At once, Cyrus felt a wave of relief rush over him. Someone willing to help? Progress, finally. Moving forward. It was all going to be okay. Which is the exact phrase that he kept repeating over and over again as he turned around and headed straight for the exit, his saving grace of a doctor miraculously on his tail. In the meantime, as he took to the streets once more, he had to figure out just what, exactly, to tell this woman.
There was the truth, obviously. But some people, particularly those on the alpha planets, tended to be a little alarmed by the idea that out there in the far reaches of the span, other people were shooting one another. Even if they weren’t alarmed, they started to ask questions. Why was he shot? Who shot him? And why, exactly?
She had said she was a trauma specialist though, so perhaps she would be able to handle it better than others. Besides, she was going to find out when she looked at him anyway.
“You said he was wounded,” the young woman prompted, her eyes on him as they fell into step and cut across the city’s main square.
“He was shot,” he told her over his shoulder. “A couple weeks ago. I think he got the bullet out, but he must have missed a piece or I don’t know. All I know is that it looks like something out of a zombie picture. That and he’s got a fever high enough to make him start talking to himself and forget where he is.” As they crossed through the iron gates to the ship’s docks, he glanced back and added breathlessly, “I appreciate this. I really do.”
He appreciated it even more when they strode down the length of the wooden pier and, ahead, his ship loomed in view, that bulky junk of metal roughly the size of a house. She imposed herself amazingly against the other sleek metallic vessels around her. But it wasn’t the sight of his rusty tin-can of a ship that halted him sharply in his tracks. As they approached, a more horrible scene met his eyes.
Somehow, things had gotten even more complicated.
The ship’s main hatch was open, and at the very top the cargo ramp stood the tall figure of the captain, conscious once more, and beside him, the smaller, womanly figure of Corra nearby, apparently trying to contain his rage. But Cyrus’ eyes were on the captain — his brother — so easily identifiable by his towering lean figure and fiery red hair and the fact that he was waving his arms and shouting at the top of his lungs.
Standing as a shell-shocked witness at the bottom of the ramp, Cyrus awaited the young doctor at his side to bolt. Who the hell would want in on this? But all she did was mutter, dryly, “I take it that’s our patient.”
It wasn’t even the shouting that was most alarming. Fiearius shouting was not exactly a rare sight to behold. It was what Fiearius was gesturing to up in the sky that caused the pit of dread in his stomach.
Above their heads, across one of the tallest buildings in the skyline, a long banner billowed in the sea breeze. It read something about welcoming travelers to Vescent, and underneath it was a symbol, displayed proudly. A symbol Cyrus had seen many times. Fiearius himself wore it in bitter pride on his upper arm. And with that, Cyrus knew he was going to be in a lot of trouble.
At the ramp, Fiearius stopped shouting, dropped his hand and looked over at his brother with the coldest glare of rage he had ever seen.
At his side, Corra simply sighed. “Sorry, Cy-cy,” she called easily, “I tried to put him out, but I figured you didn’t want me to shoot him again.”
Cyrus spared her a short glance, but he was far more concerned with the more immediately pressing issue. The two brothers stood as complete statues before finally Fiearius breathed furiously, “What the hell have you done?”
Cyrus stared back at him, and managed, “I didn’t have a choice.”
“You didn’t have a choice?” Fiearius repeated, his tone far more mocking this time. “Really, Cy?” He waved his hand at the massive banner. “You didn’t have a choice. Really.” He lowered his hand and let his expression sober into a pure, sharp face of anger as he stalked down the ramp to face the acting captain directly. “What’s the one rule we established when we left? The one thing we’d never do?” he asked coldly, his voice barely above a whisper. “We never. Ever. Ever. Land on an occupied alpha planet. Ever.” His grin was sick and sarcastic as he spread his arms as though presenting a prize. “And yet. Here we are.”
“I didn’t have a choice, Fiearius,” Cyrus gritted out, almost equally as angry now. Angry to the point that he was willing to sink to the same level of primitive sibling arguing. “You were out of your mind and needed a doctor. Not to mention you look like your gun arm’s about to fall off.” He gestured to the bandages crudely applied to the captain’s upper arm, only barely hiding the veiny, discolored mess of infection and blood hiding beneath. “And then you’d be completely useless.”
Surprisingly, Fiearius laughed, though it was less a laugh of humor and more of sour bitterness. “Well that’s real smart, little brother, but unfortunately it won’t matter how useless I’ll be. Because soon? We’ll all be useless. Because we’ll all be dead.” He again grinned the sickening grin. “So, we’re leaving. Now. But let’s be honest, we probably won’t be going very far since they’ve already probably flagged us and they’ll be on our tail the moment we lift off. I do hope it was worth it.” He wiped the grin away with a flash and looked over Cyrus’ shoulder at the wide-eyed, silent girl behind him. “That your doctor?”
Cyrus was about to reply with the snarkiest remark he could think of when it hit him just what would happen if he admitted that he had found this Vescentian doctor in a Vescentian clinic. Vescent was a Society planet. There was no telling whether or not the doctor he’d picked up had Society ties as well. In which case, having her even here right now was a serious problem. On the other hand, though Fiearius was apparently lucid enough for the moment, there was also no telling how much worse his condition could get and they were still days from a neutral planet. He needed treatment. But if he even thought that she might be in with his ultimate enemies, he’d kill her in an instant. And he’d be probably right to. But right now? Cyrus was thinking short-term. He’d deal with a potential Society threat later.
“She just got off a small merchant ship, said she’d have a look,” he lied, hoping she would have the good sense not to argue with him.