So Fiearius wasn’t going to talk her out of this — out of this insane mission. Out of leading the charge into their Society-base break-in. In a tone of questioning, she said, “But you won’t blame me if I back out.”
He tightened his lips in thought, his head shaking. “Never. You do what’s right by you. Always.”
For a moment, Leta did nothing but gaze over at him, her lips curved to a close-lipped smile. This, she thought to herself, was why she was with Fiearius; this was exactly why she spent her free hours in the bridge with him, why she slept tangled in his bed every night. Because they were an hour’s walk away from invading a Society base and he sat at her side calmly. He knew exactly why she was here, how tortured she felt. And was free of judgment or accusation.
At last, she stood up to her feet, put her hand to his shoulder and held her lips against his, quickly but fully. Then she said, “C’mon, we’re almost there.”
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Cyrus’ anxiety filled the Dionysian’s bridge like thick smoke. He sat with his legs propped up on the console, tapping his index finger against the chair arm as he talked to Quin on the COMM.
“Shouldn’t be much longer, they’re almost to the vent,” he told her in his best impression of casualness. If the Dionysian was going to be working with Quin more often (and apparently they were), the last thing he needed was her to know how nervous she made him. Usually, Fiearius handled all communication with her.
But she sounded rather uneasy herself. “I’ve got fifty bodies out here and there’s only so many places they can hide,” she snapped, her voice cracking like a whip through the speaker.
Cyrus took a deep breath. “As long as they stay out of the camera range I gave you–”
“I ain’t worried about no cameras, sweetheart. I’m worried someone in this base is gonna have the mind to take a little morning stroll, you got me?”
“Right,” Cyrus agreed, frowning down at the map on the screen that showed the three blinking dots of each raiding party. “That would be bad.”
“Sure as hell would,” she growled. “So what I’d like is for you to get on the line with Soliveré and you tell him to hurry his lanky ass into that vent and let’s get this started, alright? You got that?”
“Right, yep,” Cyrus said obediently. “I’ll see what I can do.”
“No no, you don’t understand me, boy,” Quin barked back. “I don’t wanna see what you can do. I want you to do what I said. And if you got half a brain in ya, you’d do it now.”
“Of course, but I don’t think I can–”
“And I don’t care what you think either. Just get this door open, ya hear?”
Cyrus rolled his eyes. Though he was probably the safest member of this operation, ten miles away from the action on a spaceship, he was beginning to wonder whether or not he would have preferred to be crawling through Society vents right about now. “Of course, right away, ma’am,” he muttered. There was a noise of indignation starting to come through the speaker before he switched it off. Well, that was one down. On to the next.
He hit the button. “Uh…Dez?”
“Yes, Cyrus,” came the stony response from the speaker.
He glanced at the screen. “Your team’s in position, correct?”
“And they’re staying out of camera range?”
“Great.” He grimaced. He had never particularly liked talking to Dez, but he especially had trouble with it following four years of him trying to murder them. “So. Everything’s okay then?”
There was a long pause before the speaker finally replied, “Yes, Cyrus.”
He switched off the COMM. That just left Fiearius and Leta who had, judging by the map, finally reached the base. He was just about to hit connect when something else popped up on the radar screen. His finger paused mid-push.
It was a ship coming in. He looked to the window and could just barely make it out on the horizon. Small, sleek and black by the looks of it. He’d seen this kind of ship before plenty of times back on Satieri. A top of the line destroyer the Society seemed to reserve for elite agents. It was the kind of ship Dez had piloted before his betrayal. But what didn’t make sense was why it was here. The sight of it made his stomach turn over.
His finger finished the push. “Fiear?”
On the other side of the line, there was a grunt, a crack and a thud that sounded suspiciously like a human body hitting concrete. Worried, he asked again, “Fiear?!”
“All good, lil’ brother,” came his sibling’s breathless but remarkably calm voice. “Just taking care of a minor obstacle. We’re inside the base. Heading for the doors now.”
“Wait, there’s something–there’s a ship coming in.”
The line went still. Finally, it was Leta who replied, “Does it have a visual on the other teams? Can it see any of us?”
Well shit, he hadn’t even thought of that. Hurriedly, he scanned over the map, but the ship he’d seen wouldn’t have been anywhere near the right angle to spot a couple groups of raiders hiding beneath the jungle canopy.
“N-no,” he decided at last. “No, they’re still out of sight.”
“Then what’s the problem?” Fiearius asked, his tone sharp and impatient.
“It’s a Society A-class destroyer,” Cyrus explained hurriedly. “This is a skirmish base. It doesn’t make sense for it to be here.”
“No offense, Cy, but I’m not really concerned with what kind of ship vs. what kind of base right now.”
Cyrus bristled with frustration. “I don’t think you understand, this kind of ship has no purpose here.”
“It’s a Society ship docking in a Society base, what’s to understand?”
“I’m sure there’s a simple explanation, Cy,” Leta put in.
“Is it a threat to the mission?” Fiearius asked starkly.
“It could be,” Cyrus argued at once, but there was a pit of doubt forming in his stomach. The ship had made him immediately uneasy, but maybe he was just being paranoid. It didn’t seem to make sense, but what did he know about what was normal on Society bases anyway? Perhaps Leta was right. Perhaps there was a simple explanation.
“But…it might not be,” he admitted after a moment.