Chapter 23: Tonight’s Entertainment

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This wasn’t how Leta would’ve preferred to spend her day, but what choice did she have? The Dionysian needed more med supplies, the captain needed more treatment for his shoulder wound, and she had to help him, of course, before he helped Ren. The circumstances brought her to an infuriating scenario: spending the afternoon with Fiearius.

Leta hadn’t seen much of the captain in the past few weeks — with no complaint from her, of course. While she’d been researching the TTD Baltimore and tending to a few sickly patients (a nasty bout of flu had swept through the crew deck), apparently he’d been busy himself. The ship made several stops on small outer-span planets, and the rumor was Fiearius had picked up a few jobs for decent money. What those jobs were, Leta purposely did not ask. She didn’t want to know.

Although Fiearius barked his disapproval when she’d told him they needed to buy med supplies, he’d agreed in the end, under the condition that he’d be present when she spent his hard-earned ship funds. Which meant when they landed on the planet Hayden, he’d followed her into the city, like a talkative, disgruntled shadow.

She’d already sought out nearby supply shops and led them to one in the main square. It was small but well-stocked, and while normally Leta liked to pace herself when shopping, she now worked through the shelves quickly. With Fiearius as her very vocal company, she couldn’t get this errand finished fast enough.

“What do you think this is for?” came Fiearius’ voice as he rustled noisily through the items on a shelf. He held aloft a mysterious glass globe that held a sparkling green tree. “I wonder what’ll happen if I throw it. Is this what they’re masquerading as a souvenir? It doesn’t even make any sense. I haven’t seen a single tree on this damn planet. Why aren’t there any trees? Terraform must be going bad. Just like Satieri. There aren’t many trees there either. Did I mention I hate shopping? Are you done yet?”

It was like shopping with a toddler. “I’m doing this for you, if you haven’t noticed,” Leta muttered, reaching for a bundle of bandages from the shelf. “You know, saving your ass? Yet again? You’re welcome.”

“You didn’t save my ass, you saved my arm,” he corrected absently, putting the object back on the shelf and picking up another to examine. “What kind of a doctor are you to not know the difference?”

“Just come here,” muttered Leta in exasperation, turning to Fiearius with the bandages in hand. “Let’s see if these fit.” When he purposefully didn’t move, Leta rolled her eyes and yanked him closer by the arm.

As Leta pulled the bandages around his shoulder to test their strength, Fiearius commented innocently, “You know, if you wanted to put your hands all over me, you coulda just said so.”

Startled for just a moment, Leta raised her eyes up to his and then smiled sweetly. “I’d have to disinfect afterwards.” Satisfied with the bandages, she slid them off his arm. “Are you done messing up this place? We can pay, and then we have one more stop to make.”

“Another stop?” Fiearius groaned. “Are you just trying to torture me? What have I ever done to deserve this?” He paused and an expression of realization passed across his face. “Don’t answer that.”

“You don’t want me to,” Leta agreed fervently, turning away to move toward the checkout counter. She slid her bandages toward the cashier, then slipped a piece of paper out of her pocket, consulting it briefly before looking up politely to the woman.

“Hi, we’ll take these. We’ll also need to place an order from the pharmacy, it’s — ”

But the cashier wasn’t taking her items, or even listening to her. She was an older woman, wringing her hands together as she stared in quiet horror. “I’m sorry.” Her voice was shaking, her eyes darting between Fiearius and Leta. “I c — I can’t help you today. I — I — “

Perplexed, Leta stared at her. “Sorry? You — what?”

When the woman only sputtered senselessly, Leta exchanged a look of confusion with Fiearius, then went on, slowly, “We need to buy these items here. And then place an order.”

But the woman was practically trembling. “Please — please just leave — ” she whispered, her eyes now on the front door. “Please go — go before they get here — “

Maybe this woman’s fear wasn’t unfounded after all. “Before who gets here?” Leta pressed, alarm creeping into her voice as she felt Fiearius straighten up and cross his arms in curiosity.

“Be — before — “

Breaking off, the woman grimaced, gave a start and suddenly darted away from the counter into the back room, leaving her customers standing there blankly.

“Guess we’re stealing these,” said Leta wearily, reaching for the bandages. Before she could begin to guess what the hell that was about, there was a bang of the glass front door slamming open.

In the next moment, three men who looked like they had no intention of buying any goods were in the shop.  Leta had never seen anyone quite as armed as each of them, not even on the Dionysian: guns were strapped across their backs, their hips and in the case of one of them, both of his hands. All of them had identical tattoos on their shoulders — gang markings? — and their eyes were on Fiearius, who only tilted his head, mildly interested, as if greeting old friends.

Did Fiearius attract trouble every goddamn place he went? Even family-owned general stores?

The bandages slipped from her fingers and fell to the floor. Leta had no idea who these men were, but they clearly meant nothing good, and her hand fell down to the gun holstered loosely at her hip, already knowing full well they were too outnumbered for any true defenses.

The leader of the group clicked a pistol at his side. “You Solivere?” he grunted, staring at him over Leta’s head.

“I think you forgot the verb in that question,” Fiearius replied dully.

“That’s what I thought,” said the man, grinning and showing several yellow teeth. To Leta’s horror, the man looked down at her and announced, “And you’re the accomplice. The doctor.”

To his counterparts, he said with satisfaction,  “Bag ‘em. Let’s go.”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

With the bag over her head, Leta saw only darkness. Blood pounded in her ears. One hand dug hard into her shoulder, gripping her neck like a dog as it led her forward. She sensed Fiearius walking at her side, also bagged — thank the gods they hadn’t been separated. Not yet.

They must have walked a mile when suddenly, she could sense the scenery change: they were indoors. Where, she had no idea.

In one swoosh of a motion, the bag over her eyes — dark, dank, musty — was pulled from her head. Leta blinked and urgently took in their new surroundings. Where were they now?

It had all happened too fast.

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