Corra watched him for a moment, feeling strange all of a sudden. Was it guilt that was making her stomach churn? Here was a man who had just fought to get loose in the world, clearly starving and dirty and barely alive and already he was dedicating his life to helping his fellow allies. And here was Corra, free for four years with a ship and a crew and resources at her disposal and she hadn’t done a single thing.
Which made it all the worse when he asked, “What about you?”
She stared at him, feeling caught. What about her? She was almost afraid to even tell him what her life looked like.
“How long have you been free?” he asked, oblivious to the shame creeping over her. “Have you just been living in Genisi? I heard it was the best place to lay low, that’s why I came here. Not sure how true that is though, all things considered…”
Corra wasn’t listening to his questions. Her mind was churning suddenly with possibilities. She had always said that she wanted her own ship so that she could help other allies. She had the ship and now that they were getting consistent gigs, she had the funds and she even had Finn’s approval from when she’d brought it up a while ago. She just hadn’t ever known how.
When she didn’t answer him, Cai just kept talking to fill the silence. “I’ve been switching up my home base though, y’know? There’s a lot of old abandoned buildings in this city to sleep in. And the weather’s been pretty mild at least, even at night.”
Maybe the universe was sending her a sign. Maybe now was finally the time for her to live up to her promises and take action. It was a message. A message that came in the form of a skinny, bony starving man.
She looked up at him and he stared back at her, confused. “So…you don’t have any food do you?”
“Hang on,” said Corra sharply. “Do you know how to get in touch with these Conduit people?”
“Yeah, of course,” he assured her. “I just haven’t had a chance to, not a lot of consoles around here to–”
But Corra grabbed his arm for the second time today and started to march him towards the door. “I’ll get you a console,” she said. “And I’ll get you some food. And a shower, if you want it. Just come with me to my ship.”
“Oh, yes, that sounds great, I’d–” Cai stopped himself. “Wait. You have a ship?”
– – – – –
“I don’t get it,” said Addy’s voice, crackling through the intercom speakers. She was down in the engine room below Finn’s feet while he sat in the captain’s chair, looking over a half dozen glowing screens in the bridge. “What’s the big deal about Callahan’s ship?”
Finn frowned. After his meeting with Callahan, he’d had the crew load the vessel into the Beacon. As promised, he’d told the crew to stay out of the cargo bay for the duration of the trip. Though it was still unclear why.
“It did look pretty ordinary,” he admitted.
‘It doesn’t just look ordinary, it is ordinary,” Addy went on curiously. “You run into at least five of these models at any major port. Probably one of the cheapest ships you can buy. And I scanned it, there’s nothing odd or impressive about the engine or its tech. Why is he so protective of it?”
‘Who knows,” Finn grunted, leaning back in his seat and drumming his fingers atop the dashboard. “Maybe his client’s just paranoid.”
“Or maybe … “ Addy lifted her voice with excitement. “He’s hiding treasure inside!”
Finn grinned to himself. Addy had recently taken a liking to this pirating business. “Or,” said Finn, “he’s just smuggling weapons.”
“Or treasure! Are you sure we can’t just get in the ship real quick and check it out?”
“We’re already teetering on the edge of Callahan’s favor, best not piss him off again. He says stay away from the cargo, we stay away from the cargo.”
“Oh, you’re no fun.”
“Just get back to your post,” said Finn, sitting up in his chair. “As soon as Corra gets back, we’re leaving this rock.”
“Aye, aye, cap’n buzzkill.”
Smirking slightly, Finn disconnected the call. Just then, footsteps near the doorway made him turn around.
“Speak of the devil,” he called to Corra warmly. But it wasn’t just Corra entering the bridge: she was pulling someone by the arm, a man Finn had never seen before and frankly he looked like she’d found him in a gutter.
Just when Finn opened his mouth blankly, Corra said, “Cai, this is Finn Riley. Riley, this is Cai.” The man smiled, confused, and waved the hand Corra wasn’t holding hostage. He might have been about to say something, but then Corra exclaimed, “We were captured by ally hunters!”
Finn held up his hand in alarm. “Wait, what?”
“It’s fine, it’s fine, we got away,” Corra assured him, shaking off his concern. “But listen. You have to hear about this. Cai here, he told me he’s part of this — this — movement. It’s called the Conduit and it’s a bunch of allies–”
“Frees,” Cai corrected.
“Helping other allies–”
“ — Escape their owners!” Suddenly bouncing up on her feet, Corra grinned at him so brightly, so happily, that Finn almost believed she wasn’t talking about enslavement for a moment. “Riley, we have to contact these people! We have to help them!”
Finn paused, catching his hand in his unruly hair. Clearly, whatever had happened today — and he was unclear what that was exactly — had sent Corra into one of her chains of excitement.
“You want to help free allies?” he said faintly “I — well, that sounds great. But you know…we have a job to do, right? For Callahan?”
Corra’s grin faltered. “Right. Yeah I know. But maybe we could just really quickly–”
Finn shook his head. “Callahan said take this ship to his client right away. No stops. No delays. He meant it.”
Corra’s expression fell into a desperate portrait of despair. Even Cai averted his eyes awkwardly. It was only took seconds for Finn’s thin resolve to weaken and he gave one irresponsible shrug of the shoulder.
“But –” he muttered, and Corra looked up hopefully. He grinned. “Eh, I’m sure we could pull it off.”