Leta darted down the stairs of the Dionysian. Overhead, deckhands pounded the floor, running around frantically in preparation for take-off, but she went straight to her quarters, stricken with worry at what was next.
Inside, Ren was pacing the floor.
“What’ve you been doing?” she demanded at once, breathless and angry as she flew into the room. “You didn’t do anything else did you?”
“What do you mean?” He crossed his arms and tilted his head. This was the expression he wore when, in their old life, they got into debates: he would try to run over her emotions with logic.
“Leta,” he went on calmly, almost scolding her, “I was helping — “
Leta could not keep her voice down. “By contacting the people who want us dead?!”
With a growl in her throat, she turned on her heel and marched back into the hallway, hardly able to look at him any longer. It wasn’t his fault he was unwell, she knew that, but the sight of his mildly puzzled, concerned expression — like she was a misbehaving child — was infuriating.
She started down the hallway and he followed behind, spouting questions in an impatient voice.
“Where are we going?” he asked. “Tell me, where — “
Leta was actually going to the infirmary to check on Fiearius, but Ren didn’t need to know that. “We’re going to get you help,” she said. “The ship’s taking off right now, we’re leaving to get you help.”
“Help? I don’t need help!” He stepped forward and grasped her wrist. “Leta, you just need to listen to me. For once. You need to trust me.”
“Trust you?” Leta repeated, slowing to a halt. “How can I? After what they did to you? After all this time?”
“Leta, I’m the same as I’ve always been.” He laughed sadly, once. “It’s you. I hardly know you.”
In the dim light of the hallway, Leta searched over his face in disbelief, hardly able to grasp his words. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to know what he even meant.
Quickly, she stepped back and withdrew her arm and steered herself toward the staircase.
Ren started to yell her name, but he was drowned out: suddenly, the metal walls shook violently, the floor slanted sideways and terrified yells filled the ship.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
“I guess they weren’t bluffing!” shouted Finn over the blaring alarms. Bright red emergency lights flooded the room and the whole cabin was shaking. The black of space was flying past the window.
“So, just how bad are we?” Finn called to Corra who stood shakily over the stats console, her eyes wide.
“What?!” Corra cried, baffled by the flashing screen before her eyes. “I don’t know how to–what does this–?!”
At once, Cyrus was at her side, grasping onto the edge of the console for dear life and peering down at the flashing diagram. “Minor hull breach on Deck G!” he shouted out, scanning through the diagnostics screens. “Just auxiliary controls. We’re okay!”
“For now,” Finn told him. “They’re readying another shot.”
“Can you scatter their lock-on?”
“Tryin’!” Finn jerked the controls sideways.
As the ship began to shudder louder and Cyrus could feel the sway from Finn’s erratic maneuvers, he turned to Corra who looked both terrified and desperate to act. Cyrus was more than happy to provide her a solution. “Get down to the lower decks. Check on the crew. Get everyone onto the Dionysian and seal her off. Just in case.”
She gave a quick nod and fled from the room. She had only been gone a second when suddenly the ship shook violently again. Finn cursed from the pilot’s seat, but Cyrus’ eyes went straight to the diagnostics. “Just a scratch!” he called. “No breach. Keep it up.”
Finn let out a rather tortured laugh. “Oh-ho, you say that like it’s easy.”
Cyrus responded with a tired smirk of his own, but this was no time for laughing. He glanced down at the radar. All three ships were closing in. The Beacon was fast, but if they kept taking damage, she wouldn’t be fast for long.
The ship shuddered again as a burst of white light flew past the bay window and kept flying out into the endless black before them.
“Little close for comfort!” Finn called, his voice straining with hysteria. “Say, you don’t have any genius ideas on how we’re gettin’ outta this do ya? Sure would be nice right about now…”
Cyrus paced the floor. He knew about this ship. It was an older model than those he’d worked on, sure, but he’d studied vessels just like this. He knew this ship. He knew he could solve this. He had to.
“Weapons!” he said at once, pulling his hands from his hair. “She’s gotta have some weapons on her. We can fire back.”
Finn released one hand on the controls for but a moment to tap a command onto a nearby console. “We surely can’t. Weapons, Deck G…” he grumbled and then let out a yelp, seizing the controls once more as another blast narrowly missed contact.
Growling at himself, Cyrus dug his hand frustratedly in his hair. “Can we pull a slingshot? To lose them?”
“A full turnaround?! In a beast this size?” Finn laughed again, loud and humorless. “Cy, come on — “
“No, no, no,” Cyrus snapped at himself, ramming his palm into his temple. He could do this. He could figure this out. It was right on the edge of his vision, he just needed to hurry up.
The ship made a sudden lurch and the alarms overhead got louder.
“Cyrus!” Finn shouted.
Maybe it was the jolt or the panic or perhaps just desperation setting in, but suddenly it clicked.
“I’ve got it!” he cried, darting towards an electrical panel at the side of the bridge. “She’s got a 8000B series core,” he explained as he ripped open the panel. It was a mess of colors, barely organized into their respective categories. Whoever had been in here last had left it in disarray. But disarray was something Cyrus was more than familiar with. He started digging through them. “They’re perfect for manual re-routing. I built the Antigua off an 8000B base.” Unceremoniously, he ripped a wire from its socket.
“No offense, Cy,” Finn called through gritted teeth, “But right now I really don’t ca–Uh…we’re slowing down!”
“I know,” Cyrus called back, disconnecting another set of wires.
The pilot consoles in front of Finn shut down instantly. “Uh…Cyrus–” he began.
“I know!” he said again, snipping one last set before glancing over his shoulder. “Just hang on. And get ready.”
– – – – – – – – – – – –
“Look, we don’t have time for this, okay?” Leta growled through gritted teeth as she stormed up the stairs, Ren on her heels. She had to make sure Fiearius was alright and then she had to head to the bridge, but Ren was proving himself sharper and more forceful than he had in a month. It was a shame he’d picked this moment to truly come alive and argue with her; she would have welcomed the liveliness otherwise.
But instead —
“How about you talk with me, Leta?” he called after her, yelling over the noise of the trembling ship — it hadn’t stopped shaking since the first hit. “Okay? Talk with me instead of, say, Fiearius, for once — “
At that, Leta spun around. “What’s that supposed to mean?” she cried, but then, her voice faltered weakly: perhaps she didn’t want to know what he meant by that, either. Her expression fell toward despair and she turned forward again, but Ren was far from done.
“You won’t tell me a damn thing about what’s going on, but you sure seem fine talking to everyone else on this ship. How about you clue me in? Instead of treating me like a mental patient.”
Leta couldn’t help the words that flew through her mind: but that’s what you are.
Finally clapping a hand over her eyes, she stopped in place. “What, Ren?” she breathed. “What do you want?”
He halted, studying her face harshly through the shadowy darkness and noise. “I want to know,” he muttered, “what’s happened to you. You keep saying I’m different. But you — “
“What do you mean?” asked Leta sharply. “What, just because I don’t buy the Society bullshit now?”
“No. Not that.” He shook his head, looking pained as he steadied his voice, eerily calm. “Leta. Look at yourself. You live on a ship that earns livelihood from stealing from the poor. You let all your friends on Vescent think you were killed or dead. You keep guns under your bed — ” He exhaled sharply, “ — and I know you’ve — gods, I don’t want it to be true, but I know you must’ve killed — “
He broke off, shaking his head. “I never asked you to do this for me. Any of it. I’d never want you to kill for me. Gods, when I heard you were on a pirate ship, I worried about you being hurt. I never worried you’d become one of them.” Pity filled his eyes. And he wasn’t finished. “And that captain,” he said softly, “that you seem to admire so much, that you risked your own life for, can’t you see that he’s a cold-blooded m — “
“Enough!” Leta gasped, pressing her palms into her eyes. It felt like she was being assaulted on all fronts. “Enough, Ren!”
The hallway went quiet, save for the rattling of metal pipes overhead.
“See? You’ve changed,” said Ren quietly, accusation sharp in his voice, “and you can’t even see it.”
Leta pulled her hands away from her face, anger boiling beneath her skin.
“I spent the last year,” she breathed, “doing what I needed to do to survive. That means I made a lot of difficult choices. Alright?”
“It’s not alright.” Ren looked positively startled, as if the sight of her alone alarmed him. “I don’t know who you are anymore. And I don’t like who you’ve become.”
The words went through her like a knife. But then her defenses rose.
“Well this is who I am now,” Leta snapped, “like it or not, so maybe we’re just wasting our time, thinking this can still work between us.”
Ren lifted his eyebrows, as if he hadn’t considered the idea until now, but found it mildly interesting.
“I think maybe we are.”
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –