With a sudden jolt, Leta jerked awake.
Her eyes flew open and she glanced around. Someone (but who?) had wrapped a ragged blanket around her shoulders, and she grasped it for a moment before relaxing and taking in her surroundings: she was curled on an exam bench in the quiet, dark infirmary.
Moments before, she’d been tangled in the throes of a nightmare. The sleeping vision had started innocently enough: first, she’d been home on Vescent, searching all over her loft for a med kit. Then the landscape changed in a flash. She wasn’t at home at all, but in the Dionysian, which was, for some reason, flooded up to her knees with swirling, murky water. The crew had been frantic, trying to empty it — Fiearius was waving his injured arm and yelling, and Cyrus was nowhere in sight — when things turned for the worst. Fiearius had turned to her and stated with ghostly knowingness, just like he had in real life: “You can’t bring back the dead.”
And then, it hadn’t been water at all in the ship. It was blood, and it was thick and rising to her waist and up to her chest and throat and mouth —
Now wide-awake and short of breath, Leta looked down, rubbing her fingers together, as if checking for blood. But her hands were still pale and freckled, clean as always. Unnerved, Leta shook her head dismissively and jumped to her feet, throwing the blanket back onto the bench.
Never mind this, she thought briskly. She had a patient to see.
It’d been hours since she’d left Fiearius unconscious in the bridge, though it felt like days had passed. She could hardly believe what had happened — Goddorra shot dead, Saviano shot dead, the jump from the window, the mad sprint back to the ship, Fiearius’ feverish nonsense. She’d been part of all of that? She felt coldly detached from it now, like it had been a film she’d watched months ago and barely remembered.
She was about to turn for the stairs when, for a second time, a half-yelp, half-gasp escaped her. She wasn’t alone in this silent hallway after all. Like her, the gunman Ludo was headed upstairs, and currently blocking her path like a boulder. He didn’t react to her, or step back. He simply stood in the shadows and gazed at her.
“Jumpy, aren’t you,” he said. An empty plate was in his hand — she must have missed dinner, or Ludo preferred his meals alone? His expression was entirely vacant, except his eyes, which looked her up and down. There was something clinically off about him, Leta realized. He took unnaturally lengthy pauses in between speaking, and he stood too close. Emptily, he said, “How’s the captain.”
“He’ll be fine,” Leta replied shortly, quite willing to let this conversation die off. Now very conscious that there was no one else around on this part of the ship, she edged around him — his beard twitched toward a frown — and hurried up the stairs.
Feeling unsettled, Leta pulled herself into the hallway and chanced a look backwards. Ludo was still standing there on the lower floor, looking up at her expectantly. Between the vestiges of her nightmare and Ludo’s unexpected presence downstairs (where was his room anyway? Nowhere near the infirmary — why was he down there?), she was more relieved than usual to find company elsewhere.
Up in the bridge, Cyrus was in the co-pilot’s seat, seated beside his now-awake brother. Leta stood in the hallway and had a view of the back of their heads, and for a moment, she paused to listen to their conversation. Neither brother noticed her.
As he scrolled through one of the console monitors, Cyrus was saying, “How are you even awake?”
“How are you even asleep?” Fiearius replied in an attempt at a snappy response, though his voice was heavy and tired. His younger brother gave him a look and he admitted, “Okay, I don’t know what that means either.”
“Well stop being awake. Get some rest,” Cyrus advised impatiently, going back to the map on the monitor.
“Well … look at you,” Fiearius said, his voice dragging out of him. “Takin’ charge. Captain Solivere.” He seemed to realize the redundancy of the tease, but ignored it. “Can’t sleep. Got things to do. Gotta plan the next moves.” With an air of defiance he grasped the arms of his chair and, with an effort nearly equal to lifting a boulder, tried to push himself up into a normal sitting position. Not very far into the attempt, a groan escaped him and fell back into the chair.