Chapter 32: Day Five Pt. 2

But ghosts weren’t her main worry as she walked toward the engine room.

Corra knew it was wrong, but she still hadn’t spoken to Cyrus since the incident on their ‘date’ the previous week. She’d wanted to talk to him the next day, but then this whole technical issue had happened and Cyrus had disappeared into the engine room to never come out. It wasn’t her fault, she told herself furiously. She was forced to delay.

But this morning when she woke up to find the ship still not moving and that pit of discomfort still lodged firmly in her stomach, consuming her thoughts any time the ship’s engineer was mentioned, she had decided that she could delay no longer, engine trouble be damned.

Unfortunately, her resolve had lessened somewhat throughout the day and although she had demanded that she be the one to deliver his dinner rather than Leta for once, even as she approached the engine room, tray in hand, she didn’t know what she was going to say. She had played out hundreds of conversations in her head over the past week, but now that she was here, she forgot all of them. Hopelessly, she stood outside the door a moment longer, trying to conjure something, anything. Her mind was uncharacteristically blank.

Finally, she took a deep breath and slipped inside and settled on a meek, “Hey there.”

Cyrus was hunched over a console screen, frantically skimming through data readings. He did not look up. Dark circles hung under his eyes and his forehead was creased as he swiped the screen desperately, moving from page to page to page and back again. Behind him, the massive shape of the engine sat still and silent.

Corra watched him work a beat longer, unsure if he’d heard her arrive, so she tried again. “Cy-cy?” She stepped further into the room. “I brought you dinner.” She lifted the tray to show him.

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But he said nothing to her, his eyes focused on the screen as if they were miles away from one another. Disgruntled, Corra opened her mouth to try again, but just as she did, he cut her off.

“Thanks, just…put it over there,” he muttered, not looking up and waving in the general direction of the wall. Then he started to mumble numbers to himself, ignoring her once again.

Corra’s heart sank. Was he so upset with her that he couldn’t even look at her? God, how badly had she screwed up?

No, she assured herself. No, of course not, he was simply frustrated with the engine. This had nothing to do with her. He was probably the same to Leta …

Even so, her paranoia wouldn’t allow her to let it go. What she wanted to ask was ‘can we talk?’ or ‘do you have a minute?’ or even, more bluntly, ‘are you still angry with me?’, but what came out was, “So…how’s the engine?”

It was a question she immediately regretted when Cyrus stopped mid-motion and looked over at her like she was insane. “Sorry, I mean–” she corrected hurriedly, “I mean, do you…do you know what’s wrong with it yet?”

“If I knew what was wrong with it, it would be fixed,” Cyrus said shortly, focusing back on the screen again.

“Oh. Right.” Corra faltered, looking down at the tray of food in her hands in despair, desperately trying to convince herself it was just stress. He was frustrated. It wasn’t her. It definitely wasn’t her.

But as much as it wasn’t her, she couldn’t stop herself. “Cyrus, I’m sorry,” she blurted out suddenly.

Again, Cyrus paused and stared at her, but his eyes were much softer this time. A little confused, perhaps, but not hostile. Even so, Corra wanted to shrink away from his stare as he mumbled, “Corra…not now…”

Slowly, he stepped away from the console and approached her. He gently took the tray, for a few awkward moments they each held either side of it, until Corra lowered her hands.

“Thanks for dinner,” he said quietly, trying to meet her eyes. “I’ve gotta keep working on this.”

Corra felt her face turn red in embarrassment. Of course he had way more important things to worry about right now than that dumb date with her. Feeling a strong urge to go bury her head in the dirt somewhere and never unbury it, she nodded quickly and muttered, “Yeah, definitely, absolutely, good luck,” and before he could stop her, she turned on her heel to flee the room, wondering how long things could be this awkward between them.

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

That evening, eager to leave behind the bickering crew, Leta slipped quietly downstairs alone. Dinner hour had been tense: everyone was impatient and snappish while awaiting an update from Fiearius. But they never got an update, because Fiearius hadn’t shown up to dinner at all. Aggravation burned under her skin: when was he going to answer for himself? His silence was giving the crew more and more ammo against him …

Downstairs, the infirmary lay mercifully empty and silent. Leta closed the door behind her with a soft snap, and then crossed the room and opened a cabinet, reaching for a bottle of pills. The medication fought fevers and infection; she’d started taking them after the combat ring, when that man had dug that filthy knife through her flesh.

Glancing down at the bottle, Leta shook it, and found there were only a handful of pills left. One problem no one considered with the ship’s broken engine was the dwindling lack of medication … thankfully, Fiearius’ shoulder was healed now, but she didn’t have many resources left to stave off fevers …

Well, she thought briskly, twisting the cap back on, she’d likely be fine; she didn’t need to take any today. The pills were mostly preventive anyway. And no doubt Cyrus would have the ship running again in a few days.

Just when Leta went to close the cabinet, however, she suddenly froze in place. Something wasn’t right here. The skin on the back of her neck prickled. Narrowing her eyes, she scanned the shelves, still packed in the order she preferred it … except …

With a jolt that, she realized: the neat stack of oxygen masks was missing. Not where she’d left them. Gone.

She always locked the cabinets, as well as the door each night. She hadn’t touched the masks. Perhaps Fiearius had? Though that did not seem likely. Leta did not like to think it, but the word crept up into the back of her mind: stolen.

By whom? Did the crew take the masks — did they think their life support systems were in danger?

Wrong-footed and startled, Leta eased the cabinet door closed and backed away.

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

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