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per ardua ad astra

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Jyn never forgot the moment when her mother’s body slumped to the ground. Nor did she forget the man responsible—a man whom she only knew as a friend to her family. She couldn’t remember that early time beyond fragments, nor did she wish to, but even with her parents’ warnings, she had felt a lingering familiarity, something like trust.

Orson Krennic was the first to take that from her, when he took her mother. Then he took her father, too, turned Galen Erso’s life into one of relentless misery and desperation. He drove her into a childhood hidden with Saw, trained up to fight the Empire, to fight anyone. And if anyone could call it a childhood, she’d lost that, too. Even these last few weeks … she’d lost Saw again in the wreckage of Jedha. That was Krennic. It was Krennic who shot her father’s engineers around him. He’d ensured that Galen lived his last moments in horror, if she could trust Cassian.

She did. Or she had—Cassian, like all the rest, was gone. That memory burned more hotly than the rest. After everything he’d seen and done, a shot from Krennic took him, too, his body tumbling down and down, and she could only cling to the sure knowledge that Cassian would haunt her to her own grave if she abandoned the mission for his sake.

And she’d done it. She’d sent the plans, she didn’t care what lies Krennic told, she didn’t care if he shot her down like Lyra if she could take him down with her—

A blaster fired. Not Krennic’s. Not hers, but he dropped nonetheless, nothing but a huddled pool of white at her feet. And behind him stood a man, dressed in a mix of old clothes and Imperial uniform, his blaster still raised even as he leaned heavily on machinery.

He was ragged and weak, but it didn’t matter. Cassian.

She rushed to him, as fast as her leg would let her, bracing herself to bear the weight of a compact man at least half a foot taller than she was. He stumbled, but managed to hold himself upright as he grasped her, his breaths harsh and shallow. He’d made that climb like this? He might be made of kyber, himself.

Though Krennic didn’t stir, she turned to look at him. And with Cassian’s shuddering breaths in her ear, her mind alight with memories of her father and mother and Saw and, Force, Kaytoo, fury rushed through her again. She was going to blow Krennic’s heart out of his chest if it was the last thing she did.

She took a step towards Krennic—and Cassian’s grip tightened, pulling her back. 

“No,” he muttered into her hair. “No. Let’s … go.”

He was really here, had really made it. His voice made it true more than his weight did. Even as she panted for air, the knowledge settled on her, deep and tangible. He was alive. They were alive. But not if they stuck around this place. She couldn’t hear anything on the other side of the door, now. The stormtroopers must have tried a different route after they destroyed—after they killed Kaytoo. She’d have to assume so, anyway; it was their only hope.

And they didn’t have much time. Whatever strength had carried Cassian up that wall was clearly fading. Despite his best efforts, he’d already begun to list against her, and Jyn had to wrap her arm around his waist, his good arm slung over her shoulder. In her shape, it’d be hard enough to get out of here alone, but carting around an injured man? And she wouldn’t leave him. She couldn’t. Not Cassian.

All the way, he’d sworn, and though he asked nothing of her, she took it as her own promise. They would die together or live together. She hit the switch, and the blast-door slid open, revealing—

Nothing. Nothing except Kaytoo’s shattered remains.

In the general hubbub of battle above and below, a louder, clearer sound emerged. Jyn carefully shifted Cassian’s weight and glanced back.

Dread pulsed through her. An Imperial shuttle hovered at the end of the catwalk, not quite even with it, but an easy jump up for fresh reinforcements. On its side, a porthole opened, and the pilot stuck his head out.

“Jyn? Jyn! Is that Cassian? Come on! We’ve got to get out of here.”

“Bodhi!” She wasn’t sure she’d ever been more relieved to see someone in her life. Except Cassian two minutes ago.

With some effort, she managed to swivel them both around, Cassian muttering indistinctly to himself. He didn’t seem delirious, just annoyed with himself, which she could only regard as a good sign. Bit by bit, they made their way to the end of the catwalk. From here, the jump that had looked so easy seemed very much less so, even for her.

“Chirrut and Baze?”

Bodhi’s anxious expression turned somber. She knew even before he shook his head.

“It was Chirrut who—” He gulped. “I’m sorry. I wanted to save them, but …”

“You did the best you could,” said Jyn, doing her best to hoist Cassian onto the railing. His breaths sharpened to gasps as he just managed to clamber over, hair and face damp with sweat. He must have hurt his legs in the fall. He could hardly have not.

“Kaytoo?” said Bodhi.

More grieved for that damn droid than she would have imagined a day ago, Jyn replied, “Didn’t make it.”

Cassian mumbled, “Kay…?”

Jyn inhaled, looking down at the porthole. There was only way thing to do—jump. Even if Cassian …

“All right?” she whispered.

Jaw tight, he nodded. With a single quick breath, he flung himself down, falling through the porthole and right where Bodhi waited to help them down. That was more well-intentioned than anything else; Bodhi had a certain wiry endurance, but nothing like Jyn’s and Cassian’s strength. He couldn’t do much more than stagger under the weight.

And Cassian screamed.

She hadn’t even known he could. And she never wanted to hear it again.

Kay, she thought numbly. Kaytoo would have helped him. She could hardly picture Cassian without him.

“Wait,” she said, and half-ran, half-limped down the catwalk and into the operations chamber. Stupid, stupid. Even if he could be salvaged, she’d never be able to carry the wreckage. Stupid—

She dug into the bits and pieces of metal, the fragments bruising and cutting her hands, oil smearing them, no point to any of it. With a burst of adrenaline, Jyn wrenched the head from the crumpled torso and caught it as it rolled, dull eyes and broken wires turning her stomach. Nevertheless, she seized it. Kay had dug data out of that other droid from the head, hadn’t he? She held it under her arm and sprinted, as much as she could, to the catwalk.

“Jyn, we have to leave now,” Bodhi was shouting.

She wasted no more time, just climbed over the railing, ignoring the twinges in her leg. They were about to be worse, but she could see Cassian near-collapsed over Bodhi. She’d live. Hopefully.

Jyn jumped.

It was every bit as bad as she expected. Hot pain pierced up her leg, knocking her breathless. She didn’t cry out, but lurched into the wall, nearly doubled over. Kaytoo’s head dug into her ribs.

She sucked in a gulp of air and managed the few steps to where Cassian, gasping, struggled to pull himself away from Bodhi. “I can take care of him. Go, go, get us out of here!”


In the instant it took her to set down Kaytoo’s head, Cassian had managed to straighten up and stumble to the nearest wall, teeth clenched and hand fumbling for purchase. Jyn caught him about the waist again, a little lower this time; his ribs couldn’t be in good shape. There, something damp and sticky clung to her fingers.

Chilled, she tugged him away from the wall.

“I don’t,” he mumbled. “You should …”

“We have to get you off these legs,” said Jyn. She looked around the shuttle, and to her mixed relief and dread, saw a cot just around the corner from the main door. The furthest end of the shuttle from here. At maybe a third of that distance, however, a pair of long, sturdy platforms stretched low against the wall, piled haphazardly with battered equipment.

“All right, we’ve got”—she glanced up at his drawn face—“a bunk. Come on, let’s … you can lean on me. Just one step. And another one. And …”

Together, they made their way down the shuttle, Jyn’s shoulders and back aching. Her leg radiated pain with every step; Cassian wasn’t the only one who needed somewhere to rest. Even once they got there, she had to grip the top platform for leverage, knee bent against the side of the lowermost shelf while she knocked equipment out of the way and helped Cassian perch on the edge. He didn’t so much sit as tumble in the right direction, ducking his head with a grimace. Jyn all but collapsed beside him.

“Bodhi,” she called out, “are there any emergency kits in this thing?”

He darted a quick look back from the cockpit. “Should be one in each compartment. Regulations.”

She wrapped the fingers of one hand around the bars bracing the shelf above them and twisted around, her other arm still wrapped about Cassian, steadying him against the motion of the shuttle. Her eyes narrowed, she scanned the mess for anything like a kit.

“I’d kill for a third hand right now,” Jyn muttered.

To her surprise, Cassian gave a short laugh; then he started coughing. When he wiped his mouth, she couldn’t miss the blood on his hand. She’d already guessed that he had some broken ribs. One, or more, must have perforated his lungs. He could take pain, but not much more outright damage.

“I’ve got to …”

He nodded and grasped the bars with his good (better?) arm. As fast as she could, Jyn scavenged through the assorted piles of ventilators, hydrospanners, pipes of indistinct purpose, and general trash. She’d almost given up and decided to try a different compartment when she caught sight of a clear, thin box of some kind, pushed towards the rear. Gritting her teeth, she crawled onto the bunk, dragging herself as much by the bars above her as her knees. Sure enough, the box had a medical insignia beneath the Imperial one. She snagged it and forced herself to clamber back. Please, she thought. Please, please—

She flipped open the lid and exhaled. Three bacta patches.

“All right. We can do this.”

Beside her, Cassian remained motionless but for laboured inhalations, his hand clamped so hard about a bar that she half-expected it to bend. Then, slowly, he turned to look. His expression was still frozen in lines of strain, but his unfocused gaze settled on the bacta. He said something, so breathless that she couldn’t quite make out.

“We’ve got to deal with that wound. But you did something to your ribs.”

“No,” said Cassian.

She peeled open the bacta, praying that the now-smooth flight of the shuttle meant something good. “All right, Krennic did.”

“No,” he said again, and pushed the bacta away. “Your leg.”

“We don’t need any more heroes today,” said Jyn sharply. “You’re in far worse shape. I’ll manage.”

“Patches will not heal this. I …” Cassian drew a thready breath. “Better one whole than two injured.”

She didn’t know whether to take that as pragmatic calculation or real concern. With him, it could be either, or both. But he was right. If something went wrong—worse—then they’d need Jyn for any chance of survival. And it’d be a far better chance if she were in one piece.

Reluctantly, Jyn nodded. She yanked her boot off, wincing, and rolled her trouser leg up. Then she pressed the patch against her leg, the bacta cool and squishy against her hand. But it felt warm on her leg, a pleasant heat that sank deeper and deeper into her muscles. With one last bright burst of pain, something inside snapped—and then it all faded to nothing. She tested her weight. Nothing but some residual soreness, the same as the other leg.

All right. Unrolling her trouser and stuffing her foot back in the boot, she tried to decide where to even start with Cassian. To go by the blood still sticking to her hand, the blaster had done significant damage. The broken ribs, agonizing enough on their own, appeared to be slicing into his organs. And then there was whatever he’d done to his legs.

“Okay. Hold on.” She didn’t even bother telling him to get rid of his shirt; she knew he couldn’t do it on his own. Instead, Jyn tore it open herself, buttons clattering to the floor. Not the circumstances I imagined.

Just once or twice.

Jyn bit back her horror at his chest, mottled with so many bruises that she could hardly make out the more serious damage. And she was no medic; she’d treated her share of injuries over the years, but mostly her own.

“Which side?” she asked.

He didn’t say anything, glance flickering vacantly about. Panic crackled under her skin.

“Stay with me.” She caught his face in her hand. “Which hurts worse?”

After a long pause, he tilted his head to the right. Hoping it meant an answer, she plastered the second patch against his right-side ribs. His gaze remained unfocused, but he drew a quick rasping breath. Jyn held the patch to him until it turned dry and flabby, her free hand scrambling for something in the kit to staunch the blood-caked wound in his side. She didn’t even pause before snatching up the third bacta patch and pressing it to the wound. It didn't heal much, but she managed to clean and bandage it with the rest of the supplies.

“That’s as good as you’re going to get for now,” Jyn told him, not sure that he even heard. They could only hope there’d be something beyond for now. “You can sit down.”

Cassian’s eyes shifted across her face. She chose to take that as promising, and with her arm about him, peeled his fingers off the bar above them. When she managed to steady him back onto the bunk, he exhaled, sounding a little better. And he managed to look at her properly.


He didn’t appear quite as ghastly as before, though disoriented and exhausted, and still in evident pain. His hair fell over his eyes, sticking to his sweaty skin.

“All the way,” she said quietly. Cassian closed his eyes.

“Jyn—” He coughed. Less blood this time.

“Quiet,” said Jyn, draping her arm about his shoulders just in time for an abrupt swerve of the shuttle. Suppressing a flash of dread, she pushed his hair out of his face. Something, fear or affection or some terrible combination of both, shivered in her chest. “That’s an order, Captain Andor.”

His mouth tugged, a little. Another good sign, she thought firmly, even as their flight slowed to an airborne crawl.

“I’ve got you,” she told Cassian. “You’re safe. Bodhi—we’ve got Bodhi and the shuttle.” She reached for one of the cloths she had used, found a clean patch, and wiped off his face. “We’re going to get out and it’s going to be fine. You’re going to be fine.”

Her voice held steady. But she didn’t know who she was even trying to persuade. Cassian, in any case, didn’t open his eyes—just leaned a little more against her. That would have meant nothing from many others. From Cassian ... he must be dazed, the injuries and that impossible climb getting to him, but he didn’t trust easily. Neither of them did.

The shuttle lurched, and Jyn steadied herself as she’d learned as a girl, shifting her hips and feet to a balanced, ready stance, forcing her inhalations to an even beat. Without Saw, she’d be dead a hundred times over. The Rebellion, too, had he not delayed the Death Star long enough for all this to matter at all. She still couldn’t forgive him, exactly, but her memory of him had gentled. After leading so many to their deaths, she understood that better now, the fire that had consumed his life. Not love, not pleasure, just a dream that took and took and took, until there was nothing left to give. Jyn looked down at Cassian, his ashen face and broken body, and swallowed.

“How are we going to get out of here?” she shouted at the cockpit. From here, she couldn’t see much of it, much of Bodhi beyond his back.

“I’m … I’m still figuring that one out,” said Bodhi. “They’ll shoot us down on the spot if they suspect anything. The Empire isn’t exactly cautious about their people.”

He’d know.

“Can you hide with the other shuttles?”

“That’s what I’m trying to do!”

Cassian straightened a little, shivering. He muttered, “Bodhi.”

“Stay here,” said Jyn. “Don’t fall. I’ll be back.”

“Right,” he said faintly. But he had strength enough to grip the bunk, so she risked leaving him and ran to the cockpit.

In the viewscreen, shuttles clustered like buzzing insects. Some, damaged, careened about. The others dodged and soared slantwise.

“We have to get out with those,” said Bodhi. His hands were clenched on the controls, his face tight.

“Do it,” Jyn told him. He nodded, his expression mingling resolve and terror. He was a brave man: braver than those with more nerve. But they’d need nerve to get through this. “You’re doing great. Just keep going, Bodhi.”

He nodded. As soon as they had space, he turned the shuttle again.

And an enormous grey sphere gulped up the viewscreen. It loomed, impossibly vast, over all else in the sky, over Scarif itself. Her father’s other child.

Jyn’s head swam. No time for that, she told herself sternly, and wet her lips. The next chance, and the next.

“We’ve got to get closer,” she said. “Then we … we’ll find a way to split off. It won’t be as noticeable in the shadow of that thing.”

“And we’ll be harder to hit.”

Jyn clasped the back of his chair. “That, too.”

Under Bodhi’s careful hands, their shuttle fell in with the rest of the train headed towards the Death Star. She could feel her pulse through her entire body, thudding a rapid beat in her chest, head, everything. Jyn counted the seconds, the ships, anything to fill her mind, kept glancing back at Cassian.

Vaguely, she thought, I should have made him lie down. They might be able to get him to the cot, now. But Jyn couldn’t make herself break away from the Death Star. When its acid-green laser pierced through the sky to Scarif, she swallowed a scream. Anyone down there who might have lived didn’t now. Certainly not Baze and Chirrut, who in a matter of days had become more family than anyone in years, who had called her little sister. Gone, even in death.

I am one with the Force, and the Force is with me. I am one with the Force, and the Force is with me. I am one with the Force—

At least Krennic was dead, too. If Cassian’s shot hadn’t killed him already. She rather hoped it hadn’t, that Krennic had woken to feel his failure, that after he killed her mother and chained her father to that monstrosity, he’d lived to see it turned against him. She hoped he’d seen that fatal light coming at him, and died in fear.

They drew nearer, the Death Star devouring more and more of their vision, shuttles swarming towards it. Bodhi flew with wide eyes and trembling body, while horror nearly froze her limbs.

No. No.

“They’re thinning out,” she managed to say. “When you’ve got a chance, take it. I have to go back to Cassian.”

“Right,” he mumbled. His voice firmed. “Right. Yes. I’ll do it.”

Her leg felt as heavy, as burdensome, as it had before the bacta. But she wasn’t a pilot, and Cassian wasn’t strong enough, and Bodhi had never failed them. Never failed her father, either. Jyn squeezed his shoulder and turned back. Squaring her own shoulders, she walked straight and tall—as tall as she could get—down the hall. If she died now, she wouldn’t be cowering. And she wouldn’t be alone.

She got to Cassian without disaster, which seemed an accomplishment at this point. Once more, she reached out to brace him, strengthened by the brief respite. For his part, he looked more alert, though hunched and wheezing.

“What …?”

“Hang on,” said Jyn.

Cassian wrapped his good arm about her waist, eyes closed again, and Jyn held him close, touching his clammy forehead while something clenched in her chest and the pit of her stomach. Her throat burned.

“Just a moment now.” Once more, she stroked his hair back. “It’ll be over soon.”

His eyes fluttered open. Clear and dark, they met hers. He said hoarsely, “Your father would be proud of you, Jyn.”

She smiled. In this moment, both frightened and tranquil, she had no desire to shut her own eyes, look away, anything. One way or another, this was it.

And Bodhi’s voice cracked out. “Jyn!”

She’d never heard him so panicked, even at the very beginning. Foreboding raced over her skin. Without thinking about it, she held Cassian closer.

“What is it?” she said.

“I can’t do anything! I can’t—there’s a tractor beam! The Death Star is pulling us all in!” She heard a clatter, frantic yanks on switches. “I … we got the plans off. That’s what matters. We got the plans off. They can’t make us talk. They can’t make us do anything.”

Jyn and Cassian stared at each other, horrified.

He managed to grate out, “They can try.”

She needed no explanation. Everyone knew what the Empire did to political prisoners. Better to have exploded in the sky, been irradiated on Scarif.

“And it’ll be a hell of an effort,” she said grimly. Her blaster still rested on her hip. She could … if someone did it, it would have to be Jyn. She thought of Bodhi, all fear and determination. She thought of Cassian’s uncompromising faith. Of herself, the resolve that had carried her this far. Bile choked her, even as the Death Star tugged them closer.

Wildly, she looked around the shuttle. There had to be something she could do. Some last hope. Rogue One couldn’t end this way.

Cassian said quietly, “Jyn.”

“No!” She hated the calm on his face, shattering the mask of pain. Had he never expected to live?

A suspicion crept on her, near to certainty: he wasn’t going to live, with or without the Empire. At his side, blood soaked her bandage. Every breath he took whistled and shuddered. She hadn’t even begun to look at whatever he might have done to his legs, under those Imperial trousers.

Imperial trousers. Imperial officer’s trousers.

Jyn turned to look at the cockpit, knowing what she’d see. A slim man in the uniform of an Imperial pilot. Even part of an Imperial droid.

One last chance.

“Sorry,” she told Cassian. The emergency kit still lay beside them, contents jumbled from her desperate search. She seized a stim shot and plunged it into his shoulder.

Cassian didn’t even flinch. He looked bewildered, though.

“Bodhi, don’t fight the tractor beam! We can’t let them sense anything. Just—help me, I have to get Cassian to the cot. Are there any clothes around here? I need a jacket!”

“I don’t think his modesty is our biggest problem right now,” said Bodhi, but he sprang out of his chair.

“Get Kaytoo!” she added.

Baffled, he picked up the droid’s severed head and scrambled after them, while Jyn tugged Cassian to his feet. He muttered something to himself that she didn’t understand, but didn’t really need to.

“Just one last task for you,” she said, and strangled fear. “This way, captain.”

Even weak and confused, Cassian understood orders. His steps were uncertain and shuffling, his face twisted in pain, his gasping breath the stuff of nightmares. But he obeyed, supported by Jyn, Bodhi, and whatever drug the stim shot had poured into his veins. They got him across the shuttle.

Jyn kicked everything off the cot and, with Bodhi’s help, managed to lower Cassian onto the cot.

“A jacket,” she snapped.



With a slightly frightened look, he raced into the adjoining hall. In the meanwhile, Jyn helped Cassian adjust his weight on the cot.

“All right. Now I just need you to look like you’re suffering.”

“Not … a problem,” mumbled Cassian.

Jyn huffed a laugh.

“Jyn?” Bodhi ran up, panting, a neatly folded grey jacket on one arm and Kaytoo’s head clutched in the other. He eyed her uncertainly.

“Still sane,” she assured him. Taking the jacket, she searched for the rank. Major. Too noticeable. She tore off the last two columns of plackets, crumpled it up, and rubbed the material over Bodhi’s dirt-stained shoulder.


She handed it to him. “Put this over him. Try to get some blood on it, but don’t hurt him.”

She saw understanding dawn over Bodhi’s face. Without another word, he bent down to Cassian.

Jyn sprinted back to the bunk, where she grabbed the emergency kit and the cloths she’d used to wash her hands when she treated Cassian. They were covered with oil from Kaytoo’s body and blood, hers and Cassian’s.


Back at the cot, Bodhi was gently touching the jacket to Cassian’s wounds. Jyn just handed him one of the cloths to smear over the jacket, and used the sleeve to wipe cold sweat off Cassian’s face. His hair was stiff with it.

“You think this will work?” whispered Bodhi.

“I don’t know,” she admitted. “But it’s worth the try.”

She considered Bodhi, his cargo pilot’s uniform, his intense face. Easy to identify, if you knew what to look for. Without hesitation, she smeared the cloth still in her hand down his cheek.

Bodhi sputtered. “What the—”

“We can’t let them recognize you.”

He looked at her, at the rags in their hands. Then he scrubbed them over his face, until Jyn gave a satisfied nod.

“Even if this works,” Bodhi said, “I can’t hide behind dirt forever. I’ll give us all away.” He swallowed.

“No martyrdom,” Jyn said firmly. Her mind raced. “Stormtroopers. You’ll have to hide with the stormtroopers.”

Bodhi considered it. Then he said, “Right. I—I’ll find armour somehow. We’ll figure it out.”

“We will.” Jyn clasped his shoulder again. “This is more than my father ever asked you to do. But I think he’d be proud of you, too.”

He smiled.

Abruptly, the shuttle vibrated around them. Not much, but Jyn and Bodhi pressed their hands to the floor. She could see Cassian’s teeth sink into his lip, the premature lines in his face deepening.

Jyn wrapped her fingers around Cassian’s good hand and looked at Bodhi. “Ready?”

“Time to play nice with the tractor beam,” he said, with a nervous laugh. Setting Kaytoo’s head down against the wall, he ran back to the cockpit. Jyn stayed with Cassian, lies whirling through her mind. She shifted only enough to press her other hand over the failing bandage on his blaster wound. His gasp tore at her, so she did her best to ignore it.

Please, she thought. She couldn’t tolerate the idea of Bodhi tortured again, Cassian dying a nameless Imperial prisoner, Jyn herself devoured by this terrible sister of hers. We can’t die like this.

The shuttle swung smoothly down. They had to be nearly in the hangar by now.

Cassian’s lips moved.

“What is it?” said Jyn.

“What … am I?”

She stared at him. With an effort, he jerked his chin downwards, towards his chest, where Bodhi had spread the jacket.

The rank. Cassian was trying to get the story straight, even as he bled out.

“Captain,” she said, and forced a smile. “You haven’t been demoted.”

“Good,” he managed to mutter, as he had long ago. Two weeks ago. His hands tightened on hers. “Jyn. Listen.”

The shuttle was dropping rapidly. Jyn leaned in. “Yes?”

“If they … if …” He coughed, blood on his lips again. “Three one five jay eight oh ar six one eight five.”

Totally bewildered, she just frowned at him.


Jyn had no difficulty memorizing codes. She’d done it countless times, breaking through compounds and safes and identities. 315J8OR6185. She just had no idea what it meant, if anything.

“We’re landing!” shouted Bodhi.

“I’ve got it,” Jyn told Cassian, and waited there, frozen at his side, until the shuttle settled onto something solid. It only slightly jarred them.

Good landing, she thought, a shriek stifled in the back of her throat.

Bodhi came running from the cockpit.

“How is he?”

Jyn set her jaw. “Needs care, fast. Are you ready?”

They looked at each other over Cassian’s head. Bodhi gulped and nodded.

Below, she heard a rattle, then the telltale whoosh of oxygenation. Voices in her own accent. And Bodhi clattering down the ramp.

“Someone help!” he screamed. “My commander’s down—there was a Rebel attack—help!