Leta sat up, suddenly wide-awake. “Did Cyrus break the lock-down?”
“Sure did. But there’s some, ah, bad news,” he said, and Leta’s eyes narrowed. “We still can’t dock the Dionysian and the Mariah together without risking a permanent attachment.”
“So … what does that mean?”
“Just get to the airlock, I’ll meet you there.”
Leta quickly pushed herself to her feet and hurried toward the airlock doors. Dez followed, but Leta altogether ignored him as she pressed her hands to the glass and gazed out.
What she saw made her stomach practically fall through the floor. Separating the Mariah from the Dionysian was at least six feet of open air — open space. Endless darkness, like a blackhole ready to swallow her.
“You’ve got to be kidding me.”
Across the emptiness, Fiearius was visible in the doorway of the Dionysian’s airlock, suited up once more. She saw his mouth move before his words reached the speaker in her ear.
“C’mon, it’s just a little jump.”
“Through empty space!” she cried, her voice shriller than usual.
“I can’t get her any closer,” said Cyrus over the speaker. “Not without possible hull damage.”
At her side, Dez hit the dial, and the airlock doors opened before her. She was a foot away from the edge when she felt the air around her evacuate the room, and her breathing became rather sharp and nauseated: she had never liked heights.
“You can do it,” Fiearius assured her, holding out his arms. “I’ll catch you, I promise. It’s just like that job on Kadolyne. The jump out the window? That was fun, yeah? Remember that?”
“I’d rather not,” she breathed, and Fiearius laughed.
She hazarded a cautious step toward the edge, but did not move further.
Behind her, Dez muttered near her ear, “Do you need me to throw you?”
When she glanced at him, she saw the mildest of sneers curling his mouth.
With that, Leta cut him a look of pure, cold fury and suddenly burned with anger. In one furious motion, she turned forward, dug her heel into the floor and leapt the distance between the ships in excruciating slow-motion. All the breath froze in her lungs as time seemed to stop — it felt like hours, but it was mere milliseconds until Leta was collapsing against Fiearius’ embrace.
They staggered backward a half-step in the airlock, but Leta’s feet found mercifully solid ground — the magnetic soles of her boots attaching to the floor of the Dionysian. She wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry with relief, so she simply shut her eyes tightly, as if willing away every single one of the past 24 hours.
Behind her, she heard Dez joining them in the airlock, and the doors sliding closed. The cabin quickly began to re-pressurize — at last, they’d been freed.
She kept her eyes closed as she felt Fiearius unlock her helmet and slide it over her head, smoothing her hair back with his hand as she took her first breath of air.
“See? That wasn’t so bad,” he said, and she could feel him grinning at her. “Safe and sound.”
Half of her mind was still on what Dez had told her. Eyes still closed, all she said was, “Let’s hope so.”
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
“And you’re sure your intel is correct?” asked the gruff, smoke-laden voice of Arleth Morgan as he reached to tap a few keys in his console. He was so flustered with excitement that his gnarled, aged hands were trembling and he was having difficulty typing.
On the other end of the line, Ophelia Varisian’s voice arrived coolly through the speakers.
“Yes, sir. I’ve confirmed the Dionysian’s last known location and evaluated their status to determine their most viable next move. They’ve been floating in the black for nearly two weeks. Even running minimal processes, they’ll need to refuel before taking additional action.”
“So they’re going to a port,” said Arleth, making himself sit back in his chair. “And you — what is it then — you intend to stage an attack on one of these ports?”
“Only if the opportunity arises, sir. I’ve determined a pattern in their most frequented refueling locations, and will do my best to connect with the ship, but my chances of choosing the correct one are still only one in eight. More likely, I will access surveillance at all possible ports to pick up their trail and engage in a more appropriate arena in the coming weeks.”
“I want updates throughout the process,” he barked, jumping up to his feet — he could not sit still. “Keep me apprised. Of everything. And Varisian?” He paused coldly. “As far as the other Councillors are concerned, this conversation never happened. Do you understand me?”
Pursing his lips, Morgan quickly disconnected the call. Then, with a glint in his eye, he picked up his COMM again. This time, no less than ten of his newly-hired bounty hunters listened expectantly on the other end.
“Listen. All of you. I’m forwarding you the Dionysian’s potential next coordinates. Get to the ports and keep an eye out. And be quick about it. You’re not the only ones hunting this ship and it’s imperative you get to them first. Find Leta Adler and bring her to me. Alive.”
A murmur of understanding rippled over the line. Morgan stood back and crossed his arms.
“Report back once you’ve found her,” he added, then disconnected the call with a jab of his hand.
The rest of the Council stupidly wanted Adler either killed on the spot or taken back to Satieri in chains. But Morgan would have none of it. He clenched one of his fists, digging his nails hard enough to draw blood into his palm.
She belonged on Vescent. She belonged to him. It was his punishment to issue.
He unclenched his fist, lowering his hand back to his side, as he slowly approached
his favorite wall of his office. Photos of Adler of all ages spanned an entire wall, tracking her life, her connections, her whereabouts. It would only be a matter of time until she was within his grasp. Until he could spill her blood across the steps of the Capitol and the Span would see just what happened when you crossed Vescent.