The sight sent Fiearius barreling towards them. Coming up behind her, he grabbed Ophelia’s wrist mid-swipe as Leta fell backwards in order to avoid it. Varisian was fast and small, but in a match of pure strength, she was outnumbered by her predecessor. Fiearius twisted his grip and her hand loosened the blade, which fell on the floor in a clatter.
At once, Leta seized it and took another swipe at the woman’s legs as Fiearius held her in place. She got in one good cut before Varisian managed to wrench her wrist free and slam her elbow into Fiearius’ ribs. It wasn’t much, but it was enough. She spun around in that one half-second of distraction and cracked her fist across his face.
It wasn’t the strongest punch by far, but by the time his own fist came flying back at her, she had the advantage again. She ducked easily out of the way, hitting him again in the torso. He tried to grab her, but she slipped out of his grip. She landed another attack square in his chest, but as she avoided what would have been a magnificent right hook, she stepped back instead right into Leta’s dagger as it swiped viciously and deeply across the back of her ankle.
With another cry, Ophelia fell backwards. Leta rolled out of the way, her hand groping the floor for the gun.
“Fiear!” she called, tossing the weapon into his hand.
In a flash he cocked it and aimed it at Ophelia’s head. It was only another moment before Leta had righted herself and pulled her own gun. On the ground and unarmed, Varisian, leaning back on her palms and looking up at them with an expression of pure hatred, said nothing. She did nothing. She had made a mistake. And now she was paying for it.
For their part, Fiearius and Leta were still breathing heavily, their lungs and hearts trying to catch up to what had just happened. Fiearius’ mind was even further back. This is how it had to end, right? Varisian was a problem. She was a danger. This was right. But looking at her now, on the floor and defenseless, stubborn and unwavering til the very end, for some reason he couldn’t bring himself to pull the trigger.
He still hadn’t made up his mind when the entire base shook violently. And kept shaking. And suddenly the control room was bathed in natural light and dust and a terrific crash as a quarter of the hangar roof gave way. The base, Fiearius realized in horror. It was coming down.
But he was only able to afford it a moment’s attention before turning his sights back on Ophelia. But if she had intended to use the distraction as her out, she’d failed. She, too, seemed too shocked by the sight of crumbling debris and bright sunlight to make a move. And that was when the COMM kicked in.
“–iear?” it buzzed as it slowly regained reception. “Fiearius?! Can you hear me? Can you–”
“Cy?” Fiearius responded. “Cy, what–”
“Oh geez, finally!” Cyrus interrupted. “What the hell is going on? All your communications cut out when you entered the base! I didn’t know what happened! And then this huge ship showed up and then all these fighters started shooting at it and the mountain is collapsing and what the hell is going on?! Do you even see this?!”
Fiearius shot a quick look at Leta to make sure she’d stay in place watching their captive as he rushed to the window and peered out. Thick dust still filled the air, but he could see the sky through the hole left by the attack. Or rather, he could see what was in the sky. The biggest ship he’d ever seen, a huge monstrous shape, surrounded by tiny fighter ships, Quin’s people, firing at it. His heart stopped in his chest. It was then and only then that Fiearius realized just how out of his depth he was.
“Yeah,” he muttered weakly into the COMM. “Yeah, I see it…”
The building around them shuddered violently again. “Fiear, we need to get out of here,” Leta called.
She was right. But as he tore his eyes from the behemoth above and scanned the rubble below, an even more worrisome realization hit him: the only remaining ships had been directly under the now gaping hole. They were covered in rubble. Well there went the exit strategy.
With no other ideas in sight, Fiearius hit the COMM again. “Cyrus,” he began calmly. “I need you to come get us.”
The line was silent. Until —
“I need you to take the Dionysian. And fly it over here. And get us.”
“Take the Dionysian, fly it over there? There, with the massive heavily armed warship? You want me to fly this ship, this ship I can hardly fly on a good day, over there to the center of hell and chaos and pick you up?!”
Fiearius took a deep breath. “Yes, Cyrus. That’s what I want you to do.”
“Are you fucking crazy?! I can’t do that!”
“Well you kinda have to, Cy!” Fiearius snapped, losing patience. “Put her down outside the hangar, we’ll be there.”
“Put her down?! Fiearius, you can’t seriously think I can–”
“Just do it, Cy! Get my ship here now or pretty soon it’s gonna be your ship!”
Cyrus didn’t respond. Fiearius could only hope it was because he was doing as he was asked. Which left them about eight minutes to get down there themselves. He turned back to Leta, but she had her own concern.
“What about–” she began, nodding towards Ophelia, still patiently awaiting judgment on the floor.
Shit. There wasn’t time for this. He marched towards her, raising his gun again to her forehead. He just had to do it. He just had to end this so they could leave. He just had to pull the trigger and walk away.
But his finger wouldn’t budge.
“Fiearius–” Leta prompted and he glanced at her as though only just remembering she was there. But as he looked at her, something past her caught his eye. Something on the wall. He tucked the gun behind his back and marched over to retrieve it.
“I’m probably going to regret this,” he muttered.”
He felt Leta’s curious eyes on him as he brought the cord back and kneeled down beside Ophelia. He made quick work of it, but the binds around her wrists tying her to a nearby pipe were strong and solid enough to hold her in place.
When he was finished, he stood up and looked down at her. “Know that this is my one act of mercy. You won’t get another.” He seized Leta’s hand. “Let’s go.”
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
The hangar was in shambles. Concrete crumbled to the ground, dust clouded the air and every second was filled with booms that shook the ground beneath their feet as Leta and Fiearius ran across the huge expanse of the hangar towards the open door looking out into the jungle.
At his side, Leta, whose hand he was still grasping for dear life, looked up as the huge shadow of the Legacy passed over them. “Gods…” she whispered. “Is Quin gonna be okay?”
A hundred fighters against the Legacy? It was hard to imagine a positive outcome. But yet again, Fiearius replied, “Fuckin’ hope so.”
They kept on, pounding the ground beneath them, dodging rubble that had settled and avoiding debris still falling. They were almost out. But the space just beyond was empty. Tentatively, Fiearius hit his COMM.
“Cy?” he called hopefully. “We’re almost there. How’re you doing?”
He could feel Leta’s eyes on him, expecting, waiting, probably praying just as hard as he was that the Dionysian hadn’t already gone down either by the Legacy’s fire or Cyrus’ sheer incompetence at flying her.
But there was no reply. No counter to the fear that the worst had happened. No relief that they were not just going to run out of this base and be faced with no way off this planet.
It was getting ever closer. And closer. And still their trajectory was nothing but trees. “Cy?” Fiearius called into the COMM again. “Cy, can you hear me?”
“Fiear, what if he’s–” cried Leta as another blast shook the base.
“He’ll be there!” Fiearius called back to her. “He has to be!” He better be, he thought.
Another shot hit and the shudder was so intense, Fiearius almost lost his footing, but Leta’s decisive pull on his arm was enough to keep him upright.
“I don’t think this base can stand much more of this!” she shouted over the racket of concrete crumbling.
It couldn’t. It wouldn’t. They were practically outside now. The dirt ground of the jungle was a mere two hundred feet away. The hangar was on the verge of collapsing. And Fiearius tried one last time. “Cyrus, please, please, please, just don’t be–”
But his message was interrupted. Just as their feet crossed the threshold of the door, they were met by a blast of wind that nearly knocked them back. A blast of wind caused, it seemed, by the clunky descent of a ship filling the clearing. A familiar old rusty ship. The Dionysian.
“I-I’m here!” cried Cyrus over the COMM. “I’m here, get on!”
Allowing himself only one breath of relief, Fiearius powered on as the ship hovered some twenty feet in the air haphazardly before them, the ramp slowly opening.
“Get her lower, Cy!” Fiearius called as they approached.
The ship dropped suddenly, only barely missing the ground, for just enough time for the two of them to leap onto the ramp. They clambered up it as the ship wavered to and fro, unhappy to be held in this kind of stasis. As soon as he hit the top, Fiearius slammed the ramp controls to closed and kept running. Leta was on his heels.
“We’re aboard, go! Now!” he ordered into the COMM and the ship jolted. Leta grabbed Fiearius’ arm to keep herself steady. He grabbed a railing. And as the ship started to rise, they continued to climb through the ship, passing its confused and shaken crew who were holding on to anything they could get their hands on. They didn’t stop until they pounded into the bridge.
“I-I did it,” Cyrus muttered as soon as he felt Fiearius’ hand hit the back of his chair. “I d-did it. I did it,” he said again, as though he still couldn’t quite believe what was happening himself.
“You did, now keep doing it,” Fiearius told him.
“What about Quin?” Leta asked. “Dez? The Legacy, what about –”
As if answering her question, the ship was suddenly pushed forward in a burst of air followed by the sound of a distant explosion.
Cyrus gripped the controls tighter. “W-what was that?!”
“I don’t know, turn her around so we can get a better look!” Fiearius yelled. Shakily, Cyrus followed the order.
The skyline outside shifted as the ship made an about face. Fiearius was prepared to see the worst, but he could have never been prepared for what they found on that horizon.
Filling in the air like birds, near a hundred fighter ships hovered above the base. The two Satieran frigates Quin had brought along had joined them in the battle. And the Legacy, that great ship thrice the size of the frigates combined, was shrouded in fire and smoke. In truth, Fiearius was only able to catch a small glimpse of it as it plummeted into the ground. No, into the mountain. The mountain which gave way to its size and crumbled beneath its impact in an explosion of dust so great, it was impossible to see where it ended and the clouds began.
Fiearius could find no words. Leta and Cyrus were agape. The base. Blackwater. It was…gone. The Legacy. Gone. Any agents still inside, likely dead. They had gone into this attempting only to dismantle the place. Cause a bit of trouble and steal some ships. It was meant to be more annoyance than harm.
But they had destroyed a Society dreadnought. Worse, they’d destroyed a Society stronghold.
Finally, the crackle of the COMM speaker broke the heavy silence.
“Soliveré, you still alive?!” It was Quin. In the background behind her voice were joyous cries of victory. “Did you fuckin’ see that? Did you see that?” Her voice was muffled as she apparently spoke to someone else. “Hey Cordova. How’s that for a message, huh?” She let out a raucous laugh. “Let’s head back to Relara, eh, Soliveré? I’m buyin’ you a drink. Two drinks. I’ll buy your whole damn crew a drink. So long Blackwater! So fuckin’ long!”
The COMM clicked off and the Dionysian’s bridge was plunged back into silence. Fiearius could not believe what he was seeing. Though they had all made it out alive, the mission had technically been a success, but Fiearius didn’t share in Quin’s feeling of victory. He didn’t feel relieved. What had once been a small act of defiance was now so much more than that and somewhere inside him, he knew that things were about to get a lot more complicated.
Finally, at long last, he looked over at Leta and said the only two words his racing brain could form. “Well shit.”