“ … And the oxygen masks still haven’t turned up anywhere. No one’s admitted to taking them, either,” Leta was saying, sounding as exhausted as Fiearius felt, as she walked slowly beside him down the hallway toward the bridge. Normally her presence would have been something of a nuisance, but Fiearius felt simply too tired to protest. Now that the ship had been stuck for ten days, he was starting to go off sleep.
And he wasn’t the only one. Below deck, Cyrus was a mess — covered in ship oil, shaking from all the coffee he’d consumed, tearing apart the engine piece by piece. Meanwhile, Fiearius took over managing the back-up generator. The process demanded near-constant monitoring and rerouting or power to extend its life for as long as possible. Dull, dreary work, but if it was one less thing Cy had to handle, he’d do it.
Leta had been right: this was getting worse before it was getting better. In just about every way.
Walking with him up the steps, she asked, “About how long until Finn gets here?”
“Not sure,” Fiearius sighed. “Few days, I think. Haven’t been able to lock onto a signal long enough to get any messages out to him. Hopefully not much longer.” He paused, and muttered dryly,” “Don’t suppose the crew’s gonna get any happier as is … “
“Doubtful. They won’t really talk to me anymore. No one showed up to breakfast, they’re taking their meals separately in the cargo bay.”
“Bet Amora loves that,” Fiearius muttered bitterly.
“Speaking of Amora, we’re taking stock of the pantry today.” Leta creased her forehead, looking worried. “So we can ration accordingly.”
“Good idea. Maybe we should see about getting a lock installed on the pantry too. Since we’re on a ship of thieves.” His expression fell dully. “Probably should have seen that coming…”
“Already did, actually,” said Leta fairly. “Aiden didn’t want me to to do it, but the pantry’s locked, as of last night.”
Surprised, Fiearius glanced sidelong at her. Managing the crew, keeping stock of supplies, locking all the doors — in the face of crisis, his doctor was taking on the jobs of several people at once. It occurred to him he probably owed her some gratitude.
“Hey,” he said, and she looked over at him curiously. “When this is all over — I’ll buy ya a drink,” he decided suddenly, clapping a hand on the small of her back.
“You’ll buy me several,” Leta corrected, smirking at him.
They reached the bridge, and Fiearius was more than ready to drop into his captain’s chair and enjoy silence for a few hours — but to his surprise, as he halted on threshold, he found the cabin was not empty, as it should have been, but full of people.
Crew members crowded around him. Ludo, scowling, his massive frame taking up half the room; Maya, scoffing at Leta in disgust; the married couple, two gunhands, the younger deckhands — all were staring at him expectantly. Except for that Javier kid. He sat relaxed in the captain’s chair, absently staring out the window, but the moment he spotted Fiearius, he jumped to his feet and side-stepped away, looking terrified.
“What’s this?” asked Leta curiously, looking around at them all, but Fiearius thought he had a pretty good idea already. He grinned wryly. If all their glaring faces were any indication …
“So this is some sort of demonstration, huh?” he said before anyone else could speak. “Though I’m afraid I’m missing the point. Didn’t have time to make any signs?”
“Wait,” said Leta, sounding disgusted, “is this a sit-in?”
“I’m afraid it is,” said the older man in the center of the cabin. Arlo, was that his name? Looking grim and serious, he took a step forward. “We’ve got a problem here, captain. Something more than just engine trouble.”
“I can see that,” Fiearius replied simply. “There’s a ton of people crowding my workspace. Out.”
Beside Arlo, Alastair clapped a hand on his wife’s shoulder and began pompously, “We, the crew of the Dionysian, have assembled because we feel our rights are being infringed upon.”
“Oh really?” said Fiearius. “And what rights do you feel are being infringed?”
Alastair looked startled for a moment, his mouth hanging open, before plowing on importantly, “The right to be apprised of the impending status of our livelihood.”
“You’re right,” said Fiearius sarcastically. “You should be apprised.” As if presenting something magnificent, he threw his hands to the sides and said grandly, “The ship is broken. We have the best engineer on the job. He’ll fix it. You’re welcome, you have now been apprised.” He swung his arms towards the door. “You may now all return to your daily lives — “
“No, we can’t!” snapped Palia, her voice shaking with emotion. “We can’t, captain, we — “
“No, we certainly can’t,” agreed the dark, low voice of Ludo. His bulging arms were folded, his eyes glinting on Fiearius maliciously. “We haven’t been apprised at all.” Suddenly flaring up, he jabbed his hand toward Fiearius’ chest and growled, “You lied to us, captain.”
“Oh I did, did I?” he asked curiously, as though this was all very fascinating to him.
“You said the ship couldn’t move. That we were stuck here. But we did a little investigation of our own,” he informed him through gritted teeth. “This ship can move. We could use the back-up to fly somewhere. And you said there were no viable options … “
“And there are no viable options,” Fiearius told him sternly. “That remains true.”
“There is an option,” said Arlo darkly. “Satieri’s in range. We can land there.”
Fiearius’ eyes narrowed. “Like I said,” he stated again. “There are no viable options.”
“Yeah, that’s just it,” Maya snapped suddenly, her voice considerably more waspish than her counterparts. “The best engineer on the job hasn’t been able to get us out of this yet. So now what? You’re the captain. We want direction more than ‘shut up about it.’” She paused sharply, deliberating on her words before speaking coldly. “Land the ship. Get us out of this.”
Impatience burned him. Fiearius held up his hand, unsure if it was to calm her or calm himself and said, very plainly, “No.” Before a single one of them could express their further outrage, he continued sharply, “I have a contingency plan. I have a friend on the way to help. But we’re not landing on Satieri. Never gonna happen.”
“Maybe we could — maybe we could vote on it,” said Javier suddenly, looking startled to have all eyes on him. “We could all vote on what to do?”
“Yes, we can vote on whether or not to land this ship immediately,” Alastair agreed heartily. “How about voting on getting us out of this problem instead of just waiting around? Ensuring our survival instead of hoping that some guy can fix our engine in time?”
“You think landing on Satieri is gonna ensure your survival?” Fiearius repeated, shaking his head and letting out a bark of a laugh. “That planet just guarantees our death.”
“Guarantees your death, maybe,” said Ludo smoothly. “Not ours.”
“We’re no fools, captain,” Palia pointed out, her arms crossed firmly over her chest and her eyes narrowed in disgust. “We know what that damn mark on your arm means.” She gestured to the Society librera on his shoulder and lifted her chin haughtily. “Ain’t hard to find your name in the old Exymeron news archives either. Just ‘cause you’re a Sochy exile don’t mean the rest of us gotta die.”
Before Fiearius could respond, Leta growled in exasperation, “We’d all be captured if we landed there. Remember what happened on Vescent? The Society won’t show you mercy, you’d be charged as a conspirator. We’re better off on the ship, waiting for Finn.”
Maya let out a cold laugh. “Yeah, figured you’d side with Fiear.”
“We won’t wait here to die,” said Alistair loudly, holding his wife’s shoulder tighter, as Arlo and Ludo murmured their argument. “You’re the captain, you have an obligation to help us.” His glare cut through the room. “So you’ll land this ship.”
“No,” said Fiearius again, this time his voice barely above a whisper. “I won’t.”
“So you’d rather we all just die?!” Arlo burst out, red in the face, as Palia yelled, “This is betrayal!”
Just as Fiearius stepped forward, a sharp reply already on his tongue, he felt a hand drop on his shoulder, almost warningly so. Fiearius knew who arrived before he even spoke.
“Hey,” Aiden greeted with a sigh, almost casually as he side-stepped around Fiearius to enter the room. His eyebrows rose as he looked around at everyone. “What’s this now? An airing of grievances?”
The effect Aiden had on the room was obvious. Everyone paused, and the firestorm came to an awkward, staggering halt of silence. Clearly, no one could yell with Aiden present. And he knew it.