Davits Draven is very used to being the bad guy.
It’s not that he enjoys it. He joined the Rebellion for the same reason as the rest of them. He believes in the cause, believes with all his heart that the Empire must be stopped. He just doesn’t let his ideals blind him to reality. The Empire has no interest in fighting fair. The Empire will press every advantage, no matter how reprehensible. If the Rebellion is to have any chance at all, they have to do the same. Within reason, the ends justify the means.
That doesn’t mean he’s heartless. He’s aware that the blood of hundreds, if not thousands, is on his hands and those of his subordinates. He’s willing to shoulder that burden, to be the monster under the pristine white bed of the Rebellion.
Someone has to.
“You wanted to see me, General.”
The accent gives his visitor away before he even raises his head from the Death Star casualty reports. “Captain Andor. Come in.”
The man steps inside Draven’s office, shoulders straight, hands clasped behind his back. Draven studies him a moment. Andor’s always been a difficult one to read – part of what makes him one of Draven’s best operatives – but Draven gets the distinct impression that he’s nervous.
“Ym tells me you’ve made a full recovery?” Draven says.
“Yes, sir,” Andor says.
“I’m glad to hear it,” Draven says.
Andor nods, eyes straight ahead.
Draven moves around in front of his desk, taking a deliberately casual stance half-leaning against it. “At ease, Captain,” he says, “This is a debrief, not an interrogation.”
With what looks like a deliberate effort, Andor relaxes his shoulders a little. “Of course.”
Draven picks up a holopad, pages through it quickly. “I’ve read your report, Captain,” he says. “Your team’s escape from Scarif was nothing short of miraculous.”
Something very much like pride sparks in Andor’s eyes. “They’re a good team.”
Draven grunts noncommittally. On paper, they should be an absolute mess. An anarchist criminal and an anxiety-ridden pilot, both with strong Imperial ties; a repurposed Imperial droid with an attitude problem; and two relics of a time long gone. Or maybe not so long gone, he amends, considering the young proto-Jedi currently running around the base. He has his own concerns about Luke Skywalker. But, in any case, the reality had proved him wrong. To not only infiltrate a highly secure Imperial stronghold and steal critical data, and thus change the fate of the galaxy forever, but to escape (mostly) intact on top of that?
“That they are,” he agrees finally. Andor’s shoulders relax a little more. Good. That will make the next part easier.
“I’m clear on what happened on Scarif, miraculous as it was,” he says. “What I’m concerned about, Captain, is what exactly went wrong on Eadu.”
Andor flattens again, back into the carefully-controlled Intelligence agent. “Everything is in my report.”
“I’d like to hear it in your own words,” Draven says.
Andor takes a breath. “Where should I start?”
“You went down on the surface,” Draven says. “Which is when we lost your signal, correct? Start there.”
Andor nods. He recounts, in clipped, emotionless words, his decision to leave most of the team behind in the broken ship. Climbing up over the ridge with the pilot. Identifying Galen Erso, and the unexpected arrival of a complicating factor in Director Krennic. Sending the pilot away, to minimize interference.
And then, he hesitates.
Draven lets him stew for a moment. Then, he prompts, “You had the shot. A clear shot.”
“Yes,” Andor says. He meets Draven’s eyes. “But I didn’t take it.”
Draven nods slowly. He’d suspected as much – Andor hadn’t exactly lied in his report, but he’d been strategically vague. The fact that Andor is willing to confirm it aloud to him is a good sign, however. The general folds his arms. “Why?”
“Why?” Andor echoes. His eyes narrow slightly, brows furrowing as he looks for the angle.
Draven nods. “It’s not a trick question, Captain. I trust my officers. It’s the nature of Intelligence: you’re on your own most of the time, can’t always run back to me for every little decision. If I didn’t trust your judgement, you would never have made Captain.” He pauses to let that sink in, then continues, “So, tell me. Why didn’t you take the shot?”
For the first time, the mask of Andor’s features cracks. His hands unclasp, and he reaches up to scrub a hand over his beard in a tell Draven’s only seen once or twice before, and not in years. “I’ve been asking myself that since Eadu,” Andor finally admits.
Okay. That’s not a great sign, but nothing about Draven’s job has ever been easy. He changes tack. “Let’s try something else. You attempted to call off the squadron, even though you hadn’t killed Erso yourself.”
“Yes,” Andor says. “Because part of my team was on that platform.”
“Who?” Draven asks, even though he knows the answer already.
To his credit, Andor doesn’t dance around it. “Jyn Erso,” he says.
“I thought you left her on your ship,” Draven says.
“I did,” Andor says. The corner of his mouth quirks, just slightly. “But Jyn doesn’t do so well with orders.”
Draven nods again. “And why was she on Eadu at all?”
Andor goes very still. “Sir?”
“Why,” Draven says deliberately, cruelly, “did you not leave her on Jedha?”
Andor stares at him. He’s doing a decent job of masking it, but Draven’s had a lot of practice reading him. He’s not just angry at the question. He’s furious.
And then he gets it under control, reins himself in as effectively as Draven has ever seen. “For the same reason I did not leave Bodhi, Chirrut, or Baze,” he says, lifting his chin. “Because we are not the Empire.”
“She compromised the mission,” Draven presses.
Andor smiles. It’s not a nice expression. “She,” he says slowly, “is the only reason it succeeded.”
Draven pauses. He’d expected a defense – seeing them around the base, it’s obvious the girl has wormed herself into Andor’s affections, though Force knows Draven can’t understand why. He can understand a personal connection compromising a decision. People are messy. It’s his job to understand that. What surprises him is the force of Andor’s conviction.
“Elaborate,” he says finally.
Andor straightens his back. “She saved my life from a grenade in Jedha City. She got us in to see Saw Gerrera. She found out about the secret weakness. She knows when not to take no for an answer. She sent the plans. Without her, this whole planet would be nothing but dust and ashes, and the Rebellion would be dead.”
Draven studies him. “You truly believe that.”
“I do,” Andor confirms, without an ounce of hesitation.
Draven drums his fingers on the desk. No one can deny that Erso got results, even if she trampled all over protocol to do it. The question now is: did she ruin his best officer along the way?
“Why didn’t you take the shot, Captain?” he asks again. “Was it your infatuation with the girl?”
“No,” Andor says.
“Then why?” Draven says.
“Because it was wrong,” Andor says. His face is still calm, but there’s a fire in his eyes now, the barest hint of a tremor in his voice. “We were wrong to kill him, General.”
“You’ve killed plenty for the Rebellion before, Andor,” Draven says. “What makes Erso any different?”
“You’re right,” Andor says. “I’ve killed for you. For the Rebellion. Because it was necessary. Because even in the good guys, someone has to be the bad guy. I can make that sacrifice.” He leans forward, eyes intent. “Galen Erso sacrificed. He didn’t just give up his life. He gave up his family. His integrity. His honor. He gave up everything he ever had or ever could have had so that we would have a chance.” He pauses. “He deserved a chance, too.”
Draven doesn’t flinch under the onslaught, meeting the Captain’s eyes squarely.
Andor’s lips quirk again, and he spreads his hands. “I disobeyed orders. I’ll accept the consequences of that. But I’d do it again.”
It’s been a long time since he’s seen that kind of conviction, that belief from one of his officers. It usually gets stomped out of them pretty quick in their line of work. If this were the Empire, it wouldn’t matter what Andor's reasons were; he’d have been demoted, or more likely executed, the moment the truth of his disobedience came out.
But this isn’t the Empire. In the Rebellion, belief is everything.
Draven sighs. He moves around behind his desk, opens the topmost drawer. In the face of something like this, there’s really only one thing he can do.
He pulls a rank badge from the drawer and holds it out. Andor eyes it for a moment, then accepts it with the air of a man staring down the barrel of a blaster. He looks at the pips on the front, and freezes.
“Congratulations, Major,” Draven says.
Andor’s eyes flicker up, his brow furrowing. “I don’t understand.”
Draven nods, a tired smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. “Turns out, knowing when – and more importantly, why – to disobey orders is what separates leaders from followers, Major Andor.” He pauses. “Do you accept this promotion?”
Andor stares at him a moment, then back at the badge in his hand. Finally, he nods. “I do.” He carefully removes his beaten, battered Captain’s badge, and replaces it with the new one.
“Good,” Draven says. “Now. As a Major, I believe it’s your privilege to choose your own team.”
That gets him a smile. A real one; one he’s only seen once or twice before in all the time he’s known the man. “I know just who to ask,” Andor says.
Even Intelligence operatives could occasionally be predictable, Draven thinks, not without fondness. “Very well. Dismissed, Major Andor.”
He nods and turns to go.
“She’s never going to follow orders,” Draven says, unable to let the man go without a warning. “You’re going to have a fight, all day, every day. You sure you want that?”
Cassian stops in the doorway. The grin he flashes is fierce, almost stunning Draven with its openness. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”