“No, what you need to do is rest,” Cyrus told him again, irritated. “I’ve got this covered. Rest now so I don’t have to keep doing your job forever.” He met his brother’s glare with a playful smirk. “How’d you even manage to open that up again?” he asked, gesturing to the now properly re-bandaged wound on his shoulder.
Fiearius nearly shrugged, but seemed to find the effort too painful, so he stopped short. “Jumped out a window,” he admitted.
“Of course you did. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again,” Cyrus remarked darkly. “You deserve everything that happens to you.”
“Ha ha,” Fiearius muttered, cringing a little. “So how’d you supposedly get us out of ‘royally fucked’ status?”
“Don’t worry about it.” Cyrus looked decidedly innocent, to which Fiearius narrowed his eyes.
“Do I trust you?”
“I hope so, you did make me first mate.”
“Well yeah, you were my only option at the time,” Fiearius said bluntly.
Cyrus spun around in his chair to face Fiearius and without warning, he reached over and thwapped his shoulder, causing the elder sibling to yelp in pain. “Go on,” he dared him. “Keep ridiculing me. Let’s see where it gets you. Or would you prefer I just call the doctor and have her knock you out again?”
“Please do,” Fiearius growled. “If I can’t walk myself outta here, at least make me unconscious so I don’t have to put up with you.”
“Stop,” Leta groaned finally, entering the room and coming between them. They could argue all night for all she cared, but Fiearius’ blistering shoulder was now her main concern, and she moved Cyrus’ hands away. “Cyrus, don’t touch that, I just got it to close again.”
Without invitation, Leta moved Fiearius’ chair around so he faced her. She eyed him clinically and pressed the back of her wrist to his forehead, ignoring his look of immediate distaste. “Fever’s down,” she noted approvingly. “Eyes less dilated. You’re about due for another round of painkillers.”
“Won’t do anything,” he scoffed under his breath. “But whatever you say, doc…”
“And once those kick in,” she stated clearly, standing up straight, “we can discuss our deal.”
Despite the bloody events of the last eight hours, Leta hadn’t forgotten. There was a reason she was staying aboard this ship and she intended to see it through. In fact, she held the thought close, like a talisman: help Fiearius, then strike up a deal. Help Fiearius, and help Ren.
“Ah, right,” Fiearius muttered, looking briefly taken aback in spite of his fatigue. “That. Alright, kiddo.” He sighed heavily and glanced over at her. “I’m nothing if not a man of my word I guess. What is it ya need?”
“Well,” Cyrus said unexpectedly, standing up from his chair and hovering awkwardly between them for a moment. “I eh…should go work on the engine a bit more. Still need to realign the modular piston rings…I’ll leave you to it.” He glanced between them and then departed quickly.
So she was on her own then. Leta stared at Cyrus’ retreating back for a moment, torn between amusement and annoyance, before lowering into his vacant chair. Her hands found the armrests and she looked over at Fiearius. He was watching her with an eyebrow raised, looking vaguely skeptical, and really rather tired.
“My fiance’s been captured,” she began calmly. “He was doing a research project on Vescent, and his focus was the Society. He found out — I don’t know what he found out. He had something to do with ‘identification.’ That’s all I know. Right before he could publish his work, he disappeared.”
Fiearius’ eyes moved toward the window, which showed the subtly moving landscape of stars. He appeared as if he was not listening at all, but then he said at last, “After researching the Society? Hm. Why’s that not a surprise?”
Leta’s eyes flicked to the Society tattoo on Fiearius’ arm. The thick black lines stuck out beneath his bandage. “Everyone at home believes he’s dead.”
Fiearius nodded slowly, his eyes still on the window. “I’m guessing you don’t subscribe to that theory?”
“No,” said Leta, more sharply than intended. After a moment, she cast him a look of apology and amended more softly. “No, I don’t. A few months after the capture, my father told me. He has a few ties to the Society higher-ups; he knew the truth. That Ren’s alive. In prison. He has been for three months. I’ve also gotten messages … messages that could only come from Ren.” She paused a moment, awaiting his reaction that never came. “So you can guess what I want to do,” she prompted. “I want to break him out.”
Fiearius said nothing. He was still looking sidelong out the window, holding a staring contest with a distant star. But then his fingers drummed lightly on the arm of his chair and his eyes came to her. “So why’s he in there at all?” he asked finally. “Obviously, okay, he found something out. Something they don’t want him to know. But why capture him? Why not just kill him?”
“I’ve wondered that,” said Leta, scooting closer to the edge of her chair. She stole a keener glance at Fiearius’ face, trying to gauge his expression, but he was unreadable. “I don’t pretend to understand how the Society works. But I see a few reasons for it. One, my dad asked him to be spared. But I don’t think he has that kind of influence — so probably something else. Whatever Ren knows, it must be useful and valuable to the Society. They must need him alive.”
“I gave your brother the data from Ren,” she went on hurriedly, “to see if he could pinpoint where the messages come from. Some Society cell is my guess. Far from Vescent. It’s not easy to get passage from there, so I was never able to investigate. But what I’m getting to is,” she paused, “you have a ship.”
“Oh, how nice of you to notice.”
“So with our deal, I’m asking you to use it,” she went on, “And take me to where he is and help me break him out.”
For the first time in the conversation, she got a reaction: Fiearius knit his brow and he stared at her, looking unapologetically doubtful, and perhaps amused. “Oh really?” he asked. “Is that so? You want me to take my spaceship and fly to…who knows where? Some Society prison. To rescue your boyfriend.”
“Fiance,” Leta corrected dully.
He raised his brows and looked like he couldn’t decide whether to laugh or not. “Right. Look, kiddo, you helped me out today and don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that. But do you have any idea what you’re asking?” he asked sincerely. “I know, I’m fucking impressive, but running into a nest of my enemy probably isn’t the best idea even for me.”
It wasn’t the best idea for any person, but Leta was too distracted — too surprised — by the ease in which he spoke. It was like he remembered nothing of the nightmare from earlier.