A/N: Again, follows right on chapter 8. Did you take a walk?
The first-year professor in Quantum Theory likes to open his class with a story of a cat in a lead box with a Geiger counter; it is a rather ridiculous analogy, but he likes it because it illustrates several important principles with such visceral imagery. Juno has always felt sorry for the cat, living on the brink of reality as it did.
Now, she thinks, she knows what it feels like, in the moment just before the box is opened. It is everything at once, all possible futures spiraling out from this one point like that hologram in that crowded lecture hall all those years ago; so which is it, the professor is asking, alive or dead? Or both in equal probability? Only here the probability is not equal; it is some complicated function that she cannot even begin to fathom, and she should stop trying to formulate it and make an observation, because really the function hardly matters at this point.
Juno brings the ship around in a sweeping arc back toward the Death Star. It looms again before her in the viewing window.
"Eclipse to Starkiller," she says, cool, professional. "The Rogue Shadow is in position; I repeat, the Rogue Shadow is in position. Do you copy?"
There is silence on the other end of the comlink. She realizes that she is clutching the edge of control panel far too hard and loosens her grip; it is harder than she would have imagined.
Something explodes beneath her.
"Galen!" she gasps into the comlink, her heart in her throat—but there is no answer, there is no answer—
And beneath her fireworks are bursting forth from Palpatine's viewing room—the scanners pick up bursts of frenzied shouting and loud crackles of static—Juno, frantic, pulls the Rogue Shadow around, seeking for Kota and any sign of the rebels. The Shadow can spy on any ship across the galaxy, but it is harder, it seems, to find a handful of rebels amongst the Imperial guards than it is to decrypt a coded message intercepted from a parsec away—
"Juno! Where are you?"
The burst of direct communication startles her. It is Kota. She hones in on the signal, tracks it down, swings the ship around—
"I'm coming," she says. And then: "Is Galen there?"
A pause. She brings the ship down, the boarding ramp opening up; her heart is hammering madly against her ribs. But she is proud of herself—she does not so much as sigh when the response comes.
"Yes," Kota says tersely. "Hurry."
And then there is no more time to think.
It is a rough landing and a rougher take-off; the boarding ramp has barely retracted before Juno is firing up the engines and bringing the ship careening away from the Death Star. "Secure yourselves," she snaps out over the intercom. "We are jumping to hyperspace in approximately two and a half minutes—"
Their shields are, suddenly, down twenty three percent.
She glances at the radar. There is a squadron of TIE fighters on their tail. Juno presses her lips together and thinks. The Rogue Shadow is faster, but only barely, and she is carrying a cargo too precious for capture—
"Secure yourselves now," she orders. "We are making the jump in thirty-three seconds."
Another hit. The diagnostics are beeping furiously at her.
It is the riskiest thing she has ever done. There is no time to check over the jumps. She inputs the coordinates, frantically, and hopes the star maps have not changed; the Rogue Shadow shudders, hums—a barrage of fire comes from behind them—the ship jumps—
—and the serene blue of hyperspace engulfs them.
She does not see Galen until hours later, after repairs have been made and sleeping quarters assigned and rebel senators put to bed; he is in the training room, Kota tells her. Meditating.
But his eyes open the moment she appears in the doorway. "Juno," he says, standing.
"Galen." She hesitates. "Am I disturbing you?"
"No," he says. "Come in."
Juno steps into the room. "I heard you fought Vader," she says. "And Palpatine. How did you get away?"
"The ceiling collapsed on them," Galen admits. "We ran."
"Deus ex machina," Juno murmurs to herself. It is a fragment of a thought in a language eons dead, and it means: miracle. Because it is. He has come back; what are the odds?
"What?" He sounds puzzled.
She nearly smiles. He has fought Vader and Palpatine and come out alive—but here he is, alone with a girl, and he is shy and uncertain as any teenager. "I meant," Juno says, lightly. "I guess I'll have to live up to it after all."
She is always startled by how brave he is.
It is cold on the Rogue Shadow, but she is not cold when he kisses her.
A/N: So there you go. Three endings, huh? They're all true. :) Though I'll let you pick your favorite.
Whew! So glad to be done with this. ::is proud of self:: Thanks to everyone for sticking with me, and special thanks to all my reviewers! Your comments are awesome and I couldn't have done this without your encouragement.