“Look, you seem like a nice guy, as far as guys who sit in bars and commiserate about relationships with strangers go,” he said sharply. “But that? That’s none of your godsdamned business.” He raised his brows at the man, indicating this conversation was over and turned back to his drink.
And for a moment, Fiearius thought it was. Silence fell between them, until —
“But she’s right,” said the man after a moment. “Bounty hunters flood this port.”
The hair on the back of Fiearius’ neck was tingling. He felt himself straighten up, ready for wherever this was going. “If I wanted your opinion I would have asked for it.”
“But you’re willing to put her in danger, aren’t you?”
“Don’t think for one second I can’t protect my crew.”
“While you sit here at a bar?” he pressed. “Don’t you know how easy it would be for someone to just take her away from — “
Fiearius shot up to his feet, suddenly flooded with adrenaline. He seized the man’s collar and dragged him closer until they were face to face.
“Is that a fucking threat?” he breathed. “Listen you son of a bitch, I don’t know what he’s paying you, but I guarantee it’s not worth crossing me. You go anywhere near her, I will happily rip you to shreds, dump the pieces off that balcony and watch the blood splatter eight decks down.” He shoved the man back toward his seat, breathing hard. “And you can tell those other bounty hunting shits the same,” he added, stepping back toward the door. He had to go find Leta. Now.
The man did not look shocked. He did not look scared or even alarmed. He pushed himself back up to his feet, his eyes sharp, expression darkened with anger.
“I’m not a goddamn bounty hunter,” he growled, and suddenly Fiearius realized what was so familiar about him. “I’m her father.”
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
As he lingered in the back of the shop, Cyrus turned the hefty metal casing over in his hand to look at the price tag. What he saw made him grimace. That much? For such an innocuous little device? It almost didn’t seem worth it. But it would fix that clattering problem the Beacon was having.
And after all Addy had been doing for him lately, helping with the huge influx of consulting work he had coming his way, it only seemed right he could do her such a simple favor. She deserved it. And he had sought out this particular machine shop at the very top of the port specifically to buy it for her. He had to get it, no matter the cost.
But before he could make a final decision, suddenly there was a voice behind him. He jumped in surprise. He hadn’t even thought there was anyone else in here.
“You got a 500V?”
He turned around. The young woman was about an inch taller than him, with thick auburn hair pulled into a ponytail high on her head. She smiled at him kindly. “Sorry. Didn’t mean to scare ya. I was just lookin’ at that part in your hand and assumed you must have one. That thing only works in the 500’s.”
“Oh,” said Cyrus blankly. Awkwardness washed over him. He’d never been good at talking to pretty girls, let alone pretty girls he didn’t know. Hurriedly, he looked away from her and down at the part in his hand. “Yeah. It does. But oh. No. I don’t have one.” He laughed once. “It’s for a friend.”
The woman nodded. Her eyes moved away, her attention started to drift and though he didn’t know why (seriously, why did he care?), he found himself suddenly striving to get it back.
“I wish I had a 500 though,” he blurted, internally kicking himself for being so pathetic. Are you really that starved for female attention? he asked himself. “My friend’s is–well, working on it is a dream, specially compared to my own ship.”
“Oh yeah?” She actually looked interested. “What do you have?”
“It’s a–uh–TRC 203?” She tilted her head in confusion. “Yeah, I know, it’s kind of obscure. No one really flies them anymore. For good reason. You’d know it if you saw it though. Big old rusty thing parked up on deck 42? Can’t miss it, it’s an eyesore.”
She nodded thoughtfully, but now she was eying him with a certain intensity Cyrus couldn’t quite place.
“Big crew?” she asked.
“Eh, not really. A captain, an engineer, a doctor, cook, some six or seven hands.”
“And they’re not here with you?”
Cyrus frowned. What a strange question. “Mm, nope. They’re all out doing their own errands I think. We were running low on rations.”
And then things just got stranger. “See, I ask ‘cause I could really use a doctor. You said you had one right? D’ya know where she is? I’d love to talk to her.”
A frown creased Cyrus’ brow. He had never mentioned that the Dionysian’s doctor was a ‘she.’ A spark of panic started to rise in him but he somehow managed to suppress it as he answered, “I don’t know, I’m afraid.”
“Shopping for groceries you said?” she pressed on. “Or do you think she’s back at the ship by now? Deck 42?”
Now that panic was raging like a fire. Still, he just shrugged helplessly. “Sorry, I really have no idea.” And then a seed of bravery. “But I know the port has a med station. Maybe you could check that out. Deck 20.”
The woman eyed him one moment longer, her eyes growing cold.
Finally, she muttered, “Hmm yeah. Maybe I’ll head there.” She looked him up and down once before remarking, “Thanks,” and sauntering from the shop.
Which was the precise moment when Cyrus gave way to his panic. He dropped the part onto the shelf, rushed towards the backroom, as far away from the woman as he could get, and pressed the button on his COMM.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
“Does your daughter know you’re here?” asked Fiearius, his voice strained with desperation. He dropped his forehead into his palm and stared at the man to his side. Now that he knew, he noticed all the resemblances: the man had a thick Vescentian accent. Leaf-green eyes like Leta’s, though his lacked the usual brightness. And an even icier demeanor than his daughter.
Adler raised a finger to the bartender to refresh his drink. Then he said coldly, “Of course she doesn’t. I reach out to her only when absolutely necessary. Anything else will put her in needless danger.” He shot him a rather pointed look, rather like Fiearius was the definition of needless danger.
“And you found us…how exactly?” Fiearius prompted slowly.
Adler snorted into his drink, full of bitterness. “You really think I don’t keep close tabs on her? I’ve been tracking you since Archeti. Which was one of the most foolish moves I’ve ever witnessed. Even from you.”
Fiearius’ mouth inched toward a humorless smile. “Again with the unwanted opinions. So are you here just to ream me for everything you think I’m doing wrong, or what?”
“I didn’t intend to speak with you now, or ever, if possible,” he said in a clipped tone, tilting his glass toward his mouth. “But now that you’re here, I can ask you exactly why the hell you thought it would be safe to dock your ship at one of the busiest ports on this side of the span.”
“Because I’d much rather the Dionysian be one of a thousand docked ships than one of eight,” said Fiearius darkly, not particularly in the mood to explain himself to this man. “We fly under a false flag and hide in plain sight. It’s what we’ve always done. It’s what we’ll keep doing. Worked so far.”