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“There can be no victory without sacrifice. For everything gained, something must also be given away. It is the natural order of the Span we live in. No success comes without loss …. ”

Hazy gray rain fell to the ground in sheets, flooding the cobblestone walkway. Watery-cold wind rippled through Leta's hair and tossed her black dress around her knees. Around her, Fiearius’ old pirate crowd, families and citizens of Vescent, and soldiers and pilots from Carthis all filled the courtyard. Leta planted herself in the back of the crowd, rigid as a statue, as Gates' rough, hoarse voice carried over the audience. Sounds of people crying, sniffling and wiping their eyes, punctuated his words.

“ … we stand here now in the aftermath of a great loss indeed. Much greater than perhaps any of us could have known. Here, in this moment, we are all united. Vescentian, Carthian, Exymerian, Archetian. All of us have suffered to come to this point. All of us have lost. And in our solidarity, we mourn for those that couldn’t be present today. For those that will never be present again. A great loss. A shared pain … “

Fiearius stood beside her shoulder, holding a dripping umbrella over their heads. Leta thought Gates wanted Fiearius up front -- he was probably supposed to give a speech too. Nearly half the ships involved in the battle for Vescent had fought under his name -- but he made no motion to leave her side. She didn't look at him, but she guessed his expression was empty and tired. These days he always looked empty and tired.

“ … In the wake of pain and loss, however, we find hope. A menace has been defeated. A planet, this planet, has been loosed from its shackles of dictatorship and control. The Society influence has been wiped out and Vescent is free. Many lives have been lost, our hearts are broken, our spirits battered, but it is not in vain. Freedom comes at a cost and the price this time was high. But freedom, true freedom, is what we have achieved.”

But they didn't ask for this, Leta thought to herself, with a burn of anger. Vescent was liberated of the Society. But the rebels had done only as she asked them; they didn’t know they were going to their death ...

And then there was Amora. Everytime she thought of her, Leta felt as if a gaping ragged hole punctured her heart. Amora had been the first person to truly welcome Leta aboard the Dionysian. The person who made all the breakfasts and all the dinners, who required that everyone gather twice a day; the person who unabashedly barked at Fiearius to be quiet; who mothered Cyrus and fussed over his hair; who baked Leta a cake and her favorite Vescentian meal on her birthday.

She was dead? How was that possible?

Finally Gates’ speech ended, and the memorial ended with a chime of ringing bells. Slowly the crowd retreated indoors where it was warm and dry.

Leta lingered, sliding a glance to Fiearius. He looked back at her, saying nothing. It had been nearly a month since the day the Dionysian had crash-landed on this planet. A month since the two of them had sprinted for their lives through the streets.

Fading, still-healing cuts marred his face and hands. But even as his body healed, with each passing day, Fiearius was looking less and less like his old self. He looked...older somehow. Quieter. More somber. It was a transformation Leta recognized. She saw it in herself every time she looked in a mirror.

“Do you believe that?” she had to know suddenly. “What Gates was saying? About the dead being the necessary sacrifice for freedom?”

Fiearius didn’t answer at first. He eyed her with a curious thoughtfulness. “Everything has a price,” he said at last. “Do you not believe it?”

“It sounds like bullshit,” she decided. “Something people say to try and make me feel better.”

“Didn’t work then, I guess.”

“No,” she said abruptly. “It didn’t. The rebels didn’t need to die for Vescent to be free. Neither did Amora. Or the people of Archeti. Or Finn -- “ Her voice halted in her throat. “There’s no big important spiritual reason for why he’s suffering right now.”

He nodded, in what she thought might be agreement. Then he sighed, bowed his head and started down the path, gesturing she walk with him.

“Do you know what Ridellians say about death?” he wondered, and Leta admitted that she did not. “They say that when you die, your soul ascends into space. All the souls of the recently passed form a nebula. And that nebula one day, with time, will become a star. A dov’ha. A god. And in that way, each generation takes its place in the pantheon of the skies and continues to shape the future of the Span long after they’ve left it.”

Leta couldn’t help herself. “You die and you become a Ridellian star god?” she muttered, and she could hear the derision in her voice. Fiearius cast her a sideways glance that made her regret her tone. He was, she realized a moment too late, dressed entirely in the Ridellian mourning color and discussing the very culture he’d been raised in. “I thought you weren’t religious,” she added in apology.

He let out a quiet chuckle. “I’m not. And you’re not wrong. It’s ridiculous. And probably made up to make people feel better about the inevitability of our mortality. But.” He shrugged. “There’s something comforting about imagining my cranky chef as a god up there scolding me for all my choices for all eternity.”

Leta felt herself smile for the first time that day. “Maybe you should start praying.”

“Maybe you should too.” Fiearius looked up at the sky and touched two fingers to each of his shoulders. “Better safe than sorry,” he agreed. When his eyes met Leta’s again, his smile faded. “My point is. Maybe bullshit isn’t all that bad.” His stare fell away from her again as he muttered, “If it gets you through the day.”

Leta wasn’t quite she was making it through the day. At least not this day.

“Maybe,” she said quietly.

They stood in silence, save for the rain hitting the umbrella above their heads. For a moment Leta thought he was going to reach out to her -- he was watching her closely and expectantly -- but all he did was clear his throat.

“Anyway. Gates won’t let me hear the end of it if the Dionysian leaves tonight without me having a chat with him first.” He handed her the umbrella. She took it, but he didn’t let go just yet and caught her eye. “I’ll see you later, okay?”

Leta nodded, watching over her shoulder as he retreated from her. Quite simply, she had no idea what to do next; no clear inclination of where to go or who to see. Perhaps she’d head to her old room in the Dionysian? Or find her childhood home on Fall’s End? For several seconds she stood alone blankly, the rain drumming on the umbrella, until she blinked and realized Cyrus and Addy were watching her from beneath an overhang.

Cyrus looked worried as she approached. “Does he seem alright to you?”

“About as alright as can be expected.”

Cyrus didn’t look appeased, but then Addy broke in, her voice gentle, “And how about you, Leta?”

The question caught her off guard. Was she alright? The bruises that had covered her neck and arms were gone. Her wounds had faded toward scars. There were few physical indicators left that she’d been in a battle at all. But that hadn’t prevented the chronic nightmares that haunted her whenever she shut her eyes. Dark visions of a burning city, rivers of blood and the looming face of Arleth Morgan. And that was only when she could sleep at all.

But all she said was, “I’ll be fine.” And as Cyrus nodded at her second unsatisfying response, Leta was pressed to fill the silence with something less personal. “So the Dionysian’s all fixed now? I’m surprised, that was quite a crash.”

Cyrus grimaced and Leta thought she saw a touch of guilt in his face. Fortunately for him, Addy responded on his behalf. “Oh, it wasn’t so bad actually. The hull took some brunt force, but the engine was mostly intact. She’s stable enough to limp back to the CORS to get her body refitted.”

Leta muttered something about that being good news, Cyrus nodded his agreement and long silence lapsed once more. It seemed to be happening a lot lately. Moments when no one knew what to say. Uncertainty dominated. Until finally someone broke.

This time it was Cyrus. “What’d you think of the service?”

“It was fine,” said Leta vaguely. Then she cracked a wry smile. “I liked ours better.”

The night before, they’d had one final dinner together in the mess hall of the Dionysian. Candles had been lit, Fiearius cooked a tremendous meal and Maya opened a bottle of bourbon and led a toast to the lost member of their crew. It was a somber affair that had ended with unexpected news: as she held Cyrus’ hand and smiled nervously, Addy announced that she was pregnant.

The whole room erupted in happy gasps. Cyrus looked like he was about to faint from anxiety, but he was also grinning from ear-to-ear. For the first time in days, Leta smiled, too.

Staring at the soon-to-be-parents, huddled together beneath the flowing gutter, Leta asked, “So -- what’s next for you two then?”

Cyrus cast Addy a furtive look, but she smiled at him which seemed to be his cue to answer. “We’re not really sure,” he admitted, but didn’t sound all that bothered. “For now, we’re just going to get the Dionysian back to the station. And from there?” He looked over at Addy and slipped her hand into his. “Just...figure it out I guess.”

Leta couldn’t help but mirror their smiles. But it was wiped away the moment Cyrus turned to her and asked the one question she’d been dreading. “What about you?”

Luckily, Leta was saved the trouble from answering: just then, a Carthian officer approached, entering their fold.

“Dr. Adler, Mr. Solivere, Ms. Atelier. I apologize for the interruption, but I have good news. We’ve received word from the station’s med team.” The man smiled. “Finnegan Riley’s latest surgery was a success. They’re reporting that he’s finally stable and in recovery.”


 

The bright white room was blurry, and it slowly swam into view, as if he were coming up from underwater. Finn opened his eyes and found himself lying against the stiff pillows of a hospital bed. His whole body ached, but his abdomen was absolutely throbbing with a dull, pulsating pain that made his face twist into a grimace.

The light grew less blinding and he began to survey his surroundings. An infirmary. Not the Beacon’s. A Carthian insignia formed a dark blur on a nearby wall. And beside it, seated in a plastic chair with a magazine in her hands, was a woman with turquoise hair he recognized instantly.

"What the hell happened?" he tried to ask Alyx, but his voice came out as more of a groan. She looked up at him at first in wide-eyed surprise, then overwhelming relief and finally, a wide grin broke over her face.

“Oh thank God, you’re finally awake,” she breathed, tossing her magazine to the floor and standing to her feet. “They said it would be any time now, they said it would work and you’d wake up but I didn’t really--y’know--believe them.” She reached around his head to straighten out his pillows. “How do you feel? Are you comfortable? Can I get you anything? Food? Water? Well I guess that’s what the IV is for--”

With a great effort, Finn held up a hand to silence her. She clamped her mouth shut and he managed, “What happened?

“You don’t remember?” She tilted her head and smiled sadly. “Oh, Finn. You’ve been in and out of surgery for nearly a month. Unconscious the rest of the time. We almost lost you.” Apparently feeling this story was worthy of some gravity, she sat down on the edge of his bed. “You got stabbed. Callahan. He got you real good.”

“Bastard,” said Finn absently, his voice was hoarse, like he’d been out all night in a smokey bar. Now that she mentioned it, the story felt familiar. The man’s face flashed in his mind’s eye. The knife. The blood. It was all coming back to him. Except …

“How’d I get here?”

“Corra found you and dragged you back to the Beacon.”

“Corra,” he repeated quietly. His vision was coming in more clearly now, and he realized the room was absent the person he wanted to see most. “Where is she? Please tell me she’s giving Callahan what he deserves.”

Suddenly, Alyx’s expression fell. Apology stirred in her eyes.

“Maybe?” she guessed, and Finn was instantly suspicious.

“What do you mean, ‘maybe’?”

She averted her eyes and fiddled nervously with the edge of the blanket. In a quiet voice he’d never heard Alyx use, she began, “Finn … ” which made worry bolt through him.

Grimacing through the white-hot pain in his middle, he lifted his head and sat up. “What happened? She -- she’s alright?”

“Maybe. I don’t really know. I think she’s alright, I hope--”

“Alyx,” Finn cut her off sharply. “Where. Is. Corra?”

“I’m sorry, Finn,” Alyx whispered. “She left.”

Her words hung in the air heavily.

“Left?”

“She wouldn’t say where to. Just that she had to go. And then--she left. Caught a ride on a Carthian cruiser and -- look, I’m sorry, she just completely disappeared.”

“So she’s not with the Beacon,” Finn finished, trying to wrap his head around this news. “She left the Beacon. When -- when I was like this?!” he growled. “I can’t even get out of bed! What about our ship?”

Alyx’s forehead creased in confusion. “Finn, the Beacon’s fine. It’s just docked for now and the crew’s--”

“Who’s taking care of it?”

“I am,” Alyx hurriedly explained. “Just until you’re better. You really shouldn’t get so worked up, in your condition --”

But Finn was already shaking his head. “This is insane. We have to find her. Contact her and make sure she’s alright and bring her back here.”

“She doesn’t want to be found, Finn.”

“Why did you let her leave?!” he demanded.

“I didn’t let her leave,” Alyx snapped. “She told me she was leaving and she left, I wasn’t exactly in a position to stop her.”

“Did you even try?!

“Of course I tried! But she’d already made up her mind. She--she said she had to go. That she--” Here, Alyx inhaled shakily. “That she couldn’t face you after what she’d done.”

“What she’d done?” he repeated, sitting up straighter. “What does that mean?”

Alyx shook her head. “I don’t know exactly. I think she blamed herself for your injury. But--there was something else. She--did something or, I don’t know, gave something to the Society? Something that lead to--Archeti…”

“Archeti,” Finn interrupted, closing his eyes. A wave of sickly nausea made his head swim. “What happened?”

The look on Alyx’s face said it all. As did the reluctance in her voice when she mumbled, “They’re already planning to rebuild  … ”

“How many?” he pressed quietly. His voice was growing thin. “How many people were lost?”

Alyx’s voice -- he could not believe it, he’d never seen her like this -- cracked and splintered with emotion. “There are only estimations,” she said. Tears threatened her. “Too many. Far too many, Finn, they--” Her eyes clamped shut and she clenched her fists. “They say millions…”

“Millions?” he heard himself mumble, feeling lost and numb. What was she even saying? He wracked his memory for some understanding. The stabbing, he remembered. Corra finding him, that was coming back. Then--the earthquake?

“It’s gone, Finn,” Alyx croaked, shaking her head and brushing tears from her eyes. “Archeti’s gone.”

Finn had no words. He couldn’t even think. Corra was gone, Archeti was gone, his home, his family. He’d been stabbed and nearly dead for a month and now that he was finally awake, everything had changed. Everything was different. More empty.

In that moment, he felt none of the pain that was plaguing him, no sorrow for his losses, no despair. He was merely a husk of a person, a shell, and he fell back on his pillows with a soft thump as Alyx quietly took his hand and squeezed.


 

“So! What do you think of the new facilities, then?” Gates asked briskly, surprisingly energetic for a man his age, and a man who had just led a huge memorial service. Fiearius followed him down the long narrow hallway, looking around the new space.

Soon after the attacks, the Carthians had begun to build a makeshift base in the old Society docking complex. It hadn’t looked like much then, but as they walked through it now, it was beginning to look a little more sturdy.

“It’s...nice,” Fiearius commented as he peered through the doors they walked by to see what was inside. Lots of green fatigues and Carthian tech by the looks of it. “I guess.”

“This section is being converted into offices for those assigned to the rebuilding of Vescent,” Gates explained, either oblivious or purposely ignoring Fiearius’ skepticism. “We’ll move the barracks from the east wing out to the subsidiary building and there’ll be a whole new meeting room where they are now.”

Fiearius could only nod in vague interest. Frankly he wasn’t that concerned about Gates’ decorating plans. He was more concerned at the moment with the young cadet busy painting a stencil of the Carthian insignia on the wall. He wrinkled his nose in disgust.

“This is all starting to seem very permanent,” he pointed out dryly.

Gates cast him a look. “As permanent as it needs to be,” he replied, his voice even. “Vescent is in shambles. You’re aware of that. We may have liberated the planet from the Society but it still has a ways to go in terms of recovery. The least we can do is oversee and help them through that process.”

“Sure, of course,” Fiearius agreed, still nodding slowly as they continued on through the complex. “Just thought it might be nice to get some Vescentians in here. They might have some opinions. Since it’s their planet and all.”

Gates stopped walking and regarded Fiearius with a kind of amused curiosity. “Captain, we have every intention of bringing in a chorus of Vescentian voices in the coming days. This is their home and Carthis intends to keep it that way. We’re here to help. Nothing more.”

Fiearius paused a few yards down and looked back at him. “And I’m sure Vescent being a key strategic position against Ellegy and Exymeron have nothing to do with it,” he mused, tilting his head at him. Gates, however, just laughed.

“If we’re going to continue to work together, we’re really going to have to work on those Satieran biases of yours,” he remarked as he joined Fiearius and they matched their strides again.

“Nah,” said Fiearius with a lopsided grin. “Keeps ya on your toes.”

“Indeed it does,” he agreed. “And on that note, now that your ship is back in order, we’ll have to soon discuss next steps."

Fiearius nodded. “The Society’s probably already got something cooking. I’m sure there’ll be little doubt what comes next if we wait long enough for them to put it in action.”

“I’m afraid you could be right. We’re at war now. A sloppy start to one. But a war nonetheless.” Gates pushed open the door and Fiearius was met with a gust of cold wind as they stepped back out onto the streets of Fall’s End. The rain had finally let up, but the ground was shiny and wet and the air smelled like the salty sea. Together they stood looking out at the skyline, hazy and cloudy as it was.

Finally, Gates turned to him. “It’s good to have you on our side, captain.”

Fiearius glanced over at him. Gates was a strange character, one he had yet to fully figure out. He seemed to transcend Fiearius’ natural distrust of Carthians, but he wasn’t so transcendant that Fiearius would say he trusted him. The jury, as it were, was still decidedly out. But he was certain of one thing.

He smirked at the man and shrugged his shoulders. “It’s good to have a side to be on.”


 

“Is it always this fuckin’ cold here?” Fiearius grunted, rubbing his palms together as he trotted down the stairs toward the water. Leta laughed.

“It’s spring. This is actually unseasonably warm.”

Leta guessed it did not feel particularly warm to Fiearius. A salty breeze rose as they walked the docks toward the Dionysian. Purple clouds swirled overhead, and there was a hint of thunder in the air. Forks of lightning lanced across the sky.

Slowing to a halt, Leta suddenly felt an odd pang: she really was home again.

Fiearius must have noticed the look on her face. “You alright?”

“It’s just strange. Being here.” She looked back at the city, much dimmer than she remembered. Power was still out in some areas. A few buildings that had once dominated the skyline hadn’t survived the battle. It was Fall’s End, but --

“Part of me feels like I never even left at all. And the other part has never felt so out of place in my life.”

He moved to join her at her side. “The woe of the well-traveled I suppose,” he muttered thoughtfully, shoving his hands into his coat pockets.

Suddenly, as she gazed over the dark churning water, she was struck with a memory. “Did you know this is where we first met?”

“What, Vescent?” He eyed her suspiciously. “Yeah, pretty sure I was aware of that.”

“But here, specifically.” She took a few steps further into the dock. “Right here. This is where the Dionysian was. Dock C.”

Fiearius followed her, his brow drawn together in astonishment. “How the hell do you remember that?”

Because she’d never forget it, she thought at once. She remembered that day in vivid, colorful detail: she’d agreed to follow a panic-stricken Cyrus to this very spot to help his injured brother. On the Dionysian’s ramp stood a towering figure, his handsome face dark and twisted in pain as he’d yelled over the sound of the rushing waves. It was her first image of Fiearius. I should’ve known, Leta thought absently, that you would be trouble.

Aloud, all she said was, “It was only a year ago.”

“Just a year? Feels much longer, you’re fucking exhausting.”

Leta just shook her head, ignoring him.

“I wonder if it would have gone differently,” Leta felt herself mumble. “On Vescent. If I’d been here the whole time, I mean. If I could have helped the riots, or actually done something, or … ”

“Hey.” Fiearius’ voice was sharp, and his eyes burned on her face. “You did do something. We wouldn’t be standing here if it weren’t for you.”

Leta felt herself nod, but it was an empty sentiment. Since she’d killed Morgan, it felt like the Carthians had talked of little else. Their praise made her uneasy, almost nauseous; little did they know, there was nothing heroic about how she’d killed him. She’d been backed into a corner like an injured bleeding animal, fighting for her own life and no one else’s, and she’d barely slipped away. But the Carthians acted like she’d assassinated the man for Vescent, and that Delia had died honorably ...

“Speaking of your valiant efforts,” Fiearius said suddenly. “I almost forgot. Gates asked me to give you this.”

He slid his hand into his coat pocket and withdrew something. It was a small white-gold pin, shining even in the dim light, shaped like the Carthian ignisia. In cursive it read:

Dr. Leta Ella Adler

Awarded for Special Services to the Carthian Military

Special services -- for killing a Councillor, no doubt. Leta’s stomach clenched. Like she needed another reminder of that horrible day.

“He wanted to have the whole ceremony for you,” Fiearius went on. “I told him it wasn’t your style. So here.”

But Leta shook her head, eyebrows raised. “I don’t want it. I definitely don’t want it. Just drop it in the water for me, will you?”

Fiearius regarded her with amusement. Then, to her surprise, he closed his fist and slipped the pin back into his pocket for safe-keeping.

A beat of expectation passed between them, and Leta realized this was it; there was no reason to linger any longer. This was the goodbye.

“So,” he said, more quietly. “You’re really staying here then.”

“I have to,” Leta said, finding it rather difficult to look him in the eye. She stared at his collarbone instead. “You’d stay too, if your home was in shambles.”

Hours earlier, Gates had asked her to stay and help rebuild Vescent, and how could she refuse? If she stayed on the Dionysian, it would be purely for selfish reasons, purely because that was where Fiearius was and there was no reason to pretend differently. Pushing that thought aside, Leta said quickly, “But what about you? Where will you be off to after your ship’s good as new?”

“Not too sure yet. I’ll let all those fancy Carthian strategists figure that out for the most part. But at some point I’m probably gonna have to hunt down Dez and Varisian. If she’s even still alive…”

Fiearius had told Leta what had happened on that rooftop after she’d left. The fight, the rescue, the defeat. And then he’d left Ophelia with Dez who had promised to deliver her to the Dionysian. Unsurprisingly, Leta had thought, neither of them ever made it to the ship.

“Where do you think they went?”

“Gods, not a clue.” Fiearius dug a hand into his hair and shook his head. “I stopped understanding that man’s motivations a decade ago. But I don’t like this ‘could show up anytime without notice’ situation we’ve got going on right now.”

“At least you’ve got a nice big Carthian posse looking out for you now,” she pointed out with a bit of a smile. She knew better than anyone how Fiearius felt about that.

“They tried to assign me a bodyguard,” he groaned. “Can you believe that? Me? With a bodyguard. I get security, sure, but these people take it way too far.”

“I’ve heard they’re going to start enforcing a more strict lockdown here after that Society ship got through last week,” Leta muttered thoughtfully. “No incoming or outgoing ships whatsoever starting next month. Even Carthian.” After a pause, she muttered, “The Dionysian won’t be coming back for a while.”

She could feel Fiearius watching her intently. After a moment, he asked, “You sure you don’t want to come?”

Internally, Leta knew it was not too late. She could have left her home behind again, climbed aboard the Dionysian and just let the Carthians rebuild Vescent without her.

In a lighter voice than she felt, Leta said, “I couldn’t. We already got your new physician all settled in. Don’t want to stop on any toes.”

Fiearius grunted in disgust. “A doctor and a Carthian. The two things I hate most.”

“I know.”

They exchanged mute smirks. Leta felt hers ease slowly from her face as she wondered how long they could do this, how long could they possibly extend this goodbye? Already, she could hear the Dionysian's crew moving through the cargo bay, prepping the ramp, readying for departure ...

Fiearius must have heard it, too. In hastened silence they regarded one another. Then, as if a silent, sad decision had been agreed upon, Fiearius drew closer, leaning in; Leta stepped toward him and lifted her heels; their lips brushed with some trepidation, before they melted into a familiar rhythm. It was a slow burn of a kiss, as if they had all the time in the world to stand together on the dock. His hand gently grasped the side of her face and Leta barely realized her fingers were clasping the edge of his jacket to keep him close.

Slowly, reluctantly, they slowed and parted lips, even as they held onto one another. Leta could feel his lips drag away from hers as she exhaled, eyes closed.

Finally, Fiearius eased away from their embrace, his expression dark and unreadable.

"Take care of yourself, alright?" he muttered, sliding his hand out from hers as he turned away. It made her chest ache to watch, but Leta did not blink as he walked up the ramp, glanced over his shoulder and went out of sight.

For several minutes more Leta stood alone on the dock, listening to the rolling waves and watching as the Dionysian rumbled awake and then slowly lifted from the water, disappearing into the cloudy sky.

END OF PART 2


Caelum Lex Pt. 2 Chapter 51: The Long Goodbye
Caelum Lex, the sci-fi, adventure, action, romance, space pirate serial! Chapter 51 of Part 2! In which we wrap things up for part 2! Caelum Lex will be taking a short lil hiatus, but we'll be back with Part 3 on November 14th! Seeya then!

First: Caelum Lex Chapter 1: Medical Attention
Previous: Caelum Lex Pt. 2 Chapter 50: Morgan
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Shaggy by khronosabre
Shaggy
Remember when Fiear was messed up for a month and grew a bunch of shaggy hair and a crappy beard? 

I remember.

Caelum Lex, a sci-fi web serial
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Leta was frozen.

Her gun was in her hand, her finger poised on the cold metal trigger, but she couldn't pull it. She couldn't even aim properly. The weapon vibrated in her shaking grip and, as if of its own accord, refused to be pointed at the man advancing towards her. But it wasn't the gun fighting, it was herself. What was she even thinking? She couldn't shoot Arleth Morgan. She couldn't shoot a Society Councillor. She admired him - his strength, his courage to fight for the Society. Why would she ever want to hurt him?

"Now now, Ms. Adler. No need for violence," said Morgan, still smiling. He held out his broad sweaty palm. "I'll take that if you don't mind."

Of course she didn't mind. Without hesitation, she set her weapon into the man's palm. He smiled at her with a twist of smug self-satisfaction as he unloaded the gun and placed it neatly on the console beside them.

Seeing the gun sitting there, useless and out of reach, sent a sudden bolt of panic through her. Logic came rushing back. She was in enemy territory, sabotaging their defenses. She had a job to do, a mission to complete and she had just handed her main defense to a godsdamned Society Councillor, what the hell was she-

Morgan must have noticed the expression of pained confusion across her face. "You passed through our docks recently, didn't you?" he asked thoughtfully. The curious smirk he gave her made it clear he found this a lot more amusing than she did. "So what do you think? I'm not really versed in the sciences myself, but I've been quite impressed by the work our ARC team has been doing. I would love to get your medical opinion."

"ARC?" Leta breathed. "That's what - that's why I'm - "

Her mind swam. The innocuous shot of fluid that had turned Fiearius into a raving nutcase, Ren into his polar opposite and was now freeing Leta's own mind and allowing her to see clearly for the first time in over a year.

No. She backed up on her heels, stepping back toward the door, desperate to get out.

Morgan let out a low hearty chuckle as he slowly paced a circle around her. "I'm afraid it's no use, Ms. Adler," he told her simply. "Fight it as you might, you know the truth. You can trust me. I have your best interests in mind."

Of course he did, Leta realized, sharply halting in her tracks. He was a Society Councillor, one of their fearless leaders. It was an honor to even be permitted in his presence. After all, it was a privilege rarely afforded anyone.

"Have a seat, Ms. Adler," Morgan said quietly and Leta immediately dropped into the nearest chair.

He stopped pacing and glanced down at her curiously. "Actually, stand up," he said, and Leta shot up to her feet.

A slow grin spread across his ruddy red face. "Perfect."


"Drop something?"

Fiearius glimpsed the gun in Ophelia's hand, and he knew he only had fractions of a second to act before a bullet made its way through his skull. His body throbbed, blood streamed down his arms and face, and Ophelia was as sharp, relentless and lightning-fast as she'd ever been. They'd once joked back on Satieri that her desire to take his job was so fierce that she would one day kill him herself just to make a vacancy.

It didn't seem quite so funny now.

As he froze on a Vescentian rooftop, a battle waging above him and below him and around him, his mind turned first to whether or not dying here would make a good ending to his story. The location could have been better, but the timing was actually quite fitting. Fiearius Soliveré, rogue Verdant, killed in the midst of the first decisive action against the Society's rule since the Second Division War. Shot in the head by his long-time nemesis. Yeah. He could die with that.

And then, as those fractions came to an end, his thoughts went somewhere else. They went to Leta, wherever she was right now, hopefully where she needed to be, getting this operation over with. He could see her face now, screwed up into anger as she scolded him for letting Ophelia get the better of him. "You really let her kill you?" she'd ask indignantly. "Her? Gods, Fiearius, you're better than that!"

And Gods, he wished she was right.

Fortunately she didn't have to be. Just as his time came to a close and he expected the bang, an anti-climactic ping rang out across the sky and was followed by a shout of pain as Ophelia dropped the gun and seized her hand as it started to soak with red.

Fiearius, who had been mid-stagger when his near-death crisis occurred, finished the stumble backwards and looked around wildly for the source of his good luck. Had Leta ignored his order and come back? Had his crew recovered from the crash and come after him? Was it just some rebel who happened to be in the right place at the right time?

But when Fiearius laid eyes on his savior, running across the adjacent rooftop and leaping the gap onto his then charging towards Ophelia and slapping her in the back of the head with the butt end of a rifle, it was not Leta nor Harper nor any Vescentian passerby at all.

"Dez?" Fiearius exclaimed, unable to believe it. He hadn't seen nor heard from nor spoken to his ex-partner, ex-enemy, ex-friend, ex-everything since he'd kicked him off the Dionysian nearly two months ago. And now he was here. Dodging Ophelia's wild kick and and swinging his fist towards her face.

"Have you been following us?" he yelled, shell-shocked. "How? What the hell are you doing here?!"

Dez didn't look up as he shouted back, "Making sure you don't die."

There was no time for questions. Ophelia jumped back on her feet, bleeding from scratches on her face, but apparently still energized enough to lash out at him with her sword again and again. He barely avoided each swipe, taking hasty steps back and using his rifle to block the blade.

Dez may have been tough, but Fiearius knew from personal experience that he was no scrapper. Exhausted as he was, he launched himself forward, aiming to restrain Ophelia's sword arm before one of her strikes made it through his defensive.

But she was ready.

He was mere inches from grabbing her forearm when she suddenly spun around, turning on him and making a thin but deep slice across his hand. He recoiled, but her refocus gave Dez an in. He elbowed her in the chest and used the momentum to plant his fist in her abdomen. As she doubled over, Fiearius forgot the pain in his hand and full-on tackled her with his whole body. She fell backwards onto the cement and Fiearius pinned her wrists to the ground. Dez, taking his cue, reached down and tore the sword from her restrained hand and tossed it to the side with a clatter.

Beneath him, Ophelia writhed and struggled, trying desperately to break free of Fiearius' grip, but this time, gravity and weight were on his side. She couldn't budge.

Not that it stopped her from trying. "Would you cut it out?" he growled, exasperated. In response, she hissed a spit into his face.

"Out of the way, Fiearius," said the voice behind him. Fiearius looked up to find the end of a rifle about three inches from his face, pointing right at Ophelia's temple.

"Dez, what the-don't!" Fiearius exclaimed.

"She tried to kill you, Fiearius," he said sharply. "Again. Your misplaced sense of mercy will be your end."

He couldn't argue. And last time they'd met, Fiearius had indeed promised that he would never again be so forgiving. And yet-

"Don't," he said again as Ophelia finally started to let up her rabid fighting to free herself. She was watching him with the stare of a predator just waiting to see what their prey would do next. "We can't just kill her. We were her, Dez. And we could use her."

Desophyles clenched his jaw. He kept his rifle trained on her face and fell eerily silent. Until finally, much to Fiearius' surprise, he dropped it to his side.

"Fine, then what do you suggest?" he snapped impatiently. "The moment you let her go, she'll have her hands around your throat. So what are you going to do?" He looked between the two of them. "Rehabilitate her? Right here on this rooftop?"

Fiearius rolled his eyes. Although at the moment, he didn't really have a better solution. He looked down at the woman beneath him and she just glared back with all the hatred in the Span. What was his plan?


"Funny," said Arleth Morgan gently, "how we've come to this."

He walked a slow circle around the room, never taking his cold grey eyes from her. "So long you've been a thorn in my side. That pesky little itch that wouldn't go away. And now look at us." He paused beside Leta's shoulder and grinned at her. "Just like old friends, aren't we?"

Leta felt hollow and blissfully empty, as if her every doubt and worry had been wiped cleanly from her memory.

"Yes, sir," she said.

"I was very worried, you know. When you left Vescent," he went on. "I knew you didn't believe the stories about Calimore's death, of course. Stubborn as you were. But at least here, you were contained. At least I could keep an eye on you. But then you ran off - on a pirate ship of all things? And you-" Leta felt his fingers gently brush down her arm, "-slipped from my grasp."

Morgan shook his head sadly and kept pacing. "And what was I to do? This woman, engaged to a traitor, loose in the Span? What did she know? How much had Calimore said? He at least was detained. He was manageable. You." He pointed his finger at her and shook it slowly. "You were always just a loose cannon, waiting to go off, weren't you?"

Leta felt a burn of shame at his words. Gods, had she even known how much of a threat she had been? She should have turned herself in months ago, what was she thinking? And Ren. Gods, Ren. That traitorous bastard, spreading lies about the Society's good name. She had been engaged to that monster?

"I'm sorry, sir," she said at once. "Ren didn't tell me anything. And I would never have said anything anyway. I would never betray the Society." But she had. She had come here to do just that. The realization made her stomach twist.

But Morgan was just nodding in solidarity. "I know, Leta, I know. Your dedication is commendable," he assured her before reaching out and grasping her shoulder. "But you know...you have to die."

Leta's eyes widened on him. She had to-? At once, her mind revolted. No, no no, that couldn't be right, she couldn't die, she had to-

But he was right. She knew that. She was a risk. She had to die. She aimed her eyes on his face and nodded. "I know, sir."

Morgan choked back a laugh. When she looked up at him, he admitted, "This is just so much fun though," which didn't make sense to her, but who was she to question him? He released his grip and turned his back on her. "You're very difficult to kill, you know."

"I'm sorry, sir," Leta said, regret and apology in her voice.

"My assassins on Tarin didn't even get close. The bounty hunters that chased you from station to station? Useless, greedy fucks," he went on, his tone growing more agitated the more he spoke. "I still believe the Mariah was the perfect trap. A plague ship? How could she resist, I thought. But that Soliveré whelp managed to release it before it could be sprung."

He growled in frustration and started to pace faster. "Even on my own turf, amongst my own people, you manage to elude me," he spat angrily. "How long were you on Vescent?"

"A week, sir."

"A week!" Morgan cried, clenching his fist. His face grew red. "A week and not a single agent notices. And now here you stand." He looked over at her, and sudden cruelty blazed in his eyes. "Your throat practically bared before me." He took a decisive step towards her. "I could slit it now and you would go willingly." He reached out his hand as though to choke her, but the flesh never touched. His hand hovered inches from her neck, quivering with tension until finally he ripped it away.

"Sit down," he ordered again as he tore across the room away from her.

Leta did as she was told. He glanced back and snapped, "Stand up." She did. "Knock over the chair." It tumbled to the ground in a clatter.

And then they stood in silence, watching each other. Leta was desperately eager, she wanted nothing more than to appease him, to make up for her sins, redeem herself in his eyes. He was upset, that much she could see, but she didn't know what to do. His eyes focused on her and she could see a kind of realization starting to dawn in his eyes. And the tiniest hint of a smile.

"Slap yourself in the face," he said. Without a second's pause, Leta lifted her arm and left a burning red mark across her cheek.

"Harder," he said quietly, and Leta tried again. Half her face burned in protest, but a chuckle escaped from his lips. Then his eyes traveled down to her waist.

"That knife." He nodded to the long dagger she had sheathed at her hip. "Draw it."

The hilt was in her hands in an instant, and his grin spread.

"Drag its blade across your palm." Leta winced as she made the cut, but the pain didn't stop her then, nor when she obeyed, "Now make a fist," and the blood seeped between her fingers.

"Very good, very good," he said softly. After a moment's pause, he mused, "You'll do anything I say, won't you?"

"Of course, sir," said Leta. "Anything for the good of the Society."

A flash of irritation passed over his face. "Yes, yes, indeed," he wrote her off shortly. "Tell me, the ships attacking our beautiful city. Whose are they?"

"Carthis," she answered at once. "With some help from Utada and a few others."

"And do you agree with the attack?"

Leta was gripped with disgust. "No. Of course not, they're scum!"

"They are," he agreed. "And the rioters?"

"Trash," she spat. "They deserve nothing but death and shame."

"And who should rule?" he pressed eagerly, coming even closer. His foul breath splashed on her collarbone, their noses almost touched. "Who? Who is best for Vescent?"

"The Society," she replied firmly. But she knew it wasn't the answer he wanted. Hesitant, carefully, she amended, "You should rule Vescent, sir."

Morgan's expression of intensity shifted toward a broad grin.

"That's right, my dear, that's right." He lifted one hand to cup her cheek. His other hand, she realized dimly, was unfastening his belt buckle. Absent feeling and concern, Leta stood in obedience as he went on, "And your mistake. The Rogue Verdant. What of him?"

"Fiearius Soliveré," Leta said, "deserves only - "

Execution, she finished in her head. Fiearius Soliveré, high traitor that he was, deserved execution. There was no doubt in her mind of that.

But the word caught in her throat like bile. Breath halted in her nostrils. Why couldn't she say it?

What was she even saying?

The thought of Fiearius brought to mind the image she had of him locked in combat with Ophelia on some rooftop a mile away. It brought back that terror that that would be the last image she'd ever have of him. That he could die there as she turned and ran.

And from there, sprouted other memories. Fighting at his side in the heart of Blackwater, walking hand in hand with him in the streets of Tarin, lying in his bed as he turned strands of her hair around his fingers and told her stories of Satieri. The story of Internal Affairs. The story of his lost son as silent tears rolled down both of their faces. The story of his exile. The pain of losing one's home that she herself could understand. Her home. Vescent. Where she stood now on the precipice of liberation.

It was as if floodgates had been opened. Everything came back all at once. Not just thoughts of Fiearius, but of Cyrus, Corra, the Dionysian, the last year of her life all came into focus and she knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that what was happening, here, this, wasn't right.

Leta told herself to breathe as panic burned through her. Eyes closed, she heard Arleth Morgan say, "Yes, my dear?" while she swiftly took in the horrible scenario: Arleth Morgan, a Society Councillor, the scourge that had taken her home to begin with, stood before her, nauseatingly close.

She wanted nothing more than to recoil from his touch and pummel her fist into his face. But her gun was halfway across the room, out of reach, and Morgan was double her size. There was still a knife in her hand, but she needed to play this carefully. If he was going to kill her, and surely he would the moment she attacked, she needed to finish the mission first.

So she snapped open her eyes and finished, strong as she could, "Execution! Fiearius Soliveré should be executed.." As though this line of thought impassioned her so greatly she couldn't bear it, she tore away from him and started to pace the room angrily. "The scum, fooling me for so long, I'm ashamed of myself."

Leta was hesitant to glance back at Morgan for fear that he would see through the act. If anything, he seemed annoyed that she had separated from him. But if his response was any indication, he was buying it.

"It's not your fault, Leta," he assured her, reaching out and grasping her shoulder again, pulling her back towards him. Her heart was pounding in her chest, but she forced herself to go on.

"It is my fault," she argued fiercely, ripping away once more and, praying he didn't grow suspicious, crossed towards the console where she slammed her fist down in frustration. "I should have known better. I shouldn't have been tricked. I'm weak," she insisted as her eyes frantically scanned the screen as she did some very quick thinking.

On the screen, the Verdant's CID was still logged in. The menu before her was where she needed to be. She just had to find the defense controls. Find them and shut them off. Without him noticing.

Ever so carefully, she reached her thumb out of her clenched fist and hit the option for the missile controls. Another menu sprang up and she cursed the Society for burying these controls in so many layers.

"But that's why I'm here to help you," Morgan was saying. She could feel him approaching her from behind. Hastily, she scrolled through the options. "I'm here to reform you."

"Can I even be reformed? After all I've done?" Leta asked, sounding as torn up as she could as she manically searched for what she was looking for. He was practically upon her now.

Target calibration? No. Pressure monitors? No. She could practically feel his breath on her neck. But finally, she laid eyes on what she needed. Manual emergency shutdown. Her thumb tapped it, the screen shifted to read 'Please Scan CID for Identity Confirmation' and her heart leapt into her throat as heavy hands seized her shoulders and spun her around so that she was face to face with Morgan once more, locked in his grip.

"Oh," he whispered, leaning in to her ear. "I think you can…"

For one piercing second, they regarded each other heatedly. Then, in one flash of a motion, Leta reached back and slapped the copied Verdant CID onto the scanner with a 'thwap.' The console let out a high-pitched ding and a droning voice said, "Ground-to-air Missile Defense - inactive. Manual activation required for reset."

Morgan's eyes went wide and Leta couldn't help but grin as she said, "No, sir. I really don't think so," as she gripped the hilt of her knife and swung it straight at his chest.


The rooftop shuddered, like it was a boat on a rocky sea, when the first bomb hit.

Fiearius had wrangled Ophelia to her feet, holding onto her wrists as though his life depended on it (and in some ways, it did). As the roof shook, he peered out at the smoking spot at the horizon in wide-eyed wonder.

She did it. Leta had done it.

Only moments later, Carthian ships started to puncture the cloud cover. The second explosion followed. This one, further away, but the great bellow of the Nautilus' containment hangar collapsing in on itself reached his ears even from here.

Dez was suddenly at his side. "I'm guessing that means we won," he remarked dryly. Fiearius cast him a tired look, overwhelmed by relief. Now, those Carthian ships would bring soldiers to sweep up the mess and finish this once and for all. They had already won. Vescent was theirs.

Then why did he feel so uneasy?

Adjusting his hold on Ophelia to one hand, his other hand went to the COMM in his ear. "Leta? Leta, you read?" He waited impatiently for her response. "I'm fine, I did it, we're done," he wanted to hear her say.

But only ringing silence met his ears.

"Leta?" he said again. "Leta. Come in."

Nothing.

His stomach twisted and his eyes swung to Dez.

"I need to get to her," he said.

She was clearly alive, she'd completed her task. Her COMM had probably just fallen out or shut off or maybe the control room she was in blocked its signal. There were many logical explanations. She was probably fine. But for some reason, he just felt an unbearable need to have her in his sights and be absolutely sure. And if there was one thing Fiearius had learned over his years of reckless danger, it was to trust his instincts no matter how much sense they made.

But there was still the matter of his silent captive. Ophelia had said nothing since he'd first restrained her, only shooting him furious glares every few seconds. He couldn't let her go, but if he did what he should have and took her back to his ship to lock her up for later? That was a lot of time risking what might have been Leta's safety.

And then Dez said, "I'll take care of Varisian."

Fiearius' eyes narrowed at him, immediately suspicious. "You mean shoot her?"

Dez rolled his eyes as he came closer. "No. I'll take her to the Dionysian for you. Unless it's too shattered from that ungraceful fall from the sky you made."

Fiearius didn't even choose to acknowledge the slight. His itch to find Leta was only heightening and, fearing the worst, he would take any out afforded him. Even if it was from Dez.

"The ship's about a mile that way," Fiearius snapped, forcing Ophelia's arms into Dez's hands. "Put her in the containment unit next to the cargo bay. Harper will know where it is."

Dez readjusted his grip on Ophelia, who was still watching Fiearius with vicious anger. "Aye aye, cap'n," he muttered dryly, but Fiearius wasn't listening. As soon as he was free, he tore off across the rooftops towards the defense building where Leta hopefully still was. Alive.

In the distance, the third bomb went off and the city shuddered.


Leta narrowly side-stepped the massive fist flying at her face. She gasped and stumbled to the left as the mountain of a man that was Arleth Morgan plummeted towards her. Her dagger to the chest had only served to aggravate him. She'd come face to face with a very different beast than the one that had been satisfied by playing with her like some sick puppet.

This one wanted her dead.

Leta fled to the other side of the room, desperate to catch her breath and her bearings. But every time she thought she made some leeway, she turned to find another attack already descending upon her. Morgan slammed his fist towards her, planting it instead into the wall behind her as she ducked out of the way just in time. His other hand frantically reached out, trying to grab her arm, her shirt, anything it could, but she swung the knife at him again, slicing his clutching hand just as it started to close around her forearm.

"You little bitch!" he roared, raising the bloodsoaked hand and swiping it at her in a great arc. This time, it made contact, hitting Leta across the face and causing her to stagger to the side, nearly losing her footing.

Bracing herself on the edge of the console, she pushed herself back to her feet and spun into another strike, dragging the blade across his upper arm. But to her dismay, it barely even dented his coat. Instead, he grinned maliciously and used her momentary lack of balance from the hit to seize her wrist.

She tried to yank herself free, but his grip was too strong. He pulled her closer, twisting her arm to the side, making her cry out in pain.

"Do you really think you can walk out of here alive?" he spat in her face. "After everything you've seen? All you know? All you've done? Only one of us is leaving this room, Leta. It's over."

She let out her own shout of pain as he twisted her harder, locking her into place, but Leta wasn't finished. "Fuck-you," she growled, glaring at him out of the corner of her eye and then, ignoring the impossible angle of her shoulder, kicked her leg off the ground and landed her knee in Morgan's groin.

He howled and doubled over at once, releasing his grip just enough for her to wriggle free and get a better vantage point. Her arm was searing, but she paid it no attention. There was no time. She was going to finish this, once and for all. Morgan was right about one thing. There was no other way, only one of them would be leaving.

More firm in her decision than she'd ever been before, she gripped her dagger in both hands and raised it above her head. With a mighty yell, she brought it down for the final blow, sinking the blade into the soft flesh between Morgan's neck and shoulder.

But it wasn't a final blow. And the beast didn't go down.

Instead, he rose up, faster than she could even process, and before she knew what was happening, a thick calloused hand encircled her neck. Her whole body was slammed back against the wall, forcing all the air from her lungs and when she tried desperately to fill them again, she found she couldn't. No matter how much she gasped, no air made it past the blockade. Desperately, she clawed at his hands.

But Morgan's grip didn't budge. His other hand reached over his opposite shoulder and ripped the dagger from his flesh and he tossed it aside as though she'd merely scratched him. A low laugh chortled out of his throat as Leta struggled with all her limbs, kicking and hitting and writhing to get free.

"You know what?" he breathed. "I was going to just watch you kill yourself. But this." His lips twisted back into a grin. "This is better. This is much more entertaining."

Just as Leta swung her legs out for a kick, Morgan grasped her neck with his other hand as well, pulled her from the wall and slammed her onto the floor.

Her head hit the concrete, her back landed with a thud and her vision blurred. She was allowed one hasty breath before he was back on her throat and this time there was no escaping. His arms had her upper body pinned and his legs managed her lower. All she could do was flail out with her hands, hopelessly praying to make contact with Morgan's face, neck, anything that should could attack with every last ounce of strength she had left, but he leaned back and all she touched was the frantic air between them.

The harder he pressed, the longer she went without breath, the more her senses started to fail her. What had been pain started to sink towards numbness, the noise of the control room all but faded out until she could hear nothing but her own scattered heartbeat. Her arms lost their resolve and started to weaken.

This couldn't be the end. To free Vescent but lose her life in the process? She couldn't die here.

But her mind started to fade, her eyes started to blink closed and then her arms fell weakly onto the concrete beside her and her fingertips touched something wet. Startled, she turned her head just enough to see the blurry vision of blood on her hand. Blood from the discarded knife that was mere inches from her grasp.

Filled with newfound purpose, Leta heaved one last gasp, dragging in any tiny semblance of oxygen she could manage and reached. She felt the metal. Desperately, she clawed for it.

But Morgan adjusted his hands on her throat and shook her against the ground, causing her to lose her touch. "Why won't you-fucking-die?!" he growled furiously and squeezed harder.

Leta choked as his thumb dug into her airway, but she just reached again. Reached with every part of her shoulder, her arm, her hand, her fingers. Her muscles strained, her whole body tensed and then finally, miraculously, she felt it. The hilt. Her fingers clambered over it messily, her shaky hand tightened and out of a pure act of instinct, she swung it at her assailant furiously.

Leta felt the metal sink into Morgan's neck. She felt the hot blood spill from his artery onto her hand. She felt the splatter of it land on her face as she gasped her first breath. But it didn't stop her.

She ripped the blade out and sunk it in again. And again. And again.

Morgan's grip loosened. His eyes fluttered backward into his head. He fell away from her. Blood flowed from him freely, but he was gone, possibly long before Leta finally dragged her dagger from his corpse for the last time. She wasn't sure how many times she'd stabbed him. She didn't care. She had just been so desperate to make sure, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this was finished.

Morgan collapsed in the center of the room in a pool of deep red and Leta stumbled to her feet and staggered backwards against the wall, still clutching the dagger with shaking hands, gasping for air. It was over.


Fiearius didn't know what he'd find as he held his wrist to the control room CID scanner and the doors slid open. As he'd run through the streets, passing the remnants of bloody battles, staving off the aches and pains of his own confrontation, his mind had strayed to every possibility. He'd arrive and she'd be victoriously cheering her achievement. She'd be valiantly defending her position, mowing down a Society onslaught with ease. Perhaps he'd arrive to find the room empty, Leta having already moved on.

All of them were preferable to the possibility he feared most and the one he stumbled into.

Across the dimly lit room was Leta, on the floor, slumped against the wall. A fallen corpse sat in the middle of the floor, but he ignored it and gazed at Leta. She looked so oddly small: her arms hugged her knees, and a dagger shining with blood hung loosely in her hand. Dark bruises covered her arms and blood caked her skin and hair. She was looking toward him, but she didn't react - she didn't even blink. Her eyes were vacant and empty, staring into the middle-distance.

No, he thought, desperation gripping his chest. Ice filled his lungs. He couldn't breathe. No no no, he couldn't be too late -

His voice croaked out of his throat. "Leta?"

"Leta," he said again, louder this time, as he came closer. As he stepped over the fallen body, he realized her shoulders were lifting and falling. Not much, but-she was breathing.

"Leta!" he yelled, closing the distance between them and grasping her face with his hands. Even then, she didn't seem to see him. Shock - she was in shock.

"Leta, c'mon," he pleaded with her, brushing her hair out of the way and wiping specks of blood off her face with his thumb. "Leta come back to me, c'mon. It's okay. It's over now. It's gonna be okay."

Finally, she gasped a heavy breath and her eyes shot to his in alarm, like she didn't recognize him. Suddenly she struggled, as though trying to move away from him, slipping further down the wall. But Fiearius moved a hand to her hip and held her steady. She was trembling.

"Hey, hey, it's alright, it's me, you're safe."

"Fiear?" Her voice shook out of her throat. "Fiear. Fiear, I-I killed a Councillor."

His stare swung to the man he'd stepped over to get to her. "Him? That's-"

"Arleth Morgan."

Fiearius didn't even know what to say. Congratulate her? Thank her? But Leta had already moved on to one of the other ghosts haunting her. "The missile defense!" she remembered suddenly, looking frantically to the console. "Did it-"

"Shut down," Fiearius confirmed for her, feeling an exhausted smile come over his face. "The bombs were dropped. Carthian troops are on the ground. You did it."

Leta shook her head, apparently remembering something else. "Delia. Bran, the rebels. We have to go help them!" Fiearius had no idea who she was talking about, so Leta added urgently, "They're just outside, they need help!"

She started to push to her feet, but Fiearius gently grasped her shoulders. Inwardly, his heart twisted. As he entered the building, he'd stepped over a dozen fallen bodies. "Leta, I'm sorry," he mumbled, brushing her hair behind her ear. "There's - no one left out there."

Leta's eyes went round. Then she looked away, and her gaze slid out of focus - she was leaving him again. He'd seen Leta hurt, injured, upset, but he'd never seen her like this. "C'mon, let's get back to the-" he began, but just as he took her arm to lead her away, a voice broke into his ear.

"Cap'n?" Eve asked tentatively, cutting through the static. Right away, he knew something was wrong. She sounded like she was on the verge of tears.

"Harper." Fiearius stood up, turned away from Leta and touched the speaker in his ear. "Everything okay out there?"

"No, cap'n," she said, her voice shaking. "We heard the bombs, mission's done right?"

"We're just about to head back." He glanced over his shoulder to Leta who was watching him with a sad, vacant curiosity.

"Alright." Her voice was scared. "I think you'll-you'll want to get back soon."

He didn't want to ask. He didn't want to know. But he had to. "What happened, Harper?"

At once, Eve's voice cracked. "The crash. We didn't want to say, we didn't want to-Some of us - some of us are hurt real bad, cap'n." She paused, and then went exhaled, "S-she said she was fine, cap'n. She said-she said she was okay. Just hit her head is all. We didn't know how bad she was hurt, we didn't know, we-"

"Who? Who's hurt?"

There was a long silence on the other end of the line. Until finally. "Amora. Amora's-"

Fiearius felt numb. "Amora's what?" Leta was now looking up at him in absolute horror. Glittering tears formed at the corner of her eyes.

"Amora's gone, cap'n."

Fiearius' hand fell away from the COMM. He felt like his entire body had been drained of blood. Amora. Amora, the innocent. He had just been teasing her a few hours ago at the breakfast table. She'd over-salted the eggs and she'd turned red in the face and scolded him for pointing it out. Fiearius had always had the impression that Amora never really liked him. Their views of the span could not have been more opposing. But she'd been a permanent fixture on his ship for the last two years either way, preparing every meal for his crew, keeping the deckhands in line, she was an important asset of Dionysian life. One he often took for granted.

And now she was gone. Just like that? No dramatic exit. No cry "I can't take this anymore, cap'n!" as she stormed away in a fit. No. She was just...gone. Just like the rebels who'd helped Leta. The Carthians aboard the fallen ships. The Vescentians who died in the riots. The Archetians who didn't make it out. Gone. One more number in a quickly growing list of casualties.

He could feel Leta watching him. She knew. He didn't have to say it. Her expression crumbled, so crushed, so completely heartbroken.

"We did it? We won?" she asked emptily.

"We did," he confirmed for her quietly.

After a long pause, she murmured, barely moving her lips, "It doesn't feel like it."

He didn't have an answer. Instead, he did the only thing he could manage. He crouched down beside her, put his arms around her shoulders and pulled her against his chest.


The jagged skyline of Vescent's capital city began to sink into view. The Dionysian descended toward the docks, and Leta leaned her palms against the bridge's console, trying to steady her shaking sweaty hands. This was where she'd grown up with her mother, where she'd gone to university and accepted her first job in a clinic. Where she'd met Ren in a noisy little tavern in the city square. Where she'd first laid eyes on a riotous pirate ship captain, shouting over the sound of the waves on the harbor docks ….

Gray clouds twisted around the top spires of the buildings. The sky lit with flaming red-orange bursts as the ships in the upper atmosphere battled. Carthis' fleet - flanked by Quin's and an assortment of Fiearius' old criminal friends - had descended into Vescentian space first, drawing out the planet's defensive barrage and engaging them in what was surely a spectacular sight of space weapon technology. Leta had caught only glimpses as the Dionysian swerved through the front lines and went straight for the planet. It was the Dionysian's responsiblity - her responsibility - to get onto the ground and shut down the missile defense turrets so that the bombers could get through and take out their targets.

Everything was planned to the very last minute detail. The ship would land in the square adjacent the defense department headquarters and the crew would handle the initial wave of foot resistance, clearing the way for Leta and Fiearius to sneak in through the east entrance. They'd head to the control room, they'd use Fiearius' Verdant CID (or Leta's stripped down copy of it) to shut down the defenses and Carthis would use the clear skies to swoop in and finish the job.

That's how it was supposed to go anyway. But when was anything ever that easy?

"Dionysian, come in," came a cool clear voice over the COMM. "Dionysian, do you read?"

In the captain's chair, Fiearius jerked the ship controls to the left just as a fiery blast jetted through the air. "Loud and clear," he shouted back. "Fucking hell, Finn enjoys this shit?"

Thinking of Finn - still incommunicable in the station's med bay - made her heart twist, so Leta ignored the remark as the speaker exploded a second time. The windows suddenly shook with trepidation.

"You've got two bogeys on your tail," said the Carthian on the other end of the line. "They're charging to fire."

Another shot blasted past the window and Fiearius only narrowly managed to avoid it. "No fucking kidding," he growled. "Thought you lot were supposed to prevent this!" He pulled the ship to such a hard turn that Leta felt the floor tip sideways. She grabbed the wall for support.

"They made it through our initial barrage, we were unable to-" the cadet began, but he was cut off as the Dionysian shuddered and the debris of two Society fighters, engulfed in flames, plummeted past the bay window.

"Got 'em for ya, darlin'," said the COMM.

"Thanks, Quin," Fiearius said, leveling out the ship and continuing descent.

Leta glanced sideways and saw a red dot flashing on the radar. "We're not out of the water yet. Another one's right behind us."

He pulled back on the controls and the ship lurched, but only just as the Society fighter sped right past their window. "It'd be nice-" He yanked it again. "-if my ship-" And again "-would fucking do-" Once more. "-what I ask!"

Frustrated, he slammed down the internal COMM. "Richelle, I need more power to the secondary thrusts! What the hell is going on down there?!"

"I'm working on it, capitaine!" the poor girl cried. Supposedly Fiearius had had a good reason to leave Cyrus behind on this mission. Leta had seen first-hand how deep his depression over Archeti had sunk him, but even she would not have made that call. Richelle may have been taking lessons from the Dionysian's engineer, but she certainly had not been prepared for this kind of reckless flying.

"Well you need to work on it faster," Fiearius snapped and hit another control. "Cyrus, walk her through this, now!"

"I am!" groaned Cyrus' voice from where he was safely stationed back on the CORS. "But you need to stop flying like that, you're running her dry!"

"Oh I'm sorry, would you rather she get shot?" Fiearius demanded. "Figure it out." He shut off the COMM, and just in time to pull out of another pass from the fighter.

Leta, gripping onto every surface she could to stay upright, moved towards the window. They were through the clouds now and the city was fully in view below her. Fall's End. Splayed out before her in blue and grey lines and blocks. She narrowed her eyes and searched the array, following roads from landmarks she knew until finally-

"There it is!" she shouted back to the pilot. "The defense building. And the square. That's where we need to land!"

"One thing at a time," Fiearius groaned. And as if it was a prophecy or a cue of its own, suddenly the ship let out a monstrous roar that ripped through Leta's ears. The emergency lights snapped on, making the whole room flash red.

"What the hell was that?!"

"That was my thrusters running on delay and that fucking ship blowing us a new entrance," Fiearius snapped between his teeth as he continued to wrench the controls.

"We're hit? Are we going to-"

"Shit!" Fiearius leaned sideways and grasped one of the controls. Then he slammed his fist upon the metal. His expression shifted from anger and frustration to genuine worry. "She's not responding."

"What do you mean she's not responding?!" Leta's eyes swung back to the window. It was a long way down to the ground. Icy fear gripped her.

Fiearius shot her a glare and then grabbed for the COMM again. "Richelle! We-"

"I know!" she shrieked. "I know, the hit took out the connection, I'm-"

Suddenly Cyrus cut in. "What the hell happened?!"

"The connection," stumbled Richelle, "I can't get her to-"

"Get me some fucking thrust before we crash!"

The maze of the city was coming in faster than ever as the ship fell towards the ground, nose first. Leta had never liked heights, but she'd become accustomed to ship landings and take-offs. There was something different about being inside a massive flying machine that made the outside world all the way down there seem much more like a painted picture than an actual stretch of distance.

"You're gonna wanna strap in," Fiearius said over the roar of the falling ship, pulling her from her daze. He didn't have to tell her twice. Leta clambered up to the co-pilot's seat and fastened her seatbelt with shaking hands.

"Can you land this?" she dared to ask.

"Maybe?"

Details of the buildings below her were coming into focus - they were that close. And then she could see the shapes of moving people through the passing fog. The dark evergreen trees. The rolling green-gray waves of the bay.

Over the roaring and Fiearius yelling curses as he desperately attempted to regain control, Leta heard Richelle's voice crackle through the speakers, "It's back up!"

Then her vision went black.


With a rough, rasping cough, Leta awoke. She gingerly lifted her heavy head and realized she was sunken in the co-pilot's chair. And she was alive.

Heavy dust swirled in the air. Shattered glass littered the floor. Cuts covered her arms and hands, and her neck ached, but otherwise she seemed unharmed. With shaking fingers she fumbled with the belt of her chair and staggered out of it. Her senses were off-kilter, her vision hazy, until she focused on the figure slumped in the captain's chair.

"Fiear!"

Thank the gods, when Leta crossed over and grasped his shoulders, he coughed and winced. She brushed her thumb across the gash in his temple. It wasn't terribly deep, but blood flowed freely down the side of his face - one of the overhead consoles must have fallen and hit him during the crash.

"You're alright, you're alright, Fiear," Leta breathed, crouching down to the floor. She reached for the end of Fiearius' shirt and with a great rrrip, tore its edge and folded it.

"Hey, I'm all for you ripping my clothes off," Fiearius muttered, his voice hoarse, "but is now really the ti - "

"Hold this against the cut. And shut up," she said, pressing the fabric to his temple. It stained bright red immediately.

"How close did we get?" he asked. He gestured to the cracked window; he must've meant their landing.

"Only about a mile or two from the defense building," she guessed, based on what she could see of the city. It wasn't a good enough answer for him it seemed as he groaned and put his hand on his head. Or perhaps that was the pain.

Just then, a vague, far-away shout reached Leta's ears - it was coming from the broken consoles. Hastily she shoved aside a pile of metal and debris, letting Cyrus' voice come in through the static.

"- be okay. Fiear? Leta? Dionysian, anyone? Please come in. Please-"

"Cy!" Leta answered, hitting the COMM. Her own voice sounded foreign and strange to her ears.

"Leta! Oh gods, you're okay. You're alright. Is Fiear there? Is-"

"He's fine, we're fine."

"Dionysian, come in! Come in, Dionysian," said a third voice through the static. A Carthian officer. "Are you able to complete the mission?"

"Oh for fuck's sake," growled Cyrus, "They were just in a damn spaceship crash and you-"

"No, he's right," Fiearius coughed, unsteadily pushing himself out of his chair and stumbling a few feet forward. He looked to Leta. "We made it to the planet. Somehow. There's not a lot of time, we need to get moving."

Leta stared, shell-shocked. He was right, but -

"Fiear, the crew. They could be injured if they weren't strapped in, I need to check - "

But Fiearius silenced her, dropping a hand on her shoulder. She thought it might have been a gesture of affection but a moment later, as he raised the COMM to his mouth, it seemed more like he needed her support to not topple over. "Can anyone hear me? Come in."

A long, heavy silence replied in which Leta waited with bated breath and Fiearius beside her. Surely they couldn't have been the only survivors. How hard had they crashed?

But finally -

"Cap'n? I read you, cap'n."

Fiearius released a sigh of relief. "Harper. Thank the gods. You alright? Is anyone with you?"

"We're alright, cap'n," said Eve. "Lil shaken. One of the deckhands didn't strap in soon enough, got a bit beat up. Few cuts and scrapes, nothin' fatal. We're alright."

Relief rushed over Leta.

Fiearius went on, "Harper, change of plans. I need you to stay here and look after the crew and defend the ship."

"But Cap'n-"

"Tend to the crew. Defend the ship," Fiearius said again, sharper this time. He turned to Leta and unholstered his gun. "Let's get you to your final destination, shall we?"


Her city was unrecognizable.

As Leta led Fiearius through the cobblestone streets of Fall's End, a picture of what had happened here became very clear. Gone were the white stone benches, sparkling fountains, and lush gardens. Now, buildings were charred black from gunfire and explosions. Wood slats barred windows and doors. Society propaganda posters screamed on every wall and lightpost. Smoke rose through the streets; it smelled like burning garbage. The aftermath of the riots lay everywhere.

But it wasn't only aftermath. People still took to the streets even now. They had worried about resistance once they'd landed, but as they charged down streets and through back alleys, it seemed the Vescentian people themselves were taking care of the agents on the ground. Or at least keeping them occupied. Masses of them, armed with signs, bats and defended by piles of furniture and the remains of felled shuttles fought for their city as Leta and Fiearius traversed it. Mostly, the Society agents seemed overwhelmed, ill-matched for this much raw rage and desperation. One battleground they passed, not so much. It took all of Leta's willpower to keep going as she watched these people, her people, mowed down by Society firepower.

The battle overhead, though far away, was just as horrifying. The blasts from Carthian and Society ships lit the skies as glimpses of great sweeping vessels plowed through the clouds, dust and smoke.

Quickly and carefully, Leta climbed up the rungs of a metal rusted ladder onto a rooftop, eager to avoid a particularly crowded square, when she heard it. The great crack from above. She pulled herself to level ground on the roof, her hair whipping around her face in the violent wind as she looked up just in time to see the bow of a Carthian destroyer, alight in flames, plummeting out of the grey haze.

Leta's breath caught in her throat as it fell and kept falling. But just before the great impact could occur, a burst of red flashed across the sky and before her eyes, the ship, once a great heaving mass, was vaporized into little more than smoke and debris. She only caught a glimpse of it before the shockwave hit. She braced herself against it, shielding her eyes with her forearm.

"That's what we've gotta switch off," said Fiearius, suddenly beside her, once the dust had settled.

"I can see why," Leta admitted, in quiet horror. Gods, that ship, those people...Gone, just like that.

"We close?" he grunted.

Leta nodded toward the topmost glittering spire of a building in the distance. "We're almost to where we were supposed to land."

Without waiting for his response, she started off again, carefully making her way across the rooftops. This strip of apartment blocks were all connected, making them an easy path to stay out of the way and unseen. They just had to make it to the end of the row, lower back to ground level, head a block north and -

She saw the flash out of the corner of her eye before she heard Fiearius' shout.

"AGHH - SHIT!"

Leta whirled around to find him yanking a small knife from his shoulder. Blood gushed from the wound, but he quickly looked up at her, eyes wide and frenzied. "Leta, look ou-"

She spun around just in time and stumbled backwards as the blade swung at her, barely missing her abdomen. It swung again and she took another step back until Fiearius seized her arm and dragged her backwards, behind him. Only then, was she able to get a look at what or who was assaulting them. That flip of platinum blonde hair as a nimble leg suited in black, shot out and knocked Fiearius' pistol from his hand just as he fired it.

Ophelia.

Leta didn't understand. They had left Ophelia tied up in Blackwater shortly before Quin's ships had destroyed the Society base for good. There was no way for her to be here. She had died there. She couldn't have survived.

"Leta, go!" Fiearius yelled, gritting his teeth as the woman came at him again with her blade. He managed to catch her wrist to hold it back, but she only used his momentum to deliver another kick to his side.

Leta rooted in place, shocked. She had to go, but she had to help Fiearius. He was still battered from the crash, his headwound still shining with blood and now his shoulder was dark red. She had to-

"Go!" Fiearius shouted again, taking only a moment to glare at her as he tried to wrestle Ophelia to the ground. He was succeeding. For the moment. "You need to finish this! I'm fine, just go!"

Leta met his eyes for a fleeting, piercing second. Then she forced herself to turn and run.


Fiearius only glanced at Leta's back long enough to make sure she was retreating and even that was too long. In his negligence, Ophelia's talons seized his hair and used it to slam his head into the roof below their feet. If he wasn't already whiplashed and bordering on a concussion, he certainly was now. But as she raised her blade above her head to deliver the crucial blow, he jumped unsteadily to his feet and staggered out of her way. The metal hit concrete in a clash, but it was only half a second before it was coming at him again.

Fiearius gritted his teeth and dodged the attack, trying to get in one of his own, but she was quick. She side-stepped him and the hilt of the sword jabbed his back. He spun towards her, she sliced again, he dodged, she countered. As they fell into the pattern like a sort of dance, Fiearius growled, "How-the hell-are you-" She managed to connect her fist with his cheekbone. He stumbled backwards and glared up at her, wiping the blood from the corner of his mouth. "Not dead?"

For the first time since she'd appeared on the rooftop, Ophelia paused her onslaught to regard him with a kind of cold fury he hadn't ever seen before. She paced a slow circle around him, her eyes never leaving his face, her ponytail in a frenzy as the wind bit at her from every direction. "You always did count me out too readily, Soliveré," she growled beneath her breath, before spinning the blade in her hand, repositioning her grip and taking a clear run straight towards him.

This time, he was better prepared for her. As she charged, he charged back, narrowly avoiding the sharp end of her weapon and planting an elbow in her side. This only seemed to enrage her further as she lashed out with her free hand at his knee, weakening his stance. She used the leverage to force him back again where he laid half his weight into keeping from falling onto the ground and the other half into holding back her arm as she tried to plunge a sword through his chest.

"You're on the wrong side," he growled, wondering why a woman who surely couldn't be more than half his weight was so difficult to keep at bay. "The Council-you really think they won't turn on you too?" Either his grip was slipping or her resolve had strengthened because the blade slipped an inch closer. "Varisian, haven't you been paying attention?" he growled.

Now his grip was definitely getting weaker. She was pressing all of herself into that weapon and the point of it was poking through his shirt and into the top layer of skin.

"They're manipulating-" He strained to keep it from going any further. "-an entire population. They destroyed--a planet." It sunk a little further. He fought to keep the sting of it from reaching his face. "You're just a pawn to them." He met her icy blue eyes fully. "You're just as expendable as me."

He wasn't sure if it was his words that got to her or if she merely experienced a short bout of fatigue from the near constant barrage she'd been throwing at him, but it was enough. For just an instant, and likely not longer, she was lighter. Or at least just light enough that when he pushed himself from the ground, he was able to throw her to the side onto her back.

She fumbled - the slip-up was as much a surprise to her as it was to him it seemed. But as Fiearius, bleeding freely from all his wounds, struggled just to get onto his feet, she had already found her next move. When he finally righted himself and turned to meet her next swing, he was met instead with the end of his own gun pointed directly at his head.

"Drop something?" she mused.


Exhaling shakily, Leta paused against a sooty brick wall to gather her courage. Just across the street, the jet-black glass defense building arched high into the air, glittering eerily in the night. Inside that building was the missile controls that could end this battle.

She was close.

Unfortunately, Fiearius had been right. The Society had been prepared to defend this very spot from a barrage of Carthian soldiers. A circle of agents surrounded the front entrance, armed to take down any offense. Leta had no options, no way of distracting the guards. If only the crew was here to occupy them like they planned. If only the crew hadn't been injured. If only the ship hadn't crashed.

Panic fluttered in her chest. For a moment, she flattened herself against the brick wall, closed her eyes and heaved a slow, deep breath. She could do this. She could find a way past them, surely. She just had to find a distraction or a sneaky way around them, or -

Suddenly, movement to her right caught her eye. The sound of boots on pavement. In one motion, Leta snatched her gun from her hip and directed it at the figure in the alley, cold as ice.

But an odd scene met her eyes. It wasn't one person; it was a whole circle of men and women, looking dirt-streaked and frenzied, all of them armed with rifles and pistols and swords. But they did not advance. Instead, the group exchanged looks and the leader, a young but sturdy man, held up a hand in surrender.

Still, Leta held her weapon steadily. The figure in front grunted his disapproval.

"Stand down, Sochy, you're outnumbered."

Leta's eyes shifted over the crowd curiously. Each of them wore blood-red bands tied around their upper arms. These aren't agents, she realized with a jolt.

They were rebels.

"Sochy?" she repeated, lowering her gun an inch. "I'm not with the Society. I'm - "

"Leta?"

Someone gasped. Then a young woman pushed forward in the crowd, looking thunderstruck. She had thick dark curls and a familiar heart-shaped face ...

It was the woman who had housed her and Cyrus the last time they'd been on Vescent.

"Delia?" she breathed in shock.

Leta could hardly believe it. Delia was a Society loyalist and when Cyrus had (a little foolishly) exposed their less-than-friendly relationship with the organization, she hadn't reacted well. And yet here she was. With a group of rebels in the streets of a chaotic Vescent.

"What're you - how - What're you doing here?" Leta managed, loosening her grip on her gun but not relinquishing yet. She was still desperately outnumbered.

But Delia threw her arms around Leta as if greeting an old friend. "I could ask you the same thing. After you guys left, I don't know. I couldn't get what you said out of my head. It just kept gnawing at me and suddenly I started seeing things. Things like you said about the Society. Around the city, on the Titan. And then I met up with these guys," she gestured over her shoulder, "And that was that. And here I am."

"Dee, you know this Sochy?" grunted the leader.

"I'm not a Sochy," said Leta at once.

"She's with the resistance, Bran," Delia said, turning around. "She knows the Rogue Verdant."

At once, a wave of interest rippled through the group.

"The Verdant?" the man demanded, eyes blazing. "Is he here?"

Leta opened her mouth, but hesitated.

"He is," she said at last. More gasps. "He's here. We were in the small ship that crashed on the west end."

"I knew it!" Delia cried, voice thick with emotion. "I just knew you'd all come back. Bran - she's telling the truth. She's close with the younger Solivere. She's the doctor they travel with."

Leta met the man's eyes squarely, willing him to believe it. Bran visibly relaxed, but his eyes burned on her face.

"The Rogue Verdant. If he's really here - can you bring us to him?"

"Yes. I can," she said, and everyone stirred. Gods, maybe these people could go to his aid - maybe they could help him bring down Ophelia.

"But first, I - I need your help." She stepped forward, lowering her weapon at last. "See over there? I need to get into that building to shut down the city's defense systems. Do you think you could provide a distraction? Or maybe just-"

But she didn't need to finish. Bran held up his long rifle, cocked it noisily, and nodded.

"The defense building. Not a problem. Leta, was it? If you're really with the Verdant? We'll get ya in there."

"Stay back for this part," added Delia, flashing her a nervous smile as she joined the throng.

All at once, the rebel squad cocked their guns and drew forward around the alley, excitement buzzing between them like they were headed out to a sporting event.

"On my mark, " Bran said. "Three, two - "

Then, in a flash of motion, yells of mirth and anger exploded into the air as they all stormed toward the agents, guns ablaze.

Leta watched in amazement as chaos flooded the street. Then she tore her eyes away to do her job: she carefully navigated the fight as the resistance battled the guards. All around her, guns were firing, blood was spilling, both rebel and agent alike, but she didn't have time to watch, to aid them, to help the wounded as her instincts demanded. She headed straight through the fray towards the main entrance which Bran had already reached and yanked open for her.

Forcing herself not to look back, she plowed through them and kept running. She didn't even realize Bran and Delia had followed until Delia called to her, "Do you know where you're going?"

Leta knew too well. She spent most her childhood alone in the atrium of this building, waiting on her absent father to take her home from school. And when he didn't - when he made her wait until past dinner time, until it was dark out, until it was past her bedtime - she took to wandering the halls, lonely, tired and curious. Once or twice, a security guard took pity on her and even gave her a tour.

And even as a child, she'd always wondered what the large metal door on the second floor held behind it. She hadn't been surprised though when the Verdant's blueprints had labeled it the defense control room. So she headed straight for the stairs.

Fortunately, it seemed that the building's defense had mostly been stationed at the doors. No one was around to stop them as the three ran through the clean white halls of the administrative building. They didn't even see a soul until Leta charged onto the second floor landing. There was the door. Right up ahead. And two guards right beside it.

She had her gun up before the closest one even noticed her. She'd fired it before the second could move. The agent cried out in pain, seizing her bleeding leg and doubling over.

Bran was on the last one standing like a whirlwind before Leta even knew what was happening. He tackled the man to the ground, using his rifle as a battering ram. Delia joined him only moments later, seizing the weapon from the agent's hands and throwing it across the floor. Leta went straight for the door, praying the CID Cyrus had given her would work. Supposedly it was identical to Fiearius', save for the extensive database (in case it fell into the wrong hands of course). Still, she found herself holding her breath as she held it up to the keypad and-thank the gods-the door slid open.

In her urgency, she failed to prevent the woman she'd shot from lifting her COMM to her lips. "Code 640, I-I repeat, code 640, there's-" It was only a moment before Delia had slapped her gun in the woman's face, knocking her out, but it was enough.

"Code 640?" repeated Delia. "They must know we're here. They'll send reinforcements."

Bran turned to Leta. "Do what you gotta do." He nodded towards the control room. "We'll buy you some time."

Leta looked between them, heart clenching. If Society reinforcements came here? To fight just the two of them? There was no way they could-

But Delia cocked her rifle in her hand and took up position facing the stairs. Bran was swapping the clip of his own. And with the end of this right behind her, Leta couldn't argue.

"Thank you," she whispered.

In a rush, she turned and slid inside, pulling the door shut behind her. Darkness plunged the room and it was a moment before her eyes adjusted: windowless and dark, lit only by the bright screens lining the walls. But there was no mistaking the main console screen, brightly lit up in the center of the room.

Leta darted right to it and scanned the CID. In only seconds, the Society's librera blazed alive on the screen.

Quickly Leta dropped her fingertips to the keyboard, but something made her freeze. The back of her neck chilled. Just as she straightened up, she heard an oily, interested voice break cleanly through the room.

"Well," said a man, sounding as if his curiosity had been aroused. "I wasn't expecting you, Leta."

A yell locked in Leta's throat.

In a half-second, she threw out her hand to grab for her gun, just as the brawny figure eased forward into the light. He was round as a boulder, his shining bald head nearly touching the slanted ceiling as he walked a circle around her, observing her with glinting silver eyes.

The sight of her seemed to please him: his nostrils flared out, and his face flushed red and oily, like he'd been carved out of wax. Finally, a smile slithered across Arleth Morgan's face. "I'm so happy to finally meet you."



Caelum Lex          Tumblr          Facebook          Contact Me



Hey people, oh people.

Sorry if I've been suspiciously absent lately, been kind of a busy few months at work and at life and whatnot. But I'm still alive and still working on Caelum Lex if you've failed to notice. I'm also backlogged on uploading the art for that though. Oops.

Anyway. News of the day, I'm going to E3 next week! Just one day since goddamn them, it's in the middle of the work week and although I am technically 'in the industry' enough to get in, I'm not 'in the industry' enough for my work to let me leave to go to a gaming conference for 4 days o.o 

I'm pretty psyched though, I've never been. Should be fun. If there's anything you know is being shown and you want me to check out, let me know. Otherwise I'm just gonna try and see everything and then hit up all the after parties with the free booze :P Good plan? Good plan. 

How are you people? Tell me about your lives. I like hearing about people's lives.

Also, there are STILL slots in this silly OC thing. I'm not gonna stop til I hit 15 I guess. Even if it takes me a year o.o Which it will.

For the first 15 people who comment on this journal, I will feature one of their characters. I'll also tell you what I like about them. [I will go to your gallery and pick one character. If you have an OC folder or other useful links, please link it as it will help].


• THIS PART IS OPTIONAL, but it would be nice if you did it ----> If you comment, please do the same in your journal, adding one of my OCs to the list. The idea of this is not to get a free feature, it is to spread art around for everyone!

1. :iconteryster:
I don't know how I couldn't pick Hauru. She's got spunk, attitude and a great hairstyle. Can't wait to read more of her story in Asternight. Seriously though, that hair. It's perfect.

2. :iconmimmime:
This one's easy, Thomas Hewett of course. Kind, caring, a little messed up, but an all around good guy. His relationship with his sister is particularly sweet. Love reading all the lil stories from his past :)

3. :iconelreniagreenleaf:
Just look at this awesome horse Toa. I've always had a soft spot for that grey kind of horse (pretty sure there's a name for it...) They're just so pretty. And any animal that's had a hard time but still the potential to be great is a story I can get behind :D

4. :icongogorocketgo:
Okay I couldn't find much information about Eira so sorry, don't have a heck of a lot to say, but I love her hair. And her outfit. And she looks like a badass who can stay someone with a sword so I'm down with that. 

5. :iconarteaus:
This is Saint George who is a warrior saint and a dragonslayer who is pretty cool looking if you ask me, but the best part is that he runs a bakery in Nottingham now. Gotta love a dragonslayer that appreciates good pastry.

6. :iconcookei-fox:
Pyxis Reasons for this are easy. Look at her. Aaaawesoooome. Second. Any character named after star constellations are badass. Third. The concept with the personality changing based on the eyes is super interesting and unique, i love it. Fifth. Space. Yeah. Super cool.

7. :iconalchemistmaycry:
Jonathan of course because guns AND swords? Yes. Yes yes yes. Also, I'm a total sucker for facial scarring. What can I say. 

8. :iconrinoa-light-leonheart: It may just be that I'm a sucker for redheads but Nikta. Also totally dig her outfit, I would wear that in a heartbeat except it's never cold here.

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:iconjupiterblossem:
JupiterBlossem Featured By Owner Sep 19, 2014  Student General Artist
Thanks for the fave! Heart Love 
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freelex30 Featured By Owner Sep 18, 2014  Student General Artist
Thank you for the Fav! Feel free to watch me to, really appreciate! La la la la 
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:iconwoltz:
Woltz Featured By Owner Sep 13, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
:iconsayhiplz: Thank you so much for the fav!
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:iconhoshinodestiny:
HoshinoDestiny Featured By Owner Sep 2, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks for the fav!
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:icon1priness62:
1priness62 Featured By Owner Aug 29, 2014  Student Artist
ty for fav
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:iconatilea:
Atilea Featured By Owner Aug 29, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thanks for the faves :)
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:iconeniell:
Eniell Featured By Owner Aug 29, 2014
Naw, thanks hun for the fave :)
The Hunt: Profile - Amal by Eniell
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:iconkhronosabre:
khronosabre Featured By Owner Aug 29, 2014  Professional General Artist
Always :) I love your characters.
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:iconeniell:
Eniell Featured By Owner Aug 29, 2014
:iconsmilederpplz: Thank you so much! Coming from you, this really means a lot for me!
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:iconsephycala7x:
SephycalA7X Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Happy birthday! Have a wonderful day :D
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