“So, what do you know that we don’t?”
The question cracked through the air like a whip, breaking Leta out of her brow-furrowed concentration as she sat in the corner of the mess hall, her legs stretched over a chair as she read a thin, disheveled looking paperback–Aiden’s. Breakfast had just ended, most people had cleared from the room, and Leta was trying to occupy her restless, distracted mind.
It had been five days since the engine had broken. Five days of the ship sitting in the black of space, unable to land safely, aimless and useless and without direction. Now, the crew was starting to feel it: tension and restlessness lingered in the air, just out of reach, like a bad itch that couldn’t be scratched. The empty hours stretched and stretched like old rubber bands.
Now, Leta’s only plans for the day were to to visit Cyrus (frantic and obsessive over the engine, he hadn’t been seen above deck in days), and finish this novel. And apparently field questions from Maya, a young woman whom Leta had spoken to maybe twice before.
Leta lowered the book and looked up blankly. “Excuse me?”
“You must know something,” Maya continued, smiling too sweetly. She scooted closer on the edge of her chair. “About the ship. Why we’re still stuck here. You must know something. I mean, you and the captain seem close,” she added, her eyes sparkling innocently.
“We’re not,” Leta assured her fervently, snorting.
“You spend an awful lot of time in the bridge is all,” Maya said, shrugging her shoulders in an off-handed kind of way. “Lots of time together off-ship too. Thought maybe he’d told you something. Something he’s not telling the rest of us.”
Well, there was some truth to that, thought Leta. Fiearius hadn’t mentioned to the crew that the ship could land — but the only place to land was Satieri and landing there would ensure their capture. Society operatives would’ve raided the ship in seconds and found their bounty in Leta, Fiearius and Cyrus.
So really, Fiearius hadn’t lied. He was just choosing not to mention Satieri as an option. For once, Leta did not fully disagree with his choice, and all she said to Maya was, “Ooh, you think so?” in a falsely curious voice, like she was actually interested in this conversation.
Maya threw a hand in the air. “Captain never told us anything since the engine broke. He hasn’t addressed us at all. It’s like he’s hiding something.”
Leta laughed. “Maybe you should tell him that yourself,” she suggested cheerfully. “He’d love your input.” Leta hoped Maya would take her up on this offer. And she hoped she’d be around to witness Fiearius’ wrath.
Leta was just going back to her novel, ready to end this conversation, when another voice broke in.
“You have to admit it’s odd, doctor,” said Arlo Harvey smoothly, one of the older paying passengers. He was fixing tea at the counter, watching them closely. “That it’s been five days and he hasn’t explained the state of the ship. Or what our next step is. Don’t you think so?”
“I think so,” said Maya waspishly.
This conversation was planned, Leta realized suddenly. Maya and Arlo planned to corner her like this. She sat up straighter, feeling her defenses rise.
“You see,” Arlo went on, turning to face them and frowning at her thoughtfully, “This ship is stuck. We have no idea how long we’ll be stuck, no estimations at all. We’ll soon run out of food. And you’re the only one who doesn’t seem worried.”
Leta blinked. “How observant of you,” she said grandly, cocking her head to the side. Arlo smiled wryly.
Although she would never admit it to these people, Leta was, in fact, feeling worried — each day stuck in space put her further and further away from Ren. But as much as this was true, Leta felt a strong sense of loyalty toward Cyrus. He’d barely slept or eaten in the past week, he was so dedicated to finding the problem and fixing it.
Arlo continued to watch her, his lips twitching as he lowered to a chair across from her. “Talk to him for us,” he stated simply. “Talk to the captain. He seems to like talking to you more than anyone else. Ask him what’s going on. When and if things will be fixed. How we should ration the food. How much of an emergency we’re in. We all have questions, and the captain — ”
“Doesn’t care,” growled Maya. “He doesn’t care about any of us. Why’s he keeping us in the dark, huh? What’s he hiding? Does he even have a plan?”
Leta’s stomach churned with doubt. They were right — Fiearius should have been addressing his crew. He should have been the kind of leader who took responsibility and had a contingency plan. But in this moment, Leta felt only strangely defensive of him. These were the same people who had rescued him from death in the combat ring a mere week ago. How could they turn on him so quickly?
“You know what?” Maya went on, laughing. “You know what Ludo said? It could be the ship isn’t even really broken — “
“That’s absurd,” Leta burst out, suddenly fed up with the conversation. Fiearius had his faults — and normally Leta enjoyed pointing them out — but these accusations were baseless. “This whole thing is absurd. Fiear isn’t holding out on any of you, he’s protecting you, and it’s ridiculous that — ”
“It is ridiculous,” Arlo intervened, nodding his head seriously, looking mournful. “It really is. Just try to understand, Leta, that there’s so much we’re not being told. You’re not being told much either, it seems. Don’t you see? We’re all crew. We’re all on the same side, here.” Arlo reached to pat her wrist, but she withdrew her hand.
“No,” said Leta sharply, standing up to her feet to leave the room. “No, I don’t think we are.”
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
The walk downstairs to the engine room was strangely, deathly quiet. In her time aboard, Corra had never consciously noticed how the engine rumbled warmly beneath her feet continuously; it was background noise. But now that it was gone — now, the hallways downstairs were so quiet and unsettled that she almost believed Amora’s stories of ghosts aboard the ship.