Shop Mobile More Submit  Join Login
About Varied / Professional Member KhronosFemale/United States Group :iconcaelumlexfans: CaelumLexfans
 
Recent Activity
Deviant for 12 Years
Needs Premium Membership
Statistics 468 Deviations 5,620 Comments 50,669 Pageviews

Newest Deviations

Donate

khronosabre has started a donation pool!
40 / 1,000
Premium premium :D

You must be logged in to donate.

Groups

Activity


Worry settled in Leta's stomach like a rock as she crested the stairs toward the Dionysian's bridge. She knew she'd find Fiearius inside. When she heard his voice, she hung back in the doorway to listen.

"No. No way," Fiearius was saying, his voice ice cold. "I'm turning the ship around and coming back."

"You sure as hell aren't," Cyrus' voice answered, breaking through the crackling COMM speaker. Even through the COMM device, Leta thought he sounded, somehow, very far away — unreachable. Her stomach turned over again. "What's gonna happen if you land the Dionysian here?" he went on. "There are Society agents all over the place."

"All the more reason to come back and get you!" Fiearius growled, and Leta heard a thud — his fist meeting the wall. This was exactly what Leta didn't want to happen: not only was Cyrus and his family in danger, but it was compromising Fiearius. Any minute now, the Dionysian would set down on a remote Ascendian moon to begin hunting down their first Society Councillor. If Fiearius was going to survive this, he needed to be at his best.

She stepped through the doorway, watching Fiearius pace the floor with one hand knotted tightly into his hair. He was anything but focused.

"Fiearius, you can't and you know it." It was Addy's voice now. "Look, we're okay here, really. We're staying hidden and we'll continue to stay hidden until they're gone. You don't need to worry."

"If you didn't want me to worry, you wouldn't have told me," Fiearius snapped. He glanced sideways and met Leta's gaze — distress filled his eyes — then jerked his head sideways, gesturing for her to come in.

"It was Addy's idea," Cyrus muttered through the speaker. Leta leaned against the back of the co-pilot's chair, crossing her arms over her chest.

"We told you because we wanted you to know we're safe," Addy intervened, a note of scolding in her voice. "And I promise that if that appears to be changing, we'll let you know, but for now, we're just going to hide upstairs, out of sight and you go on with your mission. They're not interested in us. They're focused on their own expedition. We'll be fine."

Fiearius growled in his throat but dropped his back against the dashboard, pressing the heel of his hand against his eye. "I'm not okay with this."

"Well you're gonna have to be," said Cyrus. "Take care of yourself, alright? You have your own job to do. We can handle this."

"We'll be in touch," Addy finished. The speaker cackled and went silent.

Clenching his jaw, Fiearius stared down at the COMM receiver in his hand, his fingers wrapped tight around it as though he was considering crushing the thing in his frustration. His breath was quavering and his stance was tense, but finally, he heaved in a deep breath, got a hold of himself and looked up to Leta to explain, "They're–"

"I know," she interrupted, and his brow knit together in sudden surprise. "They called me first. Wanted me to be here to make sure you took it okay."

Fiearius regarded her closely, his chest still rising and falling in great effort. She could see the tendons in his hand. He said nothing.

Carefully, she eased a step towards him and reached out to pry his fingers away from the COMM device he still seemed determined to throttle. She half-expected him to rip his hand away, but he didn't fight it when she circled her fingers around his wrist. "Are you alright?" she asked quietly.

"No," was his immediate response.

Leta carefully replaced the COMM on the dashboard. With her other hand, she tightened her grip at his wrist.

"How the hell do they expect me to–" he began, his voice quiet but laboriously so. "How am I supposed to–" He locked eyes with her and she was crushed to see real genuine fear there. "I can't leave them there. If something happens — "

"I know," said Leta quietly. "I know, but Fiear, they're right. It's more dangerous for you and for them if you go back. You have to just trust them. Trust their judgment. If they believe they're in the clear, then you have to believe that too."

"And you believe that?"

Leta's mouth went dry. In truth, she was combating the burning impulse to turn the Dionysian around herself and single-handedly retrieve them. But it wouldn't help — Cyrus and Addy were too close to danger; the Dionysian couldn't interfere.

"They can handle this," said Leta at last. "Think who they are. Cyrus and Addy, they're smart. Logical. Unlike us." She forced a smirk. "They won't do anything stupid. Especially with — "

"– Kalli," Fiearius finished, but he wasn't relieved. Mentioning his niece's name was the wrong move: Fiearius' face darkened, and his hand slipped away from Leta's as he turned around, pacing a few steps away.

"I don't make choices like this," he growled, stalking to the wall and then spinning around and stalking back. "I don't–missions do not come before — Cyrus and Addy and Kalli and you and this ship? Those are my priorities." He headed back towards the wall. "This?This." He waved his hand vaguely at the window. "This isn't it. Thisisn't me. I can't–"

Suddenly, he froze in place and stared with empty eyes at the dashboard. "They'll be tortured," he said shortly after a moment, his voice detached. "If they're found."

Leta knew he was right. She didn't need to say so. Instead, she said the first two words she could think of, which were, "Come here."

Fiearius pulled his hand down his face, then regarded her uneasily.

"Come here," she said again, and Fiearius glanced over his shoulder as though expecting someone else to come in and counter the order, but then he half-walked, half-wandered closer to where she stood. It was sort of unbelievable, Leta thought, how they still oriented toward one another after all these years: she raised her hands to hold the back of his elbows, and his hands lifted to her hips, and they were drawn closer together in a loose embrace.

"They're going to be alright, Fiear."

A heavy sigh exhaled from his lungs, and then he leaned his forehead against hers. "Yeah," was all he said, under his breath.

"And so are you."

He almost smirked, clamping his eyes shut. "Right."

She squeezed the small of his back once before taking a step back and letting go. "Are you ready?"

"Ready enough," he said, and he reached for his gun from the dashboard, shoving it into its holster. "Not sure how ready to murder someone I want to be, after I swore I wouldn't do this kinda thing anymore…"

Leta's stomach squirmed. Not murdering people was a creed Leta could easily get behind. Fiearius' past employment whether it be under the Society or his freelance hits after the fact had never sat well with her. From what she'd observed — the way he detached from the world after a job, the way he grew quiet at the mention of it, the way he couldn't talk about death or loss without retreating within himself — they didn't sit well with him either.

But this — this wasn't an assassination like those he was used to. This was a strategic move, or so Leta had convinced herself. Killing a Society Councillor wasn't the same as killing a person. It was killing an idea. One by one. And she would keep telling herself and Fiearius that if she had to.

"I feel the same way," she said evenly. "But this is important. And at least you know she's not innocent."

Fiearius let out a grim laugh. "Nobody's innocent," he said. Before she could respond, he added,"I should go find Dez and get ready if we want to stay on schedule."

Leta nodded, but hesitation came to her face.

"And you're truly, really sure about Dez," she said. "You're sure you want to take him. The person who has betrayed you over and over again. Instead of someone you could trust. Eve, or — "

Predictably, Fiearius was already shaking his head. "Eve's great, but not the best strategist on her feet. Dez and I–this is what we're good at. I need him."

Of course, Leta hadn't expected a different answer. It hadn't changed before, why would it change now? They still argued about this for hours, sometimes late into the night. But that didn't stop her from pointing out, "We can't trust him. His motives are unclear, or they don't seem genuine. He's hiding something, Fiear, I know it. He could play you any second and it could end with you dead."

But Fiearius held up a hand to her. "I know. I know…And I'm not asking you to trust him." He took a few steps back towards her and grasped her upper arm. "But trust me, okay?" Leta met his stare, not feeling any more comforted than she had a moment ago. But she sighed and nodded agreement anyway. What other choice did she have? She'd been fighting this battle for years, it was clearly one she wouldn't win.

"And I will trust you to take care of my ship while I'm gone," Fiearius went on, his tone lighter as he let his arm fall back to his side. "Don't do anything I wouldn't do, alright?"

Leta couldn't quell the worry that was rising in her chest, but she forced her best knowing smile. "That's not narrowing it down very much," she muttered as he headed for the door, laughing down the hall.

----------------

The Harrowden family's Second Division War bunker looked like it hadn't been opened in decades. Centuries, maybe, Fiearius thought as he watched Dez skillfully work on the great metal door buried into the ground of the desolate plain of a forgotten Ascendian moon. But that was exactly what someone hiding down there would want someone to think, from the outside, wasn't it?

"Want me to take another turn?" Fiearius asked, reaching for the tool in Dez's hands, but Dez didn't move.

"I can handle the rest."

Fiearius eyed him skeptically and glanced back at the seemingly endless expanse of darkness around them. They'd been out here for nearly an hour now, patiently etching away the lining of the sealed hatch. Not that it mattered. Fiearius had never set foot in a place more lonely than where he stood then. The Society couldn't post agents here, that might draw attention, give something away. This place had to seem deserted in its entirety. There was no one around for hundreds of miles.

His attention was drawn back to Dez when he heard a clunk and a satisfied, "Ahh." Fiearius stepped forward to help him wrench the thing open, but Dez brushed him off and heaved the heavy metal door out of the way himself.

"Show-off," Fiearius muttered.

"Jealous," Dez countered as climbed backwards into the hole he'd opened in the ground.

Fiearius just rolled his eyes and followed down after him, taking the rusty rungs of the ladder one at a time and trying to be as silent about it as possible. Now that they were inside, they were running blind. He knew about the bunker, but he certainly didn't know the layout. He didn't know where their target might be hiding. And he certainly didn't have as much of a plan here as he would have liked.

He felt the ladder's tension change as Dez presumably dismounted below him. It was only another few moments of climbing before Fiearius felt solid concrete himself and turned around to get a look at what they'd descended into.

It wasn't exactly what he was expecting.

"You're sure she's down here?" Dez whispered, his tone dry as the two of them peered into the dark, musty space. It, much like the door, didn't seem to have been touched in generations. Dim generator lights kept the narrow room from being plunged into complete blackness. Shelves lined the walls, empty save for a few cans of food Fiearius likely wouldn't open with a ten foot pole. A few mattresses had been leaned up in the corner. Everything was covered in a thick layer of dust.

"I was," Fiearius answered, but he was beginning to doubt himself too. Ren's research had all pointed to one Rebeka Palano as the Councillor of Ascendia. An upstart politician herself, Palano was heir to the massive Palano estate before she had "died" of illness thirty years ago. But the Palano estate hadn't always been called Palano. Two generations ago, it had been the Lorna estate. And before that, the Ori estate. And before that, during the Second Division War, the Harrowden estate.

"This is her family's long lost bunker," Fiearius mumbled under his breath. "We're at war, she's in danger, where else would she go?"

Dez narrowed his eyes through the darkness. "Yes. Where else would she go?"

"You were the one who told me this was definitely right, that this had to be the place, you were sure of it," Fiearius snapped quietly.

"Because you told me it was definitely right, it had to be the place, you were sure of it," Desophyles growled back, but Fiearius just shook him off and stalked further into the room. There was a hallway through a door on the other end that, upon peering down it, he realized lead to more hallways and more rooms and more hallways. Gods, this place was a maze.

"Let's at least look around," Fiearius suggested. "There's still a chance I'm right."

Dez didn't look pleased, but he didn't argue as he followed after Fiearius into the hall.

----------------

How long ago had it been — six years? It seemed like a whole lifetime had passed since the very first day Leta had first stepped aboard the Dionysian. The day Cyrus kidnapped her and Fiearius yelled at her and she realized, in horror, that she was on a ship filled with criminals. What would she have thought, back then, if she'd known one day she'd be sitting in that very ship's bridge as the acting captain?

She was about to settle in and get some work of her own done to pass the time when she heard footsteps behind her. Swinging her head around, she found Eve wandering into the bridge to join her, a couple of beer bottles hanging in her hand.

"Enjoying the view, doc?" she asked, nodding toward the pitch-black horizon filling the bay window. She settled down in the co-pilot's chair and held out a beer for Leta to take.

Leta almost smiled. "Not sure I should drink on the job."

"Cap'n does all the time. Looks like you could use it too."

Leta hesitated, then accepted the bottle, cracked it open on the edge of the dashboard, and took a long swig: it was true, she was tense. She was trying to not think much about what was happening down in that bunker. Apparently, her unease was written all over her face.

"You're worried about him," said Eve, frowning at her in a thoughtful sort of way, and Leta thought: of course I am. She spent half her life worrying and wondering after Fiearius, although she wasn't willing to admit that aloud. But she couldn't help but voice the question burning a hole in her heart.

"Do you really think they can pull this off?"

To her surprise, Eve barked a laugh. "You kiddin', doc? This is the cap'n we're talkin' about. Course he can pull it off." Leta arched her eyebrows, both comforted and confused by her positivity. Either she really believed in Fiearius, or Fiearius had done a fantastic job of convincing her to believe in him. Or both. Eve's expression did sour slightly when she added, "Wish I coulda gone with him though."

"Yeah," Leta muttered, returning her attention back to her bottle of beer. "Me too." Though even as she said it, she wasn't sure if she meant Eve or herself.

They lapsed into silence. Leta sipped her beer quietly, propping her feet against the dashboard as she tried to avoid imagining all of the horrible outcomes of this mission. She tried to focus on the good ones. Fiearius returning triumphant, the whole crew celebrating, the war beginning its end …

"It'll probably be awhile," Eve said, glancing at her knowingly. "You should get your mind off him."

Perhaps the beer was already going to her head, because Leta smirked and muttered, "I've never been able to do that."

"Yeah, funny, ain't it?" Eve sighed. "How some people, you just can't shake. I know he means a lot to you. But we're not gonna worry about him, now, doc," she told her simply. "Cap'n will be back. These things can take a while. But he'll be back."

Leta wanted to believe it as much as Eve did. She would try to.

Just then, another set of footsteps pounded up the stairs, and then Javier rushed into room, headed straight for the console screen. "Scuse me, Leta — sorry — I need to check something," he apologized in a rush. "I got an alert."

"Eh?" Eve grunted, looking annoyed by the interruption. "What kind of alert?"

"Not sure, that's what I need to–" Javier's fingers flew over the console keyboard, and then he brought up the radar screen. His eyes went round. "Ships. Coming in from orbit."

Leta sat up sharply. "What?"

"Five of them. Looks like–" He tapped the console. "Small fighters."

"Why would there be fighters here?" asked Eve.

"There wouldn't be," muttered Leta, setting down her beer carefully, though her mind was already roaring with alarm. "There's nothing on this moon."

"Except us," pointed out Javier.

"They followed us here," Eve growled. "It's Society, isn't it?"

Javier was shaking his head. "Not Society, I don't think — and if they were ours, they'd have hailed us. These ships–"

"Are coming straight at us!" Eve yellled, gesturing to the radar screen on the secondary console.

"I scanned them, they're–they're reported stolen," Javier breathed, looking over to Leta, as if silently begging her to figure this out.

Leta shut her eyes in realization. Of course. Irony of ironies. "Pirates."

----------------

The rest of the Harrowden bunker looked much like the first part. Fiearius was beginning to truly believe he'd been completely wrong about this. He glanced back at Dez. Well, they were both completely wrong about this. He wouldn't take all the blame.

"Where else would she be?" Fiearius asked, closing a door to an empty storage area and not bothering to keep his voice down anymore. Perhaps somewhere less traceable, he realized after a moment, feeling internally ashamed. The Councillors were known for secrecy. And he was able to figure all of this out.

But it hadn't been easy, he argued. He'd had to stay up for three days straight, make seven separate deals with Ascendian criminals and bang his head against at least ten walls before he'd gotten to this point. It was a guess, but it was a very educated guess.

Shockingly, despite their bad start, Dez didn't seem as disheartened yet as he felt. "She should be here."

"Well unless you know something I don't know, she's not," Fiearius pointed out, shutting yet another door so they'd know it had already been checked.

It didn't help that this bunker seemed to go on for miles. He'd known the Harrowdens had been rich, but he had assumed that their secret hideaway would be smaller than the rest of their estate. He'd assumed incorrectly.

"Maybe we're going the wrong way," was Dez's idea.

"What difference does it make? The whole place is like this." Fiearius ran his finger along a shelf they passed, dragging a clump of dust along with it.

"But maybe it's not," Dez said which, Fiearius thought, was about the most useless statement he could have made. His second statement, however, was not. "Something smells weird."

Fiearius looked back to see that he had stopped and was sniffing the air curiously. A frown passed over his face. "I don't smell anythi–" Fiearius began, but suddenly, to his alarm, he did. He did smell something. Something he'd been smelling far too often lately.

Fiearius spun back around just as it became visible in the hallway in front of him. The beginning sparks of flame. "Oh you gotta be fucking kidding me," he breathed as the spark met a wooden shelving unit and roared upwards.

Suddenly, he felt a sharp tug on his arm and he was being wrenched backwards by Dez. "Why does this keep happening to me?!" Fiearius demanded as he spun around and fell into pace beside him. He could feel the heat starting to rise at his back, which he shouldn't have. There wasn't enough fuel in here to make it spread this quickly. This was planned.

"I'll give you one guess," Dez called to him over the growing noise, echoing his own suspicions. Ophelia Varisian.

Fiearius shook his head. "What the hell did you do to that psycho?"

Dez cast him a strange look. Somewhere between worry and apology. But Fiearius didn't have time to analyze it as they turned a corner and were met with another wall of fire.

"Shit, she's boxed us in," Fiearius growled.

"This way." Dez took them down the adjacent hall which was clear, for now. Flames blocked off hallways they passed, forcing them down what was apparently the only safe path. It felt determinate. Intentional. She was leading them somewhere?

And then she lead them into a room that wasn't as empty as the rest. Fiearius stumbled to a halt and locked eyes with the woman standing before him, eyes he hadn't seen in years. They were different now. Older, tired, something more harsh about them. Her blonde hair was cut short. She'd lost some of her bulk. But it was still Varisian and her stare still threatened to slice his head off at the first wrong move.

But Varisian didn't attack, not at first. In fact, she looked like she hadn't expected them. At least not yet. She stood in the center of the room like they'd caught her in the middle of some intimate embarrassing act and no one could move. But suddenly, her eyes snapped to Dez. Her brow furrowed. She threw something across the room which crashed and started a blaze in the doorway and then, finally, she drew a blade from her hip and attacked.

Attacked Dez.

Fiearius staggered backwards anyway, drawing his gun and trying to get a good aim as the woman lashed out, a flurry of rage and grace. Dez held her off, dodging out of the way, parrying her lunges and eventually drawing a blade of his own. Between the two of them, Fiearius had a hard time getting a clear shot, but in the end, he didn't have to.

"Go!" Dez ordered through gritted teeth as he blocked Varisian's attack.

"What?!"

"Go!" he shouted again and nodded towards the other door that she hadn't blockaded. "I'll hold her off. The Councillor is here. Go! Finish the job!"

Fiearius couldn't fathom most of what was happening. Why Ophelia was so set on stabbing Dez to death, how she'd even gotten here, what she was doing with the path of fire, but there was one thing that did make sense. Dez was right. She wouldn't be here if there wasn't something worth protecting.

He hesitated only a moment more, taking one last look at his old friend as he countered the onslaught, before he turned down the hall and made a run for it.

She'd already gotten to this hall. There were flames blocking every passage, every door, Fiearius was certain he'd run down a dead end right up until he saw it. The alcove, just a small dome branching out of the hallway that seemed insignificant. But the fire hadn't touched it. It was clear. And set into the floor was a hatch that, unlike everything else in this damn place, wasn't shielded by dust.

Without thinking, Fiearius grabbed the handle and yanked it open to reveal the hole and the ladder below. This ladder he wasn't careful with, bracing his feet on the sides and sliding down to the bottom with a thump.

He stumbled backwards, looking back up into the flickering lights above him, but before he could turn around, a voice froze him in place.

"Fiearius Soliveré. I've been expecting you."
The dinner hadn't gone horribly. At least from an investment perspective.

But Addy was not at all sorry to see the evening come to a close. After their host Eriaas had insisted on wine, then dessert, then more wine to cap off the night, she and Cyrus had managed to escape. Eriaas - or more likely, Eriaas' staff - had arranged for them to sleep in the guest rooms upstairs. Kalli had dozed off in Cyrus' arms, and Addy knew this was the only reason why they managed to hold off shouting at one another.

As soon as they put Kalli to bed and retreated into the hallway, however, all bets were off. Right as Addy pulled the door closed, she turned to Cyrus.

"Cyrus, I can't believe - " but he cut her off, his voice a harsh whisper.

"Did you have to act like that in front of our daughter?"

"Excuse me?" Addy's voice was low, but sharp. "Act like what, exactly?"

"You know exactly what I mean."

But Addy rolled her eyes and took a few steps away from him. "I don't. If anyone should be apologizing, it's you."

Disbelief rose in his eyes as he followed her down the hallway. "Me? Me?"

"Yes, you," Addy snapped, still forcing her voice to be hushed. She didn't need Eriaas or anyone else for that matter overhearing this. "I've never been so embarrassed in my life." She gestured towards the stairs they'd just come up. "You acted like a child down there. More so than our actual child. This man is an important investor, he was gracious enough to welcome us into his home and he's going to help with New Genisi and yet you, for some reason, felt the need to throw a fit every few minutes because you weren't getting enough attention."

Cyrus scoffed. "I did not throw a fit."

"You accused him of not actually caring about his projects, you insulted his taste in wine, when he asked about our future plans, you told him I don't even like Archeti and can't wait to leave," she listed off. "Why would you say that?!"

But Cyrus, as always, didn't budge. "It's true, isn't it?"

Her hands flew into the air in exasperation. "I'm honestly surprised he didn't change his mind and kick us out with how you were acting."

"Of course he didn't. Why would he, with how you were acting?" Cyrus' eyes narrowed. "Why kick us out when he's got a beautiful girl charmed by his every word?"

So it went back to this. Again. "And here we go," Addy groaned. "How many times do I have to tell you, I was playing along, Cyrus, because we need his help. It's a tactic, what's so hard to understand about this?"

"Spare me," Cyrus snapped. "It's not just a tactic. I've seen you pretend to be charmed and it doesn't look like that."

Addy wanted to refute, to argue, but something in equal parts made her not want to bother. "Fine. Maybe I was charmed. Maybe it's nice to be treated with respect for once."

Cyrus' mouth fell open. "Are you saying-"

"But why are you so damn jealous, Cy?" Addy demanded, cutting him off. "For the gods' sakes, you can't honestly think I want to be with that man. I have a child with you."

"Right," Cyrus agreed, his tone venomous as he added, "So you're obligated to stay with me."

Okay, so she may have walked right into that one. Still, she shook her head and growled, "That's not what I meant and you-"

"True though, right? You would never leave Kalli and neither would I, so you're kind of stuck with me now, aren't you?"

"Cyrus- !"

"If it weren't for her, would you still be here?"

Addy opened her mouth, fully poised to debate the issue, but suddenly she clamped it shut again. No, she wouldn't fall into his trap of self-deprecation. Not again. It would be easier, sure, telling him he was crazy, telling him she loved him so that he could argue that she doesn't, she couldn't, he doesn't deserve her. Then she would insist otherwise, they'd embrace and the issue would be dropped. It's what Cyrus wanted. Reassurance. But this time, for once, she wasn't going to give it to him.

"You just love to play the victim, don't you?" Addy growled, setting her eyes on him firmly.

"I-what?"

"Every time," she went on, barely able to keep her voice in a whisper now. "It's that I neglected you, I'm not on your side, I would be elsewhere if it weren't for Kalli, what about you? What have you done to fix our relationship besides complain and try and guilt me about it?"

"Wha-" Cyrus sputtered, but quickly regained his composure. "I didn't break it to begin with!"

Addy could hardly believe her ears. This time, she was so stunned, she couldn't even find words to respond with. Fortunately it only took Cyrus a moment to realize what he'd said and she saw the regret pass over his face. "I mean-not to say that I'm blameless," he hurriedly backpedaled.

Addy couldn't help herself. She let out a sharp laugh. "Damn right you're not blameless," she snapped. "Sure, okay, I flirt with Eriaas a little bit. I know it makes you uncomfortable. He'd probably give us the money regardless. And I do it anyway. I'll admit that. But you know why I do it?" She took a strong step towards him and he recoiled backwards. "Because you never flirt with me. What is it, Cy, we have a daughter, we live together, you don't have to invest any effort anymore? The hard part's over, you just expect to go on happily with your prize and that's it? That's not how this works, Cyrus!"

"I never said it did!" was his instant response, though he looked more than a little shell-shocked. "And I don't expect anything like that. You wanna talk about flirting? Really? Who of us is more romantic? Who of us plans nice dinners? Who buys flowers? Who initiates everything?"

"You do," Addy admitted, "But all those things? They're only about you! The romance? Only because you're feeling insecure and you want some physical affirmation from me that we're okay. The dinners? Gods, you've made things I don't even like, you're just trying to hit points on a checklist. And the flowers?" She threw her arms to either side of her. "Cyrus, I have allergies!"

"At least I'm trying," Cyrus growled. "At least I do something. When was the last time you tried anything? Maybe I wouldn't need so much reassurance if you gave me any hint that you even liked me anymore."

Addy just let out a sigh. "Oh not this again."

"Not this again?" Cyrus barked through a bitter laugh. "What, the thing that hasn't changed? Over five years? Gods, Addy, you act like you've been given a death sentence since the day I knocked you up. That you're here because you have to be, that you went to Archeti because you have to, that everything that's happened up to now is because I forced your hand. How do you think that makes me feel?"

"I never acted like-"

"I've tried to make you happy," he insisted. "Have I been very good at it? Apparently not. But I've tried. I love you. I want to be with you. Hell, how many times do I have to say this, I want to marry you-"

"And of course, it goes back to that," Addy cut him off, putting her hand on her head.

"-and of course, that's your reaction," Cyrus growled right back. "And you wonder why-"

"Cyrus, the only reason you want to marry me so bad is to make yourself feel better." It was perhaps a cruel accusation, Addy realized after she'd said it and she saw the flash of pain across his face. But it didn't make her feel any less strongly about it. "You want to lock it in so you can assure yourself that everything is fine. But everything is not fine."

He was nodding slowly now, like she'd just punched him in the gut and he was having a hard time coming to terms with it. "So the excuse about wanting a Ridellian ceremony on Satieri-"

"It's not an excuse. I do want a Ridellian ceremony. And that is a whole other thing. Do we even need to discuss how you act about my religion?"

"What, the ancient star beings thing?" he responded, rolling his eyes and proving her point. When she just stared at him firmly, he frowned. "What? I'm sorry, it's ridiculous."

Addy crossed her arms over her chest and waved a hand in the air. "And important to me." When she glanced pointedly at him, he clenched his jaw and said nothing. There was a silence between them that suddenly she felt very inclined to fill. "Maybe that's the root of it," she said, talking but not sure where she was going. "That what's important to me...isn't what's important to you."

The words slipped out of her before she could catch them and there they sat, hovering between them as they stared each other down in the hallway. Cyrus didn't argue them. How could he? They were more poignant than Addy even cared to admit. She loved Cyrus and she knew he loved her, but neither of them could deny that their relationship wasn't the stuff of legends. It wasn't even the stuff of a good story. At best, it was a disheartening look at two people that had jumped into something far too serious far too soon. And these days, it was really starting to show.

"We're not very good at this are we?" Cyrus said at last, his voice quiet, all traces of anger and argument gone now.

"No," Addy agreed, shaking her head. "No, I don't think we are…"

He was nodding again, his eyes downcast. "Maybe-I'm just gonna sleep in the shuttle."

Addy nodded back, slowly. "Okay."

He caught her eyes briefly, a heavy burden of sadness behind them, before turning down the hall and disappearing down the stairs.

----------------------

The shuttle they had rented, as it turned out, was not a very comfortable sleeping location. Cyrus rolled off the hard, cold cot shortly after the sun began streaming through the cockpit window, but he'd been drifting in between wakingness and uncomfortable dreams about his fight with Addy for what felt like hours.

His feet recoiled as they met the freezing surface of the metallic floor, but he winced and forced his aching body to a stand. One more minute in this cramped rental was too much and not just due to claustrophobia. His sleepless night of bad dreams and solitary contemplation had at least brought him to one realization: that he needed to fix this. And he needed to fix it now.

Cyrus hadn't bothered undressing the night before and his luggage was still inside Eriaas' house, so he just slipped on his shoes and stepped out into the sharp morning air. The salty sea wind enveloped him and he sucked in a deep breath that made his lungs ache as he squinted through the morning light at the mansion atop the hill.

You can do this, he told himself. Just apologize and be better. They'd had fights before. Honestly, they had fights more than Cyrus cared to admit. This one may have been different, it may have been worse, but it was still solvable, he knew. It had to be.

So he started the walk up the path, bracing himself against the wind that seemed determined to knock him over and rehearsing lines in his head. He was almost to the door when he noticed the wind suddenly getting louder. And louder. And...more mechanical?

Confused, he looked up and was unsurprised to find a ship still many miles up coming in for a landing. One of Eriaas' friends probably? Another business associate? Well Cyrus hardly cared. He didn't want to stick around this place any longer anyway. The arrival of more guests was a perfect reason not to.

But just before he looked away, something about the ship caught his eye and made his breath catch in his throat. As the ship descended through the ocean haze and grew steadily more clear, it became more and more noticeable. The mark on its bow. That symbol. The librera.

Shit.

He was probably still the size of an ant to them at that altitude, but Cyrus nonetheless sprinted the rest of the path and rammed his finger into the COMM button in case that changed soon.

"Argoatan residence, how may I-" began the professional door-answerer, but Cyrus cut him off.

"It's Cyrus, can you let me in?" he asked, trying not to sound as rushed and desperate as he felt.

"Mr. Soliveré?" asked the voice. "Why are you-"

"Please," he begged again, "Please, just let me in."

"Of course, wouldn't want to-" said the voice and the door slid open. Cyrus hurried inside and ran down the hall toward the stairs long before he could hear the second part of that sentence.

They had to get out of there. They had to leave and quickly. Gods, was it already too late? How the hell could they escape with that ship so close? It was right there. It would see them and as soon as it did? Cyrus didn't want to think about it. He didn't want to think about Kalli in the clutches of the Society. He couldn't.

Addy was still in bed when he pulled open the door to the room she'd been staying in, but she didn't look like she'd been asleep when she blinked up at him, squinting through the light.

"Cy-" she began, apology already heavy in her voice, but now was not the time for apology.

"Addy, get your things," he insisted, crossing the room to their luggage and started piling what little had been laid out back into the bags.

She frowned at him and slowly lifted herself from the bed. "Wh - "

"We don't have a lot of time," he went on, ignoring her.

"Cy," she said again, softly this time as she reached out to put her hand on his, stilling him. "Cy, listen-"

Briefly, he met her eyes. They were fixed on him, full of sadness, pain, sorrow and he knew somehow that she had slept just as little as he had. He couldn't stop himself from grasping that hand, if even for a moment. But in the end, he said, "Addy, there's no time. We have to go."

Now, confusion crossed her face. "What? Why?"

Cyrus opened his mouth to explain, but it wasn't his voice that filled the room. "P'ahti?" Both parents looked over to find Kalli in her nightdress, rubbing her eyes and standing in the doorway.

"Issyen," Cyrus cooed, abandoning his packing attempts and rushing over to the door, sweeping the girl up in his arms. He fought the images of her captured away from his mind's eye.

"P'ahti, what's wrong?" Kalli asked in a hushed voice, reaching out her tiny hand to touch Cyrus' face.

"Nothin', issyen, nothin', we're just getting ready to go, that's all." The assurance seemed to work and he felt the girl relax a little in his arms, but when he turned back to Addy she was still frowning at him in a desperate attempt to understand what was going on.

He didn't want to say the word in front of Kalli. She knew what the Society was. She knew it meant danger. And the last thing he wanted was a panicking child, so instead he wrapped his arms around her tighter, leaning her head into his shoulder and over her back mouthed, 'Society.'

But Addy just frowned deeper and mouthed back, 'What?'

'Society,' he tried again, moving his lips more dramatically and gesturing to the window, but still, she just shook her head and shrugged. He was about to try again when yet another voice cut him off.

"We have a problem. The Society's here." It was Eriaas. For once, the man wasn't his usual spotless put-together self. His robe was dissheveled, he had bags under his eyes and his hair stuck up at all angles. Cyrus might have actually appreciated the sight under different circumstances, but as it were…

"What?" Addy demanded, her own eyes going wide and her face pale. Kalli squirmed in Cyrus' grasp and looked around at them all in growing horror. "Here? Why?"

"I wish I knew," Eriaas muttered, glancing over his shoulder as though someone might sneak up and attack him at any moment. "I've had no bad relations with them personally, but-" He raised his brows pointedly at the family in the room. "Obviously the timing could be better…"

Kalli was growing more and more restless by the minute, but Cyrus just held her tighter as he asked, "You think they're here for us?"

"How could they be?" Addy demanded. "The Dionysian is untrackable, there's no way anyone would know we were dropped off here."

"It doesn't matter why they're here, we just need to leave," Cyrus decided as Kalli wriggled so hard, he had no choice but to lean down and set her on her own two feet where she simply seized his pant leg in fear.

"It's a little late for that," Eriaas argued. "They're already touching down."

Cyrus glanced out the window just as the sleek grey shape of the ship descended into view. At once, Addy slid the curtains shut. "He's right. If we had an opportunity, we missed it," she said.

"So what, we just wait here for them to find us?" Cyrus demanded.

"Well hang on, now, Cy," Eriaas argued, holding up his hand. "We don't know why they're here. It could be that they just want to meet with me and then leave. No harm done."

Cyrus met Addy's eyes across the room as she muttered, "That's a pretty big risk."

No sooner had the words left her mouth, a voice filled the COMM speakers. "Sir? An Agent Parnassé at the door for you?"

Eriaas' jaw tightened. "Not sure you have much of a choice." He stepped back through the door and began to close it behind him. "Stay here."

Cyrus strode over to the door and put his hand on it, almost just to assure himself that it was closed. Kalli was still clinging to his pant leg as she looked up at him and mumbled. "P'ahti?"

"It's okay, issyen, everything's gonna be okay," he assured her as Addy joined them at the door and ruffled a hand through Kalli's hair. The little girl only gripped Cyrus tighter.

"Maybe he's right," Addy whispered, locking eyes with him. "Maybe they just want to talk and they'll leave."

Cyrus nodded, wanting to believe it, but he found himself holding his breath as he heard, on the floor below them, the front door sliding open.

"Eriaas Argoatan?" asked a brisk female voice followed by Eriaas himself.

"Agent Parnassé, was it? Please, please, come in."

"I'm so sorry to disturb you at what must be this early hour." Footsteps clicked across the foyer. "We've been on black time for quite a while. I forget morning still exists planetside."

"Of course, of course, I understand. Not a worry," Eriaas insisted. "Can I get you anything? Something to drink? Eat?"

"Ah, yes, actually," Parnassé answered. "A spot of breakfast wouldn't go amiss."

"I'll have my chef start on something right away."

"Oh, but I must ask, our ship. Is it alright docked where it is?" There was hesitation on Eriaas' end. "For the long term, I mean."

"Sorry, long term?"

"Ah, I'm getting ahead of myself. I haven't even told you why we're here, have I?"

"You may have left that out I'm afraid."

Cyrus nearly jumped when he felt a hand on his back. He looked over at Addy who was leaned as closely to the door as he was, listening in. Concern marked her features, anticipation in her stance and when she glanced over at him, she swallowed hard.

"You see, Mr. Argoatan. Can I call you Eriaas? Excellent. We are planning an expedition of sorts. Looking to uncover an ancient device unseen by human eyes for millennia. We've heard about your entrepreneurial investments. I'm here to negotiate your involvement."

Eriaas let out a laugh that sounded a little too relieved. "But of course. I'd be happy to hear your proposal over breakfast, if you'll just come right this-"

"I'm afraid that's not all I must ask, Eriaas," Parnassé cut him off. "I hate to encroach upon the hospitality of a man I've only just met, but our expedition? The trail we've uncovered to the device? It begins here."

A long pause passed before Eriaas found his voice and asked, "How long are you looking to stay?"

Parnassé let out an infectious laugh. "Let's discuss over breakfast, shall we?"

As two sets of footsteps headed out of the foyer towards the dining room, growing quieter and quieter until they faded out entirely, Cyrus couldn't breathe. No one in the room said a word until suddenly he felt a tug on his pant leg.

"P'ahti? P'ahti, can we leave now?"

Cyrus looked down at Kalli and tried to muster an encouraging smile. "No, issyen. No, I'm afraid we can't."
Cyrus came to a halt at the end of the long winding path and squeezed his daughter's hand. "You ready?" he asked with a sly smile, and Kalli nodded eagerly. She tended to be nervous when meeting someone new. Not out of shyness, of course, for Kalli was hardly shy, but he and Addy had told her this morning in no uncertain terms that Eriaas Argoatan was very important and that she would need to be on her best behavior during their visit. It wasn't easy reining in a girl with so much energy.

"Are you ready?" Addy asked him knowingly, hovering her hand over the COMM beside the door leading into Argoatan's house — well, mansion, more like. It was a gorgeous place, he had to admit. An expansive, sleek building built into a hill, overlooking an ocean. Salty wind had blown at their faces as they'd made the trek up the path lined with little twinkling lights just starting to flicker on as the suns made their slow descent to the horizon, painting the sky in orange and pink. Cyrus could hardly imagine what one had to pay to get this kind of view every day.

"Of course I'm ready."

Addy flashed him a look of amusement, then said, "Adrasteia Atelier and Cyrus Soliveré here to see Mr. Argoatan," into the receiver.

A proper male voice responded, "One moment, ma'am," and Cyrus snorted. He couldn't imagine how much one had to pay to get a live-in door-answerer either.

"It's a little ridiculous," Addy muttered in agreement. "Let's just grin and bear this, okay? Endure his charm for an hour or two and we'll get the help we need."

Cyrus grumbled noncommittally, because Addy was right: Eriaas Argoatan's money was vital to rebuilding. A healthy donation from him meant New Genisi could keep expanding on schedule. Homes could be built, infrastructure could be laid, the city could come together. Without a donation? They could be stalled for months…

"Addy!" proclaimed a bright face as the door swung open. The man flashed his shiny white teeth as he spread out his arms in excitement. For as long as Cyrus had known him, Eriaas had always been a handsome man, in the strictest sense of the word. He had a firm jaw, smooth dark skin surrounding eyes that shimmered under the right light and he was always dressed as impeccably as his income suggested. Cyrus wasn't entirely sure what he did to achieve that income. Maybe he just convinced people to hand him piles of credits with his neverending charm.

Frankly, he made Cyrus want to gag a little.

"Cy," Eriaas went on, pointing at him with a wink and speaking with a sly tone that seemed to imply an inside joke between them that Cyrus had never heard. He smiled back. Tightly.

Finally, his eyes fell to Kalli who was now squeezing Cyrus' hand even tighter. "And this must be the little tornado I've heard so much about." Eriaas leaned down, his hands on his knees to get a better look at her. "It's very nice to finally meet you, Kalli," he said seriously, extending a hand for her to shake. Kalli took it gingerly, a little thrown off, but when he overdramatically shook it up and down, she giggled and bounced on her feet.

Eriaas laughed in return and looked back at Addy. "Clearly gets her looks from her mother I see," he chimed and Addy waved him off, but pink flushed her neck. Cyrus wasn't sure whether to be more offended by the fact that he was hitting on her (as usual) or the fact that he'd implied Cyrus bore their daughter the ugly genes…

"Anyway, come in, come in," he insisted, stepping back inside and sweeping his arm for them to follow. "I've got my chef making the final preparations for dinner right now, should be ready any minute. Adrasteia, my dear, can I get your coat?" Before Addy could even respond, he was helping her out of it. A little too eagerly, Cyrus couldn't help but note as he saw Eriaas' hands stay at her hips longer than was necessary.

Cyrus fell into step beside Addy as they followed their host towards the dining room. "Remind me why we're here again," he muttered bitterly and Addy laughed.

"Just play the game, Cyrus."

The dinner, as it always was when they visited Eriaas, was spectacular. Cyrus was by no means a connoisseur of fine food, but when he sat down at the long table beside the seamless glass windows and was presented with a feast on shining platters, he knew what he was looking at was expensive at the very least. The fact that it tasted good seemed to be an added bonus.

The conversation was much less palpable.

" — and I spent most of last month in Ordenon," Eriaas was saying halfway through the meal, after catching them up on his travels through the Ellegian wilderness, fighting off wild animals and nature. Or something. "It was a nice break from roughing it." He laughed. Addy laughed with him. "You've been to Ordenon, haven't you?"

"Ah, no, actually," Addy admitted, twirling pasta around her fork.

"I have," said Kalli at once, her small voice proud and confident. Cyrus snickered and nudged her elbow.

Addy went on to Eriaas, "I've spent some time in Tarin proper, but never Ordenon. Pretty sure we wouldn't be that welcome there…"

Eriaas waved her off, shaking his hand. "Nonsense! Visit with me and no one would dare make you feel unwelcome," he beamed, and Cyrus felt a bristle of irritation. By the way Eriaas was looking at her, he doubted the invitation was for the entire family.

"Though they might be a bit of a bore for you," he went on. "It's all parties and politics, really. Even I can barely stand the place for long. I picture you as more of the adventurous sort, am I right? Trekking the mountains of Uora, paddling down the Lassan river, sleeping under the stars?"

"Under the stars?" Kalli piped up, her voice puzzled. She looked from Cyrus to her mother. "Why?"

"It's called camping, honey," Addy explained, smiling at her. "Like in tents, outside. We'll take you someday."

"Of course we will," said Eriaas grandly, beaming across the table.

Cyrus repressed a snort. He forced his eyes to his plate, stabbing at his food with his fork. Of course Eriaas loved camping and nature and all of the things Addy liked but Cyrus hated. Of course.

Kalli went back to her plate, gingerly taking bites out of each piece, chewing carefully, a look of deep thought on her face, before putting it back down and apparently trying to decide whether she liked it or not.

Well at least one of his girls wasn't impressed by this guy.

"Speaking of uncharted terraform," Addy said suddenly, "I suppose I should talk about why we're here."

"Ah yes." Eriaas leaned back in his chair, lifting his glass of perfectly vinted wine to his lips. "The Archeti project, yes? You're still on that?"

Was that supposed to be a slight? Even if it was, Addy remained unphased. Frankly, she was better at this than he thought. Her willingness to 'play the game' and her cajoling charm was reminding him unpleasantly of his brother.

" — and we've got the infrastructure of New Genisi nearly ready to go," she was saying to him, her voice smooth and light like she could think of no better way to spend her evening. "We're starting to build at last."

"That's fantastic!" Eliaas cried, lifting his wine glass to them. "I'm glad to hear it." He leaned forward on the table and lifted a brow at her. "Don't need my money anymore then, huh?"

Addy opened her mouth, then closed it. "Well — " but Eliaas cut her off with a laugh.

"I jest, I jest, my dear. You know I'm more than happy to help you out."

Cyrus caught Addy's eye briefly as she grinned at him, relieved.

"What happened to that poor planet is awful," Eliaas sighed. "As long as a remarkable mind like yours is on the job, I'm more than happy to assist in any way I can." And then — Cyrus watched it, as though in slow motion — he caught Addy's hand in his.

Cyrus stared fixedly, unable to help himself, as Eliaas' thumb ran over the back of Addy's hand. He probably shouldn't have been mad. He had no legitimate claim on Addy. They had a daughter together, they lived together, they worked together, they were 'together' in the very broad sense of the word, but if she wanted a handsome rich guy to squeeze her palm like that, something that was, in effect, harmless, that was her choice. Right?

And yet when he glanced down at Kalli who, surprisingly, was staring at them too with her usual wide-eyed wonder, he couldn't help himself.

"It might assist if you'd actually visit the planet for once," he said suddenly, breaking the awkward silence. Everyone turned to Cyrus, awed. Addy's hand was freed now and holding the stem of her wine glass. Her eyes narrowed with warning.

Cyrus felt a rush of embarrassment, but he went on strongly, "I don't know, having an actual investor on the ground could help a lot. Help morale, help order, help get things done…"

His voice trailed off as everyone else in the room continued to stare at him blankly. Addy pursed her lips and gave him a stern look that he recognized without question: he was in trouble.

But fortunately, it was Eliaas who broke the silence at last. "Maybe," he said lightly, and then added, "But I'm afraid my schedule is booked for quite some time. I'm a busy man, you understand. Can't just be making visits to all of my benefactors." He grinned his sparkling grin and refilled his wine glass.

The gesture made Cyrus want to punch that stupid grin right off his face.

But before he had the chance, the attention was gone. Eliaas lifted Addy's hand to his lips, said, "Perhaps one day, you'll visit me for a reason other than investments?" and kissed it.

Cyrus suppressed a groan. It was going to be a long night.

-----------------

"We smoked 'em. Smoked 'em good. Cap'n had the whole place locked down in minutes, shoulda seen it." Rhys described the event with all the tenacity of a man a few drinks deep, his hands making grand gestures in the air and his eyes lit with inspiration. "Shoulda been there, Lena."

"Leta," Leta corrected, amused.

Eve, seated at her side, scoffed a laugh. "Don't think our doc woulda cared for it much, Rhys. Not a lot of raids I cared for myself…" She shook her head and took a long sip from her glass. "Good work though. We're doin' good work. Believe that with all my heart." She nodded firmly and Leta smiled.

"That base was turned into a refugee camp. Its housing hundreds of displaced families now, so I've heard. It is good work." Whether or not it would remain good in the long run, she couldn't be sure, but after the past week, Leta was tired of dwelling on politics. For now, she was much more interested in hearing about the heroics of old friends.

"Know what though, doc, cap'n ever tell ya 'bout the first land on Ascendia?" Eve asked suddenly. Leta raised her brows and shook her head. Eve's eyes lit up, she cast a glance at Rhys who squirmed in his chair with excitement, and started to tell the tale.

It was strange, Leta thought, being back on the Dionysian again, lounging around the mess hall as the ship plummeted across the Span, chatting with its permanent fixtures. A lot had changed since her time aboard. Without Cyrus, Corra, Nikkolai, Amora…It was quieter. The crew was small. The air was a little harsher than it used to be, more serious. This ship had seen a lot, Leta knew, in the past five years. Things it wouldn't soon recover from.

But there was still Rhys with his ill-advised drinking. Still Eve, ever vigilant. Richelle, who had blossomed into a capable engineer, was helping Maya who had, of all things, taken cooking lessons from Fiearius in his few spare moments. It was easy to tell, Leta thought as the woman laid a plate in front of her on the table, given just how spicy it smelled.

Leta hadn't realized how much she had missed this place.

"Are you telling the Ascendia story again?" Maya asked as she sat down across the table. "We've heard it a thousand times."

"Leta hasn't," defended Eve.

"They snuck around for a few days and then took over city hall, just her and the cap'n and a couple Carthians, it was very impressive," Maya spoiled with her usual dosage of snark.

Eve growled, "Better when I tell it…"

It was then that the faint sound of approaching footsteps met Leta's ears. None of the others at the table looked up from their meals, this was such a clockwork occurrence to them, but she couldn't stop herself from glancing at the door as the ship's captain and his assistant entered the room.

Javier, as always, was busy reading off messages. "Admiral Gates would like you to put in a word to the Ellegian News Network about the Vescentian riots."

"He wouldn't like the word I'd use. Ignore," said Fiearius abruptly as he crossed the room. His loyal crew gave him a chorus of grunts as greeting and Maya said, "Extras in the kitchen, cap'n."

Leta had found that Fiearius was hardly present on the Dionysian's lower decks anymore. Instead, he was constantly occupied in the bridge, sending out orders to his fleet scattered across the Span. But he did make a point of sharing meals with them whenever he could. She'd been here all of a week and hardly seen him save for breakfasts, dinners and an occasional late night drink before he got back to work.

Still, few as those moments had been, Leta couldn't deny she'd appreciated them.

Unintentionally, she met his eyes as he passed towards the kitchen and he smirked. She returned it with a tilt of her head before going back to her food.

Meanwhile, Javier went on. "Parés is asking for more ships again."

"Ignore."

"Arsen requests you pull your people out of the eastern front on Ascendia."

"Ignore."

"Commander Lirien wants to know if he can see you again."

"Ignore."

"Quin's got a status update on the west Ascendia operation."

Leta heard Fiearius heave a deep sigh. "Alright, hit me."

"Area acquired, ten lost, thirty wounded."

Beside Leta, Richelle sucked in a breath through her teeth and shared a solemn glance with Maya over the table.

"She's awaiting further instructions," Javier finished as Fiearius exited the kitchen and took his place at the end of the table. Leta observed him quietly as he brandished his fork without touching the food. He looked tired, but he always looked tired these days. Now, it was almost as if he was so tired, it didn't phase him anymore.

And in fact, he sounded appropriately numb when he said, "Send a message to the Carthian lead in Ascendia proper, get shuttles out there for the injured. Tell Quin to take a break and head back to the CORS. I'll meet her there when I can."

Javier nodded and made a note on his tablet dutifully before finally sitting down himself and placing the thing aside, face down. An important part of the daily ritual, Leta had noticed. No messages, no contact, no disasters. Just for an hour.

"So," Fiearius began suddenly, his tone a lot lighter, though perhaps forcedly so. "How's my dear crew doing? Being nice to our guest?" He gestured towards Leta.

"Leta's not a guest," Javier flared up at once. "She's family."

Fiearius glanced over at her and upon catching his eye, she raised her brows expectantly. Yeah, she thought, what do you have to say about that?

But Fiearius just grinned and amended, "Of course, sorry. Being nice to our estranged cousin? Distant aunt? Prodigal daughter?"

Leta noticed Maya rolled her eyes, but Richelle was the one who answered, "Just fine, cap'n."

"You forget your crew doesn't have the detriments of your sparkling personality," put in Leta to which he grunted a laugh.

On the other side of the table, Eve was all business. "So we're headed for Ascendia, cap'n?" she asked.

"Not quite," Fiearius answered. "Ascendian cluster, but not Ascendia itself. Got a very important target to take care of." He caught Leta's eye briefly, as though to ensure she didn't elaborate on that any further. Apparently he didn't even trust his mission to assassinate the Society Councillors to his crew.

Though Eve might have not taken that hint. "What's the target?" she asked. "When can you brief me?"

Leta saw Fiearius' awkward grimace before he brushed it aside and told her patiently, "Actually, you won't be coming with me. Sorry, Harper. This one's a little different."

But if he wasn't taking Eve, Leta realized –

"You're going in alone on this?" she demanded.

To her surprise, he made the same expression as before, as though caught in a compromising position. "Not…exactly," he admitted.

Before Leta could question him, a voice rang out behind her that made her jump. "Is this the kind of right moment you told me to wait for?"

She knew who it was before she even turned around to find the bulky shape of Desophyles Cordova leaning in the doorway. Leta wasn't even the only one surprised.

"Where the hell did he come from?" Maya demanded, her eyes wide.

"Boarded when you dropped off the cute little family yesterday," Dez answered. "Your captain didn't think anyone else needed to know, though." He looked back to Fiearius. "So was this it? The right moment?"

Fiearius had his head in his hand looking rather uncomfortable. "Maybe?" He ventured a glance at Leta, perhaps expecting her to explode at him, but Leta didn't explode. She didn't yell. She didn't even feel a particularly strong urge to get up and leave the room.

Instead, all she could manage was a groan. "Are you kidding me?"
"Where the hell is it?!"

Crack.

The man's fist plowed across Corra's face, but she didn't feel much pain. The sharpness had numbed out into a dull throb about ten minutes ago. She coughed as a trickle of blood dripped from the corner of her mouth down her chin and looked up at her captor from the chair she'd been tied to.

"Fuck you," she spat coldly.

The next punch didn't come as a surprise.

In frustration, the man spun away from her and paced angrily back to his colleague. He spoke in hurried whispers she could barely hear through the pounding in her head. "What if the kroppie bitch doesn't have it? It wasn't with her stuff at the estate. What if he was wrong? I mean, it's possible that–"

"Oh, she has it," said the other, nudging his friend aside and stalking towards her chair himself. This guy was a lot more talented than his companion, Corra had come to learn over the past half hour (had it been longer than that? She was losing track of time). He hovered over her for a moment, looking down with more disdain than even Lars could manage towards his allies, and then slammed his hands down on the arms of the chair, his face inches from hers.

"And she's gonna fuckin' tell us where it is or she ain't gonna see another sunrise," he growled, his spit flecking her face.

Unfortunately for Corra, she didn't know where it was. She didn't even know what it was. She had assumed, when she'd woken up in this dark room with two people who obviously meant ill-will, that it was because someone had discovered her identity, that someone had tracked her, that someone whose allies she'd freed wanted payback. But it hadn't taken long for her to realize that these men had little interest in allies or the Conduit. They were here for something else. Now she just had to figure out what.

But first, she had to get this asshole out of her face.

With a growl, she screwed up her mouth, gathering the excess blood on her tongue, and spat it straight into his eye.

The man roared in anger and lashed out, slapping her across the face so hard her chair rocked back and forth. Corra managed to steady it just in time to take a fist to the stomach.

As Corra bent double, or as much as her bonds would allow, she wracked her brain to try and figure out what these fuckers were looking for. What did she have? She kept nothing with her during her implant operations, but there was a stash of personal effects stored on her ship. Mostly clothing, emergency rations, a few souvenirs from her travels. Nothing she'd think anyone would want, let alone torture for.

Apparently she was wrong?

Still, until she could get more of a sense of who she was dealing with and what they were about, she couldn't risk giving them anything. Not for her sake, not for the Conduit's sake and certainly not for the sake of whatever she may or may not have had in her possession. So instead she stayed quiet and waited for one of them to give hersomething. And hoped they did it before she lost too much blood to notice…

"Alright, kroppie," the first man was saying again, presumably thinking the word would affect her. These days, it didn't. "Enough games."He brandished a knife from the sheath at his hip and started to run his finger along it teasingly. "You're gonna tell me where the Transmission is or you're gonna start having crops in more than just your ear."

Transmission? Now, Corra could safely say she was completely lost. What transmission? And what kind of transmission was something that could be hidden in a physical place?

When she didn't answer, the man spun the knife around in his hand and then gripped it firmly, the blade pointed straight at her as he approached. "Where should we start? A finger? Nose? Maybe just–" he reached out and dragged the tip of the blade gently across her face, brushing her skin, "–pluck out an eye."

She was running out of time. But she needed answers. Whatever this 'Transmission' was, if she did indeed have it on her, she needed to know. So she took a calculated risk and asked, "I gotta know, who wants it back so bad?"

It was an assumption that she had stolen it from someone, but it was a reasonable one. Corra had little qualms thieving from the various assholes she met along her path. Fortunately, she seemed to be right.

"Little too late for someone to want it back since you killed the man you took it from," was the response she got. Someone she'd–Internally, Corra ran through the list of men that fit that description. She didn't often find a need to outright murder. There had been a couple ally owners that had gotten in the way and she hadn't had a choice. A few external shits who'd tried to stop her. That guy on Ellegy she had to deal with…

"Don't mean there ain't others that're wanting to get their hands on it. For the right price," the man went on, grinning down at her and running the knife from her eye to her chin, a little harder this time, breaking a stretch of skin on her cheek.

And there was nothing she'd stolen from any of them. Nothing she couldn't identify anyway. No, there had to be something else. Someone else…

"And you're gonna tell me where it is," he concluded, jabbing her a little sharply in the chest and that was when it hit her. The knife. Someone she'd killed, someone she'd stabbed.

"Callahan," she was unable to hold back from saying in shock.

Her captor glowered and slapped her hard across the face. "Don't you fuckin' use that name you ungrateful shit."

Corra recovered from the blow quickly, shaking off the blood from her mouth and looking up at him. "I'm sorry. I'll tell you," she said, her voice dropping to barely above a whisper. "I hid it. I hid it in–" She mumbled something unintelligible and his face twisted in annoyance.

"Louder, kroppie, where is it?" he growled, but leaned in anyway.

"I hid it–" she mumbled again and this time he leaned closer. Just enough.

" — Up your ass," she finished shortly and, before he could react, she rocked back and forward again, slamming her head into his.

The man reeled backwards, clutching his head as Corra shifted forward, landing her feet square on the ground and lifting the chair she was still attached to behind her back. As the other man's shock wore off and he came at her, she spun around and swung the legs of the chair right into his torso. He flew into the wall with a thud as she spun again, knocking the first man off his feet.

"Thanks, I got all I need," she told them cheerfully before jumping as high as she could manage and letting herself (and her chair) fall on top of the one below her. The wood splintered and snapped apart on impact and she easily slipped out of the wreckage. The knife the man had been using glittered enticingly on the ground and she used it to slice away the ropes they had binding her while her captors groaned in pain, immobile for the time being.

Her bones protested as she headed for the door before that changed and her body felt the beginning stages of bruising, but there was no time to worry about her aches and pains. She had to get back to her ship and fast.

—–

An agent of the Conduit had lent Corra the Spirit a few years ago for a single mission to a nearby planet. The ship was just big enough to carry her and just small enough to be hidden easily. Her dull grey exterior which blended in to practically any environment certainly helped. She'd often suspected the agent had wanted the Spirit back, but Corra had fallen in love with the tiny vessel the moment she first laid her hands on its controls. And conveniently, she had just happened to never run into that particular agent again…

Currently, she was parked amongst a heap of retired service shuttles in the city's ancillary shipyard. No one noticed the small woman as Corra silently vaulted over the fence and made her way across the yard, finding easy cover amongst its residents.

She couldn't get aboard the Spirit soon enough. She needed ice for her bruises, bandages for her cuts and more than anything, she needed to find that–that thing.

When she stumbled aboard into the small brightly-lit chamber of the ship, however, after the long run across the entire city, her first desire was to collapse on the cold metal ground in relief. She was safe, she'd made it, everything would be okay. But she forced herself onward to the storage area where she began digging through the cabinets.

When she'd taken care of Callahan and his men a few weeks ago, she had an urge to take something with her after the fact. She'd felt she deserved it, after all he'd done. After the hunt he'd lead her on. The ear was satisfying, she thought, as she found the jar she'd stored it in and pushed it aside. A little grim, but satisfying. Though not satisfying enough. There had been something else in that room that had caught her attention.

It had sat on his desk, glimmering at her enticingly. A deep red cylinder encased in some kind of golden cage, no bigger than her fist. It looked old. Perhaps even ancient. And honestly, it was just shiny. She'd figured she could sell the thing somewhere along the road when her credits ran dry.

But after tonight, she was convinced the thing was more than just the trinket she'd taken it for. Those men had certainly reacted when she'd said Callahan's name, he definitely fit their description and this, she thought as she wrapped her fingers around the object and pulled it out of the cabinet into the light, was the only thing she'd taken from him.

The Transmission? She turned it over in her hand. What did that even mean?

Taking the object with her, she returned to the front of the ship and fell heavily into the pilot's seat. Surely someone knew about this. Surely there was a trail here she could follow. A path to figure out what, exactly, she'd been storing on her ship unknowingly.

She tapped a command into her console and looked up at the screen that projected before her. Admittedly, it wasn't the greatest search term. She scrolled through the results, finding nothing of interest before trying something else.

Well, those men had known what it was.

And sure enough, it didn't take long to find the bounty on her. Corra whistled at the price. Whoever wanted this thing wanted it bad. But any mention of the 'object' that needed 'retrieval' was vague and unhelpful. She didn't want to risk reaching out herself to find out more, but maybe someone else could. Maybe someone amongst her network could uncover more information. Maybe someone already knew, maybe–

And suddenly, a face came to her. A face surrounded by smoke and fire and ship debris, looking up at her with desperation, fear, concern.

Finn.

At once, it made sense. That was why he'd been there. He knew about the bounty. He'd come to the ship preview to warn her. And that meant…

She lifted the mysterious red tube to her eyes. He might know something about the Transmission too.

It was settled then. She wouldn't be able to go back to Lars' estate anyway, not like this. A beat-up ally would raise far too many questions. She'd put in a call to Raisa and have them expedite a rescue without her. It'd be more challenging and a lot more expensive, but she had faith that the work she'd done there and the information she'd gathered would lead it to be successful and her latest family would be free before the night ended.

So instead, she hit the switch to fire up the Spirit's practically silent engines and tapped a few keys to make a call. "Hey," she greeted when the line connected, "Sorry for the late hour, but I need to find someone."

-------------

Finn tilted the murky bottle against his mouth, then thudded it onto the surface of the bar. It was either his fourth or ninth beer, but he couldn't be sure — he'd let the hours bleed by, morning into afternoon. He knew he shouldn't have been daydrinking, especially alone in a dive bar, but he decided he wasn't just daydrinking alone. He was scheming. And thinking.

He had a lot of thinking time, after all, since he'd been kicked out — or forcibly removed, as Daelen would say — from his own ship three days ago. It was official now: led by Alyx, the Beacon had left without him.

It hadn't been a ceremonious send-off. Finn had grabbed his jacket from his room, found his wallet, and left down the cargo bay ramp.

Still — when he pictured Alyx's face, his stomach twisted into guilt. She'd probably never speak to him again. Now he had no vessel, no bridge to take charge of, no captain's chair. He had nothing but some fraudulent credits to his name and, well, his current beer.

Surprisingly, the thought did not embitter him. He really had no bitterness left. Instead, he snorted an uneven laugh to himself as he swirled the last dregs of his bottle, watching the liquor swish around.

Behind him, the bar's front door opened and shut, letting a warm breeze sweep in, followed by new voices.

" — usual, please, Reggie," a man was saying to the bartender as he dropped into a stool. Finn spared the man a sideways glance and noted, with interest, that his wallet was visible in the pocket of his jacket.

Well, Finn thought, bemusedly, he had to start somewhere. Pick-pocketing wasn't as glamorous was it was when he was in his young twenties, though — really, he should have been stealing ships, not loose change. He hadn't hotwired and stolen a passenger vessel in years, but he supposed he could manage it. Maybe he'd head over to the docks …

The door opened and shut a second time. Another warm, sandy breeze blew through. Finn reached for his beer, ready to polish it off so he could leave and get to work — and then it happened. Mid-swig of his drink, he glanced toward the door and he could do nothing but cough up half his beer.

Eyes watering, hacking up his lungs, Finn could sense the bartender eyeing him oddly, but he couldn't tear his eyes away from the figure who had just walked in the door.

She was petite and curvy, her black hair cut short. There was no mistaking those round doe-eyes anywhere.

"You've got," Finn managed at last, "to be shitting me."

Corra's mouth curved into a tense smile as she slowly made her way towards him, her hands locked behind her back. "Hey there," she greeted through a bit of a nervous chuckle. "Long time no see, huh?"

Finn stared. He was torn between the impulse to laugh and the impulse to yell, and in the end, his voice was toneless. "What're you doing here?"

She broke eye contact with him and glanced awkwardly at the bar. "Getting a drink?" she guessed. "And looking for you of course."

"How the hell did you even find me?"

"I've got people with eyes and ears all over. Plus you're not too hard to track." She slid onto the chair beside him, like they were old drinking buddies meeting up again, like old times, like nothing had changed. "Finn — I need to ask you. Do you know what the Transmission is?"

Finn slid a look toward his near-empty beer bottle. Maybe he'd had more to drink than he thought. "What?"

"The Transmission," she pressed. "It's this old–I don't know, tube thing? I don't know what it does, but that's what it's called and–"

"No. What — are you kidding me?" Finn cut her off suddenly.

Corra looked surprised. "No? I–"

"Tell me you're fucking kidding me," Finn grunted, slapping his palm on the bar. "You disappear. For five years. After — god, the worst day of my life, without a fucking word. And you show up again to ask me a goddamned question about–what the fuck, Corra?"

Corra's mouth fell open in shock, but then she clamped it shut again. Until, "Finn–"

"You're ridiculous. And you came to find me because you need something? Corra." He barked a dry laugh. "Whatever it is you need, you've come to the wrong person."

Silence lapsed for a moment, and Finn wondered if she would get up and leave, disappearing again like a ghost, never to see her again. Then she said, "So you don't know anything about it?"

Finn held the bridge of his nose with his fingers, overwhelmed and suddenly exhausted. He could not believe Corra was sitting at his side, after all this time, let alone demanding information from him.

"What did you say it was called? Transmission? No, I don't know anything about it. What are you up to, Corra? Are you in trouble?"

Corra didn't meet his eyes. "Maybe…" Before he had a chance to respond, she slid off her chair and tucked her arms behind her back. "It's okay, I can take care of it. Thanks anyway. And–" She looked up at him, albeit briefly. "I'm sorry. For bothering you. And…" She swallowed hard and bowed her head a little. "Everything else."

Just as she was turning to leave, Finn reached out and grabbed her arm to halt her.

"Hang on now. It's been years. I know you're some secret Conduit agent who can't tell me anything now–" He ignored her sudden look of alarm at the company around them, "–but we can't at least catch up a little?"

She looked hesitant and she was still poised towards the door, but then a memory flashed across her face and she said, "Oh, right, I wanted to ask. My contact tracked you here, but I didn't see the Beacon anywhere in the docks. Where is she?"

Finn's expression sunk a little. He had imagined a hypothetical situation in which he'd have to explain this to Corra one day, but it had been hypothetical. Now that she was standing in front of him, blinking innocently in his direction, the explanation came a lot harder…

"Yeah. About that…"
Alyx paused in the doorway of the Beacon's bridge, hooking her hand on the doorframe and hanging back. Finn was seated in the captain's chair, his eyes locked on the console before him which was emitting quiet voices. A news feed, it sounded like. She watched the back of his head for a moment, knowing she just needed to step forward and get this over and done with, but the awkwardness of the ensuing conversation made her want to turn back around and forget the whole thing. The two of them had barely spoken since the incident at the ship demonstration. Why start now?

Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, Finn spared her the responsibility of taking the leap. He glanced over his shoulder at her and grunted, "Need something?"

Yes, Alyx wanted to growl. Yes, the Beacon needed her captain back, needed money, resources, a plan, anything. Yes, she needed a lot.

But in the interest of not exacerbating their already strained relationship further, she just shrugged casually and said, "Just wanted to see how you were doing," as she crossed into the room and took up a seat beside him.

"Better. Just a few bruises. Daelen took care of me." He paused. "Well, I think he did. Hard to remember."

Alyx cocked a brow. "Did he check for a concussion?"

Finn smirked at her sidelong. "Hard to remember."

Awkward silence fell as Finn looked back at the screen and Alyx sat there, wracking her brain on how to proceed. Frankly, she didn't feel like she owed Finn much of an apology. She wasn't even convinced she'd done anything wrong. Through the grapevine, she knew that he was angry about her not going after 'Corra' when his ship had crashed, but to her mind, she didn't even think Corra had been there. And excuse her, there had been the much more pressing issue of her captain's well-being to worry about at the time. She regretted nothing.

And yet she knew that nothing would ever change between them unless she sucked it up and apologized anyway. Alyx may have been stubborn, but she was a lightweight compared to Finn and the Beacon needed to move on from their last mishap. Desperately. If that meant she had to take a hit to her pride, so be it.

But as soon as she began, "So, listen– " Finn also opened his mouth to say, "So have you heard about–"

Alyx clamped her jaw shut. Finn did the same. Then he said, "Sorry, what were you–"

"No, no, it's fine," she insisted hurriedly, gesturing for him to continue. His hand was hovering somewhere towards the console which was still playing news from Vescent. "The riots?"

"Yeah," he said, looking between her and the reporter on screen and back again. "They're uh–pretty bad, huh?" His mouth twisted and he admitted, "I don't actually have anything to add about that…What were you gonna say?"

Despite herself, Alyx smiled. So she wasn't the only one that felt incredibly uncomfortable right now.

"I just–I wanted to say I'm sorry is all. For what went down the other day." She ran a hand through her hair. "It wasn't what I intended. At all. And it just sucked. And I'm sorry."

To her surprise, Finn actually smiled in return. "Hey, it wasn't your fault. I was the one who let my guard down and crashed that ship."

"Yeah, we really could have used that," Alyx said before she could stop herself and fortunately, he took it good-heartedly.

"No kidding. And look, we're gonna get back on track, I promise," Finn said and for the first time in a long time, Alyx felt a hint of faith in her captain. That is, until he added, "Just as soon as we find Corra."

She must have visibly tensed. It took a great deal of willpower to not just snap at him right then and there. 'What the hell is wrong with you?' she wanted to demand. 'We need more help than she does at this point! We can't waste any more time trying to help a woman who doesn't want our help when our ship is on the edge of falling apart!'

But somehow, perhaps by miracle, she managed to contain herself. "Finn, I care about Corra as much as you, but–"

"Knock knock?" came a cool, polite voice by the door, cutting her off mid-sentence. Both Alyx and Finn turned to find someone Alyx had never seen before. He was a short man, a little stocky, but had a certain refined dignity to his stance that made him appear taller than he was.

For a moment, no one said anything until he coughed uncomfortably and said, "Captain Riley? I was told I might find you up here?"

Alyx blinked before gesturing toward Finn. He stood up, looking suspicious. "I'm Captain Riley. What do you want?"

"Ah, it's a pleasure to meet you," said the man, hurrying forward to take Finn's hand and shake it enthusiastically. Finn looked bemused. "I hope you don't mind, I did a bit of looking around on the way up here. She's gorgeous, even more than you described."

Alyx glanced at Finn, but he looked just as puzzled as she felt.

The man went on, "I've got someone drawing up papers in town if we want to move forward today." He walked across the bridge to look out the window. "I'd like to take a look through the engines and ancillary cores first of course, but I'm definitely liking what I'm seeing."

Finn's eyes shifted over the stranger curiously. "Wait, hang on here — "

"We can talk numbers in a bit, I'm still a little hesitant over what we discussed before, but maybe I can be convinced."

"Finn, what is he –" Alyx whispered.

He jabbed his thumb back toward the door. "Shall we take the tour then? I'm excited to take a closer look."

Finally, Finn managed to ask, "I'm sorry, have we–do I know you?"

At once, the man clapped his hand to his head. "Oh gracious, I'm so sorry, I didn't even introduce myself." He seized Finn's hand again. "Taros Lin. I'm the man who responded to your for sale ad? For the ship?"

Suddenly, alarm rose to Finn's face.

Alyx felt her stomach drop. Her jaw followed. She spun around to Finn. "Your what?!" she demanded.

Guilt was written all over his features. "Alyx," he muttered, "listen–"

"You're selling the ship?!" she shouted over him "Are you fuckingkidding me?"

Finn's hand met his forehead. "It was a while ago. I just put up the ad, just to see, I didn't really think–"

"Wait," interjected the would-be buyer, looking stricken. "Are you no longer selling?"

"No," Finn said decisively.

"But two days ago, you said–"

"Two days?!" Alyx snapped. "Oh, it was a while ago was it?"

"Alyx, c'mon–" Finn muttered.

"So what, you sell the ship, take your cash to go off and do as you please, what happens to the rest of us?" she growled.

"Excuse me–" began Taros Lin, but Alyx cut him off.

"You. Shut up. Get out," she ordered sharply. "You're not buying this ship."

The man pursed his lips, but made to do as he was told anyway. That is, until Finn, his expression suddenly shifting from apology and guilt to pure anger, countered, "No. Stay here. It's not your call, Alyx."

"Not my call?!"

Finn's glare hardened. "It it is my ship, you know I could sell it if I want to."

"So you're okay putting eighty people out of work? Out of a home?!"

"If I have to."

"Have to?!"

"Alyx, all you've been telling me is how the ship is falling apart, how we're behind on payment and schedules. I wanted to see what the ship would go for and split with everyone. I was just keeping the option open!"

Keep the option open? Alyx could hardly believe her ears. She didn't even have a response, finding herself only able to stare at Finn in complete disbelief. If he cared so much about Corra, she had to wonder what Corra would think, hearing this? How would she feel knowing that the ship she had worked so hard to build was so easily written off by the man she'd left in charge of it?

Not that it mattered what Corra thought. Corra wasn't here. Alyx was here. And Alyx was angry.

Finn, oblivious, turned back to the Taros Lin. "You want to buy this ship? Make me an offer. A real offer this time. It's good enough, ship's yours."

"Oh no, it is not."

"You can't stop me, Alyx," Finn growled. "The Beacon is falling apart. It's done. Let it go."

Alyx bit down on the inside of her cheek and marched forward until her eyes were even with his. "No, Finn. The Beacon isn't done. You'redone."

"'Cuse me?"

"You wanna leave? You wanna be free of this terrible burden you've had to bear?" Her words dripped with sarcasm. "Fine. But to hell if I'm gonna let you hand off everything we've worked so hard for to thisguy." She gestured to the short stocky man who was now inching towards the exit. "Be free, Finn. Get the hell out. Go live whatever delusional dream you want, I can't care anymore. But the Beacon? She's mine."

An odd expression came to Finn's face — half appalled, half admiring, like he could not believe her daring. "You can't do that."

"Can't I? I've run this ship pretty much on my own for years, Finn. You may have had the title, but honestly, who did all the work? Sure as hell didn't see you helping out ever."

"That's bullshit — "

"Face it, I am the only reason this ship kept sailing after Corra left. I know what happened back then was shit, I know it was hard on you. Losing your home, your parents, your best friend, I get it, it sucked. And I have been so patient with you, I have. Through all of your binges and your alcoholism and every hindering step you took along the way. But Finn I have been too fucking patient for too damn long and I just can't be patient anymore. I can't put up with this any longer."

"So what, now you're kicking me out?!" He sounded like he might laugh, but his eyes were humorless.

"You need help, help I can't give you," Alyx snapped. "Help that you're sure as hell not gonna get here." She took a deep breath and fixed him with a desperate stare. "So yeah, Finn. I am. Get the hell off my ship."

-----------------------

Corra's feet landed with a loud thump on the marble flooring — louder than she'd anticipated. Freezing on the spot, she grimaced and peered down the hallway, praying that there were no figures lurking in the darkness to overhear. Or worse, see. She couldn't imagine what someone might think observing Ranson Lars' most obedient ally climbing through one of the mansion's outer windows. She didn'twant to imagine what would happen next.

Fortunately, the coast seemed to be clear, all of the house's staff and residents fast asleep by now. So as quickly as she'd entered, she straightened herself up and started toward the servant quarters as though that was what she'd been doing all along. If anyone asked, she'd simply remembered a task she'd neglected in the kitchen. And ideally, no one would have noticed she was even gone.

Admittedly, a few days before the big escape she had planned was not the best time to go sneaking off in the middle of the night. Usually, Corra wouldn't have taken the risk. But when she'd heard the news feed describing a grim situation on Vescent earlier today while she served drinks to Lars' guests, she couldn't wait either.

It wasn't safe to make a call on the mansion's grounds, but Corra had discovered a quiet public console station only a few blocks away that allowed her to make the call to Leta discreetly. And she was glad she did.

"I know you can't tell me where you are, but you're safe, aren't you?" Leta had pressed.

Corra had laughed grimly as she'd considered her current situation. Embedded as an ally and intent on staging a mass rescue in a few days. 'Safe' wasn't a word she'd choose. Finally she'd muttered, "Safe enough. But I called to talk about you, not me. Tell me about Vescent. The news we heard here was a little skewed…"

"It was bad, Corra," Leta sighed. "We had riots two years ago, but not as bad as this. I won't be making it back there anytime soon … "

"So you're staying on the Dionysian?" Corra couldn't help but smirk at that, glad to know that even after all these years, she could still count on Fiearius to have as much invested in Leta's safety as she did.

"I know what you're thinking and no, I'm not sleeping with Fiear."

"I didn't say anything! Nor would I," Corra laughed. "Just making sure you're okay is all. Are you hanging in there?"

Leta laughed. "Barely, but yes, I am," she said, which was the most assurance Corra could have hoped for. Their calls were infrequent and never more than a few minutes, but she relished them.

Corra wouldn't describe herself as lonely, exactly. How could she have been — she was constantly busy and surrounded by people. She enjoyed the company of the allies she worked to free. With each new 'owner' she situated herself under, she gained a new family of sorts.

And yet, none of her new families seemed able to fill the hole that had appeared in the center of her chest. No one had managed to come close to the kind of relationships she'd used to kindle and she still felt pangs of regret when her mind turned to Leta, to Cyrus, to Addy, Alyx, to Finn…

The image of Finn's face came to her mind's eye, staring up at her from the wreckage of that ship that had plowed into the grandstand. His voice calling out to her. Her sudden need to flee. She still didn't know what he was doing there or how such a coincidence (if it even was one) could have occurred. But as much as she knew she had to get out of there at the time, there was a part of her now that wished she could have answered him…

She shook the thought from her mind as she gently eased open the door to the servant's quarters and slipped into the hallway inside. There was no time to feel remorseful about days long past. She had a job to do and an important one at that. In two days, she'd be leading all of these people into freedom. Slipping up now wasn't an option.

She was almost to the door to her assigned barracks when she noticed that she wasn't the only one awake in this section of the mansion. Hushed whispers were coming from up ahead, but she couldn't make out what they were saying and, in this darkness, she could see little more than featureless figures coming her way.

Corra slowed her pace, peering towards them as they entered into her view. They didn't look like anyone she knew, nor did they hold themselves like allies. Guests of Lars? She didn't like to imagine what some visiting dignitaries or businessmen would be looking for in the servant's quarters at this hour. But they weren't dressed nearly well enough to fall into Lars' usual range of friends. And then, suddenly, their whispers silenced and they stopped where they stood.

Out of instinct, she too stopped. They'd seen her. And then one of them said a word she didn't expect to hear: "Corra?"

They were–looking for her? And they knew her actual name? Lars' people only knew her as Ava. Were they from the Conduit?

The two men were coming towards her as she tried to figure out what was going on. No one other than Raisa knew where to find her, perhaps she was trying to get in touch? Something must have been wrong for them to show up now.

Still, Corra stood defensively as they approached, holding her head high and keeping her hands firmly at her sides. "Corra?" one of the men asked again.

Corra regarded him carefully, unsure what the right answer was. If he was from the Conduit, she could tell the truth, but if not–

Unfortunately, she never got the chance to make her decision. Suddenly, the other man growled, "It's her!"

Before she could think, a dark figure rushed towards her face, lifted his arm, and then everything went black.
Caelum Lex Pt. 3 Chapter 13: Caught In The Act
Caelum Lex, the sci-fi, adventure, action, romance, space pirate serial! Chapter 13 of Part 3! In which Finn and Alyx have a talk and we catch up with someone we haven't seen in a while.

First: Caelum Lex Chapter 1: Medical Attention
Previous: Caelum Lex Pt. 3 Chapter 12: Agreement
Next: Caelum Lex Pt. 3 Chapter 14: Interrogation
Loading...

Caelum Lex          Tumblr          Facebook          Contact Me


VOTE FOR US PLEEEASE

Hey friends! Do me a favor and click that voting link right there? That would mean a lot to me thanks :)

So hey, I'll do a little kiriban thing for the heck of it, if anyone catches a screenshot of the 50k marker. Don't promise anything fancy, but I'll do you a quick doodle at the least. Cuz why not. Tradition. All that.

How are you all doing? Tell me about your lives, I always like that. Me, I'm pretty good. Kinda just...working and stuff. I'm starting a new cosplay! My second. That'll be fun. Is anyone watching Star Wars Rebels? I frickin love it. I'm gonna dress up as Hera for Celebration since it's in Anaheim this year and I'm kind of forcing my boyfriend to be Kanan, but he gets a lightsaber out of it, so he's alright with it. We'll take em to Wondercon and SDCC too so hey, threefer, huzzah.

I actually don't have anything else! But tell me about you!

deviantID

khronosabre
Khronos
Artist | Professional | Varied
United States
Interests

AdCast - Ads from the Community

Comments


Add a Comment:
 
:iconduvell:
Duvell Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2015
^^ I deff need to say that I love your gallery. that are some damn nice arts <3 such nice story inside it.
And thats why I got intrested in your story..What I will read in the future :)
(usual I need to take my time for that because English is not my native language.)
Reply
:iconkhronosabre:
khronosabre Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2015  Professional General Artist
Aww man that is so nice thank you ; ; I'm so glad you like it! If you do check out Caelum Lex, let me know what you think :D
Reply
:iconduvell:
Duvell Featured By Owner Jan 18, 2015
^^ you are welcome!!
And I sure will let you  know what I  think about it :)
Reply
:iconarteaus:
Arteaus Featured By Owner Nov 17, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
How often do you get around to the Western united states comic cons (if at all?) My wife and I live out in Tucson and there are three just in Tucson, Phoenix, and Salt Lake City alone. The reason I ask is I got my wife interested in you're stuff and I thought it would be a good venue for you to promote Caelum Lex (that and so I can fanboy right in front of you...)
Reply
:iconkhronosabre:
khronosabre Featured By Owner Nov 17, 2014  Professional General Artist
Aww that's really sweet.  I'm actually a purveyor of the even more western comic cons. SDCC, Wondercon Anaheim, Comikaze (LA). I don't table, just attend (because I have nothing to sell except a website haha) , but I try and hand out cards for CL when I can. But if I ever do hunker down for a table (and believe me I consider it every year...) and you happen to make it out to the southern California area cons (and you should, they're great), I'll definitely let you know :)

PS thanks so much for reading and spreading the word, you're the best!
Reply
:iconarteaus:
Arteaus Featured By Owner Nov 18, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I try my best. We sci-fi junkies need to stick together. If I ever do end up at one of those cons (very likely) I'll look for your table ;)
Reply
:iconjupiterblossem:
JupiterBlossem Featured By Owner Sep 19, 2014  Student General Artist
Thanks for the fave! Heart Love 
Reply
:iconfreelex30:
freelex30 Featured By Owner Sep 18, 2014  Student General Artist
Thank you for the Fav! Feel free to watch me to, really appreciate! La la la la 
Reply
:iconwoltz:
Woltz Featured By Owner Sep 13, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
:iconsayhiplz: Thank you so much for the fav!
Reply
:iconhoshinodestiny:
HoshinoDestiny Featured By Owner Sep 2, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks for the fav!
Reply
Add a Comment: