“Join the club,” Corra giggled. But her smile faded as she tilted her head. “What’d he do now?”
“He’s being an idiot,” she said bluntly. “He’s not listening to me at all.”
“What else is new.”
” — he’s going to get himself killed, probably,” Leta went on, “trying to do this thing — this deal — he’s planning on meeting Dez, if you can believe that — “
“Dez?!” Corra repeated at once, her eyes going wide. “Wait wait, is this the same Dez I’m thinking of? The creepy one with the dead eyes who’s been trying to kill us since before I even came aboard? That Dez? Why?!”
“He thinks he can help — help me with — getting information about Ren.” Leta stumbled over her words, looking pained, and for one wild moment Corra thought Leta was lying to her. But that was nonsense. “And,” Leta breathed, “Fiear’s offering himself up as leverage — “
That, Corra didn’t find all that surprising. “Of course he is,” she grumbled. “Always loves to play the martyr…”
“He says he has a plan, but it’s not going to work.” Leta pressed the heels of her hands into her eyes. “But he doesn’t have anything else to offer Dez in turn. Nothing of value. Except his fucking life — “
Suddenly, Corra felt the weight of the Caelum Lex sitting heavily in her hand. Something of value. Her expression went blank as she considered it. Maybe the universe wasn’t telling her it was time after all. And maybe she wouldn’t be getting that ship as soon as she thought.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
“I can’t believe we’re doing this,” Leta hissed sharply to Fiearius as he hit the controls to lower the cargo bay ramp.
“You don’t have to come,” Fiearius provided distractedly.
“Yeah right.” Leta crossed her arms, picking up a thread of sarcasm in spite of it all. “And let you have all the fun? Besides, this medicine is for me. If you’re going to die out there, I’d like to be there to watch.”
Fiearius glanced sideways in her direction, the corner of his mouth curving as if he wanted to smirk at her — one last time, perhaps. But the moment ended a second later: the heavy ramp creaked noisily to the ground with a final dull thud, metal meeting sand.
Miles and miles of desert sand stretched out before her eyes. Leta expected an empty landscape, but she was given reason to jolt in unpleasant surprise: about a hundred yards away stood the tall, solid figure of Dez, dressed in dark green and black, his Society insignia visible even from here. Behind him, his small jet-black ship was glinting in the sunlight.
“He’s here already?” Leta heard herself whisper, but Fiearius seemed not to hear her. His whole frame tensed, and his grip closed more tightly on the gun in his hand. Eyes set firmly on Dez, he started down the ramp, as if in a trance.
Walking at his side, Leta couldn’t help but recall the last time they’d encountered this man. The threat of Dez nearby had sent Fiearius — Fiearius, of all shortsighted, reckless people — into a panic. He’d grabbed her to make sure she was alright, and real fear had sparked in his eyes.
And now they were going to attempt a deal with him?
At least they had a plan, sort of: Cyrus was on call to ready the ship for an emergency take-off. Meanwhile, Corra and Finn had hidden themselves with long-range guns, waiting just in case Fiearius’ initial ‘turn and run like hell’ plan wasn’t as successful as he intended…
Hoping desperately it wouldn’t come to that, Leta stopped short in the sand and gazed over at Dez for the second time in her life.
Guns were readily strapped to his back and hip, looking every horrible inch the assassin he was, but in this moment he simply gazed curiously at Fiearius through squinted, narrowed eyes as he murmured curiously, “You made it.”
“Got the stuff?” Fiearius grunted. Dez said nothing. But he dug into the pocket of his trousers, slipped out a small med kit and held it out between them.
Leta couldn’t help it: as Fiearius passed over the kit for her examination, she exhaled sharply in shock and pried it open with a slightly shaky hand. Inside was an array of inhalers, syringes, the correct dosage of antibiotics …
“This is it,” she murmured, stunned that she was holding her own future in her hands. “This is — this is it, the right supply.”
Desophyles regarded her as she spoke, a hint of curiosity behind his cold eyes as he looked her up and down. “So it’s for her then,” he concluded. Slowly, he came back to watch Fiearius, looking bemused. “Interesting.”
“Is it?” barked Fiearius impatiently. His eagerness to leave was practically written all over him. And now was the time, wasn’t it? They had the medication, now was the moment to run, right? He wasn’t actually going to hold up his part of this deal.
But something, it seemed, was keeping him rooted in place. The two men continued to regard one another, as if the weight of all their history held them there.
“I suppose not,” Dez relented absently. “You always would do anything for a pretty face, wouldn’t you?” he mused, inclining his head toward Leta, who looked up in shock.
“And you’d always do anything for a pat on the back,” Fiearius growled.
A long smile ran slowly across Dez’s face. “And look where that’s brought us.” He spread his hands at the empty desert landscape surrounding them. “The only question left is which of us is more pathetic. You, risking your freedom in trying to save this woman? Or me, leaving behind everything to hunt you for the Council? A pretty face or a pat on the back?” He raised a brow. “At least my end goal is obtainable.”
Fiearius’ stare hardened, but his tone was even as he said, “And obtained. Here I am. Your hunt is over. You must be thrilled.”
Dez nodded slowly, but his words didn’t match as he stated simply, “Not today.”
For a moment, Fiearius didn’t seem to know what to see. His mouth opened in disbelief until finally, he demanded,” What?” Leta saw his fist clench at his side. “We had a deal. You get us the medication, I let you drag me back to Satieri. That was what we said. That was what we agreed upon.”
Desophyles sighed thoughtfully and shook his head. “We did. But I made other arrangements.”
“Other — ?” Fiearius began, perplexed.
Leta held the med kit to her chest. What the hell was Dez doing? He was letting them go? Was it a trap?
“It’s been taken care of,” Dez assured him calmly. He nodded toward the Dionysian over their shoulders. “You’re free to go. And you don’t have to run. I assume that was your plan, correct? The snipers were a nice touch. Though not very well-hidden. What did you tell them? Shoot to kill or just to wound me?”
Was it possible Dez was letting them go freely? Leta didn’t want to wait to see what the endgame was.