“What’s wrong with being a Society loyalist?” he went on curiously. “Aren’t you?” He nodded sharply at the mark on her arm, and Leta began to shake her head quickly.
“No, Fiear. I’m not. And neither are you.”
“What are you talking about?” Fiearius demanded. “Of course I–”
“No, no, Fiearius. Listen to me.” Her hands dropped onto his. “They were going to execute you. Do you understand me?”
“Yeah, because I’m in the way,” he replied easily. “It’s okay, it’s for the best. I promise. He’ll be here any minute.” He glanced toward the door over her shoulder. “Everything will go back to normal.”
Horror was beginning to clench her chest. “Fiearius, what are you talking about?”
“The new Verdant. He’ll come in here any minute and take care of it.” His smile was tinted with confusion. “Don’t worry, it’s almost over.”
Leta closed her hands around his and began speaking as steadily as she could. “You’re not on Satieri, Fiearius. Do you understand that?” She was getting short of breath. “You’re not on Satieri. You’re on your own ship. We saved you.”
Fiearius’ eyes shifted over her face with — there was no denying it — mistrust. “Saved me?”
“We got you away from the Society Headquarters. We all escaped — “
“You did what?” he breathed, pushing her hands away. “Why would you– What the hell were you thinking?! Why — “
“They were torturing you, Fiearius!” Leta cried, quickly standing to her feet. “They were going to execute you, don’t you understand?”
“No, it’s not–” Groaning, he clapped his hand to his forehead and yelled, “Do you have any idea what you’ve done?!”
“We saved your life, is what we — “
“Well I fucking wish you hadn’t!”
His words exploded over the room. Leta went very still, save for her heaving chest.
Fiearius was glaring at her, but slowly, his glare thinned and faded. His breathing evened out and he began to shake his head. “No.” He clamped his eyes shut and put his hands to his forehead. “No, that’s not right. That’s not–” His fingers tensed, clawing into his hair. “I didn’t mean that. That’s not right. I didn’t mean to say that.”
He was coming back to her again: the spell was over.
“I know,” Leta said, wringing her hands together. “I know you didn’t. I know you didn’t mean that. See … you’re not well either, Fiear.”
Fiearius dug his fingers into his hair, looking distantly pained.
“This is why I wasn’t saying anything. Every time I open my mouth, every time I let a thought form in my head, it just…gets away from me. I thought–I thought if I just kept it in for a while, if I took some time, if I just left this place for a while I could…Maybe I could sort it all out. Make some sense of things.” He finally released his grasp and let his hands fall into his lap. “I guess not.” He spared her a look of apology. “I think I need some rest. If that’s alright.”
Leta didn’t want to leave him in this state — in fact, she planned to simply wait in the hallway — but nonetheless, she nodded her head.
“Alright. I’ll let you be. Just — “ She exhaled shakily, and in a curious bout of vulnerability, she blurted out, “Don’t do it again. Go all quiet like that. Don’t leave me again, alright?”
He moved his eyes up, meeting her gaze in earnest. “I won’t.”
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
“I still don’t understand,” Corra was saying as she followed directly on Cyrus’ heels into the cargo bay, like a demanding, inquisitive shadow. “Why won’t you just explain all this to me? What have I done wrong, exactly?”
Groaning, Cyrus crouched to the floor and picked up his tool box, all the while refusing to look back at her. She’d been pestering him for an hour now as Cyrus attempted to get work done, but to no avail: Corra was an expert in cornering him.
Quite simply, he didn’t want to discuss this further. There was only so much bad news he could take, and the fact that Corra had made the colossal mistake of handing over the Caelum Lex to the Society was about to push him over the edge of sanity. She had no idea what she might have set in motion. Guilt churned in his stomach as a wrench shook in his hand.
It wasn’t even entirely her fault.
“You can’t just tell me I’ve done something horrible and not tell me why,” Corra insisted, hovering beside him as he grabbed a pair of pliers off the wall. “According to you, I’ve just gone and started the apocalypse. So excuse me for wondering, once again, why?”
For a moment, Cyrus ignored her as he sorted out the array of ratchets and screwdrivers into organized piles. Suddenly, he slammed down a wrench a little too hard.
“Because it very well could be the apocalypse, that’s why,” he snapped.
She appeared unimpressed. She crossed her arms over her chest. “Aren’t you being a little overdramatic?”
It was all Cyrus could do not to throw the wrench straight at the wall. “No, Corra,” he growled. “I’m not.”
“Okay, Cy-cy,” she mused irritably. “Why don’t you tell me then? Tell me how I destroyed the span. Please. I’m so intrigued. How can that stupid little black sphere cause the worlds as we know it to end?”
“It can’t,” Cyrus agreed. “You’re right. Alone, the Caelum Lex isn’t a weapon. But — “
“But what? With something else?”
He spat the words before he could stop himself. Slowly, he lowered his hands to the edge of the crate. It had been a long time since he’d spoken of the project and never with anyone other than his brother. He hadn’t ever wanted anyone to know. No one was supposed to know.
But Corra wasn’t really drawn by the gravity of the situation.
“What’s that?” she demanded, annoyed.
Cyrus sighed and put his hand on his head as he turned around to face her, leaning against the crate. “It’s a terraformer.”
That, she at least, seemed to understand.
“I thought those were all destroyed,” she muttered curiously.
“They were,” he explained. “But we — they built a new one.”
“Okay, so they can use the Caelum Lex to power it,” she filled in on her own. “And…what, make more Society planets? Okay, I can see why that’s a little concerning.” She frowned and then promptly, out of nowhere, slapped him on the shoulder. “But it’s not that bad! Don’t scare me into thinking I ruined the span unless I actually did, please!”
Nursing his assaulted shoulder, Cyrus rolled his eyes. “No, you don’t get it. It’s not just any old terraformer. It’s–”
Genius, was the word people had used when he’d pitched the project. Ground-breaking. Bound to change the span as we know it. Lengthen lifespans on outer planets by decades. It was an engineer’s dream.
“It’s dangerous,” he sighed at last. “Stronger. Faster. It can do more than just change the makeup of the atmosphere and bring water up to the surface. It can obliterate mountains, valleys, mesas,” and cities and people and anything unlucky enough to fall in its path. “It ran into problems in development because the right data wasn’t readily available. No matter what changes were made to the backend, it would crash before it could begin the process. It needed the right operations system. But–”
“I just gave them that system, didn’t I?” Corra put in, her voice considerably quieter now. Cyrus met her eyes solemnly and nodded. “And…and you think they’re gonna use it to–”
“I don’t know,” Cyrus cut her off. “Last I heard, it was broken more than just lacking the Caelum Lex. Severely broken.” Now, he was more thankful than ever that he’d done the deed before leaving. “There’s a good chance it’ll never get off the ground anyway.”
“But if it does…” Corra began, alarm coming to her face.