But when he finally spoke, what he said was, “This sounds an awful lot like our last operation to Satieri. We lost a lot of ships and a lot of people on that mission. We can’t risk another distraction like that.” Leta felt her heart start to plummet. “We’ll move forward with Strategist Arsen’s plan for the comprehensive assault.” As a smug grin pulled across Arsen’s face, Leta started collecting every argument she had. Every reason she could give. She had to change his mind, she had to make this work, she–
“However.” Gates’ voice broke through her concentration. “I’m not going to stop you from seeking him out if you choose.” He met her wide eyes with his own calm stare. “You’ll have to find your own way, but if you truly believe you can do it, I suggest you go now so that you’ll have a few hours headstart.”
Leta didn’t realize her mouth had fallen open, but she shut it immediately and nodded. It wasn’t the ideal plan, but it was something. It was a chance. She’d take it. “Alright. I’ll go right away.”
“Keep in touch,” Gates advised. “If the situation changes, I want to know.” She nodded again.
“I’ll go with you,” Cyrus put in suddenly, straightening beside her.
“Cy–” She wanted to argue. What about Addy? Kalli? Flying to Satieri was going to be dangerous. Finding Fiearius could be dangerous. How could he risk everything like that? But she had no arguments to give when he fixed her with a serious stare and said, “He’s my brother, Leta. I’m coming with you.”
All Leta could do was nod as a thousand things ran through her head. Preparations that needed to be made. Things she needed to take with her. How they were going to get there. Where they were going to find him. What she was going to say to him once they did–
But for now, one thing at a time.
She looked to Cyrus. “We need a ship.”
“Alright, don’t run her too hard, she can start showing up on monitoring if her power gets too low,” Corra warned, flicking another switch on the Spirit’s control console. “But sail her steady and she’ll get you to the surface without a hitch. Not even the most advanced systems out of Ellegy can pick her up.”
Leta nodded though she wasn’t sure the information had made even the briefest pit-stop in her head as it blew in one ear and out of the other. She hoped Cyrus was paying more attention as he was going to be flying the tiny ship out of the Beacon’s docking port and down to Satieri. He was poised over the console, scanning over the control panels as Corra ran him through them.
Logically, Leta knew this briefing was necessary. Of course, she wanted her pilot to know what he was doing. But each passing second was one more second Fiearius could be in grave danger. Their journey had been made easier by the Beacon ferrying them to the outer edges of Satierian space, a favor Corra and Finn had agreed to before Cyrus had even asked. Still, the Spirit had a ways to go and the longer Corra spoke, the longer that trip would be.
Leta looked up, startled to be drawn out of her thoughts, to find Corra staring at her, worried. “You alright?”
Alright was not a word Leta would choose. She felt like she was in a haze, as though the past few days were nothing but a strange dream she couldn’t wake up from. From the moment she heard that knock on the door all the way to now, crammed into a ship that was about to fly her back to the front lines of Satieri, none of it felt real. She did not feel alright, but swallowing the lump in her throat, she nodded anyway.
Corra didn’t seem convinced, but thankfully she didn’t argue. Instead, she stepped forward and put her arms around Leta’s shoulders and squeezed. “It’s gonna be fine,” her friend assured her in a confident whisper, but Leta didn’t believe the words, not entirely.
But she didn’t argue either as Corra stepped back and smiled at her kindly. Behind her, Cyrus’ family had somehow managed to wiggle inside to say their goodbyes and good lucks. Kalli was crying, attached to her father’s leg with all of her usual tenacity as he stroked her hair. Addy, Leta noticed, was not. She crouched face to face with him, her hands on his shoulders and a sort of adoring pride in her eyes as she whispered words of assurance Leta couldn’t hear. They kissed. Kalli wailed a few protests. And they exited through the hatch.
Finn peeked his head in afterwards. “You’re gonna do great, you guys. When you see Fiear, tell him ‘fuck you’ for putting us through all this.”
For the first time in days, a smile came to Leta’s face. She waved a two-fingered goodbye to him as he disappeared and Corra drew in a deep breath. “Alright. You should head out. Carthis won’t be far behind us I’m sure. We’ll stay close so if anything happens, if anything goes wrong, say the word and we’ll be there.”
Thank you, Leta wanted to say, but words were dried up in her throat. Corra gripped both of their hands tight before she walked backwards out of the Spirit and shut the airlock door, plunging the ship into silence.
Then, moments later, Cyrus drew in a deep breath, spun around in his chair and engaged the ship. The overhead lights switched off. The engine let out a quiet hum. The Beacon’s airlock clunked as it detached. And outside the viewport, the glowing shape of Satieri swung into view.
Leta didn’t realize she’d been holding her breath until Cyrus spoke.
“Kinda familiar, isn’t it?” His tone had the strain of someone who wasn’t in the mood for jokes or trying to make one. “You and me, heading to Satieri to save my brother from the Society?”
Leta tried to laugh a response, but she was even less in the mood than he was. Her first visit to Satieri, many years ago now, was something that still haunted her nightmares regularly. “Hopefully this part is the only part that rings familiar.”
She watched Cyrus swallow hard and shake the thought from his head. “Just like him though,” he muttered under his breath. “Running off on some crazy plan that puts everyone in danger.”
“I’m not mad,” he clarified. “I mean–I am, but–” His hand absently brushed through his hair. “I just wish it hadn’t come to this.”
“We all wish that.”
The cabin fell into silence again as the conversation lapsed. Outside, the planet was growing by the instant, starting to fill the entire bay window. It was nighttime on the side they were headed towards and though they were still far off, Leta could just make out a blob of glittering lights in the middle of a vast dark desert on the surface.
“You have an address, right?”
The sudden question threw Leta off, but she recovered quickly. “Yeah, I do.”
“We’re sure that’s where we’ll find him?”
No. Nothing was sure at this point. But she said, “I’m sure,” anyway.
Cyrus released a breath and asked the question Leta didn’t want to hear. The one she’d been asking herself constantly. The one that so neatly and perfectly got to the root of all of her worries in six simple words.
“Do you think this will work?”
Honestly, she wasn’t sure. How could she be? Fiearius was already amongst enemies, Leta and Cyrus were headed in right after him and Carthis was on the way to set fire to the whole thing. The odds were not even remotely in their favor. But Leta steeled herself against the wave of bad thoughts, the barrage of everything that could go wrong and gave the answer they both needed to hear. The only thing that kept her feeling motivated as they sped straight into the lion’s den.
“It has to.”