“You sound like you’re happy, Leta.”
“Something like that,” she conceded. Leta thanked him for calling, bid him goodnight, promised him she’d keep her head down. Minutes later Leta was back upstairs in Fiearius’ room.
She closed the hatch quietly and was just lowering to the edge of the bed when Fiearius stirred awake, lifting his head to squint at her in the darkness.
“Everything alright?” he asked gruffly, his voice hoarse.
Smiling slightly, Leta smoothed back his hair, assured him everything was fine, and pulled up the sheets to slide in beside him. She was asleep before the blankets were even warm.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
“So is the name familiar to you at all?” Leta asked, scrolling through the tablet in her hand. With her other hand she lifted a mug of strong black tea to her lips. It was early afternoon the next day and most of the crew had eaten Amora’s breakfast already. Leta and Fiearius, after spending most of the morning in bed, were in the mess hall alone.
“Arleth Morgan,” Fiearius repeated from the kitchen. He flipped an omelette over in the pan before he glanced over his shoulder at her. “Doesn’t ring any bells.”
“Ren’s completely convinced that he’s after me,” she muttered. Then she hesitated . This was insane, surely, but she had to know what Fiearius thought.
“And,” she added carefully, “that he’s a Councilor.”
The kitchen suddenly grew quiet. At first, she wasn’t sure he’d heard her, until suddenly, the spatula hit the pan with a clang.
“Wait, a Councilor? Like, a Society Councilor? A Society Council Councilor?”
“I know. I thought it was crazy too,” Leta admitted. “But he sounded so sure that this ‘Morgan’ definitely is one. So much so that I–well, I almost want to believe it.”
Frowning, Fiearius moved towards her and leaned his shoulder against the doorway. “Councilors don’t have names or identities. They kill their names when they take the job. Nobody’s ever managed to link an actual human being to the position. So how, exactly, did he come to have this belief?”
“I don’t know, but he has a knack for putting pieces together. This is exactly how he ended up in prison in the first place.” She scrolled through the tablet once more. So far, she hadn’t been able to find much of value, except that what Ren said was true: Arleth Morgan was reported dead years prior, leaving behind a wife and no children.
Exasperated, Leta put down the tablet. “Is it possible there’s something more interesting on him in the Verdant database?”
“If he was a Society agent at all? Probably. Unless they obliterated him from existence, but even then, this database is suspiciously inclusive.” Fiearius shrugged, then wandered over to the kitchen’s console and held his wrist to it. Moments later, the screen turned black and a silver Society librera formed in its center. As the database loaded, Fiearius grunted, “All yours.”
Leta pushed herself to her feet at once. “I knew I liked you for a reason.”
“Ah yes, the true secret to a woman’s heart,” said Fiearius, crossing back toward the stove to finish cooking. “Homemade breakfast and unrestricted access to high-level government secrets.”
But Leta was hardly listening to his banter: she stepped closer to the screen, absorbing every word. “Here he is. Department of Internal Affairs, 2nd Division agent.”
“Ooh, one of ours,” Fiearius muttered curiously.
“He was implanted as an undercover operative in the Carthian military. But get this.” Her eyes widened as she read, “‘Demonstrated above average leadership and organizational abilities, however, extracted from Carthian project due to non-adherence to undercover protocol and tendency towards anger-based violence. At recommendation of supervision, retired from field work and re-instated as Director of Internal Affairs, 1847.’”
“And he died…?” Fiearius prompted, picking up the plates and hovering behind her.
“‘Of natural causes.’ 1851.”
Fiearius nodded once. “Same year as the acquisition of Vescent.”
Leta regarded him skeptically. “That could be a coincidence.”
“Or he could be a Councilor. He could’ve faked his death under the Society’s guidance. It wouldn’t be the first time they covered something up,” he added, mouth twitching toward a smirk.
“This seems too easy,” Leta sighed, overwhelmed. “If they’re really that anonymous, that secretive, that protective, why is this information available at all? And even if it’s only available to the Verdant, how did Ren find out?”
“Maybe Morgan wasn’t quite as good at disappearing as he should be. Maybe he left some dangerous clues somewhere. Maybe Ren just saw it in a vision. Either way, I think that’s something you’re gonna have to ask him,” Fiearius said, dropping to the table. “Now c’mere. Sit. Eat.”
Leta made herself move away from the console and sit down across from him. She picked up her fork, though she was too deep in thought to eat.
“So how is he anyway? Ren?” Fiearius asked as he dug into his food, eyebrows raised. “The Carthians treating him okay?”
“He’s doing well. Really well.” Leta twirled the fork in her fingers. “He might be out of rehabilitation very soon, by the sound of things.”
Fiearius only nodded. His eyes slid out of focus and then he diverted his gaze toward his plate.
“What?” Leta prompted.
But Leta could read Fiearius well by now. He was deliberately avoiding her eyes, and she knew why. A knowing smile came to her face.
“It’s completely over, you know,” she told him earnestly. “Ren and I.”
Fiearius lifted his gaze and shrugged one shoulder, a skeptical smirk on his face. “I didn’t say anythin’.”
But there was no denying he looked more relaxed after that.
“Besides, Ren will probably stay on Carthis if that’s where he’s safe,” Leta added, almost to herself. She slid her fork into her food as her gaze wandered toward the open window. A canopy of stars floated past — empty space. “Where are we headed next, anyway?”
“Actually, I was just talking to Quin a couple days ago. She’s very enamored with those new ships we helped her get. She’s promised a very good cut if I can acquire her some more so I’m having Dez do some research. He’s putting together a list of low-security Society shipping routes.” He grinned proudly. “Gonna do some real pirating.”
Leta did not quite share his enthusiasm. “Do you really think listening to Dez on anything is a good idea?”
Fiearius frowned. “Listening to Dez is a terrible idea,” he agreed. “Don’t misundertand me, I can’t trust the guy as far as I can throw him, but he does know things, statistical things, data things, that would take me a helluva lot longer to find out on my own.” He shrugged. “But I’ll be scouring anything he hands me three times over, don’t you worry.”
“It’s not just that, Fiear. We can’t trust his insight at all. He has an end-game here. He could turn on us — you — any second.” Leta set down her fork.
Fiearius met her eyes calmly. Too calmly. “He won’t. Don’t trust him, but you can trust me. He won’t. I’m sure of it.”
“You have no reason to believe that,” Leta pointed out, heaving a sigh. “I’ve been thinking, actually … “
Fiearius’ brows raised on his forehead. “Uh-oh,” he muttered before shoveling a forkful of eggs into his mouth.
“On Archeti, Ophelia found us. And we don’t know how. Someone could have reached out to the Society.”
“And you think it was Dez.” It was another moment before he swallowed and added, “It wasn’t.”