“So what, now you’re kicking me out?!” He sounded like he might laugh, but his eyes were humorless.
“You need help, help I can’t give you,” Alyx snapped. “Help that you’re sure as hell not gonna get here.” She took a deep breath and fixed him with a desperate stare. “So yeah, Finn. I am. Get the hell off my ship.”
Corra’s feet landed with a loud thump on the marble flooring — louder than she’d anticipated. Freezing on the spot, she grimaced and peered down the hallway, praying that there were no figures lurking in the darkness to overhear. Or worse, see. She couldn’t imagine what someone might think observing Ranson Lars’ most obedient ally climbing through one of the mansion’s outer windows. She didn’t want to imagine what would happen next.
Fortunately, the coast seemed to be clear, all of the house’s staff and residents fast asleep by now. So as quickly as she’d entered, she straightened herself up and started toward the servant quarters as though that was what she’d been doing all along. If anyone asked, she’d simply remembered a task she’d neglected in the kitchen. And ideally, no one would have noticed she was even gone.
Admittedly, a few days before the big escape she had planned was not the best time to go sneaking off in the middle of the night. Usually, Corra wouldn’t have taken the risk. But when she’d heard the news feed describing a grim situation on Vescent earlier today while she served drinks to Lars’ guests, she couldn’t wait either.
It wasn’t safe to make a call on the mansion’s grounds, but Corra had discovered a quiet public console station only a few blocks away that allowed her to make the call to Leta discreetly. And she was glad she did.
“I know you can’t tell me where you are, but you’re safe, aren’t you?” Leta had pressed.
Corra had laughed grimly as she’d considered her current situation. Embedded as an ally and intent on staging a mass rescue in a few days. ‘Safe’ wasn’t a word she’d choose. Finally she’d muttered, “Safe enough. But I called to talk about you, not me. Tell me about Vescent. The news we heard here was a little skewed…”
“It was bad, Corra,” Leta sighed. “We had riots two years ago, but not as bad as this. I won’t be making it back there anytime soon … “
“So you’re staying on the Dionysian?” Corra couldn’t help but smirk at that, glad to know that even after all these years, she could still count on Fiearius to have as much invested in Leta’s safety as she did.
“I know what you’re thinking and no, I’m not sleeping with Fiear.”
“I didn’t say anything! Nor would I,” Corra laughed. “Just making sure you’re okay is all. Are you hanging in there?”
Leta laughed. “Barely, but yes, I am,” she said, which was the most assurance Corra could have hoped for. Their calls were infrequent and never more than a few minutes, but she relished them.
Corra wouldn’t describe herself as lonely, exactly. How could she have been — she was constantly busy and surrounded by people. She enjoyed the company of the allies she worked to free. With each new ‘owner’ she situated herself under, she gained a new family of sorts.
And yet, none of her new families seemed able to fill the hole that had appeared in the center of her chest. No one had managed to come close to the kind of relationships she’d used to kindle and she still felt pangs of regret when her mind turned to Leta, to Cyrus, to Addy, Alyx, to Finn…
The image of Finn’s face came to her mind’s eye, staring up at her from the wreckage of that ship that had plowed into the grandstand. His voice calling out to her. Her sudden need to flee. She still didn’t know what he was doing there or how such a coincidence (if it even was one) could have occurred. But as much as she knew she had to get out of there at the time, there was a part of her now that wished she could have answered him…
She shook the thought from her mind as she gently eased open the door to the servant’s quarters and slipped into the hallway inside. There was no time to feel remorseful about days long past. She had a job to do and an important one at that. In two days, she’d be leading all of these people into freedom. Slipping up now wasn’t an option.
She was almost to the door to her assigned barracks when she noticed that she wasn’t the only one awake in this section of the mansion. Hushed whispers were coming from up ahead, but she couldn’t make out what they were saying and, in this darkness, she could see little more than featureless figures coming her way.
Corra slowed her pace, peering towards them as they entered into her view. They didn’t look like anyone she knew, nor did they hold themselves like allies. Guests of Lars? She didn’t like to imagine what some visiting dignitaries or businessmen would be looking for in the servant’s quarters at this hour. But they weren’t dressed nearly well enough to fall into Lars’ usual range of friends. And then, suddenly, their whispers silenced and they stopped where they stood.
Out of instinct, she too stopped. They’d seen her. And then one of them said a word she didn’t expect to hear: “Corra?”
They were–looking for her? And they knew her actual name? Lars’ people only knew her as Ava. Were they from the Conduit?
The two men were coming towards her as she tried to figure out what was going on. No one other than Raisa knew where to find her, perhaps she was trying to get in touch? Something must have been wrong for them to show up now.
Still, Corra stood defensively as they approached, holding her head high and keeping her hands firmly at her sides. “Corra?” one of the men asked again.
Corra regarded him carefully, unsure what the right answer was. If he was from the Conduit, she could tell the truth, but if not–
Unfortunately, she never got the chance to make her decision. Suddenly, the other man growled, “It’s her!”
Before she could think, a dark figure rushed towards her face, lifted his arm, and then everything went black.