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Shaggy by khronosabre
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

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 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."


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 - "


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."

The war room was crowded again. This time, everyone suffered from a state of exhaustion, worry, and turmoil. Bowing her chin toward her collarbone, Leta found she could barely summon the necessary strength to meet anyone's - even Fiearius' - eye. She folded her arms and listened as the murmur of discussion lifted and fell, lifted and fell, over the course of hours. Half of her mind was elsewhere, in the station's medical ward, where Finn lay unconscious, still in critical condition, undergoing another round of surgery ...

Leta blinked her eyes and straightened up, tuning into the discussion. A military officer had just brought up the map of Vescent, where it shimmered in a three-dimensional projection above the table. She recognized every detail of the map, and it was a good thing, considering what they were going to do next …

"So it's settled then," grunted Admiral Gates, his voice gruff with seriousness as he placed his palms on the table and leaned in, his eyes scanning over the room. "We head to Vescent come morning."

Murmurs of agreement rippled through the room. One voice, tinted with uncertainty, said, "And we're sure Nautilus is being stored there?"

"We are," came another voice, one of the officers. "The squad that tracked it from Archeti had visual confirmation as it landed in the hangar where it was shut down and remained shut down. It's still there."

"It damn well better be," Quin growled suddenly. She stood across the tremendous round table, glaring at the map with more intensity than anyone else in the room. Though she'd insisted on compensation before, she hadn't brought it up even once since she'd arrived on the station. In fact, Quin had thrown herself head-first into the Carthian effort the minute she stepped aboard. In the aftermath of Archeti's destruction, she was emanating rage.

"My ships may only have one chance to drop the bomb on that Sochy shit," she went on, snarling. "If we ain't successful in turning it to dust, we're gonna have a problem."

Gates nodded. "Destroying Nautilus is now a number one priority of the operation. The device-the weapon-can not fly again."

Leta nodded, still silent. The toll of its first voyage was already too high. It was as of yet unknown the exact death count from Archeti, but it was estimated to be somewhere in the millions. The first civilized planet of the Span had been reduced to a broiling mess that (supposedly) would be ready for colonization again in a few years.

Few refugees had escaped in time. The Beacon's passenger load had ended up at the Conduit which had taken them in with little questioning. Quin had pressed Carthis into setting up their own camps for any more lost Archetians out there until a more permanent plan for the future could be arranged.

But there was one person whose future was still hanging in the balance: Finn. He'd been clinging to life when Corra had pulled him aboard the Beacon, and now, days later, he had improved only minimally.

And Corra had disappeared. She'd made sure the Beacon got to its destination, that Finn was handed off to the Carthian medical team and then she'd vanished entirely. Leta could only assume she'd holed herself up in her quarters, gripped by guilt over all that had happened. Leta wanted nothing more than to seek her friend out to console her, but between the med bay and the mobilization against Vescent ramping up, she hadn't even had a spare moment to herself let alone someone else.

"As important as Nautilus is, however, our other goals remain," Gates was saying.

Another officer nodded. "Utada's fleet will handle Target Alpha: Nautilus, as she requested. Division B will take out Target Beta: the ARC facilities. And Division C is assigned to Target Charlie: the Society local headquarters."

"So all that's left is handling the missile defense systems to allow Divisions A, B and C access to their targets," said Gates.

"Our best bet is still a small ship with a ground team to shut the system down manually," Fiearius put in, frowning at the map. Leta was certain that he, like her, had not slept in days. The dark circles under his eyes seemed a permanent fixture. He went on, his voice low and hoarse, "They're all connected to the defense mainframe, it's an easy job. A small ship can land right next to the damn building and someone's just gotta get in and turn it off."

Chief Strategist Arsen, one of the top-ranking officers, suddenly grunted his disapproval. "Sir, if we're going to send a ground team, I recommend a more robust force," he said to Gates. "Putting all our faith in one ship and a small team is-"

"A larger team is only going to make it harder," Fiearius cut him off. "The more 'robust' it is, the more easily they'll see it coming."

"See it coming? We'll be in the midst of an aerial battle with their fleets, of course we're going to strike the defense systems. They're already going to see it coming," Arsen snapped.

"And if we send a whole mess of Carthies at 'em, they'll know exactly where to look," Fiearius replied shortly. He turned to Gates. "They'll be ready to defend the missile system. But they'll be ready to defend it from a full-on battalion. One ship, one or two people, they won't be prepared for that."

"Shutting down those defense systems is the crux of this entire operation, that seems like a lot of responsibility to lay in the hands of a single individual," Arsen argued.

"Which is why that single individual's gotta be good," said Fiearius. He opened his mouth to continue, but Leta found herself speaking up suddenly, as if her lips were moving of their own accord.

"I'll do it," she said. All eyes swung to her. Silence filled the room.

She went on, "The defense department - I've been there. Hundreds of times. It's where my father used to work. And besides, I know the city. If something goes wrong, I can navigate it better than anyone else here."

Her eyes shifted to Fiearius, who was watching her intently. Presumably, he had been about to nominate himself for the task. But when Arsen laughed and said, "Miss Adler, your bravery is commendable, but you are a doctor not-" it was Fiearius who lifted a hand and silenced him.

"No, she's right. She's the best person for it. She knows the lay of the land, she's got insight the rest of us don't and she's got a personal stake in this. So we know she'll get it done no matter what."

"Perhaps, but she is still a doctor," said Arsen again, as though this idea was insane.

A smirk spread over Fiearius' face. "That's hardly all she is." He turned back to Gates. "Leta was under my command for nearly a year. From personal experience, I guarantee she's more than qualified for this kind of mission."

Gates pursed his lips together. "She's also the only person to successfully escape Vescent," he mused thoughtfully.

"Twice, so I'm told," put in Quin.

After a short pause, Gates nodded, full of authority. "I trust your recommendation, captain. Ms. Adler will take charge of the ground team. We have our 'one person.' And for the 'one ship - "

"The Dionysian will take her," said Fiearius at once. "She's small enough and she's got enough Society scramblers already built in, they won't even realize she's there. Besides - " he shrugged. "She ain't got any artillery, she'd be no good in the air fight anyway."

"Very well," said Gates. "We have a plan then. We mobilize tomorrow at 0400. Divisions A through C, reconvene in Hangar 3 for further preparation."

Conversation broke over the room as everyone gathered their papers and moved toward the doors. Leta found herself hanging back, and Fiearius half-walked, half-wandered in her direction.

With a thin smile, she said, "Looks like I'm coming back to the Dionysian after all."

"Unintentional side-effect," he muttered. "Sorry. Figured it was a good enough cause, you wouldn't mind."

"It's only temporary."

"Of course."

Awkward silence pooled between them, but neither made any movement to leave. She crossed her arms, shifting on her feet, and just as she opened her mouth to speak, Fiearius did as well.

"Well I'll-" she said.

"Did you-" he said.

Leta laughed uncomfortably. "Sorry, go ahead."

"No no," he insisted, shaking his hand at her. "What is it?"

"Oh, I was just saying I'll go gather my things and come by the ship," Leta explained hurriedly.

"Right," Fiearius confirmed. "I'll...make sure we have a place for you to sleep."

Leta frowned. "What happened to my quarters? You didn't get more crew did you?"

"No, no, nothing like that," Fiearius assured her. "Just...well, we have a lot of stuff, y'know. Cargo and...things."

She couldn't believe her ears. "You turned my room into a storage closet?" she demanded incredulously.

"We needed the space!" he defended, taking a step back from her as though afraid she might strike him. "I'll clean it up by the time you get there, promise." And before she could scold him any more, he grabbed his tablet and headed for the door.

Leta put her hands on her hips and rolled her eyes. "You'd better, Soliveré."

Cyrus' bedroom was growing shadowy and dark, but he couldn't summon the energy to get up and turn on the light. Flat on his back in his bed, he gazed at the ceiling, both wide-awake and terribly exhausted. He'd been here for hours. Days, maybe. He'd lost track of time. Guilt sat on his chest like a lead weight, pinning him in place. Making it difficult to breathe …

Just then, breaking his hours of deep solitude, a gentle knock came at the door and startled him out of his stupor. He lifted his head and was surprised to see the shape of Addy peeking her head through the hatch.

"Is it okay if I come in?" she asked, her voice hesitant in a way he'd never heard before.

"I - of course it's okay," he said, pushing himself to his feet. Naturally she was unsure about him: he hadn't the strength to face her, but gods, he clearly owed her an explanation. Running a hand through his hair, he muttered, "Sorry I've been … "

Hiding. But the words dried up in his mouth when he came to look at Addy. Even in the dim light, he could see sudden raw pain shining in her eyes.

"What is it?" he pressed, stepping towards her. "Is it Finn? Is everything alright?"

"I feel like I should be asking you that," she replied softly. "No, it's not Finn, I haven't heard anything new. It's … are you avoiding me?" she added suddenly, and his mouth fell open.

"N - no! No of course not. I mean-okay, maybe a little, but it's not you. I'm just avoiding - well, everything. I'm sorry, Gods, I'm so sorry, I'm-" He knotted a hand into his hair. "I'm kind of a mess right now."

She nodded, just once. "Archeti."

He dug his palms into his temples. "Every time I close my eyes…" He glanced up at her, sure that he looked just as desperate and pathetic as he felt. "I'm not avoiding you, really. Gods, I would never."

He hoped the storm would clear from Addy's face. But instead, she continued to gaze at him, looking thunderstruck and shaky, and Cyrus could sense it: danger was looming.

"I need to talk to you about something," she said at last, an odd tremble in her voice. "You might want to sit down."

Cyrus' chest seized up. As he sank to the edge of the bed, he knew what was coming: she was done with him. The long distance thing was never going to work out. Or maybe the past few days without him made her realize she just didn't care for him after all. Or worse, she just didn't want to be with someone who'd caused a genocide.

They were all valid reasons and he was holding his breath waiting for which she chose when she sat down beside him and said only two words.

"I'm pregnant."

Like an icy wind, silence descended over the room. Addy gazed at his face, waiting for him to say something. White noise was filling his brain, and all he managed was, "You're what?"

With a long, torturous yawn, Fiearius lifted himself to his feet, stretching his arms over his head as he left the bridge alone. He'd spent the last few hours making final preparations for Leta, for Quin, for the other ships of his other allies he'd called in to assist. Everything was set. Everything was ready. Maybe tonight he'd manage to sleep for more than twenty minutes, but first he had to talk to his crew. They were all waiting in the mess hall.

He was about to head for the stairs when he found Cyrus was climbing down the ladder from his quarters. He hadn't seen Cyrus since they'd landed on the station, and he forced cheer into his voice when he said, "Hey, lil brother."

"Quiet," was all Cyrus said, gesturing at the hatch above him. "Addy's sleeping."

Fiearius searched over his brother. Darkness circled his eyes, his hair was disheveled, his clothes wrinkled. His eyes were glazed, like he was in a constant daze. Like he wasn't even here, but just walking around in a dream.

"Have you been sleeping?" he asked, continuing down the hall and gesturing he follow.

Cyrus fell into step beside him. "No."

Fiearius waited for a typical Cyrus-style explanation or justification, but he received none. Not that he needed one. He knew what was plaguing him.

"Cy, it wasn't your fault," he insisted. "It wasn't you who killed those people."

Cyrus didn't even skip a beat. "But it was me who built the device that did it," he said simply, his tone flat. Clearly, he'd had this conversation in his head many times before.

"But not you who used it."

Cyrus shrugged. "Doesn't matter. The whole thing was my idea. If I'd never pitched Nautilus, Archeti would still be there." He said it with such even confidence, like there were no other facts in the Span as true as these, that Fiearius barely even knew how to fight him on it.

But that didn't mean he wouldn't try. Fiearius took him by shoulder, pulling him to a stop.

"Cy, how could you have known how that would end up? You pitched something you thought would help people. You never meant it to be used this way."

Cyrus' stare was hollow and unending. "Good intentions don't negate fault, Fiearius," he muttered coldly. "You, of all people, should know that."

The words felt like a knife in the chest, especially from Cyrus, but Fiearius forced himself to overlook them. His brother was going through something horrible. The last thing he needed was a fight. So instead, he said simply, "What I know is what it's like to be used by the Society."

Cyrus grew quiet and looked away. And then suddenly he asked, "How's Finn?"

Fiearius had been trying not to think about his best friend and how he was likely laying on his deathbed. He'd visited once only to be shooed away by medics and told there was no news. He'd just have to trust Finn to pull through in the meantime.

"Not good."

"I'm sorry," he said.

"He's not dead yet," said Fiearius with wry amusement. Eager to change the subject to something lighter than death, he added, "How's Addy doing?"

It wasn't immediately apparent that his plan had backfired. But then Cyrus looked up at him, still with those same dazed, wide eyes, took a deep breath and said, "Oh, she's pregnant."

Fiearius felt his jaw practically hit the floor. Cyrus regarded him, unenthused. "Yeah that was pretty much my reaction too," he pointed out.

"She's - is it yours?" Fiearius finally managed to ask.

Cyrus scowled. "Of course it's mine." Then he let out a crazed, tortured laugh and started to walk away down the hall. "First I'm a mass murderer, now I'm going to be a father. Funny, isn't it."

Fiearius found himself too stunned to even follow after him. Cyrus. Knocked someone up.

But at last he forced his legs forward and followed after his brother. Cyrus went on, "We figured out when it happened, y'know." His voice had been empty before, but now there was a slight manic edge to it that made Fiearius nervous. "The second time we had sex. Which was the morning after the first time. One night. That's all it took. Twice."

Fiearius frowned. "Technically all it takes is once."

But Cyrus wasn't listening. "Most people - most people seem able to, y'know, date someone for a while, maybe move in together, consider marriage and then have children. It's a process. It makes sense. But me? No. No, of course, I get a long-distance girlfriend for two months and skip a few steps right to the end."

"It happens," Fiearius muttered, but Cyrus almost seemed like he wasn't even in the same room anymore, like he was a madman talking to himself. Fiearius grabbed his arm and pulled him to a stop. He looked over at him as though just realizing he was there. "Hey, are you alright?"

"Am I alright?" Cyrus repeated faintly, clearly growing more and more hysterical. "Am I alright? Am I-? No! No, I'm not alright!" he cried, with a fresh bout of frenzy that was shocking to hear. His features marred with disgust and disbelief. "No, I am not alright! I destroyed a planet full of people, Fiearius! I haven't slept in days! I can't think, I can't breathe, I can't focus. I don't know if I'll ever be able to come to terms with it! And then! Then! Just to add onto my plate of fun, I'm going to be a dad! A dad! Me! I just spent the last hour telling my girlfriend that everything will be alright and we'll work it out and it's all fine while she wept on me until she fell asleep. But it's not fine! What the fuck am I gonna do?! I don't know how to raise a kid!"

The sheer desperation in his voice was alarming. It was a rare sight to see Cyrus so very worked up. And it was a sight Fiearius didn't find comforting in the slightest. "Cy," he began, trying to mend it, "Look, it's not-"

"I don't even like kids!" Cyrus yelled, digging both hands into his hair. "I mean, yeah maybe I thought I might have one eventually, but now? Now? Now, when we've basically just started a damn war."

"Cy -" Fiearius tried again.

"And what about Addy? We're not even on the same ship, how are we going to have a baby?! Do we get a house somewhere? Should I marry her?" Finally, Cyrus seemed to realize Fiearius was still standing there. He looked over at him, panic in his eyes. "Shouldn't I marry her?"

Fiearius grimaced. This whole scene was starting to seem a little familiar. Too familiar. "No. She needs your support, Cy, not a ceremony," he answered evenly. Fiearius moved towards him and dropped a hand on his shoulder. "Alright listen. Do you love her?"

"Yeah. Yeah, I do…"

"Good." Fiearius patted him on the shoulder cheerfully. "Then you two'll be fine."

Cyrus looked up at him, dumbfounded. "What? How is that helpful?"

"Cy, no one is prepared to be a parent, you know that? Even the most prepared person isn't prepared. But have you ever noticed that we've been figuring it out as a species for some hundreds of thousands of years?" Cyrus eyed him skeptically. "I was 22 when we had Denarian. You think I wasn't terrified? You think I had any idea what I was doing? Of course not. But let me tell you, they put a baby in your arms and tell you to go take care of it? No matter how clueless you may be, you figure it out."

"That's your answer?" Cyrus deadpanned. "Instincts? Instincts will make everything okay."

"Actually, yes," Fiearius agreed. "Instincts and the fact that you are one of the smartest people in the damn span. And you're having a baby with one of the other smartest people in the damn span."

"Smartest in engineering, not child-rearing," Cyrus insisted.

"Doesn't matter, you love her, you'll love this baby, you'll figure it out," Fiearius argued before releasing his grip on him and continuing off down the hall.

But Cyrus wasn't finished. "And what if we don't? What if we can't?" he snapped, following after him.

"You can," Fiearius answered simply. "And you will."

"But-the war and the ships and where are we gonna live and how are we going to raise a child with the Society after us-we can't just figure it out, it's not that easy."

"Good thing you've got seven months then," Fiearius pointed out.

"We've only been together for two months, and we weren't even actually together for most of it, what if it doesn't work out? What if she decides she hates me?"

"Well then you'll figure that out too."

Cyrus drew in a deep breath, presumably to argue some more, but Fiearius suddenly stopped walking and spun around. Cyrus would have plowed right into him had he not seized his shoulders and held him at arm's length. "Cyrus. I know it's scary. I know it's bad timing. I know you're worried. But you have to have faith that you are going to be an amazing father. However things play out."

Skepticism masked Cyrus' face. He continued to glare at him as Fiearius released him again and started to walk away.

He'd only made it a few steps before he heard Cyrus mutter begrudgingly, "I don't believe you."

Fiearius grinned and called back over his shoulder, "I know. But you will."

It was strange to be back in the mess hall, surrounded by the Dionysian's crew. With her pack slung over her shoulder and a small bag of luggage in her hand, she looked even more out of place than usual: merely a temporary traveler amongst this rabble of a family. But despite appearances, the familiar faces greeted her with as much enthusiasm as ever. Amora had wrapped her in a bear hug, Rhys called out to her "Lyra!" and even Maya gave her a warm smile.

She was unsurprised to hear that the crew was all gathered here at the request of their captain. No doubt he wanted to make some sort of dramatic speech to rally them. It was just Fiearius' brand of narcissism. So she'd happily pulled up a chair and sat back in eager anticipation with her old friends until at last she spotted Fiearius as he strode inside the doorway, Cyrus hovering behind him.

"Alright, listen up!" Fiearius shouted, and all conversation stopped simultaneously. Every eye trained on the captain as he walked forward into the center of the room. His tone was calm and reflective as he went on, "My crew. My dear faithful crew."

His eyes scanned the room in one large swoop, taking in all the faces around him. He took in a deep breath. "You've all followed me into some real shit and back. It probably won't surprise you that I'm not really one for open-faced gratitude. I don't say it often. But I appreciate it. I appreciate everything, all the danger and all the recklessness and all the crap you've put up with. And I'm here to ask if you'll put up with it one more time.

"We all have different reasons for being here," he went on. "For some of us, that reason is that we can't go home. And for some of us…we'll never be able to." His gaze traveled to Eve who was seated solidly in the front, listening with heavy intent, and beyond her, Nikki who was huddled under Javier's arm, so distraught he barely even looked like himself. Leta felt her heart clench. The loss of Archeti was visible everywhere, even here.

Fiearius drew in a deep breath. "I'm sure you've noticed that we're docked to a Carthian station. And you might have wondered 'what the fuck are we doing? Carthis is a piece of shit'. And you're right. But!" He raised a finger in the air. "With Carthis we've been given a chance. A chance to get our homes back and to make sure no one else loses theirs. And we-I-am going to take that chance."

"Tomorrow the Dionysian heads for Vescent," he said decisively. "Our main objective is to deliver someone you might recognize to where she needs to go." He gestured to Leta. "But we've got people, we've got weapons and we're pirates for fuck's sake, so to hell if taxi service is all we're gonna do. We're gonna fight. We're gonna make sure Leta gets there safe. And we're gonna win."

There was a general murmur of excitement and interest around the room. The crew glanced around at one another, shuffled in their seats, muttered their thoughts, but they died off as quickly as they'd started.

"Tomorrow," Fiearius said again, his voice more hesitant this time. "The Dionysian takes a step forward it can't turn back from. Tomorrow, we're starting a war against the Society. Some of you have no qualm with the Society. Some have even more cause to hate them than me. But this could be an extensive campaign. I've made my decision and this ship's in it for the long haul. Til the very end, whatever that end may be. If you want no part in this, speak up now. We can have you put on another ship and taken wherever you need to go. No problem.

"But. Regardless of your history with the Society, we all saw what they're capable of this week. And I don't think anyone in this room can doubt that they need to be put down. Tomorrow the Dionysian goes to war. But she's nothing without her crew. I ask that you stand with me. One more time. Stand with me and we can end this. Stand with me and we can change the Span. Stand with me and let's make this shitty old rustbucket part of history."

The mess hall went up in a cheer of fervor. Rhys let out a whooping yell. Eve jumped to her feet and seized the captain in a crushing hug. And despite herself, Leta couldn't stop from beaming at Fiearius as he joyously rallied his crew around him. As soon as she realized, she wiped the grin off her face lest anyone see, but perhaps it was too late. When she looked back up, she found Fiearius watching her, a smile of his own lighting his face. A cocky one. He raised a knowing brow at her and she frowned good-naturedly in response, crossing her arms over her chest.

Relenting, she made her way towards the thinning crowd around him as they presumably moved off to engage in one of their traditional Dionysian celebrations.

"Nice speech," she remarked dryly as he finally wrenched Eve away from him and turned towards her.

"Liked it, huh?" he asked. "Knew you would."

Leta just rolled her eyes. "Listen-I'd really like to go over the map with you one more time, make sure we-"

But Fiearius was no longer paying attention. "Richelle!" he called out to the young brunette as she wandered towards the kitchen. She glanced back at him in surprise to hear her name and turned their way. Despite her rather...odd induction onto the ship, Leta couldn't help but like the girl. She'd certainly grown a lot amongst the crew and now, it was difficult to believe the circumstances of her first day aboard had even happened.

"Need something capitaine?" she asked cheerfully.

Fiearius jutted his thumb towards Cyrus who was still silently sulking behind him. "I hear this guy's been giving you engine lessons, huh?"

"Oh, yes!" she exclaimed. "Thrice a week." She smiled proudly. "I absolutely love it. Who knew?"

Fiearius hardly seemed to be paying attention to her answer. "He says you're a natural at it." Richelle beamed. "How confident do you feel about manning it alone?"

The beaming stopped instantly.

Cyrus, who perhaps hadn't been listening at all before, was suddenly tuned in. "Wait-what?" he demanded, stalking forwards into the circle.

But Fiearius spoke over him. "You think you could handle it on the trip to Vescent and back?"

Richelle glanced between the two brothers nervously. "Well-Alone? I don't know if I'd-"

"What are you talking about?" Cyrus snapped. "I can't-she's not ready to-"

"We can get Cy set up with a COMM to keep in touch from the station," Fiearius explained calmly.

Cyrus was anything but calm. "The station? You're leaving me here?!"

Truthfully Leta wasn't at all sure of what was going on, but it certainly seemed as though Fiearius had simply lost his mind. Cyrus had always run the engine on the Dionysian. The ship didn't move without him. "Fiear," she muttered, "is that a good idea?"

Fiearius ignored her and put a hand on his sibling's shoulder affectionately. "Cy, Addy needs you right now. You have a responsibility to her first, so yeah. I'm leaving you here." He patted him firmly. "Besides, you're in no shape for this kind of operation and you know it."

Cyrus was dumbstruck. "But-But the Dionysian-"

"Will be fine without you," Fiearius assured him. "If you can, take Richelle down to the engine and give her one last lesson of yours. It's a simple trip with the possibility of a little tiny bit of maneuvering involved. She'll be fine. We'll be fine. You'll be fine." He grinned at the both of them. "Get to it." And then added to Leta as he turned to walk away, "Maps, you said? Maps. Great. Let's do it."

Leta felt a tad shell-shocked, but not nearly as much as Cyrus and Richelle looked. They stared at each other in worry and, in Cyrus' case, exasperation as Leta hurried down the hall after the captain, feeling perplexed. Funny, she couldn't help but think. Chasing after Fiearius in a state of confusion before a horribly dangerous mission? It felt just like old times.

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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JupiterBlossem Featured By Owner Sep 19, 2014  Student General Artist
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Woltz Featured By Owner Sep 13, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
:iconsayhiplz: Thank you so much for the fav!
HoshinoDestiny Featured By Owner Sep 2, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks for the fav!
1priness62 Featured By Owner Aug 29, 2014  Student Artist
ty for fav
Atilea Featured By Owner Aug 29, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thanks for the faves :)
Eniell Featured By Owner Aug 29, 2014
Naw, thanks hun for the fave :)
The Hunt: Profile - Amal by Eniell
khronosabre Featured By Owner Aug 29, 2014  Professional General Artist
Always :) I love your characters.
Eniell Featured By Owner Aug 29, 2014
:iconsmilederpplz: Thank you so much! Coming from you, this really means a lot for me!
SephycalA7X Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Happy birthday! Have a wonderful day :D
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