Chapter 33: The Mutiny Pt. 2

“All right, I can see what this is,” Aiden began evenly, clapping Fiearius on the shoulder warmly, as if this were a meeting he’d intended for all along. “I know you’re worried, I know you’re scared. But there’s no reason to pit anyone against anyone else. Fiearius has been keeping me updated every time he talks to Cyrus — ” This wasn’t exactly true in the strictest sense, Fiearius thought to himself. “And I’ve been giving everything I know straight to you. Everyone on this ship is on the same playing field. We’re concerned and, frankly, we have too much time on our hands.” He smiled.

“But captain’s been lying to us, Aiden,” said Maya quietly. “Said people on Satieri will kill him.”

“They will kill me,” Fiearius admitted bluntly, somehow finding another measure of calm. “And they’ll kill you too. They’ll kill all of you. If they had the chance, they’d kill everyone who I’ve ever said a single word to. You,” he added sarcastically, “are my wonderful loyal crew. Even if you don’t always look it…” He scratched his hair tiredly. “You’ll all be at the top of that list. You may not trust me. And that’s fine. But look at it this way. What reason would I have to lie to you? I don’t have time for useless mindgames. Why the hell would I make this up?”

“No one’s accusing you of making anything up,” Aiden said measuredly, before his eyes narrowed into a subtle glare of warning on the crew. “No one should be.” He let that warning hang pointedly in the air for a moment before he pressed on, glancing over the crew as though he was honestly a little confused by their intentions.

“We’re going to be fine,” he sighed earnestly. “Do you realize that yet? At least, we will be as long as we don’t continue to accuse and berate one another.” At this, he sent a look toward Maya. “I’m not sure where this pessimism is coming from, honestly,” he admitted. “We’ve gotten out of a lot worse than this.”

“You really believe that? That we can get outta this?” Palia pressed him worriedly.

“Of course I do.”

Then, Aiden stepped to the side, holding his hand toward the door, making it clear this meeting was, in fact, over. “Go on. We can revisit this when everyone’s cooled off,” he offered calmly. “And I’ll be in my room all evening if you want to talk privately.”

To Fiearius’ amazement, the crew began to file from the cabin. Amidst much grumbling, they left for the hallway, even Ludo, throwing Fiearius dirty looks along the way.

“I’ve got shit with you, Aid,” grunted Arlo as he left.

“And I’d be delighted to hear about it,” said Aiden politely. “Come by later.”

Leta was the last to leave. She lingered in the door wringing her hands together as she sent Fiearius a concerned, searching look, before slipping into the hallway.

Fiearius gazed after her for a few seconds and finally dropped into his captain’s chair at last, clapping a hand over his face.

“So this is going well,” he muttered. A dazed, mirthless grin spread over his face. And to think, soon Aiden would be leaving the Dionysian for good. “Bet you can’t wait to leave for that teaching job now, eh?”

“I haven’t accepted it yet, actually,” said Aiden as dropped into the chair beside him. He leaned back and sighed, “Yes. Things seem bleak, it’s true. But this will shake out the way its meant to. You’ve never led your sheep astray before.”

“Funny, I’ve never heard of sheep throwing a rebellion against their shepherd,” Fiearius muttered grimly, running a hand through his hair and stretching out his legs in front of him.

“They’ll come around,” said Aiden after a thoughtful pause. He sounded so sure. “They had their moment, and now they’ll come around.”

Fiearius cast him a dull, disbelieving glance. “Sometimes I think you’ve got too much faith in people, mate.”

Aiden was gazing out the window, silent for several seconds until he frowned thoughtfully. “Maybe you don’t have enough.”

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

In the hours following the crew’s confrontation, tension clouded the ship’s hallways like smoke, thick and stifling. There was no longer any ignoring the dwindling food supply, the worried looks, the confusion, the unknown. Leta had told herself not to think in absolutes or desperation, but it occurred to her horribly that the crew might have been right — this might have been it. And if that was the case, she’d have to send everything she knew about Ren’s whereabouts to his family  . . .

It was a sick thought. Pinching the bridge of her nose with one hand, Leta picked up the serving plate of food with the other and swept toward the stairs without even thinking, like clockwork. Feeding Cyrus was rather like feeding a pet, she thought — but then again, pets were vocal when they were hungry. Cyrus probably wouldn’t have noticed if herself or Corra had skipped bringing him a meal.

But of course, they never had. As she went downstairs to the engine room, Leta didn’t even glance toward the console; she didn’t need to in order to confirm Cyrus’ presence. Cyrus was a fixture in this space. Every time she saw him — or saw his back turned to her, more like — Leta barely resisted the urge to really check up on him: shine a flashlight in his eyes, shake him a little, make him shower and sleep, something.

“Dinner,” she announced, injecting some warmth into her tone as she reached for the emptied plate left behind (good, she thought, he was still eating). She was on the verge of turning for the exit once more when her eyes fell to the side, and she noticed Cyrus was not there.

Curiously, she cocked her head to the side, checking if he was elsewhere in the room, under the engine perhaps.

“Cy?”

Somehow, Leta doubted that it had been something positive that had drawn the engineer out of his cave. Leta slid the empty plate onto a workbench and hazarded a few steps toward his usual place, her eyes focusing on the row of consoles.

Only one of them was lit. Text blazed on the screen.

image2

NO HARM WILL COME TO THE ENGINEER,

AS LONG AS NO HARM WILL COME TO THE CREW.

WE AWAIT RESOLUTION IN THE CARGO BAY.

Leta’s heart jumped into her throat and all she could do was stare, aghast. This was a ransom note. Staggering backwards, she kept her eyes on the console as her free hand dodged toward the wall, her fingers crushing the dial of the intercom to the bridge.

“Fiear?” she demanded into the cackling speaker. “You need to get down here. There’s a note, a note from the crew, it says they’ve got Cyrus — “

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

Shock and adrenaline flooding her veins, Leta half-jogged to the cargo bay, her feet pounding the metal floor. She dodged to the door and nearly made it inside when a hand jerked her arm backwards.

It was Alistair. He gripped her elbow, his eyes shining in worry. “Leta, please, before you go in there … please, understand what we’re going through — “

“Where’s Cyrus?” Leta demanded, feeling close to panic. But then anger burst through her like wildfire and she wrenched her arm away. “If you’ve hurt him, I swear to — “

“Course we didn’t hurt him!” he cried. “And we don’t want to. But — “

Growling in her throat, Leta suddenly shoved his shoulder back, making him hit the wall with a thud. She fled past him into the cargo bay and a horrible scene met her eyes.

So this was what it had come to, she thought in shock: mutiny. Strong and united, the dissenting crew stood together in a neat half-circle in the middle of the room, their eyes on the main doors, awaiting the arrival of the captain. Behind them on the floor sat Cyrus, slumped against the wall, his wrists tied to a metal pipe. True to Alistair’s word, Cyrus did not appear harmed; he simply looked exhausted to the point of sickness, his eyes closing drowsily.

“Cy!”

Leta began to cut forward, her eyes on his bound wrists, and for the moment Maya and Arlo and Tihla seemed too stunned by the authority in her step to even react. But then someone closed in on her and blocked her path like a boulder: Ludo.

“No, not a chance, doctor,” he said with a rough laugh. “This is the only card we have to play. You ain’t ruining that.” He used the gun in his hand to gesture to the stairs. “Go on, go back up there now.”

Leta eyed the barrel of his gun for a moment before lifting her eyes. “I’m not moving,” she said coldly, and that was when alarm rippled over the room like a cold breeze. “Untie him. Untie him right now.”

Murmurs of worry swept over the crew, and then Javier cried out, “Wait!”

He edged closer, looking very white in the face. Leta realized that someone had given the kid a gun; he gripped it tightly with both hands.

 

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