“Smartest in engineering, not child-rearing,” Cyrus insisted.
“Doesn’t matter, you love her, you’ll love this baby, you’ll figure it out,” Fiearius argued before releasing his grip on him and continuing off down the hall.
But Cyrus wasn’t finished. “And what if we don’t? What if we can’t?” he snapped, following after him.
“You can,” Fiearius answered simply. “And you will.”
“But–the war and the ships and where are we gonna live and how are we going to raise a child with the Society after us–we can’t just figure it out, it’s not that easy.”
“Good thing you’ve got seven months then,” Fiearius pointed out.
“We’ve only been together for two months, and we weren’t even actually together for most of it, what if it doesn’t work out? What if she decides she hates me?”
“Well then you’ll figure that out too.”
Cyrus drew in a deep breath, presumably to argue some more, but Fiearius suddenly stopped walking and spun around. Cyrus would have plowed right into him had he not seized his shoulders and held him at arm’s length. “Cyrus. I know it’s scary. I know it’s bad timing. I know you’re worried. But you have to have faith that you are going to be an amazing father. However things play out.”
Skepticism masked Cyrus’ face. He continued to glare at him as Fiearius released him again and started to walk away.
He’d only made it a few steps before he heard Cyrus mutter begrudgingly, “I don’t believe you.”
Fiearius grinned and called back over his shoulder, “I know. But you will.”
It was strange to be back in the mess hall, surrounded by the Dionysian’s crew. With her pack slung over her shoulder and a small bag of luggage in her hand, she looked even more out of place than usual: merely a temporary traveler amongst this rabble of a family. But despite appearances, the familiar faces greeted her with as much enthusiasm as ever. Amora had wrapped her in a bear hug, Rhys called out to her “Lyra!” and even Maya gave her a warm smile.
She was unsurprised to hear that the crew was all gathered here at the request of their captain. No doubt he wanted to make some sort of dramatic speech to rally them. It was just Fiearius’ brand of narcissism. So she’d happily pulled up a chair and sat back in eager anticipation with her old friends until at last she spotted Fiearius as he strode inside the doorway, Cyrus hovering behind him.
“Alright, listen up!” Fiearius shouted, and all conversation stopped simultaneously. Every eye trained on the captain as he walked forward into the center of the room. His tone was calm and reflective as he went on, “My crew. My dear faithful crew.”
His eyes scanned the room in one large swoop, taking in all the faces around him. He took in a deep breath. “You’ve all followed me into some real shit and back. It probably won’t surprise you that I’m not really one for open-faced gratitude. I don’t say it often. But I appreciate it. I appreciate everything, all the danger and all the recklessness and all the crap you’ve put up with. And I’m here to ask if you’ll put up with it one more time.
“We all have different reasons for being here,” he went on. “For some of us, that reason is that we can’t go home. And for some of us…we’ll never be able to.” His gaze traveled to Eve who was seated solidly in the front, listening with heavy intent, and beyond her, Nikki who was huddled under Javier’s arm, so distraught he barely even looked like himself. Leta felt her heart clench. The loss of Archeti was visible everywhere, even here.
Fiearius drew in a deep breath. “I’m sure you’ve noticed that we’re docked to a Carthian station. And you might have wondered ‘what the fuck are we doing? Carthis is a piece of shit’. And you’re right. But!” He raised a finger in the air. “With Carthis we’ve been given a chance. A chance to get our homes back and to make sure no one else loses theirs. And we–I–am going to take that chance.”
“Tomorrow the Dionysian heads for Vescent,” he said decisively. “Our main objective is to deliver someone you might recognize to where she needs to go.” He gestured to Leta. “But we’ve got people, we’ve got weapons and we’re pirates for fuck’s sake, so to hell if taxi service is all we’re gonna do. We’re gonna fight. We’re gonna make sure Leta gets there safe. And we’re gonna win.”
There was a general murmur of excitement and interest around the room. The crew glanced around at one another, shuffled in their seats, muttered their thoughts, but they died off as quickly as they’d started.
“Tomorrow,” Fiearius said again, his voice more hesitant this time. “The Dionysian takes a step forward it can’t turn back from. Tomorrow, we’re starting a war against the Society. Some of you have no qualm with the Society. Some have even more cause to hate them than me. But this could be an extensive campaign. I’ve made my decision and this ship’s in it for the long haul. Til the very end, whatever that end may be. If you want no part in this, speak up now. We can have you put on another ship and taken wherever you need to go. No problem.
“But. Regardless of your history with the Society, we all saw what they’re capable of this week. And I don’t think anyone in this room can doubt that they need to be put down. Tomorrow the Dionysian goes to war. But she’s nothing without her crew. I ask that you stand with me. One more time. Stand with me and we can end this. Stand with me and we can change the Span. Stand with me and let’s make this shitty old rustbucket part of history.”
The mess hall went up in a cheer of fervor. Rhys let out a whooping yell. Eve jumped to her feet and seized the captain in a crushing hug. And despite herself, Leta couldn’t stop from beaming at Fiearius as he joyously rallied his crew around him. As soon as she realized, she wiped the grin off her face lest anyone see, but perhaps it was too late. When she looked back up, she found Fiearius watching her, a smile of his own lighting his face. A cocky one. He raised a knowing brow at her and she frowned good-naturedly in response, crossing her arms over her chest.
Relenting, she made her way towards the thinning crowd around him as they presumably moved off to engage in one of their traditional Dionysian celebrations.
“Nice speech,” she remarked dryly as he finally wrenched Eve away from him and turned towards her.
“Liked it, huh?” he asked. “Knew you would.”
Leta just rolled her eyes. “Listen–I’d really like to go over the map with you one more time, make sure we–”
But Fiearius was no longer paying attention. “Richelle!” he called out to the young brunette as she wandered towards the kitchen. She glanced back at him in surprise to hear her name and turned their way. Despite her rather…odd induction onto the ship, Leta couldn’t help but like the girl. She’d certainly grown a lot amongst the crew and now, it was difficult to believe the circumstances of her first day aboard had even happened.
“Need something capitaine?” she asked cheerfully.
Fiearius jutted his thumb towards Cyrus who was still silently sulking behind him. “I hear this guy’s been giving you engine lessons, huh?”
“Oh, yes!” she exclaimed. “Thrice a week.” She smiled proudly. “I absolutely love it. Who knew?”
Fiearius hardly seemed to be paying attention to her answer. “He says you’re a natural at it.” Richelle beamed. “How confident do you feel about manning it alone?”
The beaming stopped instantly.
Cyrus, who perhaps hadn’t been listening at all before, was suddenly tuned in. “Wait–what?” he demanded, stalking forwards into the circle.
But Fiearius spoke over him. “You think you could handle it on the trip to Vescent and back?”
Richelle glanced between the two brothers nervously. “Well–Alone? I don’t know if I’d–”
“What are you talking about?” Cyrus snapped. “I can’t–she’s not ready to–”
“We can get Cy set up with a COMM to keep in touch from the station,” Fiearius explained calmly.
Cyrus was anything but calm. “The station? You’re leaving me here?!”
Truthfully Leta wasn’t at all sure of what was going on, but it certainly seemed as though Fiearius had simply lost his mind. Cyrus had always run the engine on the Dionysian. The ship didn’t move without him. “Fiear,” she muttered, “is that a good idea?”
Fiearius ignored her and put a hand on his sibling’s shoulder affectionately. “Cy, Addy needs you right now. You have a responsibility to her first, so yeah. I’m leaving you here.” He patted him firmly. “Besides, you’re in no shape for this kind of operation and you know it.”
Cyrus was dumbstruck. “But–But the Dionysian–”
“Will be fine without you,” Fiearius assured him. “If you can, take Richelle down to the engine and give her one last lesson of yours. It’s a simple trip with the possibility of a little tiny bit of maneuvering involved. She’ll be fine. We’ll be fine. You’ll be fine.” He grinned at the both of them. “Get to it.” And then added to Leta as he turned to walk away, “Maps, you said? Maps. Great. Let’s do it.”
Leta felt a tad shell-shocked, but not nearly as much as Cyrus and Richelle looked. They stared at each other in worry and, in Cyrus’ case, exasperation as Leta hurried down the hall after the captain, feeling perplexed. Funny, she couldn’t help but think. Chasing after Fiearius in a state of confusion before a horribly dangerous mission? It felt just like old times.