In the mission to retrieve Galen Erso from Lah'mu, one Imperial starship descended into atmo and initiated a shoot-out between Imperial death troopers and Rebel soldiers. Extraction of Galen Erso was unsuccessful. Erso witnessed taken aboard Imperial starship. Retreated to ships. Casualties include Erso's wife and daughter, Commander Jorge Follante, Sergeant Paulis Jettson…
Galen doesn't continue reading. He doesn't know any of the other names. They're empty faces to him. Lyra, he saw her go down right before Orson pulled him onto the transport and the firefight began… but Jyn, his stardust.
The account is dated years ago, nearing a decade. His stardust has been dead for almost ten years. Jyn has been dead. Jyn is—
Mon Mothma takes the holodoc from him. "We apologize for the time it took to find you, and for your loss. We had a funeral for most of them, but we couldn't find the bodies of your family."
Of course they couldn't. Orson retrieved Lyra's body, claiming that no one would give her a proper funeral and she would have been left to rot on Lah'mu. Jyn must have been distant, already close to the hideout within the hills when they found her. The troopers saw her and shot her. The Empire killed a child. They killed his child. Galen closes his eyes to banish the thought. He returns his attention to the pallid woman before him.
The ex-Senator tells him of the Council's immediate course of action when they realized his importance in Imperial Weapons Research, years ago. Galen finds irony in how both the Empire and the Rebellion decided to act at the same time.
"Some of those on the council debated whether or not to leave you to the Empire," Mothma informs him. "Others, myself included, hoped that you might be capable of breaking down the Empire from the inside."
Galen ponders on that. The battle station, Orson's plans, will be realized with or without him. If he were to spearhead the project, he can sneak in some sort of flaw—a weakness that the Alliance can exploit.
Now, as the chrono blinks the time, the engineers on Eadu believe him to be on a transport for Coruscant. If Galen does it right (or wrong, depending on which way you look at it,) he can break the Empire from the inside just as Mothma says.
He pauses before speaking. "Send me back. I can still do just that."
It's dangerous. If the Empire discovers him, they can't risk a mission to get him out. But even Orson admitted Galen had learned how to lie. That's all spies need: the ability to lie. He's sure he can do it. He just needs Mothma's trust.
She purses her lips. "I'll see what I can do."
He is returned by some rebels, under the guise of pirates, for a ransom fee. Orson pays it duly. "I doubt you will be allowed on a transport for some time, old friend," Krennic chides. "Since pirates might have just learned your worth."
In a lunchtime meal line, he meets Bodhi Rook. The news of the pilot's defection spreads three months later. Along with Bodhi, he sends a message to the Alliance. Galen hopes that the young pilot has found them.
Ever so often, a strange security droid walks up to Galen with every second shipment of kyber crystals. The first time, Galen feared that perhaps the Empire had learned what he had done. He almost yelled about a droid malfunction—before, of course, the droid clamped his mouth shut. Following the security droid is always a young man, no younger than Bodhi.
And since Bodhi became one with a walking target, it is through this young man that Galen sends messages and updates to the Alliance.
There are several droids, though Galen searches for the one trailed by Lieutenant Andor. As he finds them on the deck, he walks swiftly, palming the holodisc between his fingers. K-2SO drops a box of crystals on the platform and subtly holds out his hand, enough for Galen to pass and drop the holodisc.
Galen makes another round and sees Lieutenant Andor's subtle smile as he and his (badly) reprogrammed droid climb the ramp back up to the ship. He has known Cassian Andor for almost three years and in his mind he thinks how much he would have wanted for Jyn to meet him. He and Galen didn't really talk often, except for the few meals they share if the shipments take too long, but still he'd have wanted to introduce them.
They sit together at a table. K-2SO is on Cassian's ship. A security droid isn't meant to trail a cargo pilot everywhere, and there are hardly any KX-series droids in the mess hall.
"Bodhi's gone missing," Cassian says once, with full force and impact. He doesn't whisper it, though the chatter in the hall makes for a good mask.
The gruel doesn't make it to Galen's mouth. "Pardon?"
"The Alliance sent him to Jedha." The captain informs him between bites of food. "He is from Jedha, you see. But he was there for a mission. I don't know all the details, but I do know that he hasn't come back. And he was sent days ago, for a mission that could have been in-and-out at best."
"You say he's from Jedha. Can't he be visiting family?"
Cassian shakes his head, "Then he would have sent a transmission."
"What was he there to do?"
There could be silence, if not for the distant murmurs from all the others in the room.
"Bodhi was seeking out a rebel extremist. A Partisan leader: Saw Gerrera."
The name is familiar. The face is not. But Galen knows the man. Or, Lyra did. Before the rebels came to Lah'mu, Saw was their escape plan, both in Coruscant and in Lah'mu. Perhaps they should have called him. Saw could've saved his daughter.
Galen remembers an old holomessage, made years ago, to Saw. He made it before he found out about Jyn. He lost the holodisc, though he thinks he might've just disposed of it.
"Hey," Cassian waves his hand over Galen's face. "What is it now?"
He tells him everything about Saw.
Jyn Erso can still close her eyes and see Imperial ships descend on their farm in Lah'mu. Some people of the Alliance were already there in their house, bags of the Erso's belongings slung over their shoulders. Jyn's mother fiddled with a computer until it began to smoke. A man with a burgundy cape looked at Jyn and held his finger to his lips. Once the computer started looking like it wouldn't work for years, her mother pulled her close as they escaped to the outside. Jyn could see the black troopers storming their house as a man in white screamed orders.
Her father was walking across the farm, to the man in white. Jyn and her mother and everyone else, they ran. Her mother's hold on her was unrelenting. She whimpered as she slipped against the hill, but still her mother didn't let go.
Jyn looked to her father and the man he was speaking to. Something about him was almost familiar. "Mama," she tugged at her wrist, "Mama, I know that man."
Her mother looked at her with a sad gaze. Jyn could feel the grip on her wrist soften. They stopped running.
"Wait here," her mother said to the rebels with them. Jyn could see the same man from earlier glare, but she moved her eyes away to look to her mother. She pulled Jyn into a hug. "Stay with these people, Jyn. Promise me. Whatever your father and I do, we do to protect you. Do you understand?"
She stretched away to look Jyn in the eyes. Jyn couldn't find her voice easily. "I—" she stammered, "I understand."
Jyn still doesn't understand.
Her mother took out her necklace with the shining crystal and held it out to her. "Trust the Force." Jyn's mother made a smile. She held Jyn again in another hug, but quickly released her and ran towards the farm.
Jyn considered herself an obedient daughter. She did not follow.
The rebels only grumbled. "Follante!" A woman said to the man with the red cape, "The job was to extract Erso, not his daughter."
"Erso's deal was that his family comes with him," he snapped back. His dark gray eyes dropped at Jyn before moving back to the woman, "And until the mission is over, Jettson, I am still your commanding officer, and I expect to be treated as such."
Follante turned to the other rebels who were standing idly, "We wait here. Provide cover fire if and only if given reason to do so. Once Erso is with us, we make quick work back to the transports. That's it."
The rebels held their blasters up against the hills, towards the man of white against the scope of green. When a line of black expanded on their field of view, Jyn could hear Jettson whisper under her breath, "Death troopers."
Jyn crouched against the dirt, watching her father carefully.
The 'troopers held their blasters out, aiming at something. "They're going to shoot him," one of the rebels said.
They're going to shoot my mother.
They held out their blasters, and all together crimson bolts flew in each and every possible direction. Jyn's eyes widened and the world went slow as she watched her mother fall to the dirt. Jyn cried and yelled. "Mama!"
Some of the rebels jumped down the slopes, running towards the soldiers of the Empire. Jyn ducked away from the line of fire and ran, almost tripping over the slopes as bright red bolts displaced loose soil. She reminded herself of the games her father made her play before.
Go to the hatch. As fast as you can. She ran and tripped and stumbled and went. She'd committed the hatch to memory. She turned back to see if anyone followed her. Either the blackened death troopers or the people who shot her mother. She was greeted only with the sound of distant blaster fire.
She wiggled the rock away and climbed down the ladder. With her tiny stretch of a window, she watched what she could see and listened to what she could hear. The sound of guns neared her, and Jyn hoped and prayed to the Force that they would not find her. She saw the brown of the rebels' boots. They were running, back to where they left their starships.
Jyn's eyes followed them until the opening prevented her. When they were gone, what followed was the sound of thunder and jarring footsteps. Jyn understood why the Empire called them Stormtroopers. "Find the child!" A rasping voice yelled. "Let the rebels run."
She made an audible gasp as a pair of black boots stood right in front of her. The sound was masked by the hum of ten engines igniting. Jyn counted to ten, forcing her breaths to slow and deepen. She didn't stop counting until all the troopers were gone. Once they were, Jyn made her way deeper.
The hatch was tight with barely enough room for her and the jars of supplies, but if she pulled her limbs together she could squeeze herself in. The daylight of Lah'mu streamed in through the little gap, but still it was dark. She waited there until she couldn't see anything anymore, then she waited until her brain couldn't decide if her eyes were closed or not.
Then she slept.
When she wakes up, she is most likely still in Jedha. Jyn knows what happens next in her dream. She spends her days looking for her mother's body, trying to find her father, living alone.
Until Saw Gerrera comes for her. And Jyn is no longer lonely. For a while, that is.
Saw leaves her in a shell turret in Onderon with a knife and a fully loaded blaster. It was a test. Jyn knew it was a test.
She is familiar with loneliness. For almost three years on Lah'mu, she lived with whatever her father left in store (and what the droids could harvest.) The farming droids weren't good conversationalists, and two weeks later they refused to speak to her. For years she was alone, going back and forth to the shoreline and far into the hills. She ran into a few other immigrants, but most left her be.
Then she found the commlink.
When she was alone in Onderon, a blaster and a promise to return, she began looking for that commlink: a way to lead her to Saw. She wandered planets, hopping in and out of transports, leaving a mess for the Empire wherever she went.
The trail, the destruction she was following to find Saw, ended at Jedha—a blasted warzone. Detonators were everywhere, but even more now that the Partisans made base.
She remembers running out of the line of fire, then a sack being thrown over her head. Her head throbs slightly, where the butt of a blaster was probably introduced.
Jyn is in a cell, stinking of sweat and Jedha's dirt. If she tries hard enough, she can catch a whiff of the oil from Saw's favorite rifle.
"Rise and shine, Jynnie. Saw'll see ya now."
Jyn turns to see a woman. She is pale, skin almost like chalk, but human. Her speech is slurred and her arm hangs in a limp. Somehow, the woman knows her. Jyn scrambles her memory for this woman's face. She finds nothing but memories that she has tried to bury.
Staven, who gave her a first sip of fermented bantha milk and lectured her for hours for almost risking their lives.
Maia, whose gloves she kept—and eventually lost after trying to rewire an Imperial detonator. The Partisans don't speak of the dead. It makes it easier to forget that they were dead.
The chalk-skinned woman cuts Jyn's bonds with one swift motion.
No more distractions.
She shuts down a tremor in her body and steels her spine to meet the soldier who saved her from Lah'mu.
"There." She gestures to a curtained doorway. Jyn steps through the curtain the way she will a spider web. The pallid woman does not follow.
Jyn scans her surroundings. There isn't much if not a wild living area for a lonely hermit. However, it shows a view of the valley through a window carved into the rock. She turns away. If she stared longer, she might have seen thundering black boots.
She hears a metallic clank, and her hand goes to the blaster in her boot. It has nothing left in it, but still Jyn keeps it with her. The Partisans must have put it back when they realized how little a fight the blaster could make.
"Jyn, is that you?" A hoarse voice asks her.
She doesn't know what to do. Close her eyes, fall into the darkness of her cave of Lah'mu? Or turn and face the man who freed her from it? She'd never go back to Lah'mu. She promised herself as much.
Jyn shifts her head to face Saw Gerrera.
Or rather, a shadow of Saw Gerrera.
Jyn knows Saw, a soldier, scarred but strong. What she sees is not him. It's an old man, held together by metal and maybe even sheer willpower. Has it been only five years, or longer?
"I can't believe it," he whispers with his raspy voice, "Jyn—"
She pulls out the blaster and holds it out for Saw. "You left this at Onderon." Her voice is sharp, loud. She isn't talking about the blaster.
"That's… I gave that to you." There is no harshness in his voice. He pauses for a while, takes a breath through some mechanical aid. "Why are you here, Jyn? You can fend for yourself. I wasn't going to leave you if I didn't believe you could make it alone.
"I left you behind because you were the daughter of an Imperial science officer. Chances of them using you as a hostage…" He trails off in a series of coughs. "I was hoping you were still in the fight. I hoped that—"
"What?" Jyn interrupts. "I would join the Alliance?" She laughs it out so strong the words are almost spit.
"You were always the greatest soldier I've had, not because of your skill but because you believed. You knew the enemy like I did. You were ready to die for our cause. Fighting with me, you weren't safe. With the Alliance, you would be safe. The Alliance would keep you safe."
"That Alliance took my mother from me, Saw!"
Jyn has always chosen to fight with Saw and his Partisans. She had seen the rebels shoot her mother and do even the darkest of deeds, and still they hold their heads high like saints. Saw and his people know what they do, and they own up to it.
His eyes are alight, as if he's just woken up. Jyn braces for it, before she realizes that it's what she's been waiting for.
It doesn't come.
"Saw." A scarlet Twi'lek walks in to the chamber. "It's him. The Imperial pilot, the one who defected."
Jyn is unfazed. "That was almost three years ago."
Saw only blinks before turning away in a whisper, "I have to go."
"Saw!" She chases him with her voice, "Saw, promise me you won't leave me behind again. Promise me you won't be taken too."
When she was at Onderon, it was what she feared most. That when she was in that turret, like she was in the cave, the Empire took him, the closest man she's ever had to a father in a while.
He turns back to face her. "Jyn."
Jyn can feel the tears at the back of her eyes start to push their way out. "Promise me, Saw."
"I—I promise, my child. I promise." With that, he leaves with the Twi'lek. Jyn can hear yells from beyond the chamber.
When he's gone, leaving her once again in a cave, in a turret, in a little chamber with a window to the world, she mutters to herself. "Kriff, I need a drink."
Bodhi, despite being from Jedha, has no kriffing idea where he is. A cave, most probably. The base of the rebel extremists.
"I defected!" He screams. "I'm not with the Empire. Haven't been for years! I need to speak to Saw Gerrera! I have a message… from Galen! Galen Erso!"
He continues to stammer, "T-The Alliance doesn't even know I'm here! They think I'm here on leave!"
Most of them, at least. Cassian, his friend and fellow pilot, he thinks Bodhi's on a mission. With his Imperial background, the Alliance recruited him to Rebel Intelligence. He's used the past three years seeking Saw Gerrera, ever since he saw Galen with the message.
"I've been looking for Saw Gerrera for years. I-I have a message from Galen Erso. It was in my boot."
"Do you know what's in the message?" A raspy voice calls out. Bodhi scans what little he can see for the source of the voice. It's him. Saw Gerrera. A man made of fire and ferocity and steel.
"N-no! I don't," he pauses for a breath, "It was with Galen, just before I left Eadu. I've never seen the message myself."
Saw Gerrera whispers to the others beside him. It's inaudible to Bodhi. He gets one hard look from the Partisan, before a sack is once again placed over his head.
Cassian regrets to say it, but the meals for even Imperial cargo pilots are better than what a Captain gets with the Alliance. Sometimes he envies Galen, for never even once having to try staying at Yavin 4. But there is sympathy for Galen Erso.
The man has lost all he could lose; living unwillingly in the Empire for ten years then finding out his family is dead. Then he volunteered to go undercover for the Alliance. Yet somehow, the galaxy gives him more to lose. Cassian knows how close he and Bodhi were. Bodhi found a friend in Galen just as Cassian has found a kindred spirit.
Kay-Tu's smooth mechanical voice pierces Cassian's thoughts. "How do you accept, that for three years Galen Erso withheld information regarding Saw Gerrera?"
"The enemy is the Empire, Kay, not the Partisans."
"You appear to have forgotten that my origins are from the Empire, as well, Cassian."
Cassian makes a mental note to recheck Kay-Tu's programming. Somewhere he made the mistake of low verbal impulse control.
"Well, I'm going to send Galen Erso's message to the Alliance." The droid leaves Cassian back to his thoughts.
Galen told Cassian about Saw Gerrera, and Lah'mu, and the daughter Cassian knows he lost.
Kay-Tu reappears again. "Message from Base One, Captain. They want you to go to Jedha."
He scowls. "That's parsecs away in the other direction."
"Apparently, it's in the Alliance's best interest that you find Bodhi Rook," comments Kay-Tu, "Considering the chances of you refusing, I will reset the course for Jedha." The droid saunters away to the cockpit.
They fly in silence. Cassian repeatedly disassembles and reassembles a blaster rifle to give his hands something to do. Even if he doesn't look up to check, he's sure that Kay-Tu's paranoia has led him to create yet another backup of his drive.
When they land on Jedha, Kay-Tu volunteers to stay behind. "The people here want to put a blaster through my head or dismantle me for parts, Cassian. I would rather I stay and watch the ship."
Cassian doesn't argue. He hides a blaster behind his shirt and leaves the shelter of his Imperial cargo ship for the deserts of Jedha. If he is to find Bodhi, he first needs to find Saw Gerrera.
However, he has no idea how to do that. He has some informants in Jedha, most of which practically live in bars and cantinas. Hopefully, one of them has some semblance of information about the extremist leader. Cassian needs a drink anyway.