Well, this was a familiar setting, thought Fiearius dully, glancing down at the binds digging into his wrists. This certainly wasn’t the first time people who were less-than-fond of him had handcuffed him to chair in a dark room. This was, however, the first time those people had actually been legitimate law enforcement. While he’d ended up at the mercy of many a criminal bastard over the years, somehow he’d always managed to elude badges and uniforms and red tape. Until Paraven.
Well, this place did boast the strictest, strongest and most extensive police force in the span. It was practically part of the experience to get arrested here. He would have been rather disappointed if he’d missed out on it.
Nonetheless, as Fiearius sat alone on the stiff chair under the dim light, staring blankly at the cement walls, he had to wonder how, exactly, he was going to worm his way out of this one. More importantly, how to worm the rest of his crew out of it. When he’d been dragged into the station by four men, officers directed the others to separate cells, presumably to be questioned. Neither Leta nor Corra had gone quietly.
Now, Fiearius was just attempting to slip his hands out of their bonds when the door cracked open and a man in uniform stepped inside. Oh, here we go, Fiearius thought, barely resisting rolling his eyes at what he could only assume was to be his interrogator.
He certainly looked the part. Every inch of the man was polished and rigid, from his sharp uniform to his small name badge that read ‘Officer Aster.’ As he stepped into the room and closed the door behind him, Fiearius smiled, like this was all some big misunderstanding. “So, what’s this about, officer?”
Officer Aster furrowed his brow and dropped a folder atop the nearest table with an audible thwap. He eyed Fiearius for a moment, sizing him up it seemed. “Cut the act, Soliveré,” he said at last. “You won’t fool anyone here.”
Feigning interest, Fiearius raised a brow and asked, sugary as ever, “Whatever do you mean?”
“I mean I’ve read your file,” Aster said at once, jerking his head to the folder. “It’s extensive, to say the least. Are you aware of how many planets have charges registered against you?”
Fiearius glanced to the side for a several seconds, pretending to count to a high number in his head.
“Two?” he suggested.
“Seventy-two,” Aster replied coldly. “And not small charges either.”
Dutifully, Aster raised the file he held in front of him and began to read. “Thirty-three counts of first-degree murder,” he recited, his voice tight. “Fifty-six counts of second-degree murder. One-hundred-eighty four counts of property theft. Ninety-seven counts of embezzlement. One-hundred-sixty five counts of assault. Eighty seven counts of battery. Two hundred four counts of disruption. Sixty eight counts of improper vessel extraction. Seventy-six counts of damage negligence. Forty one counts of property damage. Nineteen counts of arson. Three counts of indecent exposure. One count of high treason against a sovereign cluster resulting in citizenship expulsion.” Aster lifted his brows thoughtfully and lowered the papers again. “And now kidnapping. You may well be the most decorated lowlife we’ve had in here.”
Fiearius unleashed a proud grin. “I’m honored.”
Suddenly, a vein twitched in the man’s neck and he slapped the papers down on the table in front of him. “It’s nothing to be fucking proud of,” he growled. “Do you realize what’s going to happen when we turn you over to the authorities on Tarin? Or perhaps Iadua, heard you made quite a bloody mess there.” A slow grin of epiphany spread across his face. “Better yet, we’ll just hand you back to your good friends back home.”
He rolled the papers in his hand and thwapped it against Fiearius’ arm where the Society librera was engraved into his skin.
That, of course, was nonsense. Fiearius threw his head back and laughed. “Don’t take me for a fool, mate. Paraven? Help the Society? I know as well as anybody else how well the two of you get along.” He tilted his head thoughtfully. “Or should I say how well you don’t.”
Aster shrugged carelessly. “True. But all the more reason we could use a peace offering,” he remarked, a bitter spike in his voice. “And what do you know, you brought us three.” The man started slowly pacing the room, holding his hands behind his back and looking up at the ceiling as he strolled.
“Just think how thankful they’ll be,” he cooed. “Returning their most wanted traitor to them. And his prodigal brother. I’m sure they’ll get a lot of use out of him. And the kidnapped Vescentian girl. They’ll be so pleased to have her back. Could be just the change of relations we need.”
Aster finally stopped pacing directly in front of him. Then he slid his hand into his pocket and withdrew a glinting silver gun, lifting it in the air for a moment before setting it gently on the table between them. “But maybe we won’t have to do that,” he said quietly after a short, sharp pause. “Maybe if you can give us something we want more.”
With a mildly interested gaze, Fiearius stared at the weapon, then glanced up at the man hovering above him.
“Well, I can make a killer omelette,” he suggested helpfully.
The vein twitched again. “Richelle Donovan,” he snarled. “We know you took her. Tell me where she is.”
Fiearius simply grinned, beaming with innocence. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Dressed smartly in the Paraven Local Authority uniform, the officer pursed her lips tightly and arched a slender brow as she read from a slip of paper. “Leta, isn’t it?” she murmured, breaking the silence at last. When she glanced up, her eyes were gray and cold. “Leta Ella Adler.”
Feeling it would be foolish to argue already, Leta simply rested her chin in her hand and gazed across the cold metal table, purposely blank and expectant, as though the officer sent to question her was nothing more than a boring university professor taking attendance.
“That would be me,” she confirmed.
The woman blinked slowly, then narrowed her eyes in harsh judgment, clearly trying to read her. Leta drummed her fingers against her cheek and kept her expression blank and devoid of any emotion in particular. Before the officer’s arrival, Leta had spent nearly twenty minutes alone in this cell of a room, worrying herself into knots and pacing across the floor. Where were the others? Were Cyrus and Corra being interrogated, too? Did these people really think Fiearius had kidnapped that girl, would he be charged?
How long could they keep her here?
Questions had overwhelmed her. But now that this officer — Officer Tiya, according to her small, rectangular name badge — had arrived, Leta reeled in her nerves and sat down calmly at the table, addressing the officer like a pure image of innocence. Years ago, her father had explained to her once how business negotiations worked: first, you played dumb. Then you played smart. Surely, this was no different.
Officer Tiya’s lips twitched unpleasantly, and then she read on: “Let’s see. 24 years of age … only child, born on the planet Vescent in the Ellegian Cluster to Tritius and Ella Adler … graduated medical school. Declared missing five and a half months ago … and now marked with a living retrieval bounty from the Ellegian Branch of the Society. Last known presence aboard the unregistered vessel known as the Dionysian.”
Leta squinted at the ceiling, as if trying to remember if this were true or not. Finally, she nodded. “Yes. Yes, that sounds about right.”
Suddenly, Tiya slapped the paper down between them, confusion on her face. “Miss Adler, you lived on Vescent, you worked in an esteemed hospital before you were ‘declared missing.’ How in the name of the gods did you end up on that dirty pirate ship?”
Partially against her will, actually, but Leta shrugged one shoulder. “I just fancied a change of scenery.”
“A drastic change.” Tiya tapped two fingers on the piece of paper indicatively. “The last places this ship has been seen — backwater planets. Slums. You enjoy the slums, do you, Miss Adler?”
Leta pulled a bright smile over her face. “Oh, it’s been a humbling experience.”
Tiya’s mouth flinched again. “I bet. But I think it’s time we update this, yes?” She straightened her shoulders and lifted the paper again. “But what should it say, hm? Maybe something like…Last seen disturbing the peace on Paraven? Or maybe, stealing from a local hotel owner?”
This time, Leta lifted her eyebrows in admission. “Word travels fast around here.”