“You’re currently calling yourself Liana…” the tall man with a general’s insignia who had been introduced as General Dravits Draven glanced down at the datapad in his hand “…Hallick. Is that correct?”
The command center was an unnerving contrast of darkness and light, sectioned off by square transparisteel dividers glowing with geometric green lines that gave an illusion of privacy in spite of the rustle of activity beyond them, where human and alien species worked at flashing communications consoles and murmured into headset microphones.
Jyn said nothing.
“Possession of unsanctioned weapons. Forgery of Imperial documents, aggravated assault, escape from custody, resisting arrest.” He should have been an actor, biting off crisp consonants and pausing for dramatic effect. His voice hardened. “Imagine if the Imperial authorities had found out who you really are, Jyn Erso.”
She didn’t exactly flinch.
He tilted his head. “That is your given name, is it not?” Eyes like blue lasers bored into hers. “Jyn Erso, daughter of Galen Erso, a known Imperial collaborator in weapons development.”
Jyn broke eye contact first, shifting away to the side, too aware of how the attention of every man loosely grouped around the circular strategic display console was fixed on her reaction. Even the one leaning back against the edge of the divider in the shadows behind the general was paying attention, although she could only see his faintly green profile.
Movement and measured footsteps brought an elegant woman dressed in white through a gap in the dividers to the space directly across the podium, drawing the scrutiny abruptly elsewhere. Short red-tinted hair was cut severely around her face, accentuating an impossibly long neck and pale, fine boned features. She was obviously not a military commander, and yet palpably the most ranking being present. Most likely a Senator. Maybe even…Jyn finally placed the resemblance. Mon Mothma, acting head of the Rebellion and the most wanted woman in the galaxy.
“What is this?” Jyn demanded of her in the silence. There were too many insanely important people here for this to be real.
The Senator’s face was a baffling cross between calm, honesty, and condescension. “It’s a chance for you to make a fresh start.” Her voice was penetrating but detached, modulated to carry without effort. “We think you might be able to help us.”
Jyn’s eyes narrowed. The tall general sat down, resting an elbow against the raised lip of the display. Clearly the Senator was in charge now. She looked into the shadows behind where he had been standing, speaking with a flicker of…pride? Her voice resonated.
“This is Captain Cassian Andor, Rebel Intelligence.”
Warily, Jyn looked up at the man who emerged. The one who had given her only a view of his profile, leaning back with his arms crossed. They were still crossed, but he was all business. Of average height, dark haired and dark eyed with a nose that had a definite downward crook in it, he could have used a haircut and his facial hair was on the scruffy side, mustache too long to be dapper but short enough not to droop. Certainly no clean-cut pretty boy who would linger in someone’s memory. She put him at about thirty, maybe thirty-two. Too old to be young but too young to have the lines that he did around his eyes and mouth. Unlike his superior officers, he wore a blaster openly.
“When was the last time you were in contact with your father?”
He spoke Basic with an accent, the words crisp, impersonal, advancing on her until she grew uncomfortable and then standing far enough to the side that she had to physically turn a little to keep track of him. She didn’t like him one bit.
“Fifteen years ago.” Jyn craned her eyes to follow him, keeping her head carefully straight. The harsh lights from the display threw his jutting cheek and angular jaw into sharp relief, almost grotesque.
“Any idea where he’s been all that time?” Of course she had ideas. She looked away quickly, then back up, watching his reaction.
“I like to think he’s dead,” she said at last. Sharp and clear. Felt the uncomfortable shifting of the men around and behind her, another general in a pilot’s flight suit and an elderly man with a white coat that matched his beard. “Makes things easier.”
Captain Andor persisted. “Easier than what? That he’s a tool of the Imperial war machine?” He sounded mildly incredulous.
Jyn rose only slightly toward his bait. “I’ve never had the luxury of political opinions.”
“Really.” He didn’t skip a beat. “When was your last contact with Saw Gerrera?”
Jyn actually looked at him then. He looked right back, giving no clues as to what he knew. The general eased forward in his seat.
Jyn raised her chin. “It’s been a long time,” she said finally. Hard. She really did not want to go there.
Captain Andor was nodding slightly. “But he’d remember you, though.” It was hardly reassuring. He ducked his head to the side. “Wouldn’t he? He might agree to meet with you, if you came as a friend.” All so reasonable and well thought out.
Jyn looked away.
General Draven cut in, his mouth in shadow and only his eyes and forehead showing. “We’re up against the clock here, girl, so if there’s nothing to talk about, we’ll just put you back where we found you.”
Jyn’s voice quivered in spite of herself. “I was a child.” She was talking too quickly. “Saw Gerrera saved my life. He raised me,” she protested. “But I’ve no idea where he is I haven’t seen him in years.” She hadn’t, she really hadn’t.
“We know how to find him,” the spy continued as if the general had never interrupted. “That’s not our problem. What we need is someone who gets us through the door without being killed.”
She was getting too jittery bouncing back and forth like this. Stay calm. Focus. She tossed her head in a half-hearted stab at levity. “You’re all rebels, aren’t you?”
“Yes, but Saw is an extremist,” Mon Mothma intervened. She barely raised her voice and it still drowned Jyn’s. “He’s been fighting on his own since he broke with the Rebellion.” Her shoulders shifted, her hands braced on the podium. “His…militancy…has caused the Alliance a great many problems.” She placed emphasis on ‘great’ and ‘many,’ glancing over at Draven, who shared the look. Seemingly in some discomfort, she did not speak for a moment, her lips twisting as she glanced down into the console to choose her words. She almost sighed.
“We have no choice now but to try and mend that broken trust.” She looked at Jyn from under perfectly sculpted eyebrows as if she expected her to trust her. Jyn certainly didn’t. She wasn’t about to be sidetracked, either.
“What does this have to do with my father?”
She was far too tense to be polite on that subject. Draven looked from her to the Senator, who in turn gave Captain Andor a brief nod. He had turned away to listen; now he pursed his lips and faced Jyn again, his thumbs hooked through his blaster belt.
“There’s an Imperial defector in Jedha. A pilot. He’s being held by Saw Gerrera.” He took another step closer, almost leaning on the console to come closer to her level. “He’s claiming the Emperor is creating a weapon. With the power to destroy entire planets.” He held Jyn’s gaze like a physical grip, his head shaking from side to side as if he didn’t want to believe it but knew too much to doubt it.
“The pilot says…he was sent by your father.”
“We need to stop this weapon before it is finished.” Mon Mothma spoke decisively. Jyn still stared up at Cassian Andor, at his hard hooded eyes and downturned mouth, still bound by the voice that had softened as if to lighten the blow.
“Captain Andor’s mission is to authenticate the pilot’s story and then, if possible, find your father,” General Draven said with a directness that held no hint of his earlier scorn, settling his elbows on his knees as he leaned forward, clasping his hands around the datapad. Jyn finally pulled her eyes away from the spy, too dazed to meet so many questioning gazes. She looked down at the beveled rim of the console.
“It appears that he is critical to the development of this….superweapon.” Mon Mothma seemed to doubt, or maybe only wished to appear objective. “Given the gravity of the situation and your history with Saw, we’re hoping that he will help us locate your father and return him to the Senate for testimony.”
It was as if the Senator actually meant it. The white-haired general was watching her with an unexpected compassion. Even as she looked across at them, a thickset man with dark hair and an olive complexion stepped up heavily to join them, his still-handsome face serenely grave. She hadn’t the slightest idea who he was.
For some reason her voice was shaking. “And if I do it?”
Mon Mothma’s mouth curved into the barest of smiles. “We’ll make sure you go free.”
There was more after that, directives and protocols and deadlines, but it floated lightly around Jyn’s head without penetrating. She wasn’t free yet, of course; she was being released into Captain Andor’s custody and he was probably authorized to shoot her if she bolted; but when he bent to remove her wristbinders she didn’t even consider the idea of kicking him.
He seemed like the kind of man who would manage to dodge.