“Speaking of uncharted terraform,” Addy said suddenly, “I suppose I should talk about why we’re here.”
“Ah yes.” Eriaas leaned back in his chair, lifting his glass of perfectly vinted wine to his lips. “The Archeti project, yes? You’re still on that?”
Was that supposed to be a slight? Even if it was, Addy remained unphased. Frankly, she was better at this than he thought. Her willingness to ‘play the game’ and her cajoling charm was reminding him unpleasantly of his brother.
“ — and we’ve got the infrastructure of New Genisi nearly ready to go,” she was saying to him, her voice smooth and light like she could think of no better way to spend her evening. “We’re starting to build at last.”
“That’s fantastic!” Eliaas cried, lifting his wine glass to them. “I’m glad to hear it.” He leaned forward on the table and lifted a brow at her. “Don’t need my money anymore then, huh?”
Addy opened her mouth, then closed it. “Well — “ but Eliaas cut her off with a laugh.
“I jest, I jest, my dear. You know I’m more than happy to help you out.”
Cyrus caught Addy’s eye briefly as she grinned at him, relieved.
“What happened to that poor planet is awful,” Eliaas sighed. “As long as a remarkable mind like yours is on the job, I’m more than happy to assist in any way I can.” And then — Cyrus watched it, as though in slow motion — he caught Addy’s hand in his.
Cyrus stared fixedly, unable to help himself, as Eliaas’ thumb ran over the back of Addy’s hand. He probably shouldn’t have been mad. He had no legitimate claim on Addy. They had a daughter together, they lived together, they worked together, they were ‘together’ in the very broad sense of the word, but if she wanted a handsome rich guy to squeeze her palm like that, something that was, in effect, harmless, that was her choice. Right?
And yet when he glanced down at Kalli who, surprisingly, was staring at them too with her usual wide-eyed wonder, he couldn’t help himself.
“It might assist if you’d actually visit the planet for once,” he said suddenly, breaking the awkward silence. Everyone turned to Cyrus, awed. Addy’s hand was freed now and holding the stem of her wine glass. Her eyes narrowed with warning.
Cyrus felt a rush of embarrassment, but he went on strongly, “I don’t know, having an actual investor on the ground could help a lot. Help morale, help order, help get things done…”
His voice trailed off as everyone else in the room continued to stare at him blankly. Addy pursed her lips and gave him a stern look that he recognized without question: he was in trouble.
But fortunately, it was Eliaas who broke the silence at last. “Maybe,” he said lightly, and then added, “But I’m afraid my schedule is booked for quite some time. I’m a busy man, you understand. Can’t just be making visits to all of my benefactors.” He grinned his sparkling grin and refilled his wine glass.
The gesture made Cyrus want to punch that stupid grin right off his face.
But before he had the chance, the attention was gone. Eliaas lifted Addy’s hand to his lips, said, “Perhaps one day, you’ll visit me for a reason other than investments?” and kissed it.
Cyrus suppressed a groan. It was going to be a long night.
“We smoked ‘em. Smoked ‘em good. Cap’n had the whole place locked down in minutes, shoulda seen it.” Rhys described the event with all the tenacity of a man a few drinks deep, his hands making grand gestures in the air and his eyes lit with inspiration. “Shoulda been there, Lena.”
“Leta,” Leta corrected, amused.
Eve, seated at her side, scoffed a laugh. “Don’t think our doc woulda cared for it much, Rhys. Not a lot of raids I cared for myself…” She shook her head and took a long sip from her glass. “Good work though. We’re doin’ good work. Believe that with all my heart.” She nodded firmly and Leta smiled.
“That base was turned into a refugee camp. Its housing hundreds of displaced families now, so I’ve heard. It is good work.” Whether or not it would remain good in the long run, she couldn’t be sure, but after the past week, Leta was tired of dwelling on politics. For now, she was much more interested in hearing about the heroics of old friends.
“Know what though, doc, cap’n ever tell ya ‘bout the first land on Ascendia?” Eve asked suddenly. Leta raised her brows and shook her head. Eve’s eyes lit up, she cast a glance at Rhys who squirmed in his chair with excitement, and started to tell the tale.
It was strange, Leta thought, being back on the Dionysian again, lounging around the mess hall as the ship plummeted across the Span, chatting with its permanent fixtures. A lot had changed since her time aboard. Without Cyrus, Corra, Nikkolai, Amora…It was quieter. The crew was small. The air was a little harsher than it used to be, more serious. This ship had seen a lot, Leta knew, in the past five years. Things it wouldn’t soon recover from.
But there was still Rhys with his ill-advised drinking. Still Eve, ever vigilant. Richelle, who had blossomed into a capable engineer, was helping Maya who had, of all things, taken cooking lessons from Fiearius in his few spare moments. It was easy to tell, Leta thought as the woman laid a plate in front of her on the table, given just how spicy it smelled.
Leta hadn’t realized how much she had missed this place.
“Are you telling the Ascendia story again?” Maya asked as she sat down across the table. “We’ve heard it a thousand times.”
“Leta hasn’t,” defended Eve.
“They snuck around for a few days and then took over city hall, just her and the cap’n and a couple Carthians, it was very impressive,” Maya spoiled with her usual dosage of snark.
Eve growled, “Better when I tell it…”
It was then that the faint sound of approaching footsteps met Leta’s ears. None of the others at the table looked up from their meals, this was such a clockwork occurrence to them, but she couldn’t stop herself from glancing at the door as the ship’s captain and his assistant entered the room.