Chapter 5: Answers

The Dionysian’s infirmary was far too quiet, Leta thought. Where was that organized chaos of her clinic? The metal med carts thrown around, the barking orders in the emergency room, the streams of people pushing through the hallway? This infirmary was silent and still as a deep cave. And she’d caused that silence as soon she’d made that confession. I should explain a few things. Now, she did not particularly want to follow through. But if there was a chance, the slightest chance, that this crazed crew knew something …

She shifted to the side on the exam table, her eyes on the dirty floor. Uneasily, her gaze traveled up to Cyrus who had crossed the room to sit on the bed beside her and wait patiently, unquestioningly, for whatever she was about to spring on him. She’d never held such a captive audience before. The silence begged to be filled.

“He was right on the brink of something,” she began at last, seemingly pulling the words out of nowhere. Her tone was weary, exhausted in its repetition; of course this was a tired tale she’d told too often before. Her eyes were steadily on Cyrus as she spoke on. “My fiancé, Ren. His life was social activism on Vescent. It — doesn’t look like it on the outset, but there’s a class divide there, and researching how to fix it, he made that his job.”

It was eerie, she found, to tell a complete stranger about Ren. At home, everyone knew the story. Or, thought they knew. Taking a breath, she continued slowly, ”He did a lot of writing and a lot of research. He interviewed a lot people. It started with the professors, activists. Bleeding hearts, like him,” she added, almost smirking, though it faded away slowly. “But then he started speaking with political dignitaries. More powerful people. And his focus switched. To corruption. He had a new project. The more he dug, the closer he got to finding … something,” she muttered. She stared vacantly past Cyrus’ shoulder at those terrible rusty countertops.

“I don’t know what he’d found then. He refused to tell me exactly what it was. Too dangerous. But if it was dangerous for me to know, it was dangerous for him, too.” Here, she smiled a slow, bitter smile. “He was hours off from telling me — and from publishing his work — when he disappeared. Disappeared completely. He finished a shift at the library he worked and then that was it. Search parties didn’t find anything. That was three months ago.”

“Disappeared?” murmured Cyrus finally, speaking up for the first time. Skepticism tinged his face as he eyed her, looking hesitant to speak on. “If Vescent is anything like Satieri, no one really just — disappears. What happened to him? Do you know?”

“Well, everyone believes he’s dead,” she offered bluntly, lifting her eyebrows quizzically up on her forehead. “After a month of searching, it was — claimed — a body was found, but never fully identified. There was even a funeral service,” she added, trying to smile again. Her lips merely twitched. “I know he’s not dead. He’s written me. Messages sent from some prime planet, location I can’t identify. He isn’t dead. He was captured.”

Predictably, Cyrus looked blankly surprised. But what was unbelievable was — he did not look doubtful. He didn’t smile at her sadly out of pity. He didn’t accuse her of delusions. In fact, he furrowed his brow in thought, his eyes falling to the ground between them.  “Did you ever find out what he was working on?” he asked finally. “What happened to it? If it’s that important to justify…you know, I mean…”

“Kidnapping,” Leta finished quietly. “The Society. That’s what I know. He’d uncovered something big about the Society, something — incriminating. What exactly it was — I’m still trying to figure out myself. What I was able to get of his research, I’ve been tearing it apart. I broke into his vault,” she explained, catching Cyrus’ eye quickly. “His work. They got there first, but I ransacked his office as best as I could. And I spoke with every person Ren interviewed within the last year. Well — “ she hesitated, her mind flashing to every screaming match she’d had and ever office she’d ever been thrown out of.  “Maybe ‘spoke’ is an understatement,” she amended dryly. “I got every door slammed in my face.”

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