“Cy,” she said again, softly this time as she reached out to put her hand on his, stilling him. “Cy, listen–”
Briefly, he met her eyes. They were fixed on him, full of sadness, pain, sorrow and he knew somehow that she had slept just as little as he had. He couldn’t stop himself from grasping that hand, if even for a moment. But in the end, he said, “Addy, there’s no time. We have to go.”
Now, confusion crossed her face. “What? Why?”
Cyrus opened his mouth to explain, but it wasn’t his voice that filled the room. “P’ahti?” Both parents looked over to find Kalli in her nightdress, rubbing her eyes and standing in the doorway.
“Issyen,” Cyrus cooed, abandoning his packing attempts and rushing over to the door, sweeping the girl up in his arms. He fought the images of her captured away from his mind’s eye.
“P’ahti, what’s wrong?” Kalli asked in a hushed voice, reaching out her tiny hand to touch Cyrus’ face.
“Nothin’, issyen, nothin’, we’re just getting ready to go, that’s all.” The assurance seemed to work and he felt the girl relax a little in his arms, but when he turned back to Addy she was still frowning at him in a desperate attempt to understand what was going on.
He didn’t want to say the word in front of Kalli. She knew what the Society was. She knew it meant danger. And the last thing he wanted was a panicking child, so instead he wrapped his arms around her tighter, leaning her head into his shoulder and over her back mouthed, ‘Society.’
But Addy just frowned deeper and mouthed back, ‘What?’
‘Society,’ he tried again, moving his lips more dramatically and gesturing to the window, but still, she just shook her head and shrugged. He was about to try again when yet another voice cut him off.
“We have a problem. The Society’s here.” It was Eriaas. For once, the man wasn’t his usual spotless put-together self. His robe was dissheveled, he had bags under his eyes and his hair stuck up at all angles. Cyrus might have actually appreciated the sight under different circumstances, but as it were…
“What?” Addy demanded, her own eyes going wide and her face pale. Kalli squirmed in Cyrus’ grasp and looked around at them all in growing horror. “Here? Why?”
“I wish I knew,” Eriaas muttered, glancing over his shoulder as though someone might sneak up and attack him at any moment. “I’ve had no bad relations with them personally, but–” He raised his brows pointedly at the family in the room. “Obviously the timing could be better…”
Kalli was growing more and more restless by the minute, but Cyrus just held her tighter as he asked, “You think they’re here for us?”
“How could they be?” Addy demanded. “The Dionysian is untrackable, there’s no way anyone would know we were dropped off here.”
“It doesn’t matter why they’re here, we just need to leave,” Cyrus decided as Kalli wriggled so hard, he had no choice but to lean down and set her on her own two feet where she simply seized his pant leg in fear.
“It’s a little late for that,” Eriaas argued. “They’re already touching down.”
Cyrus glanced out the window just as the sleek grey shape of the ship descended into view. At once, Addy slid the curtains shut. “He’s right. If we had an opportunity, we missed it,” she said.
“So what, we just wait here for them to find us?” Cyrus demanded.
“Well hang on, now, Cy,” Eriaas argued, holding up his hand. “We don’t know why they’re here. It could be that they just want to meet with me and then leave. No harm done.”
Cyrus met Addy’s eyes across the room as she muttered, “That’s a pretty big risk.”
No sooner had the words left her mouth, a voice filled the COMM speakers. “Sir? An Agent Parnassé at the door for you?”
Eriaas’ jaw tightened. “Not sure you have much of a choice.” He stepped back through the door and began to close it behind him. “Stay here.”
Cyrus strode over to the door and put his hand on it, almost just to assure himself that it was closed. Kalli was still clinging to his pant leg as she looked up at him and mumbled. “P’ahti?”
“It’s okay, issyen, everything’s gonna be okay,” he assured her as Addy joined them at the door and ruffled a hand through Kalli’s hair. The little girl only gripped Cyrus tighter.
“Maybe he’s right,” Addy whispered, locking eyes with him. “Maybe they just want to talk and they’ll leave.”
Cyrus nodded, wanting to believe it, but he found himself holding his breath as he heard, on the floor below them, the front door sliding open.
“Eriaas Argoatan?” asked a brisk female voice followed by Eriaas himself.
“Agent Parnassé, was it? Please, please, come in.”
“I’m so sorry to disturb you at what must be this early hour.” Footsteps clicked across the foyer. “We’ve been on black time for quite a while. I forget morning still exists planetside.”
“Of course, of course, I understand. Not a worry,” Eriaas insisted. “Can I get you anything? Something to drink? Eat?”
“Ah, yes, actually,” Parnassé answered. “A spot of breakfast wouldn’t go amiss.”
“I’ll have my chef start on something right away.”
“Oh, but I must ask, our ship. Is it alright docked where it is?” There was hesitation on Eriaas’ end. “For the long term, I mean.”
“Sorry, long term?”
“Ah, I’m getting ahead of myself. I haven’t even told you why we’re here, have I?”
“You may have left that out I’m afraid.”
Cyrus nearly jumped when he felt a hand on his back. He looked over at Addy who was leaned as closely to the door as he was, listening in. Concern marked her features, anticipation in her stance and when she glanced over at him, she swallowed hard.
“You see, Mr. Argoatan. Can I call you Eriaas? Excellent. We are planning an expedition of sorts. Looking to uncover an ancient device unseen by human eyes for millennia. We’ve heard about your entrepreneurial investments. I’m here to negotiate your involvement.”
Eriaas let out a laugh that sounded a little too relieved. “But of course. I’d be happy to hear your proposal over breakfast, if you’ll just come right this–”
“I’m afraid that’s not all I must ask, Eriaas,” Parnassé cut him off. “I hate to encroach upon the hospitality of a man I’ve only just met, but our expedition? The trail we’ve uncovered to the device? It begins here.”
A long pause passed before Eriaas found his voice and asked, “How long are you looking to stay?”
Parnassé let out an infectious laugh. “Let’s discuss over breakfast, shall we?”
As two sets of footsteps headed out of the foyer towards the dining room, growing quieter and quieter until they faded out entirely, Cyrus couldn’t breathe. No one in the room said a word until suddenly he felt a tug on his pant leg.
“P’ahti? P’ahti, can we leave now?”
Cyrus looked down at Kalli and tried to muster an encouraging smile. “No, issyen. No, I’m afraid we can’t.”