“Eh?” Eve grunted, looking annoyed by the interruption. “What kind of alert?”
“Not sure, that’s what I need to–” Javier’s fingers flew over the console keyboard, and then he brought up the radar screen. His eyes went round. “Ships. Coming in from orbit.”
Leta sat up sharply. “What?”
“Five of them. Looks like–” He tapped the console. “Small fighters.”
“Why would there be fighters here?” asked Eve.
“There wouldn’t be,” muttered Leta, setting down her beer carefully, though her mind was already roaring with alarm. “There’s nothing on this moon.”
“Except us,” pointed out Javier.
“They followed us here,” Eve growled. “It’s Society, isn’t it?”
Javier was shaking his head. “Not Society, I don’t think — and if they were ours, they’d have hailed us. These ships–”
“Are coming straight at us!” Eve yellled, gesturing to the radar screen on the secondary console.
“I scanned them, they’re–they’re reported stolen,” Javier breathed, looking over to Leta, as if silently begging her to figure this out.
Leta shut her eyes in realization. Of course. Irony of ironies. “Pirates.”
The rest of the Harrowden bunker looked much like the first part. Fiearius was beginning to truly believe he’d been completely wrong about this. He glanced back at Dez. Well, they were both completely wrong about this. He wouldn’t take all the blame.
“Where else would she be?” Fiearius asked, closing a door to an empty storage area and not bothering to keep his voice down anymore. Perhaps somewhere less traceable, he realized after a moment, feeling internally ashamed. The Councillors were known for secrecy. And he was able to figure all of this out.
But it hadn’t been easy, he argued. He’d had to stay up for three days straight, make seven separate deals with Ascendian criminals and bang his head against at least ten walls before he’d gotten to this point. It was a guess, but it was a very educated guess.
Shockingly, despite their bad start, Dez didn’t seem as disheartened yet as he felt. “She should be here.”
“Well unless you know something I don’t know, she’s not,” Fiearius pointed out, shutting yet another door so they’d know it had already been checked.
It didn’t help that this bunker seemed to go on for miles. He’d known the Harrowdens had been rich, but he had assumed that their secret hideaway would be smaller than the rest of their estate. He’d assumed incorrectly.
“Maybe we’re going the wrong way,” was Dez’s idea.
“What difference does it make? The whole place is like this.” Fiearius ran his finger along a shelf they passed, dragging a clump of dust along with it.
“But maybe it’s not,” Dez said which, Fiearius thought, was about the most useless statement he could have made. His second statement, however, was not. “Something smells weird.”
Fiearius looked back to see that he had stopped and was sniffing the air curiously. A frown passed over his face. “I don’t smell anythi–” Fiearius began, but suddenly, to his alarm, he did. He did smell something. Something he’d been smelling far too often lately.
Fiearius spun back around just as it became visible in the hallway in front of him. The beginning sparks of flame. “Oh you gotta be fucking kidding me,” he breathed as the spark met a wooden shelving unit and roared upwards.
Suddenly, he felt a sharp tug on his arm and he was being wrenched backwards by Dez. “Why does this keep happening to me?!” Fiearius demanded as he spun around and fell into pace beside him. He could feel the heat starting to rise at his back, which he shouldn’t have. There wasn’t enough fuel in here to make it spread this quickly. This was planned.
“I’ll give you one guess,” Dez called to him over the growing noise, echoing his own suspicions. Ophelia Varisian.
Fiearius shook his head. “What the hell did you do to that psycho?”
Dez cast him a strange look. Somewhere between worry and apology. But Fiearius didn’t have time to analyze it as they turned a corner and were met with another wall of fire.
“Shit, she’s boxed us in,” Fiearius growled.
“This way.” Dez took them down the adjacent hall which was clear, for now. Flames blocked off hallways they passed, forcing them down what was apparently the only safe path. It felt determinate. Intentional. She was leading them somewhere?
And then she lead them into a room that wasn’t as empty as the rest. Fiearius stumbled to a halt and locked eyes with the woman standing before him, eyes he hadn’t seen in years. They were different now. Older, tired, something more harsh about them. Her blonde hair was cut short. She’d lost some of her bulk. But it was still Varisian and her stare still threatened to slice his head off at the first wrong move.
But Varisian didn’t attack, not at first. In fact, she looked like she hadn’t expected them. At least not yet. She stood in the center of the room like they’d caught her in the middle of some intimate embarrassing act and no one could move. But suddenly, her eyes snapped to Dez. Her brow furrowed. She threw something across the room which crashed and started a blaze in the doorway and then, finally, she drew a blade from her hip and attacked.
Fiearius staggered backwards anyway, drawing his gun and trying to get a good aim as the woman lashed out, a flurry of rage and grace. Dez held her off, dodging out of the way, parrying her lunges and eventually drawing a blade of his own. Between the two of them, Fiearius had a hard time getting a clear shot, but in the end, he didn’t have to.
“Go!” Dez ordered through gritted teeth as he blocked Varisian’s attack.
“Go!” he shouted again and nodded towards the other door that she hadn’t blockaded. “I’ll hold her off. The Councillor is here. Go! Finish the job!”
Fiearius couldn’t fathom most of what was happening. Why Ophelia was so set on stabbing Dez to death, how she’d even gotten here, what she was doing with the path of fire, but there was one thing that did make sense. Dez was right. She wouldn’t be here if there wasn’t something worth protecting.
He hesitated only a moment more, taking one last look at his old friend as he countered the onslaught, before he turned down the hall and made a run for it.
She’d already gotten to this hall. There were flames blocking every passage, every door, Fiearius was certain he’d run down a dead end right up until he saw it. The alcove, just a small dome branching out of the hallway that seemed insignificant. But the fire hadn’t touched it. It was clear. And set into the floor was a hatch that, unlike everything else in this damn place, wasn’t shielded by dust.
Without thinking, Fiearius grabbed the handle and yanked it open to reveal the hole and the ladder below. This ladder he wasn’t careful with, bracing his feet on the sides and sliding down to the bottom with a thump.
He stumbled backwards, looking back up into the flickering lights above him, but before he could turn around, a voice froze him in place.
“Fiearius Soliveré. I’ve been expecting you.”