Chapter 16: Captainship Pt. 2

“Yes, for her sake,” said Callahan coldly. “I was willing to overcome my inhibitions of allowing a kroppie to represent me at all, but now I sincerely regret that decision. You, your employees and your actions on their behalf all reflect on me, do you understand that? And on all accounts, I am ashamed — “

He went on, but Finn tuned him out, watching as Corra suddenly pushed herself to her feet and fled the bridge.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

When Finn knocked on the double-doors to Corra’s quarters some twenty minutes later, he did not expect an answer, although he was certain she was inside. He waited a beat, and then opened the door himself and slipped inside.

The captain quarter’s on the Beacon were quite extravagant. A bedroom, a dining area, a lounge and full kitchen. His eyes scanned over the sleek bookcases and furniture. The space appeared empty.

And then he noticed her. Corra sat on the rug against the wall, knees pulled to her chest. She was not crying in this moment but she clearly had been; her face was clouded and she was eyeing him with a reddened, glassy gaze.

Talkative as he was, no words came to him. Resisting the urge to bolt back into the hallway, he crossed through the room and slowly lowered to sit cross-legged beside her shoulder.

Silence hung between them. He wanted to ask if she was alright, but clearly she was not.

At last, in a stuffed, hoarse voice, Corra said, “I didn’t think Callahan knew.” Her fingers gingerly played with the crop of her ear.

“Ah.” Finn waved a lazy hand in the air, then dropped his wrist on his knee. “He’s past it. Angry, but that’s not your fault at all. It’s mine and Mica’s. ‘Sides, Callahan isn’t dropping us or anything; I smoothed it over already.”

He thought this would help matters, but Corra let out a watery, bitter laugh.

“Of course you did. Of course you fixed it already. You’re actually qualified for this job.”

Finn would have liked to accept the compliment and agree, but he glanced sideways and saw fresh tears filling her eyes. So instead he said, firmly, “No I’m not. I’m not at all qualified. I got kicked out of military school, remember? I don’t have a pilot’s license and I’ve definitely never captained a ship before.”

“It doesn’t matter,” she moaned. “You have it down. All the jobs you choose go well, the crew respects you, the clients respect you, the Beacon itself respects you. Doesn’t matter if you don’t have a degree or experience, you’re meant for this. Me?” She snorted. “Mica’s right. I’m just a dumb kroppie playing make-believe on a spaceship.” Finn winced at the word, but Corra didn’t notice. She simply concluded, “I never should have left the Dionysian. This was a huge mistake.”

“Hardly. Getting off that death trap was probably the best thing you’ve ever done.”

“But everything has gone so badly,” Corra breathed wondrously. “Ever since I boarded this ship. We barely have any money. We can’t string two jobs together. None of our clients  think I’m worth anything and they’re right. I have no idea how we’ll afford to grow our crew, build our client base, any of it. I don’t want to be captain. I don’t deserve to be captain.”

“That’s ridiculous.”

“Is it though?” she snapped, finally looking up at him with watery eyes. “You’re not stupid, Riley. You know as well as I do how unqualified I am. I give up. The captainship is yours, entirely. I’ll just go back to being a gunhand like I’m supposed to.”  She dropped her head back into her knees and her voice became garbled by tears. “At least then no one will question me. It’s a fitting task for someone of my status.”

Finn regarded a spot on the floor. Mostly, he wanted her to stop crying. Please stop crying. Fleetingly, he considered suggesting reaching Leta on the Dionysian — she’d be better at this, right? More equipped? As her best friend?

But then a second later, just when he’d made a longing glance toward the COMM device in the wall, he looked away and inwardly scolded himself for being a cowardly jackass. Still pulling the same old shit, aren’t you, he thought, almost laughing sadly. The urge to leave when things got serious was always there and probably always would be which was why, according to Elsa, he’d never have a real meaningful relationship ….

This time, he managed to stifle that impulse to bolt or keep things light and stupid.

“Here’s the thing,” he stated quietly, surprising even himself, “that I realized only very recently. Everyone’s faking it. No one knows what they’re doing. Everyone. Fiearius. Me. Everybody. No one has their shit together.”

He heard her sniffle at his side and draw in a shaky breath. Carefully, she peered up at him from beneath the shield of her hair. Recognizing a window of opportunity, he went on, “I’m serious. Everyone out here is just frantically grasping at straws hoping that something works out. Praying for that one break that’ll separate them from success and failure. What makes the difference is the act. The lie.” His hand reached out to grasp her shoulder in comfort. “You’re doing fine at this. You just have to convince yourself, first.”

With that, Finn pushed himself to his feet and crossed to the stocked captain’s liquor cabinet across the room.

He picked through the collection and seized the fanciest, most expensive-looking bottle he could find — it had a brilliant gold label, surely that meant something — and turned around, nabbing two glasses with him.

“Bourbon,” he muttered, lifting the bottle and flashing its shining label. “I think that’s what this is, I can’t read this language … actually, not even sure what language this is … but it’s fitting for any decent captain.”

He handed her the glass and lowered to sit beside her again. “Drink,” he ordered and tentatively, she sipped the liquor. And then she coughed harshly, seized with disgust. He almost laughed, but he had a feeling they had not quite made it to the other side of this conversation yet.

“Look,” he muttered, his tone lowering with significance. “For what it’s worth. I’ve been on a lot of ships and worked with a lot of captains. But I’m really fucking glad it’s your ship I’m on.”

“Our ship, you mean,” Corra corrected quietly, the lightest touch of humor in her face. It faded as she shook her head. “I just — miss when things were easy. I miss the Dionysian. I miss Leta and Cy.” She sipped her drink for a few seconds and breathed out shakily. “You know what we’d be doing right now, if we were on the Dionysian? We’d be celebrating. Celebrating a job well done. Well — things never went well on the Dionysian. But we did alright.”

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