Chapter 34: Escape Plan

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“It’s just a matter of getting the timing right,” Cyrus said, pointing at the timetable he’d posted to the wall of Delia’s guest bedroom. It was scribbled with his notes and calculations that he’d spent the entire week writing.

A full week had past since they’d arrived on Vescent. A full week of pacing across Delia’s apartment, tearing his hair out, staring out the windows, making note of every ship they saw land and take off from the city docks a few miles away …

Only now did Cyrus feel he was making any sort of progress on escaping.

“We just need to be at the dock when one of these merchants are taking off,” he explained to Leta, pointing to his list of potential escape vessels. “We can sneak aboard and just hide out until they land at their next stop.”

Leta was nodding, but she wrinkled her forehead in concern.  “How will we know where they’re going?”

“Well, we won’t,” he admitted. “But anywhere’s better than here, right?”

“Not Satieri,” she said at once. “Or  Ellegy. Or — ”

“Okay. Point taken.” He turned back to timetable and frowned. “Maybe there’s a way to find out in advance…”

“There’s also the matter of actually getting to the docks,” said Leta, and Cyrus had to concede that she was right: that was a whole other issue altogether. How would they travel safely through the city?

The previous evening, while Delia was at work and Cyrus had been shut in the apartment watching the skies, Leta had made a decision: she would venture out into her home city, donning a Ridellian headscarf to hide her face, and learn as much as she could to aid their escape.

When she’d returned after only a half hour, Cyrus knew immediately something went badly: looking numb and shell-shocked, Leta had slipped off the scarf, dropped it to the floor, and then sank into the nearest chair. For several hours, she barely spoke to him, and Cyrus could get nothing out of her. If only Fiearius were here, he’d thought, for the thousandth time. Leta would have talked to Fiear, he was sure of it.

It was late that night — after Delia had gone to sleep, and the whole apartment was dark and quiet — that Leta told him what happened. They were both lying awake, unable to sleep in the guest bed they were sharing.

“I saw them kill someone,” she said suddenly, breaking the silence. “There was an execution. In the city square.”

She was gazing up at the ceiling, her expression mute and unreadable.

“Agents surrounded this man — this old, elderly man — forced him to his knees. They said he was a defector. And then they shot him in the head. I watched them hose the blood off the sidewalk.”

Cyrus swallowed hard in his throat. Leta turned to him, her eyes shining with horror. “How did I ever work for them? How can Delia work for them now?”

“Delia doesn’t know who she’s working for,” he reminded quietly. “The Society will say the execution was necessary, that the man was dangerous … that they’re protecting their citizens … ”

He fell silent when Leta closed her eyes, though not because she was sleeping. Quietly, she’d said, “We have to get out of here, Cy. We have to get home.”

The following day, Leta seemed both exhausted and jumpy, but more determined than ever to help Cyrus plan their escape. She squinted at the timetable again, holding her fingers across her lips.

“What if we pick a certain time of day to head to the docks?” she suggested. “When there’s a flood of people there, we could hide in the crowd.”

Before Cyrus could consider the idea, a gentle knock sounded at the bedroom door. They both turned to see the door crack open an inch, Delia peering through.

“Hey, sorry to interrupt,” she said. “Just thought you guys might like some food? I picked up some takeout on the way home.”

“That’d be great, thanks,” said Cyrus, a rare smile coming to his face. Really, Delia had been nothing but accommodating since she’d shuffled them into her apartment and kept them on lock-down. More than accommodating really. She was risking her life, letting them even stay with her. Did she realize it?

Whatever her reasons were, Cyrus could not quite fathom, but he was grateful nonetheless. He’d been wary of trusting her at first. After all, whether she knew it or not, she had two fugitives in a potentially compromising situation. But she didn’t ask too many questions and Cyrus had begun to appreciate her more than he’d thought possible.

Leta cast a longing look at the timetable — he suspected she did not particularly want to take a break — but she followed them into the kitchen nonetheless. Cyrus helped Delia pull takeout boxes from the bags.

“So how’s the escape plan going?” she asked, smiling in an apologetic sort of way.

Cyrus laughed awkwardly. ‘’Bout as well as can be expected. I think we’re really getting somewhere though. We’ll be out of your hair soon enough.”

Delia shook her head. “No, no, you’re no trouble at all,” she said and when Cyrus’ smile faltered unsurely, she added through a laugh, “I mean, obviously, you’re potentially huge trouble. Massive trouble. Right? But as far as houseguests go, no trouble at all. It’s kind of nice having people around for once, even if they are in hiding. Everyone I know is back on Satieri.”

Cyrus and Leta exchanged a look. Cyrus lowered into his chair and asked, “What made you decide to leave Satieri, anyway?”

Delia sat down to her own plate and shrugged. “Better job offer. Sonnete was great, but they had no intentions of making me more than a secretary. So when the Society offered me the job on the Titan with better pay, opportunity to travel? Of course I took it. And I don’t regret it for an instant. It’s a great ship with a fantastic crew. Feels like a big family. The only problem is it’s–” Discomfort passed over her face. “Well, dangerous sometimes…And that family can get smaller.”

Cyrus felt guilt billow inside him. This woman who was going so far out of her way to help them probably knew people that had been caught in the crossfire of the raid. In some way he shared the blame in their deaths. And she had no idea.

“But I’m sure you know all about danger,” she went on, looking up with interest. “On a pirate ship and all. I can’t even imagine. It must be terrifying.”

It often was, Cyrus thought, but not for the reasons Delia believed. Cyrus had lied to her outright. He’d told her that he and Leta were merely kidnapped victims trapped aboard the pirate ship of a notorious criminal. It felt wrong, lying about his situation and painting a very inaccurate portrait of his brother. Certainly Fiearius didn’t need one more person to hate and fear him. But Cyrus certainly didn’t need Delia thinking they were enemies. It was far easier this way.

Easier, right up until Delia said things like, “Gods, that rogue Verdant character seems horrific.”

At his side, Cyrus could feel Leta pause in the act of reaching for her drink. All Cyrus did was murmur agreeably.

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