Chapter 8: Strategic Reevaluation Pt. 2

“Everything we have is going straight to fuel, since this girl eats like a monster,” Corra went on. “I don’t know what we’re gonna do when our crew asks for their paychecks and I’m pretty sure we’ll run out of food eventually. But all we seem to be able to do is bring it petty chump change and it’s getting us nowhere.”

“I’m willing to forgo payment if it’s of any comfort,” Daelen said. Corra smiled at him, but shook her head.

“That’s sweet, but I doubt the lot we picked up on Carthis will feel the same. And there’s thirty of them and only one of you…”

“It’s only been a week,” put in Addy, looking hopeful. “It’ll get easier.”

“No,” said Finn suddenly, swigging his beer and lowering it to the dashboard with a thud. “Corra’s right. We need a long-term plan here. Something sustainable.”

“I suppose legal work is out of the question,” Daelen put in thoughtfully. Finn and Corra simply stared at him.

“Right,” Daelen muttered. “Never mind.”

“Can’t do legal work on a stolen Society vessel anyway, mate,” Finn sighed. “We need a connection to the black market. These one-off gigs are gonna get us nowhere.”

Corra had to agree. “When the Dionysian was first starting out, they partnered with Goddora. Not that anyone should partner with that son of a bitch, but maybe we need something like that? We need our own Goddora.”

“Actually — “ Finn ruffled his hair into untidiness, then suddenly dropped his hand to his knee. He looked quite thoughtful, which was most unusual. “I might know a guy.”

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

The canopy of white stars filling the Dionysian’s window was the most beautiful sight Fiearius could imagine. After two months in the infirmary, he’d never been happier to sit in his own chair, enjoy the view and simply listen to the quiet around him. Gods, he had missed this.

Carefully as he could, he lifted his legs onto the control panel, wincing as pain shot up his knees — probably he was due for another dose of Flush. He’d taken one pill this morning when he’d awoken to a searing pain jolting up his spine, but the effects were starting to wear off. In his younger years, he rarely needed more than one pill to feel invincible for hours and hours. But in his younger years, he wasn’t recovering from a crippling injury.

Fortunately, the other effects — the heightened energy levels, the mild deliria, the loss of judgment and control — were starting to lessen. For the first week, he’d been all over the place, with high-highs and low-lows that had caused more than a few problems, but nearly two weeks in, his body was starting to readapt to the old system.

He was just about to reach under the control panel to grab one of  the pills he’d stashed there when he heard footsteps approaching. He quickly withdrew his hand just in time as Cyrus marched tiredly into the cabin.

Fiearius watched as his brother dropped into the co-pilot’s seat, swung his feet onto the panel, took in a deep breath and proceeded to gaze out the window without a word of hello.

Fiearius cocked a brow. “Everything okay, little brother?”

“Just exhausted.” He sighed. “Haven’t worked this much in a long time. Between the Dionysian and that mechanic and my freelance and the Beacon…”

Fiearius chuckled. “Please, the Beacon should be a cakewalk to you compared to my beast. Finn and Corra have it good.” Cyrus grunted an appreciative laugh, but predictably, the mention of their former arms master made him grow suddenly quiet.

Fiearius knew exactly what was on his mind.

“Still seems weird, huh?” he asked. “Not having her here. It’s so…quiet…”

“Yeah,” said Cyrus hollowly, before promptly changing the subject. “So where are we going?”

“Archeti,” said Fiearius. “Need to talk to Quin.”

“Something I should be worried about?”

Fiearius grinned. “Not just yet.”

“Well just let me know when to start.”

“‘Course,” Fiearius replied easily, shifting his feet on the dashboard. “So hey. Can I ask you something?”

“We both know that’s rhetorical,” Cyrus muttered dryly.

A slow smile spread over his face. “The blonde girl?”

Cyrus seemed to be waiting for the question to continue. When it didn’t, he snapped, “Addy? Yes? What about her?” When Fiearius answered only with a suggestive raise of his brow, Cyrus snapped, “Stop.”

“What, why?” Fiearius demanded. “She’s cute. And she’s almost as nerdy as you are. It’s not that far-fetched. You should pursue it.”

Cyrus looked over at him incredulously. “Pursue it? She’s not prey, Fiear. She’s a highly competent engineer whose family’s work I greatly respect. And that’s why she’s halfway across the span on the Beacon.”

“Which was a decision that lacked some foresight,” Fiearius commented. “Sending her on a different ship. Far away.”

“It was not. She’s doing a great job.”

“Oh, so you’ve been talking to her then?”

Cyrus pushed his glasses up his nose, flustered. “Yes, actually. Miraculously, she’s still willing to speak to me even after I exposed her to you.” The malice in his voice made Fiearius’ amusement collapse. He knew what was coming, before Cyrus even said, “Speaking of which.”

“Oh, let’s not,” Fiearius groaned, immediately looking away. Up until now, it was with mutual understanding that he and Cyrus had avoided discussing What Had Happened In The Bridge Last Week. Fiearius sure as hell couldn’t meet his eyeline when it came to how his sibling had seen him entangled with Leta up against the wall ….

But apparently, Cyrus was ready to confront the situation. “Well? Have you even talked to her about it?”

“What is this, an interrogation?” Fiearius grunted. “And yes, I have, actually.”

“And?”

“And what?”

“Did you figure it out?”

Fiearius didn’t answer. No, nothing had been figured out. If anything, when it came to the likes of Leta, Fiearius had never had such conflicting, confusing feelings pulling him every direction.

“We need to talk,” Leta had told him sternly the night after it happened, to which he agreed that yes, they probably ought to. He’d followed her into a quieter alcove of the ship, though before she could speak, he’d said quickly “Look, I’m sorry that things might’ve gotten a little — out of hand, the other night … “

She’d apologized too, her eyes wide and sincere and worried. He resisted the temptation to close the distance between them a second time and respectfully gave her a wide berth. Then she said, bluntly, “Look, Fiearius, I’m not going to just sleep with you, alright?”

It felt as if Fiearius were walking a tightrope. One wrong reaction would send her out of the room. Choosing his words carefully, he managed, “‘Just’? So, what — you want something more, then?”

Her reaction was, admittedly, a touch painful. A knife in his gut. “No,” she had said, “I certainly don’t expect that.”

“I didn’t ask what you expected,” Fiearius clarified quietly. “I asked what you wanted.”

Leta had stared up at him like a deer caught in headlights, but before she could answer, several things happened at once: the speaker on the nearby wall cackled with a message from the Beacon; Amora and Rhys started arguing loudly nearby; and, quickly seizing the moment, Leta excused herself, muttered that she needed some time to think, and fled the room.

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