The bridge sat in uncomfortable silence for a moment too long until finally Eve asked boldly, “If you wanted to leave the Society too, ma’am, why don’tcha?
The captain grimaced. “It ain’t that easy. Lot of us don’t have the resources to try and leave. Nor the bravery…”
Bravery? Resources? Was this woman nuts? Fiearius wondered. It wasn’t bravery nor resources that lead him to flee. She had no fucking idea. No fucking clue what had happened. No clue who had to die to bring him to this. “But you have a ship,” he pointed out suddenly, feeling his confusion turn towards irritation.
“Well, yes, but–”
“You have a ship, you have free reign to just go whenever you want,” he snapped. “An old, crappy ship they won’t even chase you down to take back.” A wave of rage rushed over him. “You’re free. They don’t give a shit about you. You are so fucking free, there is nothing stopping you from leaving, how fucking dare you make excuses?!”
He hadn’t realized that he had taken a step closer, adopted a more threatening stance, tightened his grip on his pistol until he saw the woman’s expression change, very quickly, from excitement to utter fear.
“P-please,” she begged quietly, holding up her palms to him. “Please don’t kill me. I have a family. A husband. Two little boys. Please. Take the ship, just please don’t kill me.”
Fiearius’ stance slackened, the heat of anger leaving him. He took in a deep breath and let out a sigh, his arm dropping to his side. “I’m not gonna kill you.” He shook his head. “I just–” Lost control of myself for a moment. Must have been the pill he’d taken a few hours ago, getting the best of him. Fucking Flush. Even ‘free’ from the Society as she seemed to think he was, he was still caught up in their hold.
“I’m not gonna kill you,” he said again, shoving his pistol in its holster at his hip. “Just–promise me one thing.” The woman looked up at him, relaxing, if only a little. “Go home. Get your family. And leave.” Before it’s too late, he added silently.
“How?” the woman breathed in disbelief. “W-where do we go?”
That’s not my fucking problem, Fiearius wanted to reply. But after a moment, the answer hit him. “Carthis,” he said shortly. “Go to Carthis. You’ll be safe there.” And without really knowing what he meant, he added, “Tell the others too.”
The woman seemed to understand. She nodded seriously. “I will. I promise.”
Fiearius turned his back to her, unable to look at the woman any longer. Sighing, he put his hand to his ear and spoke into the earpiece. “You know my routing number, Quin. Think you owe me some credits.”
“That so, Soliveré?” came Quin’s voice in reply. “Got your bridge all secure?”
“Sure do,” he replied, glancing at the woman who was quickly gathering her bag and supplies. “The captain was surprisingly cooperative.”
“Oh that’s nice,” Quin mused and after a moment, added, “I had to shoot mine.”
Fiearius raised his brows in surprise and glanced down at the captain who, horribly, heard that. She dropped her bag in shock.
Fortunately, Quin provided a distraction as she went on, “C teams, head in to secure the ships. A and B teams, meet on the docks for debrief.”
Eve and Dez moved toward the hallway. Fiearius lingered for a moment, his eyes on the captain.
“Follow me,” he told her suddenly. “I’ll make sure you get passage back to Satieri.”
“Are you — are you sure — ”
“Do it,” he snapped, and she slowly nodded her head, looking thunderstruck.
“Thank you, I don’t know how — “
He nodded grimly, ready to end this, but then she put her hand on his arm. “I’m not the only one, y’know,” she whispered. A smile pulled across her face. “You’re not alone.”
Silence passed between them; Fiearius could think of nothing to say. Not alone? What did that even mean? Was the Society losing control? Could it mean —
Suddenly, behind Fiearius, both doors slid sharply closed with a thud of metal, blocking Dez and Eve in the hallway. Tensing his hand around his gun, Fiearius spun around, ready —
A rush of black clothing went past his eyes and then, before he could blink, before he could move at all, white-hot pain was exploding down his shoulder. The intruder had sliced him clear open with a blade and he let out a guttural yell as hot sticky blood flooded down his arm.
“Who is it?” cried Leisa, wheeling around, thinking perhaps the intruder was one of her own. “Stop! Stop, whoever you — “
Gritting his teeth, Fiearius manically scanned the room, trying to catch up with the figure that was darting behind walls, crouching behind consoles, expertly dodging in and out of sight. Wounded he may have been, but he was more prepared: another rush of dark clothing passed his eyes, and he ducked out of the way as a blade swung over his head. He shot out his leg, making contact with a thigh.
He jumped back to his feet and grabbed his pistol. This time when the figure darted past, he glimpsed a blur of slick white-blonde hair. There was something familiar about it …. About her …
He had no time to search his memory. The strikes were unrelentless, untiring, again and again he ducked from her blade, blocked her blows. The blade knicked his arm, sliced the back of his hand until finally he gave up defending and suffered a nasty cut on his neck for the chance to deliver a forceful punch to the figure’s head. She was knocked off balance, and her blade clattered to the floor.
Seizing the moment, Fiearius stood upright, squeezed the trigger halfway and then — as soon as he got the first true look at his assailant — he froze. The blonde hair, the tight jawline, the tattoo on her neck. The cruel narrowed eyes staring him down. Recognition flooded his senses.
“ … Varisian?” he breathed, like he’d seen a ghost.
Ophelia Varisian. That was her name. On Satieri, she’d been the next rising star in Internal Affairs before Fiearius’ abrupt departure. Quick, deadly, clever, she was more motivated than any of their contemporaries: while the rest of the department was drinking in the Entertainment District on a Friday night, she could be seen in the HQ gym, training alone. She’d even refused to work with a partner. On one memorable occasion, she cheerfully informed Fiearius that she intended to become the next Prime once he’d been killed. He’d laughed at the time, though it was decidedly less funny now.
Because here she was: on Archeti, ready to kill him.
Ten feet away, the captain Leisa suddenly let out a shaky cry. Ophelia crouched and picked up her fallen blade gently from the floor. Before Fiearius could move, the blade flashed past his eyes, flew through the room and embedded itself directly into the captain’s chest.
Transfixed, horrified, Fiearius watched as Leisa fell to her knees. She went eerily still, then dropped face-forward into the floor.
Ophelia turned back, gun in one hand and blade in the other.
“Dov’ha rei’ja, Soliveré,” she said coldly, bidding him a final Ridellian farewell as she raised a gun to his head.