For the first time in weeks, Corra was in good spirits. She’d managed to spend some quality time with Leta which always helped her mood. Cyrus (and Fiearius, though he was irrelevant) was aboard her ship for their short jaunt to Archeti and although he and Addy had mostly been confined to her bedroom, it was hard not to feel happy for him. And just now, she and Finn had loaded another of Callahan’s shipments into the cargo bay and it hadn’t been awkward at all.
Things truly seemed to be looking up.
Finn had then left to visit to their client to talk numbers, a meeting Corra hadn’t even needed to lie to get out of, leaving her to a quiet afternoon to herself until they headed back to the CORS that evening.
Well, somewhat quiet.
“You could have warned me that my mother was going to be here,” Alyx said, marching into the bridge where Corra was lounging in the captain’s chair.
Subduing her laughter, Corra turned to her navigator. “I told you Fiear and Leta were meeting with her.”
“Meeting with her, sure,” said Alyx as she sat down in her own seat, arms folded over her chest. “But I didn’t realize they’d be bringing her back here. Or that she’d be coming with us. I was just minding my own business in the mess and I look up and suddenly bam. There she is. Stalking through like she owns the place. I had to duck under the table just so she wouldn’t notice me.” She groaned and put her hands over her eyes. “Permission to hide in my quarters the rest of the journey captain?”
Corra laughed. “You don’t need my permission for that ever.”
“And thank god for that,” Alyx mumbled, dragging her hands off her face and glancing down at her console. “Oh, hey, you’re getting a call. Looks like Raisa from the Conduit.”
“Ooh.” Corra sat up straight in her chair. “Put her through.” Alyx nodded and hit a button, allowing the familiar voice of Corra’s old fellow ally to fill the room.
“Corra? You read me?”
“Loud and clear, Rai,” Corra replied, unable to hold back her grin. Though the Beacon had been busy appeasing their paying client lately, it hadn’t stopped Corra from keeping in constant contact with the Conduit and offering as much help as she could give. So far they’d given a ride to a nearby stranded Conduit agent, dug up the location of a few missing allies and even rescued one whose escape attempt hadn’t quite gone as planned. It wasn’t much, but Corra was eager to do more. As stimulating as ship runs for Callahan were (not at all), working with the Conduit actually felt like what she was meant to be doing.
“I hear you’re on Archeti?” asked Raisa, her signal fuzzing.
“Yeah, until tonight,” Corra answered, having a feeling she knew where this was going. Archeti was a known hotspot for ally traders looking for new product. On fancier planets, only the poor street scum were up for grabs and they were often rounded up quickly by the larger trading institutions. But on Archeti, everyone was street scum and no one seemed to notice when their neighbors just vanished into thin air.
“Hm, that’s not long, but maybe you could look into something for me anyway?” she asked. “I’ve been getting a lot of reports lately of an influx of Archetian allies on the market.”
“That’s not really unusual,” Corra pointed out. “Aren’t there always a ton of ‘em?”
“There are, but at this point, we’ve got a handle on all the known traders who collect in masses,” Raisa explained. “There are some small fries that slip through the cracks, but anyone capable of introducing this many to the market all in one go? We know about them and we’re already working on it. This new wave though…”
Corra frowned. “Someone else?”
“We think so. That or it’s one of the usuals changing their methods now that we’re watching. Either way, it’s not good. Whoever’s running it has a tight operation. They’re near impossible to track. All we know is that they’re coming out of Genisi.”
“That’s not a lot to go on,” Corra admitted. “Genisi’s kind of…big…”
“I know and I don’t expect you to be able to figure the whole mystery out, especially on that time frame. I just thought I’d throw it out there and if you know anyone who might have heard something…”
“Yeah, I’ll see what I can do,” she promised, said a word of goodbye and disconnected the call. The bridge fell into a strange, uncomfortable silence for a moment. Something was wrong and Corra couldn’t quite place her finger on it.
Alyx was watching her curiously. Finally, she suggested, “You could ask Quin. She might have heard something.”
Corra nodded, still frowning thoughtfully at the floor as she stood up from her chair. “That’s a good idea,” she muttered as her feet started to drift into the hallway. She kept walking, wondering why she suddenly felt so off. This wasn’t unusual. In Genisi, people capitalizing on the ally trade was as common as people getting mugged. Aside from this newcomer apparently having some good tech behind them, this was just the same old thing.
Then why did Corra feel so unsettled by that conversation?
Regardless, Alyx had a point. If anyone would know anything about the underbelly of Genisi, it was Quin who practically policed it herself. So she headed down to the guest quarters where she easily found the woman in deep discussion with Fiearius about–well, something.
As Corra stood on the precipice of the room, their words didn’t meet her ears. Instead, she just recited her question again in her head: ‘Ms. Utada, do you know anything about a new ally trader in the city?’
But when she opened her mouth, that wasn’t the question that fell out.
“A long time ago, you told me you wouldn’t work with Callahan because you didn’t want his dirty money,” Corra said, her tongue seemingly acting on its own volition. “What did you mean by that?”
The conversation in the room stopped. Both Quin and Fiearius looked at her curiously. Corra didn’t even know where that had come from. The comment, so flippant and many months ago now, had all but left her memory. But it hadn’t. It had stayed there, looming, hovering, hinting at something she didn’t want to even consider. That she’d blocked herself from considering, even. She had passed it off as insignificant paranoia. It was unimportant. But now? Now, suddenly, it seemed more important than ever.
It was a long moment before any spoke or moved. And then finally, much to Corra’s horror, Quin’s face fell into an expression it should not have been making ever: pity.
“Oh sweetie,” she cooed, standing up from where she sat on the bed and taking a few steps towards her. Corra hoped she was imagining it, prayed even, please, let her be imagining it, but she wasn’t. Quin’s eyes had settled just to the left of Corra’s. On her ear. “You don’t know?”
Corra felt her stomach fold in on itself. She couldn’t see the room anymore, nor the people in it. She couldn’t hear the voices nor the sounds of the ship. She couldn’t feel her feet as they suddenly turned from the room and pounded back down the hall.
It couldn’t be true. It really couldn’t be. She couldn’t believe it and she wouldn’t believe it until she saw it with her own eyes. She raced towards the cargo bay where they had not half an hour ago loaded a new ship. One of those common, cheapy ones, Addy had called it. Dime a dozen. But somehow special enough that Corra wasn’t allowed to go near it, to touch it, to open it. Well, it was going to be opened now–