The bang was decisive and satisfying — like a stream of controlled, sharp wildfire, before the bullet embedded swiftly into the wall. As she shot, her shoulders were tense — too tense, really, and full of anticipation for the kick-back. Surprisingly, the kick wasn’t nearly as strong as she imagined. It was more of a fluid jerk. Her own reservations had halted her more than the gun. Lowering the weapon back to her side, she narrowed her eyes and scrutinized the wall.
And then, unable to help herself, she grinned.
“Okay,” she admitted, half-laughing. “I guess I can see why you like this.” She turned her wrist and examined the gun, surprised by it all over again. She had anticipated the weapon to feel too heavy in a single hand, or awkward to grasp in her slender fingers. She didn’t expect it to fit naturally like an appendage.
As she looked up at Corra, though, reality kicked in once more. “But I’m still not going to use it,” she said, her grin fading off her face. “Cyrus told me you’re smugglers. He didn’t tell me why the hell Fiearius would need me on this job. Because I’m not shooting anyone. He knows that right?”
For all of Corra’s cheeriness and apparent pride at her pupil’s first shot, the moment the name Fiearius slipped into the room, all of that joy rushed away. The frown returned to her brow and the tiniest of pouts creased her lips as she looked away from Leta suddenly and grumbled, “Who knows? Probably. But since when does he give a shit about what other people want or don’t want? All he cares about is his damn self.” She let out a sigh and lifted her shoulder in a half shrug. “He probably just wants to cause a stir by taking you instead of, no offense, someone who’s picked up a gun before. To piss people off. Namely, me. As if I wasn’t already pissed enough as it is.” She sneered unpleasantly at the empty doorway.
Leta would have liked to sympathize, but at the moment she was too alarmed at the fact that Corra was angry all over again at Fiearius. Fiearius, whom Leta was supposed to go do some kind of job with? By herself?
“I’m not shooting anyone,” said Leta again, more conviction in her voice now, though her anger was not directed at Corra. She sighed. “And you know I’d gladly trade places with you. Why’d you want to go on this job so badly? What is it?”
Corra broke away from the doorway and met Leta’s eyes more than a little sadly. “It’s not the job,” she explained shortly before wandering over to the wall of guns and absent-mindedly picking a small pistol from its rack. “I don’t care about the job,” she said, her grip tightening as she turned it over in her hand. “It’s who the job’s with.”
“Godorra?” Leta wondered quietly.
A pair of cold eyes gazed at her, filled with pain, sadness and fury. “Yeah,” Corra muttered, her knuckles turning white as her grasp on the gun’s grip continued to tighten and she spat out as though the word disgust her, “Goddora.”
Leta was starting to feel foolish for how little she knew about the people that seemed to infuriate Corra. But her curiosity was powerful — especially if she was about to meet this person. “Who is he?”
“He’s a big time weapons dealer,” Corra said, her voice full of venom. “But weapons aren’t his only specialty.” She sighed, as though to relieve some of the vicious anger in her, though it didn’t seem to do any good. She was just as bitter as she growled, “He’s big in the slave trade too. Buys up all the arrested kroppies.” She said the word as though it tasted foul on her tongue.
“Kroppies,” Leta repeated, almost to herself. She thought she knew what that nasty word meant, but she wanted to be wrong. “Doesn’t that mean … “
“Yeah,” Corra confirmed before she could finish. “The poor, homeless, unwanted people who, what is it? Don’t belong. Aren’t welcome on nice, civilized planets. They dirty up the skylines so they round em up for doing nothin’ but tryin’ to live and sell em off to scum like Goddora. And then he puts em in his complex. Prunes em, sells em for ten times the price and buys some more.” She stared at Leta squarely for a moment, the corners of her eyes creased in distaste before she looked away suddenly.
“I used to be one of his,” she explained, her voice harshly quiet as she gently lifted her hair out of the way to reveal that the top portion of her left ear was missing, clipped off. “Til Captain Sonofabitch bought me,” she added with a growl, glancing up at the ceiling as though Fiearius were standing above her.
“But as much of an asshole as he is, I still got damn lucky,” she added more softly. “Most who get sold off don’t end up free and master of a hefty armory.” She gestured to the wall beside her. “I think it’s my duty as the lucky one to go back and give that bastard what he deserves, don’t you?” She raised the gun in her hand to admire it more closely and feigned aiming it at an unseen target kneeling before her. “A bullet right in the head.”
For a moment, Leta was too stunned to speak. And she wasn’t sure what to say, anyway, as she tried to understand: Corra had been in a slave complex. She’d been enslaved.
Logically, reasonably, Leta knew slave trading was still active in some far reaches of the span. But it was barbaric, ancient; it was supposed to be a dead industry. It wasn’t supposed to actually exist. Staring at Corra now did not make it any more fathomable. “Fiearius — bought you?” she asked quietly, feeling a bit sick.
Almost as though surprised to hear Leta’s voice, Corra dropped her arm and looked over at her, eyes slightly widened. “Yeah,” she answered, tentatively. “Almost three years ago.” She let out a short, sick laugh. “I’m technically a Soliveré too, if only by paperwork.” She rolled her eyes and shook her head. “Lucky me indeed.” She paused momentarily before shrugging. “Although not anymore, I don’t think. I’m not sure what happens when you burn the deed.”
“Well … I’m glad it’s been burned,” Leta muttered, but she wasn’t sure if she was relieved just yet. Her mind was still struggling with what she’d said. Fiearius, at one point, had owned her. And before then, Corra had belonged to Goddorra. She could imagine what happened to enslaved women and she could hardly stomach the thought.
Leta picked her eyes up, suddenly, as it all clicked. “And now Fiearius wants to do business with Goddorra? The man who owned you?”
“Aw, chika, he’s been doing business with Goddora long before and long after he dragged me away from there, kickin’ and screamin’,” she told her a little grimly. Utilizing perhaps the most foolish, wish-washy voice she could conjure, she mocked with a distorted expression, “He’s a good contact, we need his support for the business, he’s the only one who’ll trade for this.” She snorted in distaste and dropped the act. “Same excuses every time. Frankly, I’m getting tired of hearing them.”
“That’s ridiculous,” Leta snapped, her voice cracking like a whip through the room. Suddenly, she felt enough roiling anger to pace the room, though she settled for a snarl of disgust. “I’m not helping him. And I’m definitely not helping him do business with Goddorra.”
“Don’t blame ya. Let him stew in his own muck. He wants to deal with that prick, he can deal with him alone,” Corra remarked bitterly as she finally placed the gun in her hand safely back on its rack. She let out one more long sigh, this time more successfully shaking off her tension as she ran a hand through her bangs and actually smirked at Leta, if a tad mischievously. “Tell ya what, though. I know you say you don’t wanna shoot anybody, but if Cy-cy can’t get you outta this, do me a favor and put a good one right here.” She placed two fingers right between her eyes and chuckled lightly. “Seriously. Do it and I’ll give you this whole damn armory.”
“Honestly? I’m tempted,” Leta said, mustering a small, bitter smile.
“Well then,” Corra said proudly, putting her hands on her hips while sizing up Leta. Finally she smiled and gestured towards the bullet-riddled wall again. “Best get practicing.”
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Spending the rest of the morning in the armory with Corra — target-practice and talking — was almost enough to make Leta forget her worry and her anger. Almost. It was a few hours of welcome distraction, at least, when they took a break from sending bullets into the wall (Leta thought she was starting to get rather good at aiming — or better, at least), and finally slumped onto the couch.
“It really is a beautiful place,” Leta was saying as she sank back comfortably in her seat. She was trying to explain Vescent; Corra had been curious about where she’d grown up and she was trying to indulge her curiosity as best as she could. These days, it was hard to discuss Vescent without sounding bitter, but she purposely avoided politics. “The planet’s almost completely ocean. And the main city is rather small — but really beautiful. Stone architecture and beaches … ”
“It looked beautiful,” Corra admitted, leaned back on her arms and smiling up at the ceiling wistfully. “From the brief moment I saw it anyway.” She let out a disgruntled sigh and muttered, “If only I were on a ship not run by wanted criminals…”
Leta smiled weakly. “I doubt I’ll be make it back there anytime soon.”
“Well. That makes two of us,” Corra pointed out with a cheerful grin and an invisible toast in Leta’s direction.
Just then, Corra looked past her and noticed a figure that seemed to have been standing in the hallway for the past few moments. Corra frowned, concerned, until she realized who it was and simply smiled. “Cy-cy,” she greeted happily as the engineer awkwardly hovered just outside the threshold to the armory.
“Sorry,” Cyrus muttered. “I didn’t want to interrupt.” Leta wondered how long he had been standing there, waiting for his chance to make his presence known. He did not look all that pleased to be there. His eyes refused to meet theirs for more than a second and his fingers were anxiously drumming the doorframe. Corra apparently noticed as well.
“How’d it go?” she asked, although the tone of her voice gave way that she already knew what he was going to say.
“Not…so well…” Cyrus responded quietly, definitively looking elsewhere now.
“He’s still being a dick?” Corra assumed bluntly, casting him an annoyed glare.
“Something like that,” the young man replied with a stiff shrug. “He says…that he needs a doctor. That it’s non-negotiable. And that the only doctor aboard is…well.” He looked to Leta finally. “You.” Cyrus frowned at her before looking away again. “He wouldn’t explain why. I tried. It must be for his arm though? Don’t you think? It still looks pretty gross. And I can’t think what else it would be.” Half-heartedly, he gave her an apologetic smile. “But at least you’re not meant to be a gunhand?”
“I wasn’t going to be his gunhand regardless,” Leta growled. Now she felt more anger than worry: the captain seemed to think she owed him something, which could not have been further from the truth. “Because I won’t be shooting anybody,” she added forcibly. “And why the hell does he think I’ll just go and help him and that slave-trader — ”
Abruptly, Leta broke off, and fell into an urgent silence. She could feel a pair of curious looks upon her, but she ignored them as her mind started to work. Now, she wasn’t thinking about Fiearius and his ridiculous request. She wasn’t thinking about Goddorra, either, even though she already hated him.
She was thinking about Ren. About getting him back.
When she looked up at Cyrus, her expression was considerably lighter.
“So if I do help Fiearius,” she ventured cautiously, “what’re the chances he’ll help me too?”
Cyrus’ mouth was already open, as though with a response ready, but the question Leta asked didn’t match the answer on his lips. His jaw snapped shut and he regarded her uneasily.
“If there’s one thing my brother is, it’s serious about his debts…” he said knowingly, glancing toward Corra, who only cocked her head quizzically. Cyrus looked back to her and added, “Favors don’t go unnoticed. You want his help, giving yours is your best shot.”
What choice did she have then? Leta could hardly believe her own ears when she glanced toward her gun, now shelved back on the wall, and she muttered in defeat, “Then I guess I’m going with.”