Chapter 4: Questions

It took only a single glance at the captain’s shoulder to see how horribly the gunshot wound was infected. His flesh was dozen shades of putrid purple and needed attention nine days ago. And yet, the ship’s medical infirmary, Leta came to see, had hardly been used.

It was a rectangle room, far away on the low deck, the size of an average living room, ghostly quiet and lowly-lit. Perhaps the space had once been clean and bright, but that must have been decades ago. Now every cabinet and surface in this room was aged, yellowing and covered in dust. Not to mention outdated. After staring at the rusting countertops for a moment, Leta looked to the captain at her side for explanation.

He had no explanation.

In fact, all he said was, “Alright, doc, let’s get this shit over with before I change my mind,” as he trudged into the room and sat down heavily on one of the stiff, blood-stained infirmary beds.

Immediately, Leta wanted to leave. But this was why she was here, wasn’t it? To administer treatment to a needy patient? The sooner she did this, the sooner she was gone. Although she did wish Cyrus and Corra hadn’t disappeared to leave her with this man. Cyrus, still angry, had stalked off towards the bridge and Corra had been tasked with finding someone to clean Leta’s lunch off of the floor.

Tense and expectant as she felt, she had to admit it seemed unlikely this man wished her immediate harm. Not at the moment. In fact, he seemed entirely disinterested in her as he glared at the wall with contempt and impatiently tapped his fingers on his knee.

Swallowing hard in her throat, Leta finally directed her attention elsewhere in the room. Her eyes found the prime medical station, the counter in the center of the room that was crowded with supplies, and, in a rush, purpose and familiarity flooded through her. No, she could do this. She could most certainly do this.

“So,” she began, her voice stronger and more relaxed than she felt, as she crossed toward the prime station. “What happened?” she prompted, picking through a tray until she found a pair of gloves. “You were shot?”

“No,” he replied shortly. “I’m naturally decomposing.” Their eyes met and a maddening smile spread across his face. “Like the undead.” The smile vanished and he looked away again, his eyes narrowed in boredom. “Yes, I was shot,” he went on impatiently. “A couple weeks ago. I got the bullet out. For the most part.” A subtle glare of frustration fell onto his discolored upper arm. “Clearly, I missed a spot. But lo and behold, now I have you.” The same glare roamed upwards to her face where it scanned over every feature diligently. “You and all your many years of experience to mend my mistake.” His eyes rolled skeptically and he returned his dull stare to the wall across from him. “Lucky me.”

“Lucky you,” Leta agreed quietly. Finally tugging the gloves up her wrist, she moved toward him, her eyes drawn toward the gunshot ripped through his shoulder. Below it, displayed bold and proud, was the tattoo of the Society. Instantly, she had to know if those two marks were related. Pulling the nearest medical cart closer, she asked, evenly as she could, “Who shot you?”

The frown on Fiearius’ face sharpened instantly. “Don’t see how that’s got anything to do with you.”

Fair enough, she thought, though she refused to be deterred by her patient’s bad attitude. That tattoo on his arm was too important. And too telling. Cyrus implied he hated the Society and she was painfully curious why. What had they done? What had he done? If he’d pissed off the Vescentian government, she might have had more in common with this man than she thought. It was enough to temporarily quiet the fear stirring in her chest, even if he was regarding her now with nothing but disdain.

“Medical relevance,” she offered passingly, before bringing his arm closer to study the gnarled flesh. “This was at close range, wasn’t it? I’m going to start with sterilization.”

Seizing a vial from a tray at her side, she turned back to him and admitted, “I don’t know how you managed to fly your ship with your arm this infected. You needed treatment weeks ago.” She paused, then glanced at his face and added quietly, “You know, Vescent will send more of those border guards.”

“I’m aware,” came his disgruntled response, sounding annoyed that she had even opened her mouth. “Relax, kiddo. Let ‘em send as many as they want. I’m not concerned with them.”

“But they seem awfully concerned with you,” she said, unable to help herself. Pulling her hand away from his arm, she looked at him straight on. “Why?”

With that, Fiearius finally cast her a long, sideways glance. Slowly, a mischievous smirk twisted into his lips. He held her gaze for a few moments in silence before relaxing his brow and giving an absent, too-casual shrug.

Leta was stunned. She could not imagine anyone crossing the Vescentian government and coming away from it smirking like that. Perhaps another fever was on its way? Perhaps he was suffering a concussion as well. Or, perhaps (and Leta dared it to be true, she urged it to be true) they really did share a common enemy here.

“What?” she demanded quietly, her eyes on him as she awaited an explanation that looked like it would never arrive. More impatiently, she realized, “Hey, you kidnapped me you know. I think I’m entitled to a little information here.”

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