“I suppose being on the same ship is kind of awkward. But what about your brother and Leta? They make it work, clearly.”
“True, but Leta’s not a captain. If something happened between them, she would probably just leave, as unfortunate as that is, and the awkwardness would pass,” Cyrus pointed out. “But if something happens between both your captains? Then what?”
“I don’t know, it doesn’t seem that bad of an — “
“Awkwardness, Addy,” Cyrus interrupted, his voice menacing. “Think of the awkwardness.”
Addy laughed. “You’d know about that, wouldn’t you?”
“Oh, I’m kidding.”
“No you’re not,” Cyrus grumbled and then went on, “I don’t know, as long as they’re happy I guess. Just shipboard romances can be weird I think.”
“That’s true.” Addy paused, and then said, “Maybe it’s better to be in a romance on different ships?” in a sly voice that made Cyrus go suddenly red.
“You think so?” he said, flustered. “So is that what–” But before he could finish, a much less welcome voice cut in over the speakers.
“Cy, we’re closing in on the bridge, what’s it looking like?” said Fiearius, his voice crackling through the static.
“–this is?” Cyrus finished lamely, swinging his feet off the console and looking down at the monitor, confused.
“What is?” Fiearius said impatiently.
“Hey is everything o–” Addy began.
“Wait, you’re seriously on the COMM with your girlfriend right now? In the middle of a raid?”
At this point, Cyrus was certainly as red as he was capable of being. “N-no, I–”
“Not as if we have more important things to do or anything,” Fiearius went on.
Cyrus dragged his hand down his face. “Addy, I’ll call you back later.” He hung up the call and added to Fiearius, “You are such an ass.”
“And you are such a bad lookout,” Fiearius countered. “Status report, let’s go.”
Cyrus heaved a troubled sigh. “Alright. There’s only one red dot in the bridge. It’s all yours.”
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
“Relax,” Leta hissed, giving the rope a tough tug. “Don’t move.”
The ship’s captain did as she was told: wide-eyed and fearful, the woman sat trembling against the wall of the bridge as Leta tied her wrists to the pipe above her head.
“Please — ” the captain breathed, “don’t hurt the crew — “
She was so petrified that Leta felt the fleeting impulse to set her free. But the sight of the librera stitched into her jacket stiffened her resolve.
“We won’t,” Leta muttered sharply. “We’re just taking the ship. Now hold still.”
The woman flinched when Leta pulled her long knife out from her hip, but it was only to quickly slice off the rope. It was the same knife she’d stolen from Ophelia, the knife she’d used to stab her in the leg and save her own life. Now, Leta always kept the blade close by, like a talisman. “Guess this is yours now, eh?” Fiearius had said a few nights ago when he’d found it lying on his nightstand in his room. And Leta decided he was right.
Still, she didn’t plan to use it for violence. Holding the knife in her teeth, she quickly tied off the knot then got to her feet and stood back, satisfied.
Behind her, Fiearius was at the helm of the ship, speaking into the communications console to its sister ships. Leta turned around just as Fiearius grunted, “Quin, we’re not dumping them on Eyyam.”
“Why not?” said Quin’s disbelieving voice over the speaker. “You don’t want me shootin’ ‘em, what’s wrong with just leavin’ ‘em someplace? It’s a nice little moon, it’s close by–”
“It’s a barren desert with no civilization save a few remote tribes of junkies,” Fiearius groaned. “It’d be more humane to shoot them at that point.”
“Well then,” Quin concluded simply.
Fiearius rolled his eyes. “We’ll take them back to Archeti, put them on a passenger ship and send them home, simple as that.”
Silence filled the line for a moment before she replied, “You’re damn lucky I like you, sweetheart, that’s all I gotta say.”
“I count my blessings every day,” Fiearius muttered, exchanging a dull look with Leta. Before they could leave, another voice broke out from the third ship over the COMM.
“Soliveré! Did you–have ya seen this ship?! This–I’ve never seen anythin’ like it, it’s–geezus is that a–holy lord above–”
Fiearius threw a hand to his forehead, impatient. “Everything alright, Rax?”
Rax was an arms trader from a backwater planet on the very edge of Synechdan. He wasn’t the brightest ally to have, but he’d cornered the market in a very needy area and he had the manpower to back it up. Plus, when Fiearius had asked if he was interested in joining their raiding party against the Society of all people, he was one of the few who hadn’t laughed in his face.
“Alright?! “ Rax repeated. “God, Soliveré, this is–Have I thanked you for bringing me in on this?”
“You have, Rax,” Fiearius assured him.
“Well I’m doin’ it again, I — “
“Let’s all meet at the rendezvous point in an hour. See you then.” And just as Rax went to answer, Fiearius hit ‘disconnect.’
Just then, Eve came pounding into the room, her rifle angled over her shoulder in a proud march. “We did it, cap’n! Whole ship is ours!”
“Sure is,” said Fiearius, “now let’s get the hell out of here.”
Fiearius crossed toward the door, but not without throwing his forearm in front of his mouth and hacking a terrible cough.
Eve’s face flickered with concern. “You alright, cap’n? You don’t look so hot, you’re all pale and gross-lookin’ — “
“Thanks,” Fiearius muttered dismissively, but Leta lingered in the doorway, blocking him from leaving.
“You’re still feeling ill?” she said in disbelief, searching him over.
“I’m fine. It’s just a cold.”
“Colds usually last a week. You’ve been getting this on and off for over a month.”
“Well it’s a particularly bad cold,” he said, squinting his eyes as he held off another cough. He veered around her into the hallway, but Leta followed on his heels.
“Please just let me do some tests when we get back to the ship,” she pleaded. “Just to see if it’s a virus or — “
Fiearius cast her a dark look. “Thought you decided you weren’t my doctor anymore,” he pointed out. “It’s unethical or something, right?”
“Fiear, let me — “
He put a hand on her shoulder. “Look, relax,” he said and coughed again just as he was adding, “I’m fine. It’ll pass.”
“She could be right, Fiearius,” put in Dez suddenly from across the hallway. “It seems to be getting worse again. Perhaps you should take something for it.”
Fiearius glared at him and then said, “Dez, fly the ship to the rendezvous. Harper, keep an eye on our guests.” He gestured to the captain and the other Society agents locked on the lower deck. To Leta, he said, “Stop worrying about me. I promise you. I’ll be fine.”
– – – – – –
Hours later, after they’d all successfully returned to the Dionysian, the crew began to riotously celebrate. They’d gained another victory against the Society, after all, so laughter, music and the clanking of liquor bottles filled the crew lounge in a happy din.
But Leta didn’t feel like celebrating. Something — and she wasn’t sure what — was quietly nagging at her. So she’d finished only half a bottle of beer before retreating up to Fiearius’ bedroom and closing the bathroom door behind her to take a hot shower.
The water was on, making clouds of steam fill the room, when there was a low knock on the door. Leta was wrapped only in a towel, but she knew it was Fiearius and was unsurprised when he slipped his lanky frame inside, gently closing the door behind him.