“Why do you deal with him?” Corra demanded angrily as she hurried up to his side. “He’s scum and you know it. There are other dealers. Better dealers. We could go elsewhere, just turn the ship around and take the goods somewhere else. To someone else. There’s no reason that we have to go to Goddora. Are you just doing this to spite me?”
At her last question, the air in the hall seemed to freeze. It was as though everyone in the room took in a breath simultaneously as Fiearius immediately stopped in his tracks and looked down at her with a tilt to his brow that seemed to say, ‘really?”
Even Corra, it seemed, couldn’t argue with that look. “Fine,” she mumbled agreeably, “but this is bull, Fiear.”
Once more, Fiearius rolled his eyes and walked away from her. Once more, the dining hall let out a collective sigh of relief and went back to — or pretended to go back — to eating and talking.
But Leta did not. In fact, she twisted around in her chair to get a better look at the two of them. Now she was unbearably curious what they were talking about — business, it seemed like. Criminal business? She watched Fiearius as he picked a nearby table at random, sat himself down heavily next to a terrified-looking young man who backed his seat away immediately. He gestured to the chair across from him. “Corra, sit,” he said sharply.
Leta watched in surprise as Corra did as she was told: she ungracefully dropped into the chair, but looked ready to spring up again at any moment.
“I appreciate your interest in the business,” Fiearius went on calmly, entwining his fingers thoughtfully on the table before him. He did not seem to notice Leta was completely ignoring the coffee mug before her and instead watching his every move from across the cafeteria.
“But you should know,” he went on, “You do know. That this is the way things are. This is the way things will always be.” He looked to Corra with a sort of burning intensity. “Deal with it or go elsewhere. It’s not up for negotiation.”
In response, Corra sat in silence, looking stunned, her elbows slackening where they had stood posed to throw herself forward in anger and the fire in her doused with a bucket of water. It was down. But it wasn’t quite gone. And she seemed unwilling to let this go. “There are other dealers on planets closer to where we are,” she said coldly, almost under her breath.
“Yes, but few have the resources to clean that many marked guns. And those that do don’t pay well enough,” he said frankly, leaning back in his chair and tapping his fingers on the edge of the table as though simply waiting for her to stop.
“So that’s it?” Corra asked, indignant once again. “We’ll do anything just for the money? Whatever happened to ‘know the man behind the hand’, huh? Thought you had some pride. Some dignity.” That fire returning, she finally used her poise to push herself to her feet so that she could leer down at him and allow her voice to fill the entire hall.
“But apparently,” she dared loudly, “you’ll be the bitch of even dirty scum like Goddora for the right price, eh?”
Abruptly, a loud silence fell in the room. The audience hushed. Leta did not know if the captain was going to yell or jump out of his seat, but she watched, in perfect alarmed clarity, as his hand gave an unpleasant, unnatural twitch on the surface of the table.
But, just as the tension had arrived, it began to dissolve. Fiearius’ cold glare faded toward indifference. He shrugged and muttered carelessly, “I don’t have to justify myself to you.”
Apparently, Corra’s commitment to her statement had lasted only as long as it had taken to spill from her lips. A sigh — a sigh of relief, Leta was sure — passed through her. Quietly, she pressed, “Take me with you.”
“No,” Fiearius replied immediately.
“Why not?” Corra asked, looking incredulous again. “I’m the best gun-hand on this damn ship.”
“You are,” Fiearius admitted, leaning back in his chair casually. “Which is why I want you to teach what’s-her-face over there how not to kill herself with one because I’m taking her instead.”
It was only seconds after he’d spoken so gruffly that Leta realized he was, in fact, gesturing to her. She sat there, stunned to be addressed when she’d been merely an observer. And now she was pulled into — into what? She was going along. On this — business trip?
Corra looked exactly how Leta felt: completely shocked. Corra’s jaw dropped and she did not seem to be capable of putting words together. Finally, her expression fell into despair, she turned from the table and fled from the kitchen in a rush.
In the awkward silence that followed, Fiearius simply watched her back retreating as though it were merely mildly interesting. Then he looked back to Leta and raised his brows expectantly.
“Well?” he asked impatiently. “You heard me. Go on.” He raised his hand and gestured after Corra with it . Then he caught the eye of his unfortunate neighbor and smiled grimly. He reached over, seized the bowl of oatmeal that had been sitting in front of him and said “Thanks,” as he got up from his chair and stalked from the room with it.