Fiearius’ skeptical glare met him quickly. “Do you think I even can do it? If I’m right, if he’s on a Society prison ship?” He scoffed lightly. “I’m appreciative of her help and all. And..I guess having a doctor around isn’t the worst idea ever. But what she wants in return is…it’s impossible. Even for me.”
Cyrus could probably count the occasions on which Fiearius leveled with him honestly on one hand. Even as his brother, he was mostly submitted to the dramatic bravado and cocky overconfidence that everyone else saw. Those rare moments when he actually broke that down and gave him the straight truth were few and far between, but that only made him more conscious of it. If Fiearius was actually honest about a thing? It meant something. And it worried Cyrus.
“Did you tell her that?” he asked quietly.
Fiearius groaned. “Not exactly. I said I’d think about it.” He noticed Cyrus’ disapproving frown and hurried on, “What? I will think about it. Send me those coordinates whenever you get them. But dov’ha i’reata…couldn’t she just wanna get paid like normal people? Why’d you have to pick up the one with the goddamn tragedy for me to fix?”
Cyrus shrugged his shoulders innocently. “I don’t think she’d still be here without it. When has the Dionysian ever picked up someone normal? Haven’t you noticed, we’re a magnet for weirdos.”
“And tragedy,” Fiearius admitted with a sigh.
“And desperation,” Cyrus added.
“That one’s your fault,” said Cyrus bluntly. Fiearius glared, but it dissolved into a proud smirk. “While you’re up, by the way,” Cyrus went on, “The engine’s back in working order for the time being. We can start heading forward. Wherever forward is.”
“I leave that to you, captain,” Fiearius sighed as he waved off the concern with his hand. “I am officially on leave.” He shot him a look that dared him to challenge the statement. “I can probably get my doctor to write me a note if you’ve got a problem with that.”
Inherently, Cyrus wanted to argue the point. The ship was in a crisis. They needed income and they needed it now, but hell if Cyrus knew where to get it from. He was an engineer, not a damn criminal like his elder sibling. Taking charge now? A horrible idea.
But alternatively, he was in agreement that Fiearius needed to rest. One more stab at that injury and they’d probably have to amputate. The more he rested now, the better off he’d be in the long run. The better off they’d all be. So as much as he dreaded the idea of this ship being under his command any longer, he couldn’t really argue.
“Fine,” Cyrus grumbled. “I won’t ask you to strain yourself or anything…” The bitterness, however, he couldn’t hold back. “But a little advice would be helpful. We’re out of money, we’re nearly out of fuel, Leta says you’ve basically used up all our medical supplies in the last day, and all we have to our name are those stupid marked weapons no one’s going to want. News about Goddora’s probably already spread. Everyone will probably be too wary to trade with us. On leave or not, you can’t tell me you don’t have any ideas. Next steps. A hint would be nice.”
Fiearius smirked up at him, clearly quite pleased with himself. It was all Cyrus could do to not reach down and jab at his injury again to wipe that look off his face. “You’re a smart kid, little brother,” he told him. “Hell, a genius, ain’t ya? It’s simple enough. Use your head. Where can we go that has plenty of fuel for ships they don’t own? And plenty of medical supplies they’re not using? And a mighty big need for weaponry, marked or no? A place that doesn’t give a shit about Goddora or the standard market?” Fiearius’ smirk widened as he watched his brother think it through. “A place even more desperate than us?”
Cyrus frowned as he considered the inquiry. “Archeti?” he realized suddenly. As Fiearius mimicked a congratulatory game show bell, Cyrus racked his brain for everything he knew about the place. The first colony, once such a grand title, now a pit of poverty where gangs ruled the streets and fought wars amongst one another as the people struggled to climb out. In short, it was a hell hole.
Fiearius was right though. Archeti was always in a state of desperation, even more desperate than the Dionysian, so they traded there frequently. They did have fuel. And they did have medical supplies. Ellegy and Exymeron were constantly shipping them onto the planet as a half-assed ‘charity’ effort. Neither donator ever seemed to care that those supplies always ended up in the hands of the gangs as leverage rather than the people who actually needed them.
“To Genisi, then?” Cyrus asked, naming the capital city of the Archetian wasteland. “Trade our shitty guns for their med supplies? And the fuel…”
“We can fill this whole ship for a month with one crate of those,” Fiearius told him.
“It seems kind of wrong though, doesn’t it?” Cyrus pointed out hesitantly. “One thing to trade guns for credits, but taking advantage of their resources like that? And giving more weaponry to the gangs…”
Fiearius sighed and shrugged his non-injured shoulder. “They’re gonna get ‘em from somewhere if they don’t get ‘em from us. It’s a dog-eat-dog world, little brother. We don’t have the luxury of morality right now. Gotta do what ya gotta do to survive. If that means trading with shitty Genisian gangs…” Cyrus sighed as well and nodded slowly. “Besides, some aren’t all that bad. You know which one to go to.”
Did he? Cyrus wasn’t so sure. He’d gone with Fiearius on one of the Archetian trades before and they’d met with one of the gang leaders. That was ages ago, back when Fiearius didn’t have much of an alternative option when it came to gunhands. But that must have been who he meant.
“Yeah,” he muttered, still skeptical. “Yeah, I know,” he said again, more confidently, though it was a false mask of it. “We’ll head to Genisi. Sort everything out.” He nodded slowly again, disbelieving all of his own words, and glanced down the hallway into the open door of the bridge. He could see the endless black of space beyond the window.
“In the morning,” he decided at last, feeling his exhaustion set in and a pit of discontent in his gut growing. He glanced back down at his brother, still slumped against the wall. “Eh…you sure you’re alright there? I can help you back to the chair in the bridge…”
“Nah, I’m alright,” Fiearius told him in a manner that made Cyrus question if he actually meant it or not. Though, he realized moments later, he didn’t really care. He grasped a rung of the ladder and started the climb upward into his quarters.
“Sleep well, little brother,” Fiearius called after him. “I leave the ship in your competent hands.”
As Cyrus reached the top of the ladder, he paused. He’d never gone out on one of these things without his brother at his side. And his brother in the lead…For him to do this on his own? He was probably going to get himself killed. He cringed as he finished the climb and crawled up onto the floor of his room.
“Competent hands,” he repeated. “Right.” He looked down through the hatch at his brother who was now frowning at him with concern. Worried, Cyrus noted. “Well. Goodnight,” he muttered hurriedly and slammed the hatch shut before he could develop any worse feelings about what the next few days held.
Oh gods, how was he ever going to sleep now? Trading with Genesian gang leaders? He couldn’t do this. He was an engineer, not a space pirate. He fixed engines, he didn’t negotiate with street thugs. He couldn’t do this. He just couldn’t.
At least not alone.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Leta was bewildered to find that breakfast was another noisy affair the next morning. Had everyone somehow forgotten yesterday already? A few crew members were indeed bandaged and bruised, but the mood seemed relatively light as she slipped into the crowded mess hall. As she entered, a cheerful round of ‘morning, doc’ greeted her. Perhaps not everyone aboard detested doctors quite as much as their captain did.
Nonetheless, Leta could not say she shared their good cheer as she found a table in the corner. A headache pounded through her skull after a night of little sleep, and she felt strangely jumpy and on-guard after another round of nightmares.