Chapter 20: The Spirit

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Sharing a bridge with Finn again was rather surreal. Careful to keep her eyes forward, Corra reached up to the secondary console and hit the brake thrust, pulling her ship out of its hasty traverse of empty space and settling her into a nice even pace forward. The Beacon, in all of its mass and glory, was just up ahead, barely making speed. They’d be upon her in minutes.

Corra could feel Finn’s eyes on the back of her head. He was lounging in the pull-out emergency seat in the back of the cockpit, hands behind his neck, somehow making it look more comfortable than she knew it was. The Spirit was not a ship meant for more than one person which had made the last few days uncomfortable physically as well as emotionally.

As soon as Finn had woven her his tale of losing the Beacon, they had both agreed that the issue needed to be sorted as soon as possible. As much as Corra trusted Alyx to take care of the ship just fine, the thought of Finn not being aboard at all didn’t sit well with her. Nor, she found out, did it sit well with him. Unfortunately, he’d sunk the last of his spending money into a local business. Namely, a bar. Corra had decided her next move could wait a few days to help out an old friend.

Honestly, it was the least she could do for him.

So far, they had managed to keep things light, even with the heavy unspoken words hanging in every nook and cranny of the tiny one-man ship around them. Despite many years between them, Finn still carried himself with that familiar teenage confidence and lackadaisical attitude. It was strangely comforting to Corra that even after everything that had happened, he was still the Finn she remembered. Older and perhaps more tired, but still distinctly Finn.

“So you learned how to fly I take it,” he said, sounding amused as Corra pulled the Spirit in closer to the Beacon’s great hull.

“Had to, at some point,” Corra admitted with a shrug, taking hold of the manual controls. “Lots of places I needed to go without someone in public transit noticing.”

“Yeah? Like where?” Corra hesitated far too long. When he realized he wasn’t going to get an answer, he remarked, “You’re way more secretive than I remember.”

She couldn’t help but snort a laugh. “Learned from the best.” She glanced over her shoulder and flashed him a grin.

She’d meant it in a light-hearted way, a jab at their history, but his response was more serious than she’d anticipated. “Me? I was never secretive. I told you more than I told anyone,” he admitted. “You, though … you really don’t want to tell me what you’ve been up to all these years.”

Corra released a sigh. “You know the gist of it,” she pointed out. “I was helping the Conduit. Working undercover. Freeing allies. That kind of thing. I told you that.”

“I guess,” he sounded thoughtful, relaxed. “I guess I’m just wonderin’ why you didn’t ask me to come with.”

Corra kept facing straight ahead in fear of him catching a glimpse of how tense the question made her. And they’d been avoiding it so well up until now. She had considered many times how she would address the questions around her departure and though a thousand  explanations had run through her head, when they tried to rise to her lips, they got stuck. The cockpit descended into an awkward silence until finally Finn seemed to take pity on her.

“Shouldn’t we hail them to be let in?”

The Spirit was already beginning its docking sequence onto the Beacon’s starboard airlock. Grateful for the reprieve, Corra shook her head. “Don’t need to.”

Finn leaned forward to glance at her control panel curiously. “This little bird can stealth dock?”

“If she’s careful, yeah,” Corra answered, flipping the last few switches as the ship came up alongside the Beacon and locked itself into place. When she looked back at Finn, his brows were high on his forehead, impressed.

“You really learned how to fly.”

Corra flashed him an appreciative smirk, but didn’t move from her seat. Neither did Finn. She tilted her head at him. “You ready to go get your ship back?”

“Our ship,” Finn corrected at once, sliding off the chair onto his feet before holding his hand out to her. “Are you?”

Corra looked at the proffered hand and then at his face. “What?” she sputtered. “No. I’m not–” Corra had no intention of joining him on this section of the task. Get Finn back to the Beacon, that was the mission. Nothing else. “I’m not coming with you.”

Now Finn pursed his lips, exasperated. “Corra. If I walk onto this ship and Alyx asks ‘how’d you get here?’ and I say ‘Corra brought me, but she left’…” His voice trailed off and he eyed her pointedly as though she knew what the other half of the sentence would be. She did. And it made her sigh heavily.

“Riley, I can’t stay,” she insisted.

“I’m not asking you to.” He jabbed his hand towards her again. “Just say hello. This was your ship, your crew. They miss you. Say hello.”

She knew she shouldn’t. Corra had only gotten by the past few years by staying separated from her old life, her old friends (save for a few correspondences with Leta she couldn’t resist). She needed to get back to her mission. She needed to go figure out this Transmitter thing before anyone else got in trouble. She needed to leave.

But something made her reach out and take his hand and slip out of her chair. “Alright,” she relented. “Just hello.”

———————-

“I’m not doing it.” Cai crossed his arms over his chest. “Not gonna happen.”

Alyx balled her fists in frustration and let out a groan as she chased him down the hallway away from the bridge. They were fighting. Again. Fighting seemed to be all anyone was doing these days aboard the Beacon. In theory, Alyx should have been getting better at it, but she got the opposite feeling that as time went on, she was losing more and more.

“Please, Cai, it’s the easiest way,” she begged, catching up with him. “I need you to help me out on this.”

“I already helped you out,” Cai snapped. “And last time? Was the last time. I told you before, I’m not doing it again.”

“But–” Alyx growled and reached out to seize his arm, halting him in place and turning him back to face her. “But Cai. You’re the only one of us who can move about with that much freedom without anyone noticing. The rest of us don’t have the privilege of being able to slip away and–”

“Privilege?” he repeated, his eyes narrowing. A while back, Alyx hadn’t thought it was possible to make someone as typically bright as Cai actually angry. As of late, she was coming to understand otherwise. Right now, she knew she was flat-out wrong.

“Privilege,” he said again, venom-soaking the word. “Right, I’m so privileged that I can pass for a slave.”

Okay, so that had been poor word choice on her part. Inwardly, she knew asking a freed ally to pose as an unfreed ally in order to pull off a mission was insensitive. Insensitive being a bit of an understatement. Cai had already pointed that out to her quite politely the last time she had proposed the tactic and she had agreed that she wouldn’t ask him to play the slave on a job again.

But she’d thought this would be different.

“I didn’t mean it like that,” Alyx mended hurriedly. “You know I didn’t mean that.” Cai raised a skeptical brow at her, entirely unamused. “But Cai, this isn’t for me, I’m not asking you for my sake, this isn’t just any old job. This is Addy we’re talking about. Addy and Kalli. They’re stuck in the middle of a Society clusterfuck and we have to help them!”

“I agree,” Cai said simply and for a moment Alyx thought she’d gotten through. Until he added, “But I’m still not pretending to be an ally.” When Alyx sighed loudly and slumped a little, he said, “There’s got to be a different way to do this. The guy doesn’t even have allies. Why can’t we just go in and get them normally?”

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