Finn tilted the murky bottle against his mouth, then thudded it onto the surface of the bar. It was either his fourth or ninth beer, but he couldn’t be sure — he’d let the hours bleed by, morning into afternoon. He knew he shouldn’t have been daydrinking, especially alone in a dive bar, but he decided he wasn’t just daydrinking alone. He was scheming. And thinking.
He had a lot of thinking time, after all, since he’d been kicked out — or forcibly removed, as Daelen would say — from his own ship three days ago. It was official now: led by Alyx, the Beacon had left without him.
It hadn’t been a ceremonious send-off. Finn had grabbed his jacket from his room, found his wallet, and left down the cargo bay ramp.
Still — when he pictured Alyx’s face, his stomach twisted into guilt. She’d probably never speak to him again. Now he had no vessel, no bridge to take charge of, no captain’s chair. He had nothing but some fraudulent credits to his name and, well, his current beer.
Surprisingly, the thought did not embitter him. He really had no bitterness left. Instead, he snorted an uneven laugh to himself as he swirled the last dregs of his bottle, watching the liquor swish around.
Behind him, the bar’s front door opened and shut, letting a warm breeze sweep in, followed by new voices.
” — usual, please, Reggie,” a man was saying to the bartender as he dropped into a stool. Finn spared the man a sideways glance and noted, with interest, that his wallet was visible in the pocket of his jacket.
Well, Finn thought, bemusedly, he had to start somewhere. Pick-pocketing wasn’t as glamorous as it was when he was in his young twenties, though — really, he should have been stealing ships, not loose change. He hadn’t hotwired and stolen a passenger vessel in years, but he supposed he could manage it. Maybe he’d head over to the docks …
The door opened and shut a second time. Another warm, sandy breeze blew through. Finn reached for his beer, ready to polish it off so he could leave and get to work — and then it happened. Mid-swig of his drink, he glanced toward the door and he could do nothing but cough up half his beer.
Eyes watering, hacking up his lungs, Finn could sense the bartender eyeing him oddly, but he couldn’t tear his eyes away from the figure who had just walked in the door.
She was petite and curvy, her black hair cut short. There was no mistaking those round doe-eyes anywhere.
“You’ve got,” Finn managed at last, “to be shitting me.”
Corra’s mouth curved into a tense smile as she slowly made her way towards him, her hands locked behind her back. “Hey there,” she greeted through a bit of a nervous chuckle. “Long time no see, huh?”
Finn stared. He was torn between the impulse to laugh and the impulse to yell, and in the end, his voice was toneless. “What’re you doing here?”
She broke eye contact with him and glanced awkwardly at the bar. “Getting a drink?” she guessed. “And looking for you of course.”
“How the hell did you even find me?”
“I’ve got people with eyes and ears all over. Plus you’re not too hard to track.” She slid onto the chair beside him, like they were old drinking buddies meeting up again, like old times, like nothing had changed. “Finn — I need to ask you. Do you know what the Transmission is?”
Finn slid a look toward his near-empty beer bottle. Maybe he’d had more to drink than he thought. “What?”
“The Transmission,” she pressed. “It’s this old–I don’t know, tube thing? I don’t know what it does, but that’s what it’s called and–”
“No. What — are you kidding me?” Finn cut her off suddenly.
Corra looked surprised. “No? I–”
“Tell me you’re fucking kidding me,” Finn grunted, slapping his palm on the bar. “You disappear. For five years. After — god, the worst day of my life, without a fucking word. And you show up again to ask me a goddamned question about–what the fuck, Corra?”
Corra’s mouth fell open in shock, but then she clamped it shut again. Until, “Finn–”
“You’re ridiculous. And you came to find me because you need something? Corra.” He barked a dry laugh. “Whatever it is you need, you’ve come to the wrong person.”
Silence lapsed for a moment, and Finn wondered if she would get up and leave, disappearing again like a ghost, never to see her again. Then she said, “So you don’t know anything about it?”
Finn held the bridge of his nose with his fingers, overwhelmed and suddenly exhausted. He could not believe Corra was sitting at his side, after all this time, let alone demanding information from him.
“What did you say it was called? Transmission? No, I don’t know anything about it. What are you up to, Corra? Are you in trouble?”
Corra didn’t meet his eyes. “Maybe…” Before he had a chance to respond, she slid off her chair and tucked her arms behind her back. “It’s okay, I can take care of it. Thanks anyway. And–” She looked up at him, albeit briefly. “I’m sorry. For bothering you. And…” She swallowed hard and bowed her head a little. “Everything else.”
Just as she was turning to leave, Finn reached out and grabbed her arm to halt her.
“Hang on now. It’s been years. I know you’re some secret Conduit agent who can’t tell me anything now–” He ignored her sudden look of alarm at the company around them, “–but we can’t at least catch up a little?”
She looked hesitant and she was still poised towards the door, but then a memory flashed across her face and she said, “Oh, right, I wanted to ask. My contact tracked you here, but I didn’t see the Beacon anywhere in the docks. Where is she?”
Finn’s expression sunk a little. He had imagined a hypothetical situation in which he’d have to explain this to Corra one day, but it had been hypothetical. Now that she was standing in front of him, blinking innocently in his direction, the explanation came a lot harder…
“Yeah. About that…”