“Nauseous…” Daelen muttered lamely, staring down at the mess, disheartened. “I’ll go get a mop…”
As he walked away, Corra too was staring at it, a grimace on her face. “Ew.”
Disgusted, exhausted, confused and still nauseous, Fiearius was hardly in the mood for Corra’s flippancy. “What the hell,” he began through heaving breaths, “is going on?”
Finally, her face softened and she turned her big brown doe eyes on him in, of all things, pity. “You were acting crazy, Fiear. You were going to get yourself killed. Or kill us. We had to stop you, I’m sorry…”
“I’m not crazy,” he growled.
“No no, of course you’re not,” she admitted in a hurry. “You’re just in a really hard place right now. I understand. But you’ve gotta stay with us, okay?” She put her hand on his arm. “We need you. To figure this out, we need you sane and conscious and not on the verge of committing suicide or homicide or genocide or whatever you were planning. Okay?”
Despite himself, he felt his resolve weaken. Corra had a hard face to say no to. But still. “I’m not leaving them there.”
“I’m not asking you to,” she assured him. “But we’re gonna find the right way to not leave them. The way that doesn’t end up with you dead.”
Just then, Daelen returned and began cleaning up the unfortunate mess covering the floor. Corra smiled at him in pity and then said, “Finn and I are going through our options. You stay here for a little bit, get some rest, let the good doctor check you out and come join us when you’re feeling better, okay?” She smiled at him kindly and then turned for the door, leaving Fiearius alone with Daelen in silence.
Fiearius glanced down at the man as he effortlessly wiped away the remains of his breakfast. “Sorry…” he muttered.
Daelen looked up at him and smiled. “It shouldn’t surprise you that I’m quite used to it. Surgeons see a lot of blood and guts. General practitioners get all the less romanticized bodily fluids.” He then laughed heartily as though he’d just told an amusing joke.
“Right,” Fiearius muttered, the humor lost on him. Meanwhile, Daelen propped the mop against the wall and moved to the console.
“Well my patients always thought it was funny,” he mused lightly and then, without skipping a beat, as though it was the most natural question in the world, he asked, “So what did you take?”
Fiearius looked up in shock. How did he–But he hadn’t–
“What?” was all he could choke out.
Daelen just looked back at him calmly. “What did you take?” he asked again, an image of patience. When Fiearius did nothing but continue to watch him, horrified, he went on, “Captain Soliveré, your blood test results are quite clear. Paired with your erratic behavior and your recent bout of sickness, the correlation is obvious. It will make it a lot easier for me to do my job if you just tell me what it was you took and how much.”
Fiearius could barely process his words. His head was already swimming in the implications. Daelen knew. He knew the secret he’d been keeping for all these months. And if Daelen knew, it was only a matter of time before Leta knew. Before everyone knew. Before everything came crashing down. As if it hadn’t already.
The doctor must have sensed his discomfort. He turned from the console and stepped towards him. “Captain, need I remind you, everything said between us here is entirely confidential. It needn’t be verbally shared nor included on any written record. I took an oath and I hold to it firmly. But I need you to tell me so that I can help you.”
Despite his reassurances, Fiearius couldn’t stop imagining the look on Leta’s face when she found out. And if she ever made if off Vescent, she would find out. He’d always known she would. Since the beginning. He had always known it would be their end, but now it was closer than ever and he couldn’t ignore it anymore. He looked up at Daelen, sure that the pleading was apparent in his eyes. His mouth tightened shut. The doctor sighed.
“Alright,” he said in admission. “Fine.” He turned from the bed and moved back to the console. “But I’ll tell you this much. Whatever it is, you need to stop taking it. These test results are bad. Very bad. I’ll give you a prescription for something that should help with any withdrawals you might experience, but there’s not much else I can do without an identification.” He glanced over at him, his usual friendly face going dark and serious. “But stop now. Or you might not have much time left.”
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Daelen had left Fiearius alone in the infirmary, giving him ten minutes to get himself together, as if that was even possible: he sat on the edge of the exam bench, pinching the bridge of his nose with his hand. Nausea swam through his stomach. His mind reeling. The Titan, Vescent, now this? He could practically feel the foundation crumbling beneath his feet. What the hell was he going to do now? What was his next move? Everything was falling apart and what could he —
“Fiearius?” came a sudden voice in the doorway. Fiearius dropped his hand and was startled to see, of all people, Addy. Though he knew Cyrus was infatuated with her, Fiearius himself had never actually spoken to her alone. Clearly, she was nervous: she wrung her hands together and started speaking very quickly.
“Hi. Sorry to interrupt, but I need to talk to you. It’s — pretty important.” She blew a shaky breath from her lips and said, to his astonishment, “I can do it. I can go to Vescent.”
Fiearius awaited an explanation. She looked shocked by her own daring.
“What?” As little as he knew her, he knew she wasn’t stupid. She certainly didn’t seem reckless. So where was this coming from?
“I can do it,” she said again, more firmly this time. “And I think I’m the only one who can.”
Fiearius stared at her, dumbfounded. “What are you talking about?” he asked. “If you think they don’t know you’re associated with us just ‘cause you’re new, I’ve got some bad news.”
Addy shook her head hurriedly. “No no, it’s not that, I–”
“And you’re a defector, aren’t you?” he went on. “You left Satieri. If that’s recorded, you’d be as much a target as the rest of us.”
“Right, yeah, I am a defector, technically,” she managed, her voice surprisingly steady given the alarm in her face. “But I’ve been … working under a different alias. I guess you could say.” She looked like she would’ve liked to smile, but her lips twitched bitterly. “My dad gave me a new CID, a whole new identity, so I could get off Satieri safely. Adrasteia Atelier, as far as the Society knows, is still working in her father’s garage on Paradiex. I, on the other hand, am Rena Eisen, an Ellegian engineering consultant, documented freelancer for a variety of tech companies throughout the Span. All parts of the Span. Society-run parts included.”
Suddenly, it all made sense. Addy had an advantage. An incredible advantage. Her father had smartly ensured that. Of course, it made sense, he voluntarily sent his daughter away from Satieri rather than the scattered hurried fleeing of the Soliveré brothers. Why wouldn’t he take precautions to make sure she’d be safe and able to move about freely? She could travel to Vescent without detection. Her alias would cover her. It was genius. It was perfect.
But it was still suicide.
“It’s too dangerous,” Fiearius decided at once as he pushed himself up to his feet. “Getting onto Vescent is one thing, getting off is another. And though you may be covered, your passengers wouldn’t be. Leaving won’t just be a matter of boarding a ship and flying off. It’ll take a little more…”
He didn’t want to say ‘skills’ because surely Addy had plenty. But if things didn’t go smoothly, if it at all went south, he didn’t even know if Addy had fired a gun before. In the middle of Society territory didn’t seem like the smartest place to start.
Fiearius started toward the door, ready to pass her, but Addy didn’t move. Abruptly, she dropped her hands to her sides and said, “Sorry, Fiearius. I should have clarified. It’s not that I can go to Vescent. It’s that I am. I’m going.” Her eyes were wide, shining with determination. “I’m going after them.”
Fiearius felt a pained laugh tumble out of him. “Look,” he said, holding his forehead, “I’m willing to consider any option we have, believe me. I want nothing more than to have them back, but I’m not gonna sacrifice you to make it happen, alright? If anyone’s going to Vescent, it’ll be me.” He looked away from her with a frown. “Just as soon as I figure how to get there…”
“No, you don’t understand.” She swallowed. “I’m not asking for your permission, or anyone else’s. I already made contact with a passenger vessel. I’m going to Vescent. If you could please give me that address from the message, that would be helpful. But I’m going regardless.”
She looked gravely serious. Fiearius could not believe her.
“This is crazy,” he breathed. “This is completely crazy. I hope you know that.”
Addy stared back at him, holding his gaze. But Fiearius couldn’t say he was surprised. He hadn’t paid enough attention before to really know what it was that Cyrus saw in this seemingly meek engineer girl, but now it made so much sense. His brother had always fallen for women who could kick his ass.
“I have a chance to save them, Fiearius,” Addy said evenly. “It’s too dangerous for any of you to go, but I have a chance. And I’m taking it. Tell me you wouldn’t do the same.”
He met her eyes firmly, reading the intensity behind them. Of course he would. In a heartbeat. So as much as it pained him, as much as he knew Cyrus would kill him when he found out, he relented. “Fine. If I can’t stop you…I guess I’ll just have to help you.”
“That’d be nice,” said Addy, cracking the tiniest of smiles. She stepped into the room and quickly became all business. “I came to you first because Corra and Finn will be horrified. I know they won’t let me go. But what’re you thinking?”
Fiearius leaned against the counter and folded his arms. “We’ll find a map. Plan out a route through the city with as few checkpoints as possible,” he decided. “Get you a gun. Something small, like any regular traveler would carry for self defense. Work out the specifics of why you’re visiting in case someone asks. Oh and cancel the passenger ship. Can’t trust any old crew, they’re likely just looking to make a profit.”
Addy nodded, but tilted her head in confusion. “How am I gonna get there then?”
Fiearius pushed himself from the counter and took a few steps towards her. “Well. What better for a consulting engineer to travel in than a high tech Sonnete-built fighter, lent to her for her visit to their subsidiary on Vescent?” He raised a brow at her. “Don’t suppose you know how to disable Corra’s alarms?”