Chapter 31: Out of Options


Heavy silence blanketed the Dionysian’s bridge, punctuated only by the dull thud of glass bottles meeting the dashboard. Swigging back dark bitter beer, Fiearius slumped in the captain’s chair, Aiden in the co-pilot’s seat at his side. The thrill of successfully stealing that necklace had all but died, the victory party decidedly cut short, when Sanilac had offered Aiden his teaching job back.

Now, hours later, the ship was off Elora and back in the air. A landscape of stars drifted past the window and a tired sort of quiet sat between them.

“Just for the record,” said Aiden at last, his voice exhausted and bemused, “I didn’t say I accepted the offer.”

Fiearius took another drink, tilting the bottle back against his mouth for two … three … four seconds, at least. Simply put, he was having a hard time imagining the ship without its wise professor. Who was going to keep the deckhands quiet and the nagging paying passengers off his back? Who was going to calm Corra down and listen to Leta about her fiance? And there was always the important task of keeping Ludo’s gun pointed in the right direction…

It sure as hell wasn’t going to be Fiearius who took all this over when Aid left. It made him tired and irritated just thinking of it.

“But you will,” he replied, raising his brows at him knowingly.

“It’s not an easy decision, really.” Aiden spoke with typical light-heartedness: he rarely talked about himself. After a pause, he admitted, “You know, I planned to stay aboard a month or two, in the beginning. No longer. Funny, how it becomes so hard to leave her.” He looked up at the ceiling fondly, like the ship could hear them. “What about you?” he asked, characteristically turning the conversation away from himself. “Suppose you plan to plunder and pillage forever?”

“Not like I have much of a choice,” Fiearius muttered, casting his eyes to the side bitterly. With the Society always only two steps behind him, settling down wasn’t really an option. And even if he could find a nice tucked away planet to hide out on, it wasn’t as if his resumé was filled with honest work …

Somehow, Aiden disagreed.

“I wouldn’t say that,” he said mildly. “Who says the Society will be in place forever? In fact, I really don’t think it will.”

“But this isn’t about the Society and it isn’t about me, is it?” Fiearius pointed out, recognizing Aiden’s distraction tactic and countering it. “You gonna take the job or not?”

Aiden laughed, just once. “You know me, I’m not impulsive.” Which was his way of saying, of course, that he hadn’t made a decision yet. After a thoughtful pause, he offered, “How about this? When I leave the Dionysian, it’ll be at exactly the right time. With no unfinished business.”

“Well now I know you’re lying,” Fiearius said bluntly, though a small smirk twisted his lips. “We never finish any business.”

An agreeable grin spread over Aiden’s face as he drank his beer. “Well, before I leave, we will. Like, for example, all the paying passengers will make it where they need to go.”

“Ah yes,” Fiearius muttered distastefully, leaning back in his chair. “Them. Remind me why we have them again.”

“Also,” said Aiden, apparently ignoring him, “we’ll make sure Ludo is paid in full.”

“Him too,” Fiearius mumbled, a shadow of irritation falling over his face.

“And finally,” he went on with an air of conclusion, “we’ll make a decision about Leta.”

At this, Fiearius faltered. He pulled his beer from his mouth sharply. “What?”

Aiden lowered his bottle, looking over at him in surprise. “Well, about Ren, Leta’s fiance,” he corrected, looking puzzled. “The decision of whether you’re really going to try and break him out.”

An unpleasant image of the Society’s massive prison ship that held Leta’s fiance loomed into his mind. An image he’d seen quite often recently. He’d pulled up the schematics of the Baltimore numerous times in the past weeks in an attempt to determine just how possible that rescue was. Each time, he’d gotten frustrated and closed the files within ten minutes.

“Right,” he muttered, looking away from his friend and taking a long drink.

He could feel Aiden watching him now.

“She’s been aboard over two months,” he went on carefully. “Much longer than anyone — especially Leta herself — would’ve guessed … So I believe it’s time to tell her. If you don’t feel that this is doable, she should know.” He paused, and perhaps anticipating what was next, he went on steadily, “And there’s no shame or fault in not trying. But she needs to know, so she can leave and look elsewhere if she wishes.”

Fiearius’ eyes slid back up to him and he studied Aiden curiously. No fault? A nice sentiment, but one he hardly believed. “Where else is she gonna look?” he asked suddenly. “At risk of sounding arrogant, who else could help her? If I can’t do it, who the hell can?”

“If she had a ship, she’d do it herself,” Aiden mused, a note of admiration in his voice. But then his brow furrowed and he looked troubled. “But no, I think you’re right, you very well could be the person for the job. And I believe she knows it, too. Why else would she still be aboard? Other than for Corra and Cyrus of course …”


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