0 ABY - Great Temple of Massassi - Yavin 4
The past few days have carved dark shadows under her eyes and an ache in her chest, something gnawing away at the hollow space under her ribs. She doesn’t know when she slept last, and she doesn’t care. She doesn’t want to think about what her subconscious might conjure up in the days since Alderaan’s destruction. Her hands shake now, so minutely that few have noticed – except of course Han did, damn that man – and she’s taken to digging her nails into the flesh of her palm to keep them steady. Anything to keep it together. But she put all that aside in this moment, standing before the council, burying all of her despair and desperate hope deep down and appealing to logic and loyalty.
Leia took a deep breath, gathering her composure, thinking of the way her mother stood, her spine stiff straight and shoulders proud - and began.
“Has a task force been created to search Scarif for survivors?”
The reaction was immediate. The exchange of discomfited looks, the flash of pity in their eyes. They still think of her as a child, they think she’s comprised, unable to continue on after the death of her parents, the destruction of her planet – even though every action she has taken proves otherwise. The holos of the council members flicker and wave before her, the different councilors scattered across the galaxy in preparation for the Alliance’s transition out of Yavin 4.
“Your Highness,” Councilor Jebel began, his small blue figure grasping at his belt in his typical display of tension, “The Council is sorry for your loss, but the chances that someone survived the impact of the Death Star’s attack are negligible,” he huffed, trying to inject some semblance of sympathy into his tone, “I know you would like to believe that-”
She does not hesitate to cut him off, her anger as cool and sharp as durasteel: “Alderaan had no chance. Everyone who was planet side, or in orbit, is dead. But Scarif is not Alderaan – the planet remains. If there is even the slightest chance that one of our own was able to survive the attack, we owe it to them to check. They are the reason we are standing here, still breathing.”
She paused there for a moment, let her words have their proper impact, before continuing, “What Luke Skywalker accomplished was due to their intel, without it Yavin 4, and the Alliance itself, would have met the same fate as Alderaan, as you all well know. Rogue One was able to escape the blast radius of the attack on Jedha, so there exists the possibility that our forces on Scarif would have been able to do the same.”
And there it is. The atmosphere in the room immediately shifted, and Leia was suddenly imbued with a deep feeling of rightness. All eyes on her, curiosity and respect. So this is what power feels like, she thought and prepared herself for the next question.
“What are you proposing?” The voice of Councilor Palmo ran clear, a sharp edge to it, but not without genuine interest. Palmo’s dramatic resignation from the Imperial Senate, followed by the destruction of the Death Star, seemed to have reinvigorated her faith in the Rebellion. Or, the Councilor could be motivated by her own sense of guilt for not backing Rogue One when she could, Leia considered – at least then she might have some shame, unlike Councilor Jebel.
These dynamics in mind, Leia put forward her plan: “A small flight group to scout out the wreckage and search for any survivors. The likelihood that the Empire will bother to try to salvage the remains of their base on Scarif are as slim as our chances of finding any survivors, but this group should still be able to enter and exist the system quickly.”
Leia knew she had Mon from the very moment she opened her mouth, but she could see a considering nod from Councilor Vaspar, and she had both Palmo and Jebel’s full attention. If she gained both Vaspar and Palmo, Jebel would fall into line for fear of looking unsympathetic to the losses of the Rebellion – especially after his vote against the mission to Scarif.
“I recommend that the remaining members of the Red Group, Wedge Antilles and Luke Skywalker, in addition to the crew of the Millennium Falcon, make up the team. They have obviously proven themselves to be capable pilots, and would understand best of all the significance of this mission. The Millennium Falcon would be fully equipped with any medical supplies we can spare, on the chance that the mission does find any survivors.”
“A reasonable proposition. But what of the move to the Hoth Base?” Mon Mothma would always have House of Organa’s back, but never without consideration of all angles.
“Accounting for the time it would take to reach Scarif and perform a thorough enough search to either find survivors or confirm the deaths of our operatives, the members of this force will have to regroup with us at the new base,” Leia replied. There would be complaints about the loss of security which could have been provided by the remainder of Red Squadron, but at the end of the day, the Councilors knew that two shell shocked pilots, even if they were the ones that destroyed the Death Star, would not make a difference if the Empire were to discover the Rebellion en route to Hoth.
The Council dissolved into discussion, Jebel putting up the expected protests, but Vaspar and Palmo’s burgeoning support for the plan forced his hand, just as Leia predicted.
It was not long until Mon called for a vote, already aware of the verdict: “All in favor?”
The Councilors responded with affirmations, Jebel’s only slightly gruff.
Mon gave one of those smiles, warm and formal all at the same time, “A consensus has been reached. Your Highness, do you wish to brief them personally?”
“Yes, Councilor. Thank you.”
Princess Leia Organa, former senator turned Rebellion leader and heir to a planet that no longer exists, took just a brief moment to savor her victory, small though it felt. She turned away from the Council, gave a brisk nod to Winter, who immediately fell into step, and they set off to make preparations.
The pair walked briskly through the halls of the base, Leia returning the hurried acknowledgements of the officers darting about, only stopping once to confer with one of Mon’s aides, who passed along a datapad with a full briefing on the Scarif mission and confirmed that the members of the rescue team would be called to the hangar bay.
As soon as the two women made it a safe distance from the Council Chambers, Leia ducked into one of the storage rooms off of the hangar bay, tugging Winter along. Winter closed the door quietly behind them while Leia checked the room for any uninvited parties who might be overhear to their conversation.
Once sure of their privacy, Leia pulled Winter into a tight embrace, both of them clinging to each other in quiet despair. They stayed like that for no more than a minute, listening to each other’s breathing and reassuring themselves that they were not the last, not alone. Their planet may be gone, their parents may have been taken from them, but their home is not lost, not truly.
Leia pulled away reluctantly, and neither said anything if the other’s eyes gleamed with the hint of tears.
Wordlessly, Leia handed over the datapad, and Winter made quick work of it, eyes scanning and memorizing every last detail of the Scarif mission. Once she finished, Winter brushed a steady hand through her white locks and heaved a quiet sigh, passing the pad back to her sister.
“I’m not going to lie to you Leia, it would be a miracle if anyone was able to survive the attack on Scarif. There are multiple confirmed reports by our fleet that the entire base was destroyed, as well as intel from Imperial communications.”
Leia made a low noise of anger, “Obliterating their own base and everyone on it just to clean up their own mess,” her lips thinned, and something burned in her chest, her voice sharp and dangerous, “I have no doubt that Tarkin ordered the destruction of Jedah as well.”
“He’s dead, Leia,” Winter said softly, taking Leia’s hand in her own, encouraging the other woman to meet her eyes, “Tarkin is gone. We killed him – and we won’t stop till Vader and the Emperor join him.”
Leia breathed in deeply, suppressing a shudder. Her own rage terrified her, how easily she could get swept up in all consuming fury, turning her vision red and her thoughts to unspeakable cruelty. Leia prided her ability to channel her anger into cold calculation, it served her well as a senator and a spy, but since the loss of her parents, she found herself adrift and unable to center herself.
Even with the destruction of the Death Star, the swift execution of justice by the Rebellion, Leia found herself mired in what-ifs and visions of Alderaan. Did her parents know what was about to happen? Her father had to know, he was aware of what happened to Jedha. Were they together? Or alone, overwhelmed in the face of their own demise?
She had been at the mercy of Vader and his IT-O for hours, been subjected to hallucinations of unimaginable physical pain, and yet it all paled in comparison to the sheer terror and despair of watching the Death Star turned on her own people. The suffering of others was always more real to Leia than any agony she may face herself.
Meeting her adoptive sister’s eyes, seeing the compassion and understanding conveyed in her gaze – and not a hint of fear or condescension - Leia was filled with a sense of strength and control that she had come so close to losing before. She honestly did not know what she would’ve done without her adoptive sister, if she had also perished on Alderaan.
Leia nodded her head, more of an affirmation to herself than to Winter, “You’re right, of course you’re right. It doesn’t matter who or how many we lose along the way; we will see that the Empire is brought to its knees.”
Winter almost laughed at that, her eyes crinkling and failing to suppress an amused smile, and Leia only felt a little sheepish, knowing Winter means well.
“If only they could see how you talk behind closed doors,” Winter’s eyes twinkle with mischief, “the rumors about you living off of the cause alone might actually have some substance to them,” and now Winter really did laugh, almost a little helplessly, but entirely sincerely, her shoulders shaking and her mouth arced in a sharp grin.
Leia rolled her eyes, “Don’t encourage them,” she complained good naturedly, “if I hear the pilots suggesting I’m having an affair with yet another Corellian, I’ll take over the squadrons myself.”
“Former Imperial Senator, Princess, and now a leader of the Rebellion Alliance, will she ever find love in her quest for justice? Solo or Antilles? And who is this newcomer Skywalker? Tune in next week-”
Leia shook with laughter, “Force, Winter, stop it, you sound like the holovids Mom and Dad watch!”
They both froze, reality crashing down on them all at once. Leia stiffened, and Winter’s laughter died in her throat. They couldn’t look at each other for a moment, hearts still caught up in the past, in the sense of rightness and normalcy that had existed only seconds before.
Both gathered their composures with an efficiency possessed only by those used to living double lives, and, as if according to some silent mutual agreement, resumed their briefing as if those few minutes of cheer had never occurred.
Leia cleared her throat, “I saw the attack from the Tantive, but do we have any idea of the exact blast radius? The search should commence along the perimeter, rather than wasting any time searching within the blast zone itself.”
“No, we have very little data on the extent of the damage, besides confirmation on the destruction of the base. The remainders of the fleet that were unable to jump to hyperspace after the arrival of the Death Star and the Executor were either captured or destroyed, and they were the only ones who would have been able to gather any accurate readings. We do know that the impact point itself was not at the base, but some klicks west of it. It is unclear how far past the base the impact extended to.”
“So as far as we know, ships could have managed to outfly the blast?”
“The fighters that escaped the surface before the attack reported that no other ships left the atmosphere, but in the chaos I can’t imagine that they would have been able to make an accurate assessment of the entire area. Honestly, we have so little information on the damage to Scarif it’s difficult to reach any conclusions,” Winter grimaced, giving a sharp shrug, “So survival is improbable, but not entirely impossible.”
Leia frowned, an idea occurring to her: “What about imperial ships?”
Winter followed her train of thought, quickly recalling the relevant information, “Intel says they were as about as informed as we were that the Death Star was coming into orbit, and between the destruction of the gate and being bogged down by fighting on the landing pads, it seems as if no coordinated evacuation of Scarif took place at all.”
“Emphasis on coordinated?”
Leia nodded, processing the information, and her frowned eased slightly into a wry smile, “Good. So I wasn’t completely spewing bantha shit to the Council about there being at least a possibility of survival.”
Winter smothered a smile, but couldn’t resist rolling her eyes at her sister. The more things change, the more they stay the same, she thought, amused and nostalgic at the same time, “No, not completely.”
Leia sighed, and folded her arms, looking thoughtful for a moment before letting out a light chuckle, “…Well, at least Corellians don’t believe in listening to the odds, and Luke will listen to me.”
“Antilles would do it even if you told him it was confirmed that everyone on the surface was dead,” Winter pointed out, quirking an eyebrow in amusement at Leia’s obvious exasperation.
“He’d do it even if we ordered him not to,” Leia huffed before growing quiet suddenly, murmuring, “He would have taken his X-Wing and joined the initial assault on Scarif in a heartbeat if he hadn’t been on a reconnaissance mission.”
Winter’s eyes widened, “Thank the Force he was – who knows if Skywalker would have lasted long enough to take the shot without Antilles watching his back.”
Leia shook her head, as if trying dispel the nebulous thoughts of different pasts and altered futures, “It’s bitter enough considering how things would have changed if our forces had managed to escape the beaches, let’s not get into the what-ifs of Wedge Antilles risking his neck in a hundred new ways.”
Winter had rid herself of nervous habits long ago, one couldn’t be a brutally efficient Intelligence agent while twiddling one’s thumbs with every lie, but Leia could see her sister’s discomfort in every line of her body. She waited patiently, knowing that Winter would tell Leia in her own time.
Sure enough, Winter flicked her eyes to meet Leia’s and caved, “I can’t help but think about how things would be different if Captain Andor had received support from the Council. If they’d been able to have a stronger force going into Scarif, maybe he would’ve been able to get the plans earlier, before the arrival of the Death Star. Maybe he could’ve gotten off of the surface…”
“…and both he and Alderaan would have been saved,” Leia whispered, heart breaking as she watched her sister flush with shame and grief. Winter was so strong, had always kept her emotions in check compared to Leia, who wielded hers like a weapon.
At a loss in face of this alternate reality, a galaxy without the overwhelming suffocating loss that now dominated their lives, Leia could only think to ask one question, “You have no hope he survived?”
Without hesitation, Winter answered: “No. He was one of the best Intelligence agents, if not the best, he could get himself out of almost anything. But he also gave everything to see the mission through to the very end if he believed in it.”
Leia’s features softened in understanding, reaching out to wrap an arm around her sister’s shoulders, “…he challenged a direct order of the Council by going to Scarif, that could only mean that he believed that the mission could save the Rebellion – and he was right.”
Winter gave a jerky nod before swallowing hard, “There is not a doubt in my mind that he was at the citadel itself, that he died ensuring that the plans were transmitted to us.”
“Captain Andor was a good man,” Leia murmured, rubbing gentle circles on Winter’s back, blinking in surprise when Winter let out a sharp laugh.
“He was an even better Rebel,” Winter choked out, “But that took a toll on him. I wasn’t surprised for a minute when I heard that he was behind the initial attack on Scarif.”
Winter hesitated then, and sadness overtook her features, “he gave everything so that we could destroy the Death Star. We finished what he started, the Rebellion lives to fight another day… and that is all he has ever wanted.”
Leia squeezed her hand on Winter’s shoulder, “I remember the day you were assigned to him-”
“Which you weren’t supposed to know about, you seem to be conveniently forgetting,” Winter interjected, the corners of her lips twitching up into a half smile despite herself.
Leia rolled her eyes at the beginnings of a familiar argument, and continued on as if she had not heard her sister, “and Father wore that expression around for a week, you know the one, where he couldn’t decide whether to be proud or angry?”
“As much as Father respected Captain Andor and his work,” Winter started, staring off distantly and a frown gracing her features, “Dad didn’t like the idea of me working with Cassian, he knew what sort of calls the captain had to make… I think he was worried I would end up on the wrong side of a clean up operation.”
Leia smiled reassuringly, tugging Winter firmly against her side and forcing her sister to meet her gaze, “I don’t think Captain Andor would have ever let that happen.”
The tension eased out of Winter’s body, and she smiled then, full and real: “No, I don’t think he would have.”
The pair smiled softly at each other, sinking into this moment of quiet before the storm – and Leia’s comm beeped.
Leia sighed, releasing Winter from her hold and moving to straighten out her jacket while Winter adjusted Leia’s braid slightly, twisting the end into a tighter knot and brushing away any stray hairs.
Leia takes a deep breath, and doesn’t shake on the exhale, “They’re ready for us.”
0 ABY - Location Unknown - Scarif
Jyn does not know how long she’s laid here, surrounded by dust and ash and death. The stench of charred flesh and warped metal is overpowering, suffocating. Her eyes unseeing, nothing by grey ash and smoke, stinging with tears perpetually gathering at the corners, but never spilling over. She refuses to cry.
She doesn’t even know if she’s alive.
Or if she is alive, how she managed to survive. Or if there’s even a point to her surviving, when she feels nothing but pain and the aching loss of arms that were once wrapped around her.
And suddenly the pain is unbearable, the thought of surviving while the rest of her team died, while Cassian – who had just been by her side, his cheek pressed against her hair, the warm line of his body against hers, what only feels like moments ago. The thought of being alone once again, surrounded by nothing but death and the remains of the people she’d finally felt at home with, is enough to finally break her. She’s sobbing, choking on her own breath, hot tears pouring down her cheeks, over abused flesh, stinging and burning all at once.
He had been in her arms, both of them ready for the inevitable, content to die alongside someone they had grown to respect so deeply. And then, blinding, all-encompassing light and pain, agonizing pain like she had never felt before, the roar of thunder, of the ground beneath her tearing apart and crushing in on itself. Finally, deafening silence and darkness; but still pain, always pain.
It feels like hours, days, months – years, that she’s laid here. Alone, in a state of nothingness, of unknown, of being surrounded by stagnant white and grey, until suddenly there is sharp color, piercing bright blue. It is gone before she even realizes what it is, a slice of sky, of pure untainted heaven miles and miles and miles above her.
It is accompanied by a loud roar and flurried movement, but her eyes are half-closed, one barely seeing a foot before her, and whatever the source of the commotion is, it is quickly lost on her in favor of treasuring that glimpse of blue.
That one sign of life, of something beyond this suffocating world, is enough to make Jyn move, to shift every screaming muscle, every limb that had nearly been torn from its socket, her broken fingers and blistered skin, and pull herself to her feet.
The fact that she only fell once, her hoarse shout of pain muffled on impact by the wreckage beneath her feet, is a miracle in itself.
Jyn finally rose to her feet, bearing a bloodied lip for her troubles, and found herself with no more idea of her existence than she had while sprawled across the ground. Her world remains unbearably grey.
Suddenly, fury burned under her marred skin, the taste of bile hot and raw in the back of her throat. What was the point of living in this agony? In this grey world, alone and abandoned?
The rage rumbled in her chest, and before she knew it, Jyn was screaming. With her vocal cords shredded, she sounded like nothing more than a wounded animal, dying and backed into a corner. She didn’t even recognize her own voice.
She stumbled, trying to get out of this place, out of this madness, to anywhere, somewhere.
Jyn screamed again, this time choking out one word past bloodied lips: “Cassian!”
She needed him, she ached for him. Jyn just got him back, just found safety in his arms in a way she never knew she needed. She screamed his name again, stumblingly blind through the haze, choking on the ash and dust she inhaled on every breath.
Jyn struggled onwards, one foot before the other, heaving through corrupted lungs and screaming Cassian’s name.
She received no reply.
So Leia actually has an adopted sister in the Expanded Universe and, unsurprisingly, she's a complete badass. Winter was adopted by Bail & Breha, like Leia, and also became involved in the Rebel Alliance, but as an Intelligence operative infamous for her holographic and audiographic memory. She frequently worked with Rogue Squadron.
For those who are familiar with the EU, I'm sure you can tell that I'm playing it slightly fast and loose with timelines & characterizations, since I'm mostly familiar with post-ROTJ EU, and the characters are notably younger/less experienced at this point in time. So I apologize for any inconsistencies, and please let me know if you have any suggestions (or recommendations!! always looking for new stuff to read).
Luke still does not know what to make of Wedge Antilles, a man who lost his entire squadron in one battle, who was conspicuously absent from a ceremony in his honor, and now has been dispatched on this hopeless quest with him.
When Leia briefed them, her eyes were steely – bracing herself for any judgment or pity. He still doesn’t know if she’s processed what happened to her planet. He still doesn’t know if he’s even processed what has happened to him.
Everything had been so focused, so fast-driven, no time to think or to dwell on everything he’d lost in a matter of days, of hours. He’s chosen instead to focus on what he’s gained: a purpose. Luke throws himself into the rebellion like a fish to water, eager to learn, to help, to contribute anything he can.
He and Leia are similar in that way, it seems. Or maybe just all of these people are, the ones that have dedicated their lives to the cause. Or maybe, unlike him, who can’t even bring himself to even think of his aunt and uncle, they are just used to this. For a farmer boy from an Outer Rim planet, where his only loss was friends heading off to the flight academy and the parents he never knew, it was overwhelming – this juxtaposition of stunning victory and harrowing loss. This constant sense of being bereft, of desperately trying to catch up with every empty seat in the mess, every new medal on the wall.
Luke’s first impression of Wedge after the destruction of the Death Star was that he wore death not unlike his flight suit, as an incontrovertible and necessary part of his life in the rebellion. The other pilot managed to push forward despite the whirlwind of grief around them, even when Luke crashed miserably after the celebrations. It was only a handful of days prior that they had even spoken about what occurred in the trenches of the Death Star.
After one of their final patrols before they were to leave the planet, Luke found Wedge standing silently in the barracks that once belonged to Red Squadron. They just stared at each other for a long moment, both unable to form the words the convey their tangled grief until Wedge broke the silence: “It should’ve been me. I’m sorry.”
Luke had balked and made an aborted move towards the other man, before realizing his comfort may be unwelcome. He then settled for the first words that came to his lips, “Don’t apologize for being alive.”
The older pilot only shook his head in a dismissal of Luke’s words, not meeting his eyes. “I’m not. I’m apologizing for not staying… The only way we leave a fight is by burning up or if the mission is accomplished. It shouldn’t have been any different for me. Instead, Biggs was left alone to cover your back and was killed for it.”
Luke instantly protested, his voice rising in pitch in his shock, “Don’t say that! You both would’ve died, and then, then-”
As silence had descended upon them, Luke fumbled for words to ground one of the few people he had left in the galaxy. “No one else knows what it was like being up there – watching everyone get picked off like, one by one, like they were nothing, like they meant nothing… I couldn’t even… it didn’t feel real,” Luke had whispered, “When we got back to base, it was like a dream. I couldn’t even believe that I was alive, I couldn’t process that everyone was dead… Wedge, I didn’t even know them and I feel like I’m being suffocated. How the hell are you not…?”
“I don’t know,” Wedge heaved out the words with a sigh, as if breathing had all of a sudden become a burden to heavy to bear. “At first I thought that I just couldn’t process it, that they’re all gone. That they aren’t coming back. Figured I was in denial, and that it would all come crashing down at some point.”
His voice had been monotone, practical. As if he was delivering a debrief, reciting facts. Wedge then glanced around the barracks, eyes lingering on rumpled sheets and personal items strewn across the floor, the remnants of lives frozen and never to be resumed.
“But now I’m realizing that I just don’t feel anything… I always knew they were going to die. I just thought I would die along with them,” Wedge’s dull eyes flitted upwards to meet Luke’s own, before fixing his gaze firmly at his feet.
“And now that I’m alive and they’re not… I just. Don’t feel anything. I should be dead,” Wedge muttered, scrubbing a hand across his unshaven jaw before dropping it limply to his side, as if thinking better of the words he had just spoken. Luke swallowed hard.
“I almost want to be dead,” Wedge whispered like he was confessing to the galaxy’s greatest sin, “but then I couldn’t keep fighting. You can’t fight if you’re dead.”
Luke rubbed the tears from his eyes before they had a chance to fall, before choking out a laugh.
“Well, I hate to break it to you, but the fight is from over.”
Wedge sighed, and sank down onto the bunk behind him. He fiddled with the edge of the blanket that laid on top of it, before look up at Luke with an almost sheepish expression on his face.
“Guess we’re stuck with each other then.”
Luke blinked, and then smiled, “Yeah, I guess we are.”
That was the first and last time they spoke about what happened the day Red Squadron was decimated. They settled into a quick if stilted friendship, still unsure how to balance their own camaraderie with the absence of those who had brought them together. The presence of a new common goal, a tangible one, the rescue of possible survivors on Scarif, could only work to bring them closer together – at least Luke hoped. It was with that thought, and aggressively pushing down the dark ones that said there was no way in hell anyone survived the blast, that Luke set off to prepare for the mission to Scarif.
lol sorry im the worst. this was just rotting in my drafts. not proofread or anything yikes 2 years later d a b s