It is such a long, long way into the heart of a star.
They are falling. They have been falling for some time now, but only in the past few minutes has the acceleration become so extreme as to be noticeable above the gravity generators of the Empirical; there is a definite tilt in the floor now, perhaps a five degree slant forward toward the sun rising up to meet them, and even the officers are beginning to panic.
Someone has put this ship on a collision course with a star.
It is not for nothing that she was the youngest cadet to be accepted into the Corulag Academy—she can calculate hyperspace jumps with all the accuracy of a dedicated navicomputer; she can perform computational linear algebra in her head; she can recite, at the drop of a hat, all seven corollaries to the Third Fundamental Theorem of Wave-Particle Duality. They haven't been feeding her recently, but Juno remembers the generalized laws of gravity as well as she remembers her name, rank, and serial number—six point six seven four two eight times ten to the negative eleven—
She leans back against the cold metal walls of her cell and closes her eyes. There are voices, on the loudspeaker, ordering the blast doors to be closed and locked and magnetically sealed; there is frenzied shouting as someone announces the escape pods are all malfunctioning.
—estimate mass of the sun at one point nine nine times ten to the thirtieth; estimate mass of Empirical as negligible in context—
Branded a traitor to the Empire, after all this time, and she would die with the rest of them in a conflagration of plasma and molten metal.
—acceleration at nine point eight one meters per second squared, estimate current velocity as five thousand meters per second relative to system—
Juno runs the calculations through her head, carefully, and comes to the conclusion that they will die in thirteen minutes. It is much further than that to the sun, of course, but there is only so much heat that the Empirical can take before it begins to melt.
Six months, in this jail cell, and she will die in it. She has always thought she would be shot down over a war zone, her ashes sent back to her father and posthumous medals draped over her grave. Perhaps it is the Empire who had betrayed her. A perilous time to have an epiphany, to be sure, but she supposes it is better late than never. Has Vader decided that this entire ship is full of traitors? She has always been faithful. He hand-picked her for the Rogue Shadow—
Something has malfunctioned.
Juno struggles to her feet despite a wave of dizziness; sirens are blaring all along the Empirical. They aren't close enough for the sun to be affecting their systems yet, unless she has misestimated the melting point of steel by several hundred degrees. No, it isn't a system malfunction—dimly, through the newly-erected laser field, she can see a figure approaching.
Her breath flies out of her. Starkiller. Impossible.
No, she quickly corrects herself—improbable. Like—like—high energy atomic states come to mind, but she is too dizzy to think straight. His lightsaber is a vivid blaze of blue against the gray of the ship and the white of the stormtroopers' armor. Wasn't it red?
Nine minutes until general system failure. The floor is approaching a fifteen degree tilt. He has come back. For her.
The laser field comes down and the officers panic. Even through her blurring vision she can tell it is him; no one else has quite the ruthless liquid grace to their movements that he does. She closes her eyes. Seven minutes; six and a half—
The force field disappears and Juno goes tumbling gracelessly to the ground. There is a hand on her cheek. She opens her eyes. "Juno," he says, and swings her into his arms as though she weighed nothing; there are new scars on his skin.
She spreads her fingers across the broad expanse of his shoulders. She whispers, "They told me you were dead—"
"It doesn't matter," he tells her. "None of that matters. I'm leaving the Empire."
She believes him.