated to the Rebellion than they were, more loyal, more determined to see it succeed at any price. If they’d known what would happen, it wouldn’t have changed a thing.”
To her astonishment, Lucy turned and gave her a tight hug. After a moment, Leia returned it, fingers digging into Lucy’s living skin. It had to hurt her, but she didn’t say anything, and Leia couldn’t gentle herself, pack it all away into a corner of her mind. It didn’t matter, really. Lucy wouldn’t tell—Leia let her forehead drop against Lucy’s shoulder, her eyes burning. Everything burned, misery an ache through her whole body. In her head and chest, it felt sharp and raw, a lacerating pain that would tear her apart if she let it. She’d lost people she cared about far more than Cassian. She’d lost everyone. But when she let herself think of them, that team of strangers and acquaintances and one man she halfway knew, the explosion of her resolve felt very near. She gulped for air.
Gently, Lucy said, “Ben told me that the dead join the Force, that their spirits live on. Rogue One saved the galaxy as much as Han and I did. I hope Captain Andor knows that. I hope they all do. And Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru—”
Leia extracted herself, partly; Lucy still had one arm curled about her waist, which she didn’t mind. She just counted it as a minor triumph that she hadn’t cried.
Lucy wasn’t crying, either, though her voice cracked silent at her family’s names.
“You said that stormtroopers killed your uncle and aunt,” Leia said, as carefully as she knew how.
Lucy’s head jerked in some approximation of a nod. “For the plans. But Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru didn’t know about them. They didn’t know anything. He was going to clear Artoo’s data.”
Even Leia couldn’t suppress a shudder. Despite all their suffering, so many mischances could have made it immeasurably worse. A lone farmer on Tatooine could have ruined everything they fought for on Scarif, and after.
Instead, it had gotten him killed.
“Wedge and the others,” Lucy said suddenly. She wet her lip. “They only told me about Rogue One because—because I asked about the squadron name, and they thought I wouldn’t understand. Not really. They thought that I’m too ignorant and naive to know what it means, what it costs to survive.”
Leia almost asked how she could be sure of what they thought. But the Force was with her, and … well, all things considered, it seemed very probable that they did think that. She met Lucy’s guileless blue eyes.
“They’re wrong,” she said.
“Half of them are from the Core,” Lucy burst out. “They know war, but they don’t know … I’m Tatooinian! My planet is ruled by slavers.”
Leia paused. She, herself, hadn’t thought about that.
Almost wild, Lucy went on, “My grandmother was a slave. She died before I was born—tortured to death. My father was a slave. He got his freedom through piloting, then Darth Vader murdered him. I don’t even know my mother’s name! I have no memory of her, nothing.”
Dimly, Leia recalled a pretty, melancholy face. Her parents never denied that it was her mother, that her mother had wanted her and would have kept her, had she lived. It was for her sake that Bail and Breha first adopted Leia. I am your mother, Breha always said, and so was she.
They wouldn’t tell her more. But it was enough; it was something. More than Lucy had.
“It’s another galaxy out there,” Leia said. “People forget.”
Lucy swallowed. “Ben Kenobi and I found the Jawas who sold us the droids. The stormtroopers just left them there. Piles and piles of corpses.” Her eyelashes flickered. “I wish I knew their names, but I don’t. They came through dozens of times, and I never bothered … they were butchered. We couldn’t bury them all. Not in the sand, at midday, and—we burned the bodies. It was all we could do.”
“I’m sure you did the best you could,” said Leia quietly.
Lucy took a shuddering breath. “The Jawas kept records of every sale. Basic, so if there were any questions … I knew right away that the stormtroopers must have found out who bought Artoo and Threepio. It’d only take a moment to track the droids to my house. My family. Two, three days after the Empire wiped out Rogue One? They were at my home.”
It wasn’t Alderaan. It wasn’t anything like Alderaan, except—except what she’d understood from the first, when she draped a blanket over Lucy’s shivering shoulders. Erso and Cassian knew the risks they took; so did everyone who followed them. Leia knew. The men in the X-Wings, even those who were really boys, knew the danger. But all those people on Tatooine? They’d played no part beyond chance purchases. The Empire made no distinction between armed opposition and innocents who happened to fall in their path.
Alderaan had been a world of them.
“I rushed home as fast as I could, but the Empire had already come and gone.” Lucy sat iron-straight now, as stiff and brittle as Leia felt. “It was all burnt. The crops, the—our house was stone. But it still burned. Everything did. My uncle and aunt …” Pressing her lips together, Lucy shut her eyes, as if it might dim the memory. Leia knew it wouldn’t. “I don’t know if the stormtroopers shot them, or—I don’t know. I don’t know how they died. Maybe they were just burnt.”
Someone in Rogue One, they knew, had survived long enough to transmit the data. Considering the enormity of the task, most likely several of them had. That late, they might well have lived to die in the light of the Death Star. Just as the millions on Alderaan did: there would be no escape, no clever solutions, just a wall of fire. Had it been the same for that little family on Tatooine?
“I don’t know,” said Leia. It was the plain truth. Though she would have liked to say something more comforting, nothing existed except lies. The Tatooinian traders, Lucy’s family, Alderaan: all had died in confusion and fear. What else mattered?
She only vaguely noticed the datapad at their feet; one of them must have dropped it, though she couldn’t remember which. Probably her.
Lucy opened her eyes, though they just stared ahead, fixed and blank. “I did bury Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru. Even the bones were hot, and the ash …” With clear effort, she turned her gaze to Leia’s. Now steadier, she said, “I can still feel it. I wash and wash, but nothing helps. You understand that, don’t you?”
Now Leia was the one touching her tongue to her lips. It stuck to them; after weeks with little food or water, only paint could banish the cracks and torn skin, blood oozing out at the slightest touch.
Yes, she thought of saying, or of course I do. You aren’t alone.
“They tried to make me talk.” Her voice felt remote, as if someone had seized control of her throat. Again. “Vader and Tarkin. Vader … I knew what to expect from him.”
If they find you out, it will not be racks and droids, Cassian had said. Not alone. Maybe not at all. Your information is too valuable. It will be Darth Vader. He has broken some of our best.
Not me, said Leia. She was afraid, a little, but she’d be damned before she showed it.
He can make people see anything, feel anything, without laying a finger on them.
If he has fingers, Leia muttered.
Cassian actually smiled. Regardless.
But it’s not real! She knew she sounded shrill, the rash, erratic princess she couldn’t afford to be. Forcing herself to restraint, she said again, It’s not real.
Remember that, said Cassian.
Lucy, struck silent, took her hand again. It was a small thing, and a familiar one, by now. They’d run hand-in-hand through the Death Star, huddled together in the wake of Obi-Wan’s death, embraced in solidarity and joy. During the long hours of her imprisonment, it would have meant everything. Maybe it still did.
She stared down at their hands. Though far from fanciful, she could almost see the blood on hers, the ash on Lucy’s, smeared together. And beneath, the same narrow fingers linked about each other, so tightly that only Lucy’s tan could distinguish them.
“Vader couldn’t break me. It didn’t take him long to figure out that I’d never give up the Rebellion.” But long enough. When he said it, Leia just braced herself for more, clinging to the memory of everyone who’d died and suffered for the knowledge locked in Artoo.
But for Vader, you will never betray them was nothing more than a simple fact now made clear to him. Later, she recalled it more clearly than she could hear at the time, remembered the awful, icy respect touching the mechanized voice.
Lucy was staring at her, somewhere between horrified and admiring. “You—”
“Tarkin was different. He …” He was dead. Exploded by the very monster he commanded. Lucy’s shot had wiped him off the face of the galaxy.
Leia’s fingers closed about Lucy’s, the room narrowing to the little space they sat in. Their knees and elbows jostled each other, and it didn’t matter.
“He always meant to destroy a planet,” said Leia. She could hear him still, the sneering Coruscanti tones she’d mocked countless times. “He wanted to show the whole galaxy the power of the Death Star. Kill opposition by fear alone.”
Jedha was the experiment. Scarif, the trial. And Alderaan—Alderaan was the example. Somehow, he thought that if Jedha and Scarif drove the Rebellion to greater heights of daring and desperation, outright obliterating Alderaan would stop them.
Tarkin had been a fool.
“He was wrong,” Lucy said firmly.
“Yes,” Leia agreed. Yes, he was. Tarkin killed millions in a mistake. “But he decided to unleash the Death Star on a Core planet before I was ever brought onboard. No matter what I did, it would have happened. He just chose Alderaan because—” The words felt dry and heavy on her tongue, her breaths as forced as Vader’s, her lungs as crushed. She could feel his gloved hands on her shoulders, his chest plate against her back. She could see her planet, blue and peaceful, the careless gesture of Tarkin’s hand, the blast piercing through space.
“Because it was yours,” said Lucy.
Leia searched her clear eyes, unsure what she expected to find, or what she even wanted to find.
“Yes.” Vader wasn’t the only one who knew how to accept simple facts. “I wouldn’t tell them about the plans. I wouldn’t tell them anything. He did it to break me, and then punish me.”
Lucy still looked admiring, but not dazzled, as she often did. Just somber.
“Then he failed,” she said.
Leia didn’t let her shoulders sink, not for a moment. “Yes. Those plans are the reason that what happened to Alderaan will not happen throughout the whole galaxy. It was”—she had to draw a deep breath—“it was worth it.”
“I can’t imagine,” said Lucy. She dropped her gaze to study their interlaced fingers. “I can’t. You …” Catching her lip between her teeth, she worried it. “Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru, and Biggs, and Ben, and—and everyone I ever cared about, they died in this fight. It’s not the same, but it … my family, that wasn’t a sacrifice. It just happened. You didn’t sacrifice your planet. It just happened.”
Leia didn’t even know how many times she’d told herself that. It just happened. I couldn’t have done anything. I couldn’t have changed it. Anything else I might have done would be worse.
“If that’s the price,” Lucy went on, gulping, “then, well. Millions of people are dead over those plans. And billions more are alive because we got them. How do we even …”
“It’s worth it,” Leia said, almost a mantra. Her voice felt thin, and her nails cut into her palms. Or maybe Lucy’s did.
These days, it was easy to understand why Cassian Andor had been the man that he was. Disentangling their fingers, Leia reached down for the datapad.
“You’re sure?” said Lucy.
“It is. Everything was worth it.” Leia activated the pad.
Jyn and Cassian glowered out of their records. In a peculiar way, it comforted her. Every terrible price, even the most terrible of them all, had paved the way to this victory. She’d read something about that once, some Veshti philosopher. Tread the path of valour, though it be soaked in blood.
For several moments, they sat in silence, Lucy recovering the pad and flipping through the pictures. Leia leaned over and flicked the switch that brought up their data. Captain Cassian Andor. Sergeant Jyn Erso. Sergeant Bodhi Rook. Chirrut Îmwe (no rank). Baze Malbus (no rank). K-2SO (droid).
The glow of the screen cast unsteady light over Lucy’s face, all blue and white. Even at the edges of Leia’s vision, blue gleamed.
“Rogue One understood that,” said Leia.
Lucy lifted her chin. “Then Rogue Squadron will, too.”