“Rude,” Fiearius scoffed, jerking his head toward the young officer. “Interrupting like that … So, about that title.”
But Aster wasn’t listening to him, nor taking the bait now. He was standing before Fiearius, an odd glint in his eye, a grin growing on his face. “Don’t suppose you’ve seen this?” he prompted breathlessly, lifting the paper in his fist. “Or — can you even read?”
Aster was smiling so oddly that Fiearius, for the very first time, found himself quieting to let him talk, curious for this. Aster seemed to be in no hurry to explain; he was taking his sweet time. “We found this,” he lifted the paper, “on your ship. In a dresser drawer. Belongs to a ‘Leta Ella Adler.’”
Fiearius felt a rather territorial brush of disgust. “You make a habit of digging through people’s delicates?”
“These are test results,” he went on, ignoring him. “Printed from your very own infirmary.” He seemed to be struggling to keep him smirking. “Twenty-four-year-old female with a rather grim outlook it seems. By the gods, don’t you keep medication on that ship?”
Fiearius stared at the man blankly, feeling nothing but a growing level of alarm. Soon, he found his ears were ringing. He had no idea what Aster was getting at, because it simply wasn’t possible that — that —
“She’s dying, you stupid fuck,” he clarified bluntly, before looking struck with false surprise as he shook the paper right in front of his face. “Of blood poisoning. What’s the matter? Didn’t you know? One of your own crew on your own ship dying of something simple antibiotics could fix and you don’t even know?” Aster let out a sick laugh. “That must be embarrassing.”
The ringing in his ears was deafening now. Aster was still rambling on, but it was like Fiearius was suddenly plunged underwater: he heard nothing, he saw nothing, except a mental image of Leta, laughing and smiling brightly and sharing a drink with him just a week before. She was sick? That wasn’t possible. So she’d been lying?
Fucking lying the whole damn time.
“ — looks like a very serious condition, she’s got a funny little list here of medication, and oh!” Aster was babbling merrily. “And a timeline, looks like she’s got just a few months left — “
“Enough,” Fiearius snapped under his breath, feeling that familiar anger start to rush through his veins.
“–can’t be a pleasant way to go though–sorry, what was that?” Aster asked, enjoying this far too much and making Fiearius want to shove a leg of his chair through his stupid cocky face. “Don’t like the truth, Soliveré?”
“Shut. The fuck. Up,” Fiearius growled, glaring up at the man with every ounce of fury he had in him.
“And it is true,” Aster went on carelessly, sliding the paper closer to him and tapping a familiar scribble along the top. “That is her handwriting, is it not?”
Fiearius could barely look at it. He would have recognized that tidy handwriting anywhere — she was always leaving him lists of supplies, notes on what the ship was running low on, possible routes to the Baltimore …
“It is,” Fiearius confirmed, his voice cold as ice. “And I’ll be more than happy to shove that whole thing down your throat if you’d be so kind as to untie me.”
Aster let out a long, hearty laugh and shook his head. “Now now, no need to get violent Soliveré. It’s a simple enough issue, blood poisoning. Nothing our medical teams can’t fix.” Aster grinned maliciously. “Just gotta say the magic words.”
“Fuck you?” Fiearius guessed.
“The location, you piece of shit,” Aster barked. “The location of Richelle Donovan.”
For the first time, Fiearius felt a crack in his armor. He had no smartass remarks left. “I don’t fucking know. Last I saw her, she was on my ship. So either your people are shit at searches or she left. And if she left, I can’t fucking help you now, can I?”
Unfortunately, even his honesty wasn’t what Aster was looking for. “Not fucking good enough,” he growled. “I’ll ask again. Where is she?”
“What about ‘I don’t know’ don’t you understand?” Fiearius snapped back.
“What about ‘your little doctor’s going to die if you don’t give me a real answer’ don’t you understand?”
“I don’t fucking know!” Fiearius insisted. “She’s probably on another ship outta here by now with how bad she wanted to leave. I don’t know! She could be anywh–”
Suddenly, the door swung open once again, and Aster started, “I said I’m bus–” But he stopped and stared dumbfounded when he realized it wasn’t the officer who’d interrupted before. The person now standing in the doorway was a woman. A strangely familiar woman, thought Fiearius. A strangely familiar woman wearing a very familiar Satieran headscarf that covered her face. For just a moment, Fiearius thought he was looking at a ghost. That is, until she started speaking in broken Ridellian.
“Gi’et ti madal’lin,” she said, staring at Aster and pointing at the door. Fiearius frowned at the girl curiously.
Aster was startled. “W-who are you?” he demanded.
The girl hesitated. Her eyes flicked to the floor and then she said, “Lé fidarien ti pal’ar siet,” which translated roughly to ‘the bathroom to right side’. Fiearius blinked at her slowly, now utterly confused.
Fortunately for her, Aster clearly didn’t speak Ridellian. Any Ridellian. “I don’t–what does that–” He narrowed his eyes. “Are you from Satieri?”
The girl groaned and rolled her eyes, sighing, “Dov’ha ti’arte,” before lifting up her hand and showing the back of her wrist where the thick black lines of the Society librera shone in the dull light.
Apparently, that was enough for Aster to get the picture. “W-what are you doing here?” he stammered, confusion replaced with nervousness.
Again, the eyes rolled under the shadow of her headscarf and she pointed sharply to the door. “Gi’et!” she ordered and said something unintelligible about directions to the bus stop in a threatening tone.
Aster seemed conflicted. He looked down at Fiearius and then up at the girl and finally decided it wasn’t worth the risk. “Fine,” he breathed in at last, heading to the door, but not without shouting, “I’m speaking with my supervisor about this!” as he slammed it shut behind him.
For a few moments, Fiearius and the strange visitor stared at each other in the darkness, silent and waiting. He had no idea what to say. Too much had happened within the last five minutes for him to comprehend what a Society agent with Aela’s headscarf and shitty Ridellian was doing here.
As soon as the absolute silence blanketed the place, she giggled stupidly and removed the wrap, revealing a grinning Richelle Donovan behind it. Fiearius’ jaw slackened, but before he could even begin to think of what to say, she had already launched into an excited explanation. “How exciting was that?! I can’t believe it worked! I found this in your room.” She held up the end of the scarf. “It’s so pretty. I’ve seen them in my book before. Oh yeah, I’m learning Ridellian, did I tell you that last night? I’m not very good yet. Maybe you can help me out. All Satierans know it, right? Oh and by the way, this?” She tapped her wrist where the librera was. “Don’t freak out, it’s just pen. That was in my book too. Came in handy, huh? See, aren’t you glad I stuck around? Never would have seen you get caught if I’d left when you told me to. Right?”
Fiearius could do nothing but stare at her. His entire brain seemed to have just shut off.
As she crouched down to unbind his wrists, Richelle laughed, “Come on, don’t just sit there. We’ve got some more rescuing to do.”