Frantically, he looked around for a place to hide, but the hallway was devoid of any nooks or crevices. The only thing around was a lifeless Society agent, curled in the fetal position, still holding her hand over the glistening wound in her chest. And as the voices got closer, she gave him an idea.
“Get down!” he whispered and dropped to the floor, face down, letting his body go completely limp. He heard the thump of Leta doing the same beside him. Playing dead. Like animals, he thought bitterly.
The footsteps came closer, then stopped. Cyrus stilled his breath, but nothing could still the heart pounding in his chest. One of the voices said, “Shit. It’s Larson.”
They must’ve meant the agent.
“Godsdamn,” said the other. “She was just a rookie.”
“Well, she knew what she was getting herself into with this mission,” said the first.
The other person released a sigh. “Yeah I guess. Still. Didn’t deserve it.”
The men started to move again, coming closer, only inches from where Cyrus lay. One set of footsteps walked right on by, but the other. The other, horrifyingly, came to a stop beside him. He could feel eyes on the back of his head and inside, his mind screamed to stay quiet, to not move, to blend in.
But just as he was sure he was about to be discovered, the man hovering over him muttered, “Damn pirates,” and instead Cyrus felt a sharp pain in his stomach as a booted foot planted itself there. It was all he could do to just let his body take it and keep in the cry, but even if he had tensed, the man’s footsteps started again and he walked away, unnoticing.
Reeling from the pain, Cyrus still forced himself not to move until the sounds of the men had finally faded off into the distance of the hallway. And then Leta was above him, grabbing his arm and lifting him to his feet.
“Are you okay?” she breathed as Cyrus stumbled to his feet, clutching his arm over his stomach.
“Yeah,” he choked, shaking his head and hobbling onward. “Yeah, I’ll be fine. Let’s just…get to the shuttles.”
The stairs were right around the corner and, thank the gods, empty. They flew downstairs and Cyrus breathed a heavy sigh of relief when the starboard corridor of Deck F also seemed devoid of life. They were almost there. They could get out of here. This was almost over.
But as he hit the controls to open the bay door, his heart sank and the dream of leaving became distant once again.
The shuttle bay was a mess. The Titan’s support ships were in pieces, strewn across the cold metal flooring, some tipped over, damaged, a few even destroyed entirely. Evidence of explosives littered the area. Bullet holes and blood riddled the scene. There had been quite a firefight here and by the looks of it, it had ended badly. Even the shuttles still intact were risky. If its hull was breached and its sensors didn’t pick it up and they flew out of here into the black of space? They’d be better off on the Titan.
But just as the thought materialized, the span decided to remind him otherwise.
“Hey, you think we should check the shuttle bay?” called a voice past his shoulder, just outside the bay doors. “Might be someone hurt in there.”
Cyrus froze. And then he grabbed Leta’s arm and dove for cover behind the nearest crumbling hull as the doors slid open, allowing entrance to a small team of agents.
His heart lodged painfully in his throat as he crouched down to hide, shielded by the pillar of one of the shuttle’s legs. His hands were shaking terribly but he closed them around the metal bars and told himself to be still. Paralyzed as he was, he hardly dared to breathe as he watched with stricken eyes as the agents made their way into the bay.
What he expected was more gunmen. More of the lethal Society agents dressed in their slick all-black attire, heavily armed, ready to pick apart the ship limb from limb to gleefully find their prizes. And the reward — to then bring them to slaughter. If that were so — if execution was inevitable — Cyrus silently told himself he would not go down without his last shred of dignity. Not to the Society.
But it was not gunhands who entered. It was a group of people dressed in dark crew uniforms that could have belonged to any other passenger vessel, with a small silver librera stitched into the shoulder. No weapons in sight. Their voices carried through the room.
“Gods, I hope there’s no one else, the med bay’s already full as it is,” a woman was saying. Cyrus recognized the accent at once. Satieran. “I still can’t believe this even happened.”
“Makes sense though, doesn’t it?” added another voice thoughtfully.
“What do you mean?” asked another.
“Well, how weird command’s been acting lately,” said the other. “Think about it. All the extra security, the weird route, releasing the cruisers? I thought it was strange, but now it makes total sense.”
Perplexed, Cyrus darted a look toward Leta. Were they trapped? Could they slip by these people? Remain hidden? He knew one thing: if Fiearius were here, and it was a group of lowly unarmed crew members, they wouldn’t have been hiding. They would have been on the offense.
But even with the element of surprise, Cyrus knew he was in no shape for an attack of any kind. They wouldn’t get anywhere. Just when he managed to take a low breath and told himself to think, he heard it: a voice that was much, much closer.
The first woman laughed bitterly. “Wow, rumors spread fast apparently. You’re really buying into that bait theory Marshall came up with?”
“I’m not buying into anything,” said the other voice. “You know it’s true.”
“Sure,” the woman laughed. “Well, I don’t think there’s anyone down here. Just a whole lot of wreckage.”
To Cyrus’ horror, the woman rounded the corner of the ship. Cyrus caught a flash of her appearance — petite, curly jet-black hair hanging loosely in a bun, olive-tinted heart-shaped face — before the woman gasped, throwing her hand over her mouth. She was just as startled to see them as they were to be caught. Her eyes were wider than a whole planet.
In a shaky voice, she lowered her hand, and said the least likely greeting imaginable.
“Cyrus?” she gasped.
Cyrus head spun and with a jolt, he realized: he knew this woman. The curly hair, the wide green eyes.
“Delia?” he breathed, his mouth falling open. It really was her. They’d both worked at Sonnete years ago, though she had been little more than a receptionist at the time. But she had always greeted him with a smile as he passed her desk each morning, even when he was too busy, tired or cranky to return it. And now, here she was. Standing before him. On the Titan.
“What are you–” he began, just as Leta muttered, “You know her?” with her eyes wide and thunderstruck. By now, the other agents were rushing over, both of them shielding the woman from Cyrus and Leta as though they might attack at any moment. One of them drew a utility knife on them and it was enough to break Cyrus’ distraction.
Helplessly, he held his hands in the air. The armed man near Delia growled, “They’re raiders! Someone call security.”
The other woman pressed the button on her COMM and opened her mouth, but Delia held out her hand to stop her. “No, I know him!” she yelped, staring at Cyrus.
“They’re armed, Dee!” gasped the man with the knife, gesturing towards the pistols on both of their hips. “We need to report them.”
Feeling he had very little to lose at this point and desperate to cling onto any hope available, Cyrus muttered, “It’d be really nice if you didn’t…” and locked his pleading eyes with Delia. Her confused expression softened for a moment, it snapped right back.
“What — what’re you even doing here?” said Delia in exasperation, holding each side of her face in despair. Alarm shone in her face as she added, “Cy — did you — were you hurting those people? Were you part of — ”
“Of course not,” said Leta at once and Cyrus nodded fervently in agreement.
“Dee, you can’t really believe this,” said the man. “They’re armed. They’re not one of us. They’re obviously part of the raid. And we need to report them.”
“Arker’s right, they could be dangerous,” the other woman said.
But, thank the gods, Delia shook her head. “If we report them, they’ll be killed,” she groaned. “Do you want that kind of blood on your hands?” Both Arker and the woman looked away from her in shame. Apparently, they did not. Satisfied, Delia turned back to Cyrus. “Me either. But what I do want. Is answers. What’re you doing here, Cyrus?!”