Corra found herself pausing at the edge of the table. She was crouched in position, ready to launch herself out the door the moment the opportunity afforded itself. And it had. Now was her moment. But she hesitated.
“So we’re going to move on then?” the other voice asked.
“No.” There was a pause. “Not yet. If we move on now, our budget for the project will be cut and we’ll be sent back to the frontlines. I don’t know about you, but given a choice, I’d rather be here excavating a dirt pit than on the Ascendian battlefront.” Another pause before she added, “No, we’ll stay here until we manage to figure out our next step in the mission.”
“You think they’ll wait that long?”
The woman laughed. “Of course they will. If we find this thing? If it does what they say it does? If it even exists? It’ll be the most significant machine in the history of the Span. They’ll wait lifetimes as long as there’s hope. I guarantee it.”
Corra felt her heart still. The most important machine in history? It sounded like–well, it sounded like, in Cyrus’ words, bull’s butt. Even so, though, she couldn’t shake the feeling that she’d just stumbled onto something huge.
Before she convinced herself to linger once again, Corra shook the thoughts from her head, remembering instead the face of Cy and Addy’s little girl who needed to get out of this place and get home. She took a silent deep breath, braced herself and then slipped silently out from under the table and through the door before anyone was all the wiser to her presence.
Corra had never wanted to get back to the Spirit so badly.
“It really wasn’t that bad,” Addy was telling Alyx as they sat around one of the Beacon’s dining tables over drinks and dinner. They’d arrived back on the ship only an hour ago, but already things were starting to feel more normal to Finn than ever. Their old crew back together again. Getting along. Enjoying a meal. This, more than anything else, was what he’d missed.
“More boring than anything else,” Cyrus added, bouncing Kalli on his knee.
Alyx, who had bunkered down to listen to what she’d thought would be a dramatic story, failed to hide her disappointment. “Well I’m glad you’re alright,” she tried and Addy smiled at her. “So we should take you back to Archeti then? I’m sure they’ve missed you.”
But then, Addy hesitated. “Mm yeah, I suppose so.” She shared a glance with Cyrus who, Finn couldn’t help but notice, didn’t look exactly contented by the answer.
“Not that we’d mind keeping you around, of course,” put in Daelen from across the table.
“Oh yeah, sorry, I didn’t mean to imply you have to leave,” Alyx added hurriedly. “You’re welcome to stay as long as you like. Just, if you want to go back, we can take you, I mean–”
“It’s fine,” Addy laughed, holding up her hand and shaking her head. “I get it. And yeah, I don’t know.” Again, a furtive glance at Cyrus, whose expression had gone suspiciously blank. “Maybe we’ll stick around a little bit? It’s kinda nice being with everyone again. It’s been so long, y’know?” She nudged her stone-faced boyfriend affectionately. “Right?”
Cyrus mumbled something in response, but Finn stopped paying attention to whatever marital troubles were playing out in front of him. Instead, he looked around the table. Alyx, Daelen, Cai, Addy, himself, they were all here, but–
There was one face missing from the scene. It couldn’t be. Corra was gone.
She’d just been here a moment ago, he was sure of it. She’d said something about how nice of an attic Addy’s friend had and then — How did she slip away so quickly? And more importantly, how far had she gone?
“Be right back,” Finn muttered as he slipped out of his chair and headed for the main hallway. He knew where she’d gone without even a second thought. The way she’d been acting the past few days? It was no mystery. He had been fully aware that the moment no eyes were on her, she’d try and make her escape. He just hadn’t thought she’d manage to have no eyes on her in the middle of a crew dinner…But now, the only question was whether or not he’d get there in time before she succeeded.
Finn quickened his pace.
Fortunately, for all of her skills and sneaking, when he rounded the corner into the side airlock, he wasn’t met with an empty room and a sealed door, but the sight of Corra herself leaned against the wall beside her ship, fiddling with some sort of tube in her hands. When she heard him enter, she glanced up.
“That took longer than I expected,” she pointed out with a smirk.
Finn pretended he wasn’t as out of breath as he was. “You were waiting for me?”
Corra lifted her shoulders in a shrug. “I’ve already wronged you enough. Figured leaving without saying goodbye wouldn’t be the best move if I ever want forgiveness.”
For a moment, Finn was stunned into silence. Forgiveness?
“Corra, I –” he began, but she stepped forward and swiftly pressed her finger to his lips to silence him.
“Please don’t,” she said. “Just–It was really good to see you. Take care of the ship. Take care of the crew. Please don’t try and sell her again.” She narrowed her eyes on him. “She’s yours and she’s Alyx’s and she’s all of these people’s, no one else’s. I don’t want to see her with anyone else. Do that for me at least.”
Her finger drew away and he said, “Of course. But Corra–”
“And make sure Cy and Addy are okay,” she went on. “They’re not right now. But they need to be. For that beautiful little girl’s sake at the very least.”
“I don’t really know if I can–”
“And hug Leta when you see her,” she spoke over him. Was she — no, those couldn’t be the slight glint of tears in the corners of her eyes. “And tell her I miss her and I’ll try to be in touch soon. And–”
“Corra.” Finn cut her off, taking her hand in his. “Why don’t you hug Leta when you see her? Why don’t you help Cy and Addy? Why don’t you look after this ship?”
She was already shaking her head and tugging her hand from his grip. He didn’t loosen it. “I have things to take care of, Riley. I have to go.”
“You can take care of those things here,” Finn insisted. “You want to research this, right?” He reached down and plucked the metal tube from her hand. “We can help. We can do that on the Beacon.”
Corra let out a sharp laugh. “And risk those bounty hunters after you? No way.”
Finn rolled his eyes dramatically. “Bounty hunters? Really? You think we’re afraid of a few bounty hunters?”
“They’re pretty nasty…” Corra muttered and he raised a skeptical brow. “Riley, I’m not staying. I have my own life now, my own missions, my own tasks, I’m not bringing those down on the Beacon. What we all had before? The pirating and the stealing and all that? After what came from that? How many lives were –” She shook her head again. “No. That chapter is over.”
“Right,” Finn agreed, releasing her hand at last. “That chapter is over.” She was glaring at the floor now so he reached over and lifted her chin with his index finger til their eyes met. “But that doesn’t mean we can’t start a new one.”
Corra’s eyes went a little wide. Finn’s hand dropped to his side and he smiled at her knowingly. Without another word, he turned from the room and headed back into the hallway. He didn’t need to look back once more. There was no hurry, he knew.
The Spirit would still be here come morning.