“He worked with them most of his life. Happily, I think. I don’t know, we didn’t speak for some ten years there in the middle. Apparently, everything was fine though. He lived in the entertainment district and he was good at his job and made a decent amount and he had no problems with the grand old Society for Intergalactic Unification. They treated him well. Until about three, four years ago now.” Again, Cyrus’ voice trailed off and his eyes moved not just on the ground away from her, but now to the wall in the opposite direction. “Something…happened…” he muttered at last, reluctantly. “Something bad,” he went on, turning his head back around to meet her gaze firmly at last. “And we got this ship and we fled. Just….picked up everything we could and left Satieri forever. Never once looked back.”
“But,” he added suddenly, raising a brow at her. “You said it yourself. You got lucky. You had connections that allowed you to disassociate yourself cleanly? Yeah, we didn’t have that.” A bitter smile touched his lips. “We ran, but it took all of six hours before they were on our tail. And three, four years later?” The bitterness faded into simple disappointment. “They’re still just one step behind. Always chasing. And we’re always running.” The sad tonality culminated in a heavy sigh before he shrugged it off and continued thoughtfully, “So that’s why we couldn’t land anywhere in Exymeron to get treatment. And that’s why even Vescent was a bad idea. And that’s why I couldn’t bring him to the clinic and why I lied about where you were from and why we had to leave so quickly and why he hates the Society.”
“And sorry about that, again,” he added hurriedly. “About all of that. But, hey.” He smiled hopefully, though not without a distinct hint of nervousness. “At least you’re not with them anymore.” He gestured vaguely to the mark on her arm and the smile disintegrated into a grim realization. “I don’t like to imagine what we would have done to you if you still were…”
“Me either,” said Leta quickly, determined not to be put off by something as slight a threat on her life. Not now. Not when she had all of this to digest. Not when she had found an actual ally here. Unable to stifle the eagerness in her voice, she said, “I guess I ended up on the right ship then. Because — I doubt I need to tell you now what I want to do,” she continued, a little bemusedly so, though her eyes were cold. “I want to get Ren out of there. Wherever he is. But I’m getting nowhere alone.”
“Ah,” Cyrus responded at once with a swift nod of his head. “Right. Of course. Naturally.” He hesitated, but the wheels in his head were visibly turning as his fingers tapped on the edge of the bed. “I can’t promise anything. If it’s not already obvious, I don’t call the shots on this ship. But, hey, you helped us out. It doesn’t seem unreasonable we could help you back. And hey, Fiear’s always game for taking cheap shots at his old buddies. It’s not impossible.” He paused. “Also, the message you said you received. Do you have the data? It should be possible to dig up its source. It might be buried, but in my experience with Society data encryption, it probably won’t be buried that deep,” he remarked. His voice was almost boastful as he offered, “I could take a look at it if you’d like.”
“Y — really?” said Leta, suddenly startled. She thought nothing could surprise her anymore, really. But the look of thoughtful curiosity on Cyrus’ face, his eager tone of voice, that stunned her breathless. Someone willing to help? After three months of screaming at bureaucrats? Unthinkingly, words tumbled out of her. “That’d be — well, I’ve tried that, but it’s never really — and it’s been a really long while si…”
Before she could think to do otherwise, Leta slid down from the bench, her feet came to the floor, and her arms found the man’s shoulders in an embrace that startled them both. Cyrus especially so. When she felt him stoop awkwardly and his hand pat her back, twice, decisively, she couldn’t help but smirk. Still, nothing could keep her from grasping his shoulder warmly as she pulled back and smiled at him out of pure relief.
“Yeah,” was what he said after, not meeting her eyes and apparently attempting not to act as bewildered as he was. “I mean, yeah really, it’s not that big of a deal. I can at least give it a shot. I’m…” He frowned briefly before smiling at her in false humility, “kinda good at that kinda stuff. Shouldn’t be a problem. But hey, in the meantime, since you’re stuck here.” Again, he looked away shamefully and muttered once more, “Sorry. I can find you some empty quarters to stay in. I’m sure you’re probably tired. Long day of being abducted and all.” A wide smile came across his face in hopeful cheeriness as he stood up from the bed and made for the door, perhaps a little hurriedly, Leta noted. “Better luck tomorrow maybe?” he added over his shoulder.
“Well, I guess we’ll see,” said Leta, flashing a hesitant smile at his back as she followed after him. For a moment, she could not help but linger in the doorway that led to the rest of the ship, a pause of inward bewilderment. If everything Cyrus said was actually true, she’d be aboard longer than she’d thought.