Chapter 7: Safe Distance Pt. 2

“So you’re going to store your ship here?” she asked, her voice bright and cheerful. “What kind of ship is it? What are you even doing here anyway? Sorry, I just can’t believe you, of all people, came into this garage. The span is smaller than I thought, huh?”

“Suppose it is,” Cyrus muttered, still feeling bewildered by the last ten minutes. He trailed after her, though it was hard to keep up with her brisk pace; she had a lot of energy.

Forcing friendliness into his voice, he added, “So — Atelier’s daughter? You worked with your dad?”

“Oh yeah.” Pride lifted her voice. “Worked in his garage since I was three years old.”

“How’d you end up here then?”

“I feel like asking you the same thing,” she mused. “But as for me, well … Paradiex isn’t exactly the same place it was when I grew up.” There was something sad in her tone that made Cyrus look up.

“What do you mean?”

“The Society. I don’t know if you’re familiar with what they’ve … “

“I’m familiar,” Cyrus assured her fervently.

“They’re more present in Paradiex than ever before. My dad can’t finish a single project without them knocking on our doors to see what he’s up to.” She heaved a sigh, wrinkling her forehead with distress for a moment. “Anyway, he wanted me to get off-world for awhile, and Carthis seemed the safest bet so here I am.”

She planted her hands at her hips and nodded at the garage laid out before them. It was the messiest workshop Cyrus had ever seen.

“It’s not like, my dream job or anything,” she added, darting him a nervous look. “But it’s hard to find work, y’know. It’s just a temporary gig until, y’know, I  …. find somethin’. I mean, I’m an engineer, not a mechanic. To be honest I’d much rather be on a ship … “

Cyrus nodded. It occurred to him moments too late that she was weary of him judging her.

“But this — this is good too,” she added quickly, brushing strands of hair behind her ear nervously with her wrist. “Anyway, let’s get started, yeah?” She pressed toward the ship’s ramp, swinging her screwdriver out of her pocket once more.

“I was trying to to tell him about the core power problem,” Addy went on, jerking her head in the older mechanic’s direction, “but he wasn’t exactly open to the idea. But maybe we — “

But Cyrus was only half-listening now. His mind was churning with an idea. Cyrus knew Atelier. He was a gifted engineer with an eye for innovation that Cyrus had always deeply respected. And this was his daughter. He stopped abruptly on the edge of the ramp. “Hang on. You said — you said you’d rather work on a ship?”

Addy turned around with another shining grin. “Oh yeah. Definitely. I’d love to see more of the span — this is actually my first time off Satieri, ever, believe it or not.” Her smile slowly faded with question. “Why?”

“Because, well, if you’re serious about it — “ An image of the Beacon’s engine room arrived in his mind. “I know a ship that’s looking for an engineer.”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

In all her months aboard, Leta had never seen the Dionysian’s mess hall so crowded and lively, especially at this hour of the night. It seemed the crew had found reason to celebrate wildly after months of low morale: the captain was back on his feet, and just as important was a proper send-off party for Corra and Finn.

And for that reason, the liquor was flowing. Shots were thrown back, music was playing, and Rhys was already staggering on his feet as he told rambling, incoherent stories to Amora, who humored him with a shifty look in her eyes.

Meanwhile, Leta stood against the counter and kept close to Corra, nursing her third bottle of beer and trying to keep her mood light.

“Who’s that?” she asked Corra suddenly, lowering her beer. “Over there talking to Cy?”

Across the room, Cyrus was deep in conversation with a young blonde woman Leta did not recognize. He made a gesture with his hands, and she looked surprised, then laughed; whatever they were talking about, it seemed to be going well.

Corra peered in her direction for a moment and then grinned. “Oh, her! That’s Adrasteia. She’s the Beacon’s very first engineer,” she declared proudly. “Cyrus brought her by a couple days ago and told me so anyway. I wasn’t really in any position to argue. They just went down to the engine room and nerded out together for about an hour. Fine by me, but I’m pretty sure there’s an ulterior motive in the appointment. What do you think? Have I been replaced already or what?”

“There’s no replacing you, Corra,” Leta assured her laughingly, but her laughter soon faded into a sincere sigh.

“What’m I going to do without you?” she added, looking away and watching dully as Rhys poured a shot for Javier, who took a tiny sip and was immediately overcome with a violent coughing fit.

“Just come with me,” said Corra at once, leaning over and slapping Javier merrily on the back as he hacked away. “I mean it, chika. Join the Beacon crew.”

It certainly wasn’t the first time Corra had made this suggestion: every few hours, Corra excitedly sprung this idea on her and every time, for some reason, Leta felt herself hesitate. She could not bring herself to answer.

“Have you decided yet? If you want to come with us? No pressure,” Corra added, swigging her beer with one hand and patting Leta’s shoulder with the other. “I mean, a little bit of pressure, because we leave tomorrow, but y’know … “

Leta mustered a smile. “Well you are already taking Daelen away from me,” she noted wryly, glancing over the room toward her old friend, who was talking with Maya. He’d already happily agreed to join the Beacon’s crew as their tending physician (“Not like I have any desire to go back home!” he had declared with a grim laugh), a fact that made Leta sleep a little easier: at least her best friend would be surrounded by an able-bodied crew.

“We can never have enough doctors, though,” Corra teased in a sing-song voice, elbowing Leta in the ribs with such eagerness that Leta nearly staggered backwards. “Eh? Eh?”

Snorting into her beer, Leta pushed her off. Deciding to steer the conversation away from these waters, she asked briskly, “So. What’s the Beacon’s maiden voyage, captain? What’s the first run going to be?”

“Finn’s got something lined up,” she remarked, shrugging. “He was very excited about it so I let him take the lead on this one.” She leaned over and smiled at Leta impishly “Y’know. To keep his ego intact.”

“I heard that,” came Finn’s voice as he approached, shaking a long green bottle at his side. He was not looking at them, but over their heads. “Where’s Fiear? I need to spray him with champagne and remind him how much better my ship is,” he said, and then crossed through the room importantly.

Leta hadn’t actually seen Fiearius all evening, nor much over the past few days. His triumphant (if still somewhat unexplained) return to health had been somewhat soured when he found out about Corra and Finn’s departure. As good as it was to see him on his feet again, Leta got the distinct feeling that he may have been avoiding her. For what purpose, she couldn’t begin to fathom and with Corra halfway out the door, she had put her concern on the backburner for the time being. He’d probably seen enough of her over the past two months in the infirmary anyway.

Leta was fairly certain then that Fiearius wouldn’t be in the mess hall with the rest of the crew, but sure enough, she spotted him then leaning in the doorway, beer hanging loosely in his hand, already smirking at Finn. But he never got the chance to actually act on his bubbly threat: just then, Dez, of all people, stepped into the room, and nodded for Fiearius to join him in the hallway. Fiearius’ smirk dropped off his face, but he followed him, and they disappeared from the mess hall.

Leta could hardly believe her eyes. “Did you see that? What’s Dez doing out of the brig?”

“Fiear let him out this morning,” said Corra, shrugging her shoulders. “Dunno why exactly … that guy’s a total whackjob.”

Leta certainly agreed. And what was he doing with Fiearius?

Suddenly tossing her beer bottle into the garbage can with a thud, she followed them.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –


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