Chapter 30: Crossroads

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For the first time in months, Corra had absolutely nowhere pressing to be. While the Beacon sailed soundlessly through the black of space, en route to the next port, she found herself finally relaxing — really relaxing. She lounged back in one of the comfortable couches on the crew deck, drinking beers and sharing stories with her crew.

Daelen sat at her side, gesturing with his hands as he explained — of all things — Vescent’s geographical makeup.

“See, the terraformers during colonization were all calibrated to arbitrary settings, I believe,” he said, his tone of fondness for his home planet apparent even in this topic. “Settings based on the Origin, but the planets being terraformed already had their own makeup so the process often produced different results.”

“So,” Corra said slowly, trying to wrap her mind around how this casual talk of home turned impromptu science lesson. “Vescent is covered in water because of terraformer settings?”

“From what I understand, yes,” he said. “Though I’m no engineer. It might be more a question for Ms. Atelier.”

Addy looked up from the tablet she’d been reading in her lap. “Hm? What? Oh, no, I’ve never studied terraformers, I have no idea.”

“Regardless of the reason,” said Alyx, raising her beer, “Vescent sounds lovely.”

Of course, talking about Vescent made Corra think of Leta, which made her heart clench with doubt. She took another long pull of beer. Although they were still maintaining some semblance of friendship, Leta had not taken the news well — the news that the Beacon wouldn’t be aiding in their quest against the Society. Leta hadn’t been angry, but her face had fallen in profound disappointment, and ever since, the air between them had felt off.

“Too bad we’ll never get to go there, eh?” added Finn, abruptly bringing Corra’s attention back to the conversation. Finn sat in a wooden chair, leaning back on its legs precariously. He drank his beer with one hand, and his other arm was slung over the back of Augusta’s chair. Augusta was one of the deckhands, a red-haired woman who Corra knew to be rather fond of Finn. Judging by his body language, Finn had taken a recent likening to her as well.

Four nights ago, they’d had yet another tryst in Corra’s bedroom, but in this moment he seemed happy to casually orient himself toward Augusta. About time, thought Corra affectionately.

“We won’t be visiting Vescent? Ever?” asked Alyx. “I thought this ship had some… disguise thing. Like a…a thing that — “

“Oh, the thing Cyrus installed? The fake ship mask thing?” Corra suggested.

To which Addy corrected quietly, “False-Front ID…”

“Right,” Alyx said. “So we can fly under the Society’s watch without them ever knowing that this ship is — ”

“Stolen?” Finn said, grinning. “Yeah, but masking our ID is different than landing on one of their strongholds. Strongholds like Vescent…”

“Probably wouldn’t want to visit now anyway,” Daelen sighed. “It’s hardly the planet it used to be.”

“Because of the Society?” asked Augusta curiously.

“I won’t point fingers, but ever since they took majority power in the last election, things are indeed very different,” Daelen said through a sigh. “Curfews, checkpoints, random inspections. Private property is seized and converted into, well, who knows what? It’s a very different landscape from where I grew up, that’s for certain. Hardly a good vacation spot unless you enjoy giving up all sense of privacy.”

Alyx gazed at him, then lifted her eyebrows. “I take it back. Let’s not go to Vescent.”

Augusta turned to Finn. “Where are we headed now, anyway?”

“Just staying off the radar at the moment,” he replied. “Waiting on the call from Callahan to go pick up that new ship. Whatever it was.”

“GOL-3M Alpha,” put in Addy helpfully, looking up from her tablet and smiling.

“That’s the one. It’s apparently in limbo for now, so we’ve got a few days to kill if anyone has any bright ideas.”

Corra felt a long tug in her chest. It wasn’t exactly a bright idea, but that very morning she had called Leta, received no answer, and had been unable to shake the feeling of worry that followed.

“Actually,” she said suddenly. “I’ve got a bit of a personal errand I’d like to run.”

———————

In a slow-moving, unhappy caravan, the crew of the Dionysian carried, dragged and pulled enormous crates of weapons into the cargo bay. Each box weighed as much as the Dionysian itself, or so it felt like. Amongst much groaning and whining, Javier and Nikki carried a box together, Rhys had given up and was sitting on the floor, and Cyrus winced as he heaved a box onto a shelf.

It was then that Cyrus noticed Fiearius a few feet away. Fiearius hadn’t had any problems hijacking the Society cargo ship they’d taken a few hours ago, but now that seemed to be catching up to him as he stood off to the side, bracing the palms of his hands on a railing and coughing his lungs out of his chest.

Cyrus felt his own chest stir with worry. Whatever sickness his brother was harboring, it didn’t seem to be going away. Still, every time he brought it up, Fiearius did nothing but grow defensive. So instead, Cyrus asked, “Not going to help us?” and nodded his head towards the remaining stacks of crates sitting just outside the ship.

Mid-cough, Fiearius glared over at him with bloodshot eyes. “In a minute. ‘Scuse me for taking a break. Not like I commanded a successful acquisition this morning or anything.”

“Right,” Cyrus agreed, turning back towards the ramp. “I’m sure that’s what’s it is. Definitely.”

Fiearius grunted his disapproval, but followed him down. “No thanks to you,” he pointed out. “What did you do today, huh? Write some more love poems you’ll never send?”

“How many times do I have to tell you, that wasn’t a love poem,” Cyrus snapped as he leaned down to grab another crate.

“It certainly looked like one,” Fiearius countered, glancing down at the crates, but apparently deciding he really wasn’t going to help after all. He crossed his arms.  “If that whole bit about her eyes reminding you of the Satierian sky wasn’t a poem, then what the hell was it?”

“Maybe you shouldn’t be going through my personal files anyway,” Cyrus said, lifting the crate to rest on his knee.

“Maybe you shouldn’t leave your CID logged on in the bridge.”

Cyrus glared at him and Fiearius just smirked back. He was about to turn and march away when a voice stopped him.

“Well well, if it isn’t my favorite Soliveré boys!”

Cyrus wheeled around in surprise to find Corra approaching them from down the docks with a cheeky grin on her face. She was supposed to be planets away, as far as Cyrus knew.

“Ah, the princess returns,” Fiearius called. “Didn’t expect to see you anytime soon.”

And it had been weeks since they’d seen her last too. Ever since the Beacon had turned down the opportunity to join in on the Dionysian’s new mission, the two ships hadn’t even come within a few systems of one another.

Corra lifted her hands in admittance. “Didn’t think I’d let you guys have all the fun, did you?”

“So you stop by for the loot part,” Fiearius pointed out, gesturing to the pile of crates. “Right.”

Corra laughed. “Pure coincidence, I promise.”

“Well if you think I’m gonna let you–” Fiearius began, but he interrupted his own sentence, suddenly distracted. “Wait just a second.” He reached out and pinched a few strands of her hair, considerably shorter than it had been a month ago. He squinted. “Something’s different about you.” He tilted his head. “Oh I know. Did you get even smaller?”

Corra scoffed and whacked him in the chest with the back of her hand, causing him to cough, but he managed to get control of it as she asked, “I came to talk to Leta. She’s around?”

“Wait, Leta?” Cyrus adopted an affected tone. “What about me? I don’t even get a hello?”

But Corra grinned at him guiltlessly. “Oh Cy-Cy, I brought you something much better than a hello.”

She nodded her head sideways. When Cyrus looked to see where she was indicating, he froze with surprise, as if he’d been caught: Addy was walking toward them, waving happily with one hand and shielding the sun from her eyes with the other, a bright smile filling her face.

In shock, Cyrus dropped the crate freely from his arms, making it hit the floor and part of his foot with a thud. Fiearius snorted.

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