The discovery of this second Death Star had sent Jyn in a foul mood, and that was a nice euphemism. The training she put the new recruits through had become more vicious and she had begun to withdraw from her usual company, some days avoiding Cassian as well.
One evening he found her in one of the training rooms, repeatedly sending a ball bouncing against the opposite wall and catching it as it came back. The noise it made as it hit the metal was… annoying, to put it mildly. Cassian waited a long moment for her to notice him, but she did not. Or she was deliberately ignoring him. Rolling his eyes, he stepped into the room, right in the path of the little ball, which bounced harmlessly against his boots before rolling away.
“What are you doing?” he demanded. “You’re terrorizing the newbies and each time I want to speak with you, I feel like I’m hitting a duracrete wall.”
“Wash, rinse, repeat,” she muttered.
“We didn’t make enough of an impression last time, if they’re building a new Death Star,” Jyn clarified, still not looking at him. “Feels like my father and all our team died for nothing.”
“The order came from Palpatine himself, to be sure,” he told her. “Don’t expect someone like that to think or act rationally. The sheer number of officers and their families he executed for just rumors of treason… it would sicken the dead themselves.”
He sat by her side and finally, she turned towards him, her eyes lined with dark half-circles and her face pale from the lack of sleep.
“You don’t feel like we did all of that for nothing?”
“Never,” he replied fervently. “We saved lives through our actions, and if we have to do it again… then so be it. We cannot stop now. This war is the most dreadful thing that could happen to the galaxy, but the consequences of defeat would be even worse.”
The look she gave him was clearly unconvinced but he knew she would fight nonetheless. Fighting was all they had ever done. The real test would be, if they survived, to adapt to normal life, or rather, to see if they were still able to perform such a feat.
The following weeks were a flurry of activity, and the very full schedule everyone had been given inevitably led to exhaustion and mistakes. Such mistakes led in turn to, at best, mechanical incidents that could be repaired easily, and at worst to failed missions and the capture of several agents. And one of those unfortunate agents was General Draven himself. He had not checked the account nor the timetable of one of his informants, as he used to do, and had been sold out by the person in question. He had swallowed the poison pill every intelligence staff had on them before the ISB could interrogate him, keeping the Alliance secrets safe, but the blow was hard nonetheless. Madine and Rieekan had to replace him on the spot, having a hard time to convince some members of Draven’s network that they were just as competent or trustworthy. In other words, a complete nightmare.
Jyn had mixed feelings about Draven’s death. On a professional level, he would be missed, that was certain, and his mantra of ‘constant vigilance’ had become the default mentality of his whole service, even when off duty, but from a more personal point of view, she could not feel any kind of regret or mourning for the man. He had never completely warmed up to her – the feeling was mutual – and she suspected he had not completely forgiven the way she had gone behind his back to launch the Rogue One operation.
Months passed this way, and private matters had to take a back seat, except for some unplanned pregnancies and births. There was a part of the medbay reserved to expecting women and young mothers and that was how Jyn met Shara Bey during a check-up. Jyn was reading the results of her examination with the medic when a woman approached them with a baby perched on her hip, and waited until they were done, trying to calm the whimpering child clutching at her shirt.
“Lieutenant Bey,” the medic greeted her. “I assume you’re coming for little Poe?”
She nodded, Jyn noticing blueish marks under her eyes.
“I suspect he’s teething… he hasn’t slept for the last three days, and neither did I,” she confessed with a grimace. “Kes will bring him to his grandparents soon, but I’d like him to be healthy before he makes such a long trip.”
“Of course, of course… You know Sergeant Erso, I presume?”
“I have heard of Rogue One team, but I had yet to meet any of them. Very pleased to meet you,” she added, extending her free hand, that Jyn shook immediately.
“It’s mutual. From the uniform, I take that you’re a pilot?”
Shara nodded with a grin.
“Flying is my life… along with this one and his father.”
Jyn smiled and waved her hand at the baby while Shara sat him on the examination table. He had his mother’s curly black hair and wide brown eyes that looked at Jyn with curiosity… but she was soon forgotten when the medic began to check his mouth, prompting an indignant wail. With a last goodbye, Jyn took her leave, going back to her bunk with something akin to longing. The idea of a child remained at the back of her mind but she refused to consider it more seriously before the end of the war, if she survived that long.
Within two months, they had received all the data they needed, or so they hoped. The new Death Star, once finished, would be larger than the original, but so far the building was barely half-done, hence the decision to destroy it as fast as possible, before the metal monster was fully operational. Surprising absolutely no one, Jyn and Cassian were among the first to volunteer when the high command formed a commando to attack the field generator that protected the station. Shara’s husband Kes Dameron was right behind them, along with a bearded, white-haired veteran that Cassian identified as one of the former clone soldiers once used by the Republic. The older man confirmed, introducing himself as Commander Rex.
“Was he stationed on Fest?” Jyn inquired.
“Not to my knowledge. It’s just as well… but it’s still weird. I spent my childhood throwing stones at men that looked just like him.”
“Keep your reflexes in check if we’re part of the same team.”
While the Alliance was busy recruiting a group, Organa and Skywalker had not remained inactive. Their new associate Calrissian had located Solo on Tatooine, locked up in Jabba the Hutt’s palace from what Jyn could gather, and the duo had gone to try and free him. Incredibly, they managed to do just that, and the Princess came back to Home One with her smuggler and his copilot, though Luke had left them on the way, mentioning a visit to an old friend of his. Cassian presumed that he had gone to see his old Jedi master again.
He was pleasantly surprised by Solo’s change in behavior. There was no more talk of leaving the Alliance when he had enough money. The man worked hard to prepare his own group for Endor, calling in favors from old ‘trading’ partners to obtain explosives, fuel and ammunition for a reasonable price.
For his part, Cassian was busy compiling the intelligence the Alliance received from their agents. The Death Star was protected by a squadron of Star Destroyers, they heard. The Empire was ‘recruiting’ more workers from all the Rim to finish the construction faster. Vader was supervising the building of the station. Perhaps the Emperor himself… It was difficult to sort the valuable information from half-cooked theories concocted in cantinas. He spent most of his time in a makeshift office with Generals Madine and Rieekan and a whole crowd of agents that came and went with datachips, holopads, sometimes pieces of flimsi… As Jyn was equally busy training recruits, they barely had time for each other, falling asleep the minute their heads touched the pillows.
Three months after Organa’s return from Tatooine, the whole high command of the Alliance gathered in orbit above Sullust for one last meeting before the attack on the Death Star. Their entire fleet was present, with several brand-new Mon Calamari cruisers, brought there straight out of the shipyards. Their crews were a mix of newbies and veterans that worked relatively well together for their everyday duties, and Cassian kept his fingers crossed so that it would be the same during a battle.