“How the hell did this happen?”
Fiearius stalked back and forth through the cramped space of the Dionysian’s bridge, his breathing short, a hand caught in his hair. Every inch of him was shaking. Dez and Eve were in the doorway, watching him in shocked silence.
Quin answered him over the speakers. “It was a miscommunication,” she grunted. “We were awaiting them aboard our ship, but the Lagartha claimed they had them.” There was a pause. “They didn’t.”
“Well you shouldn’t have fucking left until you were sure,” Fiearius snapped. Already, he could envision what would happen when Leta and Cyrus were discovered aboard that Society ship. He could see agents cornering them, holding guns against their heads, dragging them to some Society docking base — and then —
Bile rose in his throat. He forced the thought from his mind.
“There wasn’t time, Soliveré,” Quin went on. “We were being murdered out there. We had to pull out. There wasn’t time for extra precautions.”
Fiearius glared coldly at the speaker, as if it were Quin herself. He couldn’t even bring himself to answer. He would have made time. He wouldn’t have left them. Why the fuck hadn’t he been there? Why hadn’t he put the Dionysian aboard? He never would have made that mistake.
“Look, both your brother and Adler are smart,” Quin went on, her voice softening. “Cyrus knows that ship better than any of us. Adler’s armed. They’ll manage. They’ll make it out of this, sweetheart, I promise.”
Usually Quin’s rare moments of kindness worked wonders on him — now, he found her attitude infuriating.
“Don’t call me that,” he growled, and then abruptly hit the dial to end the call. She was obviously of no use. Frustrated, he rounded on Dez, who waited near the door.
“Where’s the Titan going? Can we follow it?”
“We may be able to find it, yes.” After a short, thoughtful pause, Dez added, “But it might not be wise.”
“Wise?” Anger darkened Fiearius’ face as he marched toward him. “Do you think I care about what’s wise?”
Dez said nothing, but continued to gaze at him as if waiting for something interesting to occur. Frustrated, Fiearius turned on Eve instead. “And you — you had one order. One simple order. Stay with them. Protect them. It’s all I asked you to do.”
Eve met his glare with firm resolve. “We were bein slaughtered, cap’n,” she offered, her voice steady. “I had to help.”
“Had to help?” Fiearius said incredulously. “You had to abandon your post? Had to?! Who the hell told you you had to?”
“I did,” put in Dez suddenly. “I needed assistance and Harper was the only asset available. I ordered her to accompany me.”
“And how — “ Fiearius laughed once, hysterical and bitter. “How exactly did you come into the idea that that was your call to make?”
“At the time, it was the right call.” Dez shrugged. “That was enough for me.”
Fiearius felt a powerful urge to smash his fist into his face. Restraining himself, he growled at Eve, “He does not command you. You do not follow his orders. You follow mine, do you not understand that?”
“I know, captain.” Eve clenched her jaw grimly, her eyes wide and apologetic. “I wouldn’t have left ‘em if it weren’t dire.”
“You shouldn’t have left them at all,” Fiearius groaned. “Now thanks to you two, they’re stuck on the Titan which is gods know where. Captured or interrogated or worse.”
Though as much blame and anger he doled out, he still couldn’t stave off his own pit of guilt threatening to swallow him whole. Eve, Dez, Quin, all of them could have messed up, but the fact remained: he was the one who put them there to begin with.
But the moment he let those thoughts surface, he could feel himself start to break down. So he forced them aside and stalked back over to the console.
“But it’s alright,” he breathed, pretending he didn’t notice that his voice was shaking. “It’s alright because we’re going to fix this.”
“R — right, that’s right, captain,” said Eve quickly, her voice heartened. “We’ll get them back — get ‘em right back.”
Dez was less optimistic. “Even if we could track it, the chances of us catching up to it, the chances of us getting close enough to get them out are astronomically small,” he said as though he was discussing sports statistics and not living people.
“Dez–” Eve muttered, attempting to quiet him.
But Desophyles was nothing if not relentless. “It’s foolish to sacrifice ourselves on a lost cause. We need to move forward, not backward. A mistake was made, but it’s too late, they’re probably already dea–”
“Out,” Fiearius ordered, before he could finish the word. His voice was quiet, but low enough that Dez got the hint. He fell silent, but he didn’t move. “Out,” he said again, sharper this time. Eve quickly bowed her head and hurried from the room. But it was only when Fiearius turned to him and shouted, “Get. Out!” did Dez finally lift his brows in admission and turn for the door.
Alone, finally, Fiearius felt defeat start to wash over him. Defeat and despair and loss.
He reached a hand toward the communication console. After a few seconds of silence, the bridge filled with the cheerful voice of Corra.
“Fiear! Hey!” She sounded terribly happy. “How’d your big raid go? Get lots of treasure?”
His throat burned. He could barely breath as he said, “No. No, It went bad.” He felt dizzy. The lights on the console were blurring in his vision as he managed to utter, “Leta and Cyrus are gone.”
Heavy, expectant silence filled the line until Corra said, “Stay where you are. We’ll be there as soon as we can.”
– – –
One second Fiearius’ voice was filling the hall, worried but so assuring, and the next second — his voice was gone. He was gone. The Dionysian was gone. Cyrus could not believe it. His heart dropped into his stomach.
Dizzily, his feet staggered sideways, and he pressed his palm against the nearest wall to balance himself. This was not how this was supposed to go. ‘Easy,’ Fiearius had said. This job would be easy. He suddenly had the sickly sensation he might sink to the floor.
At his side, Leta didn’t seem to be holding it together much better. “Cy, we … we have to … ” but her voice trailed off into despair as she locked her eyes on him, panicked. “The shuttles,” she breathed suddenly, as if this were the answer to everything. “This ship has shuttles. We have to get to the shuttles.”
“Right,” he agreed, standing up straight. “Shuttles. Yes. Shuttles. We’ll just steal a shuttle.”
“Yes!” said Leta, looking almost crazed in her agreement. “Exactly! That’s how we’ll get out of here.”
“I know where those are!” he told her, fully aware of the frantic he sounded. He grabbed her wrist, turned back the way they’d come and headed down the hall.
Deck F, starboard corridor. Down the hall, hang a right, down three flights of stairs, blast doors on the right. He’d studied the blueprints of the Titan enough to know where he could find the shuttle bay. The only problem was getting there undetected.
When they rounded the first corner, Cyrus got his first look at exactly how much damage their raid had caused. The walls were blackened and charred, the lights on the ceiling dangling out of place. The stench of blood and fire met his nose and as he carefully crept around the corner, he stepped over the unmoving corpse of someone he thought he recognized — one of Quin’s guys he’d seen around.
Cyrus swallowed hard and, ignoring the rest of the burnt and bloody faces staring blankly up at him, kept on for the stairwell.
Unfortunately, the further they went, the more carnage filled his vision. But it was Leta who breathed, “Gods, this was a slaughter.”
Cyrus glanced back at her. ‘Easy’ Fiearius’ voice said again in his mind. He had to wonder how many of their own had fallen here. And, grimly, whether he and Leta were doomed to join them.
But before his imagination could get the better of him, reality stepped in to answer. Cyrus froze in place, holding out a hand to stop Leta as well. Voices. Footsteps. Coming fast. At once, his mind was filled with images of what would happen if they were caught, alive, aboard this ship. Two wanted fugitives with exclusive access to a third? None of them were pretty.