Leta stopped in the hallway abruptly and Fiearius nearly plowed into her as she glared up at him. “Fiear…Why are you here?” she asked again, more sternly this time.
Fiearius glanced at Cyrus and tilted his head, which was a message he seemed to understand. “Alright, we’re gonna go get settled in,” said Cyrus. “Guest quarters still in the same place?” he asked as he took Kalli’s hand from Leta’s.
“Yeah, just tell the cadet on duty who you’re with, they’ll find a place for you,” Leta assured them, her eyes on Fiearius.
As they walked away, Cyrus leaned down to add to his daughter, “And then maybe we’ll look into sledding,” which made the little girl shriek in excitement and put a smile on Leta’s face.
But then she turned back to Fiearius and the smile vanished once more. “Okay. Explain yourself.”
Fiearius laughed and shook his head as he kept on down the hall. “Still as demanding as ever I see.”
“If you’re on Vescent in the middle of winter, you must have a damn good reason and I want to know what it is,” she said simply. “If that means ordering an admiral about then–”
“Captain,” he corrected, matter-of-factly, “Not admiral.”
“Sorry, Fiear, but you are an admiral, whether you like it or not. You command a fleet in a war. You rank equal to Gates. You’re an admiral.”
But Fiearius just brushed her off. “I prefer captain.”
For a moment, Leta considered arguing further. But then she realized it was probably fruitless. “Fine. Captain,” she emphasized, “Last time we spoke, you were out by Ascendia tearing apart a Society base. And now you just show up here? Without even a word of warning.” He opened his mouth to say something but she cut him off. “And it’s not because you think I like surprises. Why are you here?”
Somehow, miraculously, he seemed to recognize that he wasn’t going to get out of this one. So he sighed, looked down at her and admitted, “I’m only here to see you actually.”
Leta’s brow furrowed at once, suspicious.
“Business, not pleasure,” he amended quickly and then grinned. “Don’t get too excited.”
Fiearius’ ‘business’ was not something Leta was sure she wanted to be involved in. Most of it took place on the front lines, sneaking onto Society bases, assassinating Society leaders, flying reconnaissance in Society space. Leta had always gotten the impression that Gates and the other Carthian higher-ups would have preferred their partnering admiral take on more of a command role. He should have been in offices and war rooms and strategy meetings to determine where best to send the vast fleet of rogues and criminals at his beck and call.
But in traditional Fiearius fashion, he ignored all of Gates’ requests and continued to barrel head-first into whatever danger presented itself to him. And who were the Carthians to argue? Their agreement put Soliveré and his fleet separate to their direct control so they had no ground there. Fiearius’ heroics had brought in waves of good press and support they could never have garnered on their own. And besides all that, he’d been hugely successful. Or so she had thought until now.
“What kind of business?”
“Important business,” he answered carelessly. “But not time sensitive. It can wait.”
Leta closed her eyes, exasperated. It was just like Fiearius to assume she had all the time in the span to spend being humored by his antics. “Not time-sensitive to you, maybe,” she sighed. “You can’t just come in here and disrupt everything for me, alright?”
Maddeningly, he laughed.
“Glad to know this war isn’t ruining your terrible sense of humor,” Leta muttered bitterly.
“Listen,” he said, putting a hand on her shoulder as they walked and leaning a little closer to her ear. “We’ll get to it, I promise. But not here.” He tilted his head towards a group of Carthians as they passed.
Fiearius no longer seemed to be paying attention. “I’ve gotta meet with some people about a thing,” he said, ignoring her question. “And no doubt you’ve got places to be.”
“Actually, yes, I was on my way to–”
“Is that funky little bar still around? The one just outside the walls?” He didn’t even wait for her answer. “Nine o’clock?”
“I can’t do nine, I’ve got–”
“Nine,” he said again, firmly, catching her eye.
“So you’re asking me to turn my whole schedule upside down for you.”
Fiearius grinned and turned down a hallway to part ways. Before he disappeared around the corner, he glanced back over his shoulder and called, “It’s good to see you,” and in spite herself, Leta softened.
For the first time in months, Finn had awoken at an early hour — not with a raging hangover, nor surrounded by empty bottles. Filled to the brim with energy, he got dressed quickly and was downstairs in minutes. Everything was laid out before him. He felt clear-headed and more focused than he’d been in months.
He was going to find Callahan today, and he was going to kill him.
Crew members watched curiously in the cargo bay as Finn strapped a gun to his hip, then a knife, then slipped another gun into the waistband at the small of his back. Seconds later he was trekking down the open ramp of the Beacon and into the city of Tarin, Alyx and Cai at his side (Daelen had refused to come). All around them, the city square bustled, oblivious to the three people crossing quickly down the path with purpose in their steps.
“Are you sure you want to be here for this?” Alyx asked Cai, and it was true that Cai rarely came along for jobs that could turn bloody – and this one most certainly would. Though his skittishness in the face of danger had faded, he still had an unshakeable tendency to freeze under pressure and his busted leg wasn’t the most useful in a quick getaway. Typically, Alyx and Finn took on the more dangerous jobs alone.
“If he’s got any Un-Frees around or information on the whereabouts of any, I need to grab it for the Conduit,” Cai explained and then flashed Alyx a knowing grin. “Besides, who else is going to save you two when you get into trouble?”
Alyx mustered a polite, but skeptical laugh. “Right. Just…stay behind us, okay?”