“We never had the chance or the budget. I installed the prototype in Fiear right before we lost Vescent. It was just….just in case…A last resort. To give him enough time to–” To get help. Help from her. Which she would have been able to administer had she not been across the city and he thirty floors up an Ellegian spire. Even having sprinted here as fast as she could manage, so much time had passed since that alert had gone off. Too much time.
Gods, why hadn’t she gone with him?
“So he was killed, but this device–brought him back?” Dez attempted to clarify, but when Leta didn’t answer, wasn’t able to answer, he muttered, “Theoretically.”
The device went off, that was all she knew. It went off and sent her the alert that it had gone off and, yes, theoretically, administered the procedure to revive him. The science was there and it had worked in the chemical tests. It had done what it was meant to do to the collection of cells they had tried it on. There was no reason it wouldn’t work on a whole human being.
But even as she assured herself, the scientist in her knew there were a million reasons it might not work on a whole human being.
But she had to believe that it had worked as she forced her exhausted legs up yet another set of stairs. It had worked and she would find him alive because the very thought of the alternative, of being too late, of having to tell Cyrus what had happened, of a somber funeral and detached media speculation, of a Span without Fiearius in it —
She halted at the top of a stairwell in a hallway. The hallway, if the massive hole in the exterior wall was to be believed. The wind lashed at her violently as she took in the scene: Smoke, debris and lifeless bodies strewn across the ground. The rusty tang of blood filled her nostrils as she counted off four younger people with librera tattoos, an older woman she didn’t know, Ophelia? And finally, slumped against the wall beside her, his eyes closed —
Leta slid across the room and was on her knees beside him in an instant, pressing her fingers to the pulse in his neck. He lay unnaturally sprawled, his neck at an odd angle, his long limbs covered in soot. Unmoving. Her other hand pressed against his chest, wet with thick blood. If the device had worked, why wasn’t he responsive?
“You’re alright,” Leta informed him, her voice shaking so badly she could hardly move her lips. “You’re alright, Fiearius, you’re going to be alright, you always are.”
Fiearius did not stir.
“What’s your blood type?” Leta barked, throwing her eyes toward Dez who was standing over Ophelia’s lifeless corpse, looking down at it with empty eyes. “He needs a transfusion, I have some things in my bag, I can probably rig up– “
“Doctor,” said Dez, “I think it’s too late for — “
“No it’s not!” Leta growled in a voice so violent, so vicious, she hoped she’d never hear herself use it again.
After a moment of blank shock, in which Dez only stood staring at her curiously, Leta relented. Obviously he was going to be no help. But she could fix this without him, she knew she could. And suddenly, her memory jumped in and she knew how. Leta fumbled in her satchel, tossing aside vials, bandages, gauze, until her hand closed around a cold piece of metal: a syringe. In it, the very same cocktail of drugs the device carried. ‘Wake up juice’ they had called it in the clinic. Hardly a pleasant concoction and one they only used if nothing else worked. It was painful and probably harmful, but if it kept someone alive when they would otherwise be dead? it was worth it.
Taking a deep breath, throwing one last look at Fiearius’ face, she plunged the syringe directly into his neck. The needle sank and sank into his flesh, and Leta sank too; trembling with worry, her forehead fell against Fiearius’, and she squeezed her eyes shut. If you leave me with this war, she thought, I’ll never forgive you.
Still, the man below her didn’t move. Maybe Dez was right. Maybe it was too late. The tears started to well in her eyes before she could even consider the words: maybe she’d lost him.
Just as her chest started to clench in despair, though, Fiearius jerked awake, gasping in a deep breath and struggling in alarm. Leta drew back, water now streaming down her face as she grasped his shoulders and tried to calm him, “Fiear, it’s okay, it’s alright!” His body had gone tense and stiff, a reaction to the drug she’d given him. “I gave you something, it’s gonna hurt for a few minutes, but it’ll be okay. Just try and relax.”
Despite the clear confusion on his face, he seemed to try and follow her advice, forcing slower, more even breaths with each passing moment. Desperately, she searched his face as he blinked furiously and tried to focus on her. “You’re okay,” she said again, half laughing, half crying and she realized she was saying it mainly for herself. “You’re gonna be alright, I’ve got you. Everything’s gonna be fine.”
But as relieved as she felt, things weren’t fine just yet. He’d been shot in the chest, sustained massive blood loss and had to be given two heavy doses of questionable drugs just to keep his heart going. He didn’t need a field medic, he needed a hospital. So as much as she wanted to simply throw her arms around him and weep, she instead steeled herself and raised her fingers to her COMM. “Emergency channel, this is Dr. Adler, I need an extraction vessel to my location immediately. Priority level 1. I repeat, extraction vessel to my location, priority –”
Suddenly, Fiearius grabbed her arm. His grip was weak, but it was enough to give her pause. When she looked over at his face, it was twisted in pain and he was shaking his head.
In her ear, a voice came through the COMM. “That’s affirmative, Dr. Adler. Extraction vessel on its way.”
Unsure what Fiearius was trying to tell her, Leta simply replied to the operator, “Thank you. There’s a break in the tower wall, that’s where we are, the vessel should be able to–” she began but Fiearius’ grip tightened and he let out a groan of protest. A surge of anger rippled through her. “Fiear, no. Don’t you dare try and pull that sacrificial bullshit on me, I am getting you out of here and you are living through this so don’t you dare–”
“No–” he finally managed to choke out, “No, the –” He coughed violently. “The chip–”
Leta’s brow creased in confusion. “I don’t–”
“The Verdant database,” said Dez suddenly from behind her. “He was killed by a Society ID-ed gun. It transferred.”
Fiearius swallowed hard and nodded. “You can’t–let Carthis find it. They can’t–know.”
“Who has it?” asked Dez and Leta watched as Fiearius searched around the room, his eyes still glazed over and unfocused. Finally, he squinted and raised his index finger at the body of Ophelia Varisian. The look on Dez’s face changed, just by a fraction, Leta noticed. She had never seen the man hesitate on anything, but looking down at the dead woman, contemplating the CID in her wrist, for the first time, Dez showed a moment of reluctance.
But only a moment. Before Leta could even say anything, Dez had kneeled beside the body, drawn his blade and in one swift motion, expertly severed Ophelia’s hand from her arm. Leta’s mouth fell open in shock, but by the time she’d caught up enough to protest, he was already on his feet, hand in hand and stalking away from them towards the doorway at the end of the hall.
She wasn’t about to let this, let him, go though. Leta too stumbled to her feet and demanded, “What the hell are you doing?”
Desophyles paused in the doorway to look back at her. “Fixing Plan A.”
Leta marched after him. “Oh hell no. If you think I’m just going to let you walk away from this with the Verdant CID to do whatever the hell crazy plan you’ve concocted–”
Dez glanced down at Fiearius, presumably for help, but he seemed entirely focused on ensuring oxygen made it in and out of his lungs. So Dez sighed. “Doctor, you have to trust me.”
Leta crossed her arms over her chest. “I don’t.”
“I know.” Dez frowned. “I know. But you need to. Any minute, the Ellegian fleet is going to return and Carthis, your friends, are going to lose this battle. Let me go and I can stop that from happening. I can end this.”
“If you’re suddenly so noble, then I’ll come with you,” Leta seethed. “I’d love to see this great save-the-world plan of yours in action.”
Dez’s clenched fists told her just how much he was losing his patience. “You have a more important task to attend to.” He gestured at Fiearius lying against the wall, those breaths of his coming shorter and shorter. “Doctor, please. Get him out of here, keep him alive. I swear to you, upon whatever you need me to swear on, what I do here today is nothing you yourself would not do, and as soon as I’m able, as soon as we can ensure Carthis’ ignorance of it, I’ll return the chip to Fiearius. You have my absolute solemn word.”
Leta didn’t like this. Of all of Fiearius’ colleagues and criminals, even those who she’d seen firsthand do terrible, brutal things, Dez was still the one she trusted least. He was the man who, no matter what side he seemed currently aligned with, appeared likely to jump to the other at any moment. How many times had he betrayed Fiearius? How many more would he? And yet as Leta stood there across the hall from him and growled, “Your word doesn’t mean a hell of a lot,” she realized he was right when he shrugged and replied, “What other choice do you have?”
As if on cue, a blast of wind swept through the hallway, so strong that Leta had to shield her face from it. When it died down and she looked up, a small Carthian shuttle was carefully hovering in place just outside the wall, its ramp already open and an emergency team rushing out into the hall. And Dez? Gone.
Praying with every ounce of faith she had left that just this once, Dez was telling the truth, Leta turned from the doorway and hurried back to Fiearius’ side to help the medical team get him aboard and get him to safety. After all, if she wanted Fiearius to live, if she wanted Carthis to stay in the dark about the CID and about Dez, if she wanted this alliance to continue? What other choice did she have?