Cyrus’ stomach turned over. Surely the answers he had were not the answers she wanted. He had never known Delia that well, but he knew her well enough to know that ‘We’re part of a pirate group trying to take down the Society’ would not appease her. Not when she bore a Society librera on her uniform. But she was giving them a chance, a chance they sorely needed. All he needed was an answer she’d want to hear. All he needed was a sob story.
Fleetingly, he glanced at Leta who gazed back at him in alarm. Fiearius had always been better about coming up with lies, but suddenly, an idea struck him.
“Delia,” he said, fixing her with an earnest stare. “Do you remember me telling you about my brother?” Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Leta stiffen in alarm, but surely, it was useless to try and hide his relationship to the infamous Fiearius Soliveré. The surname was hardly common. It was bound to come out eventually. Might as well be now.
“Left home to join the Society, disappeared? I’m sure you’ve seen his name in the news recently…Rogue Verdant and all.” One of the other crew members gasped and put her hand over her mouth. Cyrus ignored her and pressed on.
“He didn’t disappear forever. He showed up again while I was at Sonnete. And he–well, he forced me to go with him when he fled the planet. Put a gun to my head and demanded I get him a ship to leave. I didn’t have a choice.” He gestured to Leta. “He kidnapped her, too, a while later because he was injured and needed a doctor. He’s been making us do these raids ever since. We’re just pawns in his scheme.”
It felt rather nauesating to lie about Fiearius. As if he didn’t already have a bad enough reputation amongst the Society. But he’d rather a little libel than admitting that Cyrus and Leta too were treasonous enemies of the Council. Unfortunately, one of them thought they were a little too opposite of that.
“Well this is good then, isn’t it?” the man pointed out, finally lowering his knife. “If he kidnapped you, you can seek asylum here. We’ll tell the captain and–”
“No,” Cyrus cut him off suddenly, a wave of panic running through him. “No, you don’t understand. If the leadership knows, they’ll just use us to get to him. We–” he glanced nervously at Leta “we know too much. There’s no way we’d come back from that…They’d use us and dispose of us after…”
His stare moved back to Delia. “Please, we just want out of this mess. Just let us take a shuttle out of here. I’ll do anything. I just want to go home.”
As he spun the tale, Delia’s face began to soften and when she finally spoke, it was with a heavy sadness.
“Cyrus, I’m sorry. I believe you, but–you can’t take a shuttle. Even if I said you could, the shuttles are closely monitored, command would know right away. You wouldn’t make it fifty feet.”
His heart began to sink, but slowly a comforting smile formed on Delia’s face. “But I want to help you,” she said, and added, “We want to help you.” She shot her two companions a glare and they reluctantly murmured their agreement. “So I’ll tell you what I can do. I can find a safe place for you to hide until we land and get you off the ship. Then you’re free to go wherever you want.”
Cyrus could almost not believe his ears. Of course, he was grasping onto hope, but he hadn’t actually thought that this woman, these people, would risk their jobs, their careers, hell, their lives to help them. Especially when — well, he had never been particularly kind to Delia in the past. She owed him nothing. And yet —
“Follow me,” she said, gesturing for them to follow as she made for the door. “I know just the place no one will find you.”
As Cyrus obediently fell into step behind her, Leta seized his arm and whispered into his ear, “We can’t trust her, Cy. I know she was your friend, but — ” She locked her eyes on Delia’s back. “But she’s still one of them, okay?”
Cyrus swallowed the lump in his throat. “I know. But right now, she’s our only chance of making it out of here.”
Leta frowned at him and then suddenly called to Delia, “Where’s this ship headed anyway?”
“Oh!” Delia exclaimed as though she had simply forgotten to offer them tea. “Right. We’re headed for Vescent. Have you ever been there?” she went on conversationally as all the color drained from Leta’s face.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Hours later, once the Titan landed smoothly into the docks and the crew departed, it became clear to Leta: this was not the Vescent she remembered. It was not the same place she’d left behind.
The main city square was no longer bustling with people. The harbor wasn’t crowded with boats. The main street of cafes and restaurants and coffee shops were dark, and many of them were shut down or replaced with sterile-looking office buildings. It was summer in Fall’s End, it was only early evening, the air was warm, but hardly anyone was outside.
“It’s past curfew,” Delia explained hurriedly. “We have special exception since our ship docked so late, but … ”
But she still hurried them along. Leta could not take her eyes off the foreign landscape. Her impulse was to stop and stare like they’d arrived on a foreign moon, but Delia shuffled them urgently from the ship to her nearby apartment, taking great care to avoid the watching eyes of higher Society agents.
As they passed through the cobblestone streets, Leta gazed at the posters pasted to the brick walls. Beware the Rogue Verdant! one warned. ATTENTION VALUED CITIZENS OF VESCENT: City curfew in effect …
In the center of the square, Leta actually stopped and gazed at a trifecta of flags blowing in the breeze, each of them proudly displaying the librera. Cyrus quickly steered her away.
When they crested the stairs to the top floor of Delia’s apartment building, Leta hardly heard what her two companions were talking about. Her mind was racing. For the first time since she’d stepped foot on the Dionysian nearly a year ago (she still remembered it vividly — seeing Fiearius yelling at the top of the ramp was burned into her mind) … she was home. She really was home. Or was she?
“We should hurry,” said Delia, fumbling with her keys and dropping them twice before finally opening the door.
Delia’s apartment was clean and comfortable, and barely lived-in; clearly, she traveled a lot for her Society employers. Leta stepped inside numbly, barely taking in her new surroundings. She felt Delia cast her one weary look, as if fearful for what she would do next. Then she turned back to the door and secured the lock, in a rather paranoid fashion. At last, she breathed a sigh of relief.
“You’ll be safe here for now. I think. Just um — make yourself at home,” she offered, offering Cyrus a weak smile.
Cyrus returned the smile but it faltered. “Delia, thank you, that’s–that’s very kind of you, but we can’t stay here. If they find out we’re here … we can’t put you in that kind of danger.”
“But we’ve got to stay off the streets,” Leta pointed out. “They’ll recognize us. Or me, at least.”
“See? You’re way worse off out there than in here,” Delia agreed. She moved into the kitchen and began fussing with a kettle. “There’s no reason for anyone to search my apartment. You can stay here until you figure out how to–” she faltered and tilted her head at them. “I don’t know, whatever you’re planning to do.”
Cyrus glanced at Leta uncertainly. “What are we planning to do?”
“We need to get a ship out of here,” she said sharply.
“I somehow doubt it’ll be that easy,” Cyrus pointed out.
“The docks are the most secure area of the city,” Delia called from the kitchen, “especially for outgoing ships. And most of those outgoing ships are Society ships. Getting you out went okay, but getting you back in a ship will be a lot harder.”
“So what do we do then?” Leta asked, frustrated. “Just wait for someone to come save us?”
This struck her as the most frightening scenario. Fiearius would chase down the Society ship if it meant getting them back. If it meant getting himself killed.
It was almost assuring and terribly frightening for Leta to murmur, “They probably don’t even know where we are.”
Cyrus frowned and pushed his glasses up his nose, the surest sign he was thinking hard. Finally, he said, “No. But I think I have an idea that’ll fix that.” Turning to the kitchen, he called, “Delia? Would you mind if I used your console?”