With a murmur of conversation, the group dissolved and everyone left for their positions — everyone but himself and Leta, who both lingered as people hurried past them.
“Sorry I told Corra,” she muttered, a small smirk at her lips. “I couldn’t help it, she’s been pestering me for news. She did say she wouldn’t tell anyone else, so … “
“So it’s only a matter of time before the whole span knows,” Fiearius finished. “Have you met my crew? S’alright — I didn’t expect this to stay quiet for long anyway.” He smiled, but it faded from his face. “So. You ready for this?”
A determined light came to her face. “Ready to take a swing at the Society? Oh … I’ve been waiting for this.”
“Let’s just pray it doesn’t end up biting us in the ass,” he muttered, his first outward display of worry, and he felt her fingertips brush gently against his forearm at his side. He met her bright green eyes steadily and felt a lift in his chest. A seed of hope maybe, but more than that. The reminder of why he was doing this at all. All that the Society had taken from him. From her. All that it continued to take, day by day. And all that it would take in the future if he didn’t act.
No, he was done being complacent.
“Well if this doesn’t work,” he told her, “I’m blaming you for telling me it was a good idea.” But she only grinned.
“I can live with that.”
“Soliveré,” came a bark behind him. It was Quin, all business as she approached his side. “It’s nearly time. You ready?”
Before he could answer, Quin’s attention moved to Leta. Interest lit up her eyes. “I don’t believe we’ve met. Quinida Utada.” She held out her hand, which Leta shook briskly.
“Leta Adler. Nice to meet you.” As the crowd began to move toward the doors, Leta added, “Sorry, I better go find Finn — see you afterwards,” she added toward Fiearius, catching his eye meaningfully. He lifted two fingers in a lazy salute, then she disappeared.
As Fiearius followed Quin toward the A-group meeting point, Quin mused, “She’s mighty pretty.”
“Don’t,” Fiearius muttered under his breath, but Quin chuckled and patted his back.
“Good for you, Soliveré. ‘Bout damn time.”
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Fiearius paced back and forth outside the warehouse doors, too keyed up to stand still. Adrenaline was starting to flow through his veins, which usually served him well on jobs like this.
Dez stood at his side, calmly adjusting his rifle.
“Are you able to focus?” was what he asked suddenly, a question that made Fiearius halt. It was the same question he always asked years ago, whenever he’d been spending time with Aela before a job or whenever he took Denarian to the park on a morning they had work in the evening. There were many things he didn’t miss about Desophyles; the passive aggressive judgment was certainly amongst them.
In their younger years, this would have spiraled into a heated fight. Now, Fiearius just snapped, “Of course,” and turned away from him. As much as he wanted Dez beside him on this operation, he was hardly in the mood for his commentary.
Fortunately, a distraction arrived.
“Soliveré, I nearly forgot,” said Quin as she approached once more. “This is Everett Harper, one of my best gunhands.”
Beside Quin stood a middle-aged woman — early 40s, perhaps — with dark skin, short mousy brown hair, and dirt-streaked clothes. She looked like she’d seen her fair share of fights as gnarled, deep scars masked her face, and she was heavily armed, guns at her back, hips, and one resting in her hand.
“Hey, cap’n,” she said, freeing one hand from her gun to shake his. “Good to meet ya.”
“She’s decided to leave my little outfit and seek employment off Archeti, unfortunately,” Quin explained. “She’s served me well for fifteen years so I would like to make sure she ends up somewhere worthy of her talents. Your little rustbucket came to mind.”
“Well, the Dionysian could certainly use another gunhand.”
“Figured as much. What d’ya say she joins your team on this run? Give her a test drive. I promise she won’t disappoint.”
Fiearius lifted one shoulder in a shrug. “Sure, why not? Welcome to the team, Harper,” which made Eve suddenly beam with pride.
“Just you wait, cap’n. I’ll show ya how good I am.”
Quin suddenly straightened up, pressing her ear to listen for the signal. “The ships have landed,” she said to Fiearius after a moment. “C teams are heading in.”
“Affirmative, B teams,” Fiearius called into his own COMM. “Ready?”
“Ready,” came the somewhat shaky voice of Cyrus into his ear.
“Ready,” said one of Quin’s engineers.
“Ready,” said Leta.
“On my signal,” Fiearius told them, tense in anticipation. He looked over at Quin who was frowning at the floor, listening to the signals in her ear. Minutes passed that felt like hours before finally, she glanced up at him and nodded firmly. “Go. Now,” he ordered at once. An array of confirmations flooded into his earpiece as the B teams headed for the ships.
Leaving only them. Quin stepped over to him, swinging her rifle in her hand. “What do you say, Soliveré?” she mused, impossibly calm as always. “A thousand credits to the first of us to make it to our bridge?”
Fiearius frowned, but only in thought. “Make it two thousand. I could use some easy cash.”
Quin grinned. “You’re on.” Briskly, she turned to face the door and cocked her rifle in her hands. “Let’s go kick us some Sochy ass, shall we?”