“So here’s what I was thinking,” Leta announced importantly, slicing her hand through the air to ensure that Cyrus, who walked at her side down the Dionysian’s hallway, was paying careful attention. They were headed to the bridge so Cyrus could check on the Dionysian’s fuel levels, but first, they had a plan to execute. A very important one.
Cyrus nodded, looking gravely serious, so she continued, “First, I’ll distract Finn. No wait, I’ll get someone else to distract Finn. A pretty girl would do it. So I’ll distract Corra. Then you run downstairs to the Beacon’s engine room. How fast can you sprint? You know how to fix an engine which means you know how to break one,” she reminded him, lifting her eyebrows keenly. “So the Beacon will be here forever. It’ll be our secret. No one will need to know.”
“That’s one way to do it,” Cyrus agreed, but then he blanched. “But break an engine? Are you asking me to use my talents for evil? ‘Fraid I can’t do that. With great power comes great responsibility … “
He trailed off, and then, both of them sighed in unison. When Corra departed, they would soon be united in loneliness. Leta’s heart was already aching with loss. Of all to happen in the last two weeks — and it had been another tumultuous, strange stretch of time — Leta found the idea of Corra leaving hardest to manage. But, as Leta kept telling herself repeatedly, it wasn’t really goodbye. Hell, maybe she’d even be joining Corra when she left. Everyone needed a doctor, or at least everyone needed a best friend.
And how could she blame Corra at all? She had a ship in her hands, a pilot in Finn, and she had no reason to stay stagnant here forever …
Unfortunately, there was more to Corra leaving than just missing her presence. Cyrus seemed to be thinking along the same lines.
“You know, the Beacon is the only thing keeping the Carthians from kicking us out,” he muttered as he started up the staircase. “Don’t think the military would appreciate having a renegade ship harboring multiple fugitives parked on their main docks. We’ll have to find another way to hide the ship when she leaves.”
“Maybe Corra won’t want to leave right away.”
“Maybe, but I don’t want to hold her back,” he admitted. “I’m going to look into maybe moving the Dionysian to a local mechanic’s hangar. They have the space, they have the privacy, all I have to do is find a way to compensate them for borrowing it. And I have a master’s in engineering from Paradiex.” He shrugged. “How hard could that be?”
Leta was sure Cyrus’ plan was just fine, but she couldn’t muster much of a response. She only nodded as they rounded a corner to reach the command deck. Cyrus knew her too well: he seemed to know exactly what was on her mind.
“Hey, so,” he prompted quietly, sliding her a glance. “How’s Ren doing? Heard from him lately?”
“I just did yesterday, actually,” she said. “Heard from a few of his caretakers, too. It sounds like he’s doing well.”
It was then, however, that the conversation came to a staggering, startled halt. Down the hallway, in the bridge, came sudden noise that told them they were not alone in this part of the Dionysian after all.
She heard footsteps, the squeak of the captain’s chair, and the humming of a system console. And even more than that, she could sense the room held an occupant who belonged there. There was little argument as to who it was. Before she knew, she knew.
“Well Amora’s right,” said Leta to Cyrus bluntly, after a considerable, heavy pause. “The ship’s haunted.”
Yet, as the curious young woman carried forward, apparently fearless of ghosts, she was given newfound reason to halt sharply in the doorway of the bridge.
It was him, it really was Fiearius sitting there in the captain’s chair, like he used to, realer than real, apparently busy with — something. He scrolled through the console screens with one hand, lounged back casually, just like the old days.
The sight of him there went straight through her like a knife, and for a moment, Leta, shocked into pale expressionlessness, could do little more than stare.
Cyrus was at her side, equally as dumbfounded.
Fiearius glanced over his shoulder, spotted them, and smiled. “Hey! How’s — “
“What’re you doing up here?” Leta breathed, unsure if she should have felt alarmed, thrilled, both, or neither.
Cyrus sounded rather fearful. “Fiear. How’d you get up here?”
“Without your cane?” said Leta in disbelief. “All the way up the stairs? By yourself?”
“Looks that way.” Fiearius started to push himself up to his feet, and immediately Leta and Cyrus launched forward to help him.
“I’m fine,” said Fiearius, brushing them off and laughing. “Really.”
“No you aren’t,” said Leta, “your legs — “
“Little achey,” he admitted. “But I feel great. Better than I have in months.”
“How?” said Leta, clasping her temple. “Fiearius, you barely made it along the docks the other day. You had to use me for support. And Daelen said — “
Daelen had said it was unlikely he would ever walk again. She swallowed those words and continued.
“Did you take more painkillers or something?” she asked, circling around him to survey him up and down, full of skepticism. “Are you — you’re not drunk, are you?”
But Fiearius just laughed at her again and tilted his head to the side, brow raised. “Of course not. I just…I don’t know, feel better. Ain’t gonna question it if that’s alright by you, oh kiddo, ye of little faith.”
She could only shake her head, still in shock. She would have to unravel this mystery with physical tests — she’d check his heart rate, his blood pressure, run a scan …
But was it possible — was it actually possible — that he had a breakthrough? Daelen had said his mental health needed treatment as badly as his physical wounds. And now, here he was, looking steady on his feet, with healthy color in his face, his warm brown eyes sparkling with mischief. He even shaved a little.
She couldn’t fight the hope blossoming in her chest. “But — what’re you doing up here?”
“Well what do you think I’m doing?” he said gruffly, dropping his elbow on the captain’s chair with an air of his usual arrogance. “I’m takin’ back my ship.”