“So you gonna tell me what it is or what?” Corra couldn’t help but ask as she sprawled out on a bench in the engine room and propped her chin in-hand. But Cyrus barely heard her question. He was busy at a console screen, firing at the keys rapidly, his eyes wide and excited, and it was obvious why.
On the desk beside him sat the round, black sphere Will had given Corra as a parting gift, glinting dully in the light — though by the way Cyrus kept babbling about the thing, it might as well have been a glistening jewel. For a few weeks, Corra had kept the mysterious object close to her, a small comfort; now, she decided it was finally time to see what it was for.
Leta had snorted and said it was most useful as a paperweight. But Will had told her it was much more important than that. He’d said the sphere held information somehow like an archaic hard drive that no one could read. Amazingly, he’d said it held a copy of the Caelum Lex. So naturally, she’d taken it to Cyrus. If anyone could access what was inside, it’d be him.
And really, she should have known he’d get all nerdy about it.
“ — of years old, I can’t believe this,” he was muttering to himself in amazement, typing rapidly into the keyboard. “Where did you say you got this again?”
“From a friend,” Corra brushed off absently, swinging her legs off the bench and sitting on the edge. “What’s so amazing about it? What is it? Does it really have the Caelum Lex on it?”
“No — well yes — sort of.” Cyrus swiped the device off the desk and spun around in his chair, turning toward her with a grin as wide as the Dionysian — she hadn’t seen him this happy in months, and she leaned in eagerly to listen.
“It’s not the Caelum Lex,” Cyrus breathed in excitement. “It’s a Caelum Lex.”
Corra would have liked to share his enthusiasm — really, it was an endearing trait of his — but she could do little more than slowly blink her wide eyes. “Say what?”
It was all the invitation he needed to launch into the explanation that was making him, quite literally, fidget in his chair.
“So apparently, from what I was reading, there’s a misconception about what the Caelum Lex actually is. Most people believe it’s just that list of ancient rules we see written out in museums on old paper. Laws from the travelers on the Ark on how we should build our colonies, live our lives, right?”
Without waiting for her response, he continued, “Well it’s not. I mean, that’s part of the Caelum Lex, sure, but the rules aren’t it. This is it.” He held up the sphere again proudly.
Corra glanced at the device, then at his eager face. “I don’t get it.”
Cyrus inched his chair closer and held out the sphere. “Okay. This is hard drive, right? On this hard drive is a set of rules put there by the original colonists, okay? At the top of the list is the ones we all know. About liberty and purpose and the Origin and all that. But it goes on. There’s other kinds of rules here too. Rules on what level of oxygen we need to survive an atmosphere. Rules on the required distance from a star to sustain life. Rules on water to population ratios. Terraforming rules.” His grin broadened. “This is a Caelum Lex,” he said again, pointing at the device in his hand. “And it’s more than just a history lesson. These things were the cores of every terraformer ever made. These were how we built the span.”
Slowly, Corra reached out and plucked it out of his hand, gently turning it over in her palms. Leta was wrong — it was lighter than a paperweight“. But the terraformers were all destroyed after the Division Wars,” she muttered thoughtfully.
“Right, they were,” Cyrus agreed. “And all the Caelum Lexes with them. Or so it’s thought. That’s why we only learn the first bit. That’s the part that lasted. All the terraforming data’s gone.”
“And that’s why no one’s been able to build a new one since they were all destroyed…” Corra whispered, raising her eyes and finally sharing his excitement.
“Exactly.” Cyrus shoved his glasses up his nose eagerly, then shook his finger at the sphere. “This thing…it could change everything. We could start terraforming again. We could expand the span, build new colonies to replace the ones whose atmospheres are crumbling. This is huge, Corra. If this is the last one in existence? Do you realize how much this is worth?”
Corra hadn’t even considered its monetary value. Suddenly more invested than ever, she looked up hopefully, her eyes widening. “Enough to buy a ship?”
“Enough to buy a few ships,” Cyrus assured her with an impressed laugh, “You could buy–” But then, the grin faded from his face as he came to look at her more closely. “Wait–what? You…you want to buy a ship?”
Corra’s smile swept off her face. “Uh–maybe.” She shifted her eyes to the side. “I mean…if I could…I…”
Shit, why did she say that? She’d never told Cyrus about her plan to leave. And with good reason: he’d be crushed. In this moment, even, he was staring at her with look of shock and sadness.
In the awkward silence that hovered between them, she took the opportunity for escape.
“Well anyway, if you know anyone who might be interested in buying,” she said, standing up to her feet, “let me know.”
Cyrus stared right through her, then turned back to his screen. “Yeah, sure.”
Corra pursed her lips together and shifted toward the door. “Thanks for the help, Cy.” And before he could say anything else, she tightened her hand around the sphere and fled to the stairs.
Okay, so Cyrus obviously didn’t approve, but Corra had never been more excited to leave the Dionysian than she was right in that moment. This Caelum Lex, this stupid little sphere, had dropped into her lap inconspicuously and it just happened to be the most valuable thing she’d probably ever touched? It was a sign, surely. The time was right, the universe was telling her. The time to get out of here and get her own vessel and start running her own life was here. She could practically taste it.
Corra was drifting through the ship on a cloud wondering who she could tell without upsetting them (Cyrus clearly not. Leta probably wouldn’t be too happy. Maybe Finn? He liked ships, didn’t he?) when she was nearly bowled over by Leta herself stalking down the hallway in what looked like a fit of rage.
“Shit — sorry, Corra,” Leta breathed, brushing a hand over her eyes hastily.
Had she been crying? Corra reached for her arm.. “You okay, chika?”
Leta took a shaky breath, looking close to tears, though she forced a laugh. “I — just really hate Fiearius sometimes.”