“Fine, I suppose.” He settled next to her. “Your new friends seemed to believe us when we promised we won’t be leaving to tell the Span about the Transmitter without you so they left us alone. Cy and Addy are a little shaken up still from the whole experience. They’ve kind of been keeping to themselves and we’ve been taking turns watching Kalli still. Alyx is learning a valuable lesson in patience.”
He shot a cautious glance at the empty room around them before adding, “Not gonna lie though, we’d like our captains back. And safe. And not in the clutches of murderous psychos.”
“They’re not that bad,” Corra insisted. “I’ve been treated a lot worse by people considered a lot less psycho, trust me.” Cai just grimaced in solemn understanding. “I’m determined to stick this through.”
“For how long?”
“If everything goes as I think it should, not much longer.” Corra leaned in closer to him to speak more quietly. “There’s this ritual they need me to do that’ll put me near the Transmitter so I can get the answers I need and maybe some insight into–”
“Hang on,” he interrupted, looking skeptical. “Ritual?”
Which was the same response she’d had when she first heard about it. “It’s not as sketchy as it sounds. It’s just them reading some stuff while I fire up the device.”
He didn’t look convinced. “You’re sure?”
“Well.” She sighed through her teeth. “Not entirely.” She pointed at the door Finn had gone through. “But if it’s not, he has a gun. Two guns.”
Cai frowned at her. “So what’s the plan?”
As true as it was, Corra didn’t think ‘not sure’ was the answer he was looking for. She’d thought it through as much as she could and discussed possibilities with Finn, but there was only so much preparedness she could manage. As much information as she’d tried to garner from the Gatekeepers, she still knew next to nothing about what was going to happen when they started the process. This was going to be a ‘wing it’ situation no matter what. Which was also not an answer Cai probably wanted.
So instead, she said, “I have some ideas,” which didn’t come out nearly as confidently as she’d expected it to.
“It’ll be fine! I’m adaptable!”
“Corra.” He fixed her with a serious stare.
“Cai, it’s fine. I’m just going to get close to it and steal it,” she explained hurriedly. “And if I don’t have an opportunity, I’ll throw a wrench in their ritual to create a distraction. And if it’s something I can’t just nab and run out with, I’ll know where it is and I can go back for it later. And in all situations, me and Riley run back to the ship and we get the hell out of here. I got this.”
But as much as she’d anticipated him either accepting or arguing that answer, the look he gave her indicated neither. It was more confused. He tilted his head at her, his eyes narrowed curiously. “So. You’re not going to do the ritual no matter what?”
The question surprised her. “I–I’d considered it,” she admitted. After all, what she wanted was answers. What did the Transmitter do? What did the Transmission say? Why was it so important? What better way to answer all those questions than to actually test it? The ritual, if she went through with it, would give her all the answers she needed.
But “Riley doesn’t think it’s a good idea. And he’s not wrong. We have no idea what happens when that thing is activated and these crazy people thinking it’s great doesn’t really do it much credit.” She shrugged. “It could be dangerous.”
“It could be,” Cai admitted in that neutral kind of tone his years as an ally had perfected. The one that, even though she recognized it instantly, Corra couldn’t help but fall for every time. She automatically kept talking.
“What if it does something terrible? Their book says it’ll bring salvation, but what does that mean? Is that good?”
“Salvation sounds like a good thing,” was his calm response.
“But it’s just some book by some random person,” Corra argued. “Doesn’t mean it’s true.”
“But it was so accurate.” She clenched her fists and tucked them under her chin. “I mean. The whole thing about me showing up with the Transmission. It’s so…coincidental. Really, what’s the likelihood of an ally–well, Free, but still–showing up here with the Transmission?” Before he could even reply, and why did he need to when she was only arguing with herself, she answered, “It’s not that unlikely. Someone who had the Transmission is likely to show up somewhere the Transmitter is rumored to be. And the fact that I just happen to have a cropped ear, I mean–” She frowned. “It’s still pretty coincidental.” And then shook her head. “But I’m not an ally anymore. I don’t even fit their prophecy, not really.”
As Corra stewed over the situation, Cai watched her with interest. She had taken to mumbling reasoning to herself when he said, “It’s interesting their prophecy includes an ally at all.”
She met his eyes and stared straight through them. “It is, isn’t it?”
“You don’t see slavery mentioned anywhere in any of the major theologies,” Cai remarked thoughtfully. “It’s sort of just brushed over.”
“But this one, this whole Gatekeeper thing, it really kind of embraces it. The whole thing, it’s based in modernity, y’know? It’s not an ancient god watching over us, it’s real people in the real Span taking real action.” She flicked her gaze up to find him watching her intently. A little too intently, making her explain hurriedly, “I’m not thinking of converting or anything. I just–well, they wrote that an ally would save the Span. Whether they’re nuts or not, it’s a nice sentiment.”
“But an unlikely one to be true,” Cai pointed out.
“Is it that unlikely?” Corra couldn’t help but ask. “What if they’re right? What if–imagine I do it. The ritual. I switch on the Transmitter and something — god knows what, but something incredible happens. Imagine an ally, even an ex-ally, saving the Span.”
Cai was nodding slowly. “It would certainly be something to celebrate.”
Corra had been rather decided on the best course of action when she’d stepped into this conversation. She knew her best bet was stealing the Transmitter and having people smarter than her research it and figure out what to do with it from there. Now? Now, she was having serious doubts.
“You think I should do their ritual then,” she said simply, catching Cai’s gaze.
He smiled his goofy smile and said the most useless thing he could. “I think you should do what you feel is right.” When Corra groaned, he chuckled apologetically and tried again. “Alright, weigh it out. You’re eventually going to switch it on anyway, right?”
“Sure, but under controlled conditions, after I’ve had Cy or Addy look at it.”
“Okay so on the one hand.” He held out his palm. “You’ve got stealing the thing, which could be risky. Studying it for a while, maybe getting some answers. Testing it in relative safety given what’s been learned. Maybe learning nothing. On the other hand.” He raised his other palm. “Comply with your captors. Find out what the Transmitter does tonight. Face some risks if it does something unpleasant. But possibility for glory, reknown and Span-wide change if it does the opposite.” Cai shrugged. “Tough choice, huh?”
Corra knew Cai well enough to know he wasn’t being sarcastic or ironic in his question, but regardless of his intention, it sparked something within her.
“Yeah. Tough,” she mumbled, staring intently at her fingertips. What was a little risk anyway? As soon as the question arose in her head, an image of Archeti, encased in green light and crumbling beneath it flashed in front of her eyes. Okay, a little risk could lead to a massive disaster. But hadn’t her riskiness also lead hundreds of enslaved people to freedom?
“I should probably head back to the Beacon before someone thinks I’ve been killed and comes after me,” Cai said, dragging her out of her thoughts. “You’ll be okay, right?”
Corra waved off his concern. “Get back to the others, I’ll be fine.”
A smile lit Cai’s face, full of pride. “Of course, I’d expect nothing less of our capable captain.”
Corra tried to stop herself from blushing which probably only made it worse, but she quickly stood up and brushed off her embarrassment (one would think she’d be used to Cai’s unabashed compliments by now). “Well I expect my capable crew to be ready when I run into the bridge desperate to get the hell out of here.”
“Always and forever, captain,” Cai chimed heading for the door and disappearing out of it. Corra only stood in the chapel watching it for a moment before spinning on her heel and marching towards the back of the room where she promptly ran directly into Finn.