Before Cyrus could think of an answer — what could he possibly say? — a voice overhead stole their attention.
“Heya, Corra and interim-cap’n.”
It was Finn, on the catwalk above, leaning his arms on the railing. “Quick question,” he said casually, in a voice that indicated he had no idea he’d interrupted a serious conversation. Brightly, he asked, “How close are we to raising enough to get off this dump of a planet?”
Cyrus rolled his eyes and went back to organizing his tools. “Well, I’m about to go offer discount engine tune-ups to the other docked ships. If that gives you any idea…”
Finn looked amused. “So we’re in pretty bad shape then eh.”
“Even if could leave, I’m not sure where we’d go,” Cyrus went on, more to himself than anyone else as he distractedly dropped another wrench in the box. “Not unless Fiearius suddenly gets any bright ideas … “
“Hey, it could happen,” Corra put in, forcing cheer into her voice.
“She’s right,” Finn remarked as he started down the staircase, dragging his hand down the railing. “Any minute now, I bet, he’s gonna start shouting orders out to the lot of us.”
Cyrus glanced toward the open ramp door. He wasn’t sure he could stomach another conversation about Fiearius. “Yeah if he ever remembers how to open his mouth, sure,” he muttered, turning for the ramp — but it was then that Leta’s voice broke him from his thoughts.
“He already did.”
All eyes in the room turned to the other door just as Leta stepped through it, looking her usual pale, tired self — but with more energy in her step. A tentative smile passed her lips, and her eyes were brighter. Something, it seemed, had happened.
“I just talked to Fiearius,” she clarified.
Cyrus’ jaw slackened in shock. “He spoke? How’d you do it?”
“Of course it’d be the pretty doctor who got him to talk,” Finn scoffed. “Fiear is so predictable.”
Leta glanced at Finn but chose to ignore the comment. “He’s even starting to sound like himself again, here and there. He’s getting there. He made real progress today. I’m — well, I’m hopeful.”
It was as if everyone exhaled in relief, all at once. Corra beamed and clapped her hands to her face. Cyrus, for one, could barely speak.
For the last month, it was as if Fiearius had never left that cell on Satieri. He was so vacant, so absent, that Cyrus was trying to familiarize himself with the fact that might never get his brother back.
So to hear from his own physician’s mouth that there was finally, at long last, a change, that things could get back to normal, that there was an end in sight? It was more than Cyrus could hardly believe.
“Well,” said Finn suddenly, “that makes this a whole lot easier then. ‘Cause earlier today I got news from Carthis.”
At once, Leta’s eyes lit up. “You did?” she asked, going so quickly towards him that he took a step back in alarm. “What’d they say about Ren? Will they help him?”
In all the commotion, Cyrus had nearly forgotten that Finn was contacting his old friends in the military. To be certain, the Carthian forces were enemies of their enemies — but how charitable were they, really?
“I have good news and I have bad news,” Finn went on, a lopsided smirk on his face. “The good news is that they’re willing to help.” Apparently unable to stop herself, Leta stepped towards him again, her eyes widening. Corra too took in a pleasant gasp.
Cyrus, however, was skeptical. “And the bad?”
“The bad,” said Finn, “is that they want nothing to do with the Dionysian.”
Leta flared up at once. “What?! They won’t help the Dionysian, or they won’t help Ren? Then how — “
Finn held up a hand. “Hang on a second, doc. Carthis ain’t no friend to the Society, hell, they’ve been fightin’ since they seceded centuries back, but that don’t mean they wanna give ‘em reason to start an all-out war.” He tilted his head at Leta. “Takin’ in high profile fugitives? Needless to say, Carthis ain’t willing to risk it…”
“So what can we do?” Corra asked.
But it was Cyrus who answered. “Don’t send the fugitives.”
Finn smirked and pointed at him. “My thoughts exactly. You all stay here. I’m not popular with Carthis but I’m no fugitive. I can just take Ren to Carthis on the Beacon and get him the help he needs. In the meantime, keep the Dionysian here ‘til fugitive number one,” he jabbed his thumb in the direction of the infirmary, “can get back on his feet.”
“So you’ll — you’ll go with Ren?” said Leta tentatively, as if trying this idea on for size. She looked tremendously uneasy. “Finn, that’s incredibly generous of you, but I don’t know if I can just give Ren over to another institution I don’t even know if I can trust.”
“I’ll go too,” Corra said suddenly, reaching out and taking Leta’s hand. “The Society doesn’t want me. Carthis won’t care if I’m there. I’ll go and I’ll keep an eye on him and make sure everything’s okay.”
Leta squeezed Corra’s hand. At long last, she nodded.
“Alright,” Cyrus said at last, slamming the toolbox shut and heaving it off the crate. “Finn and Corra take Ren to Carthis. The rest of us,” he glanced as Leta with a grimace, “Keep doing what we’re doing I guess.” Taking a deep breath, he nodded slowly. “I’ll be back in an hour or so. Then we can ready the Beacon to leave.”
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
After the conversation broke up, Leta headed down the hallway toward her room, her mind buzzing. She couldn’t really send Ren to Carthis, could she? Without her? But then again, that might have been the only way he’d ever get the treatment he needed …
Steeped in worry, Leta eased open the hatch to her room and slipped inside, unsurprised to find Ren sitting on her bed, flipping through yet another book. In between meals in the mess hall, he always stayed here. It was odd: the Ren she remembered from home was social, lively, much more extroverted. The Ren she remembered would have been in the crew lounge, laughing, talking, making friends with everyone aboard.
But this version of Ren simply looked up at her blankly.
“Hey,” she sighed, stopping in place, “I need to talk to you about som — “
But before she could finish, Ren did something he hadn’t done once since Vescent: he pushed himself up to his feet, letting the book fall from his lap. Then he took a step forward, and then another step forward, and lifted his arms to hug her waist gently.
At first, as his arms went around her, Leta was too startled to move: this was the most physical they’d been since he was kidnapped. Her heart raced with anticipation and worry, until at last she softened against him, her arms wrapping around his back, her mouth against his shoulder. They fit just as well as she remembered.
Except Ren, she noticed, was tense. He stood stiff as a board. Still, he hadn’t spoken.
“You okay?” she said quietly in his ear, pulling back to look at him. His eyes shifted worriedly over her face.
“I don’t know. I don’t think so.” He stepped back fully, his eyes widening. “Leta, I did something that will make you upset. But I had to. I had to do it. Okay?”
He began to pace the small space of her room, knotting a hand in his hair.
“You had to do what, Ren?” Leta pressed. “What happened?”
“I — you have to understand,” he pleaded. He grasped her hands a moment, then dropped them quickly. “You have to understand why I did it. Okay?”
He dropped onto the edge of the bed in defeat. Perplexed, Leta shook her head and lowered to sit beside him. “What did you do?”
“I contacted them,” he confessed, his voice heavy with regret. “I didn’t mean to, but I had to. I felt like I had to, like it was my job. I — I contacted the Society. I told them where we are.”