Leta, from where she lay on the ground, started to laugh. Quiet and slow, but enough to make the Councillor eye her curiously. “Something funny?”
She just laughed a little harder and glanced at Fiearius who grimaced. “Got some bad news for you, mate. Little bit of a problem with your plan there”
“I’m not with Carthis,” growled Leta, pushing her upper body off of the ground.
Fiearius smiled. “And I’m not the Verdant.”
Confusion passed over Dorrian E’etan’s face. Fiearius saw his eyes fly towards the window where clearly no Society ships had returned as they should have, had the Verdant ordered them to. And to Fiearius who, smirking casually, glanced down at Leta. And Leta, who held up a tiny chip in her hand proudly. The Verdant chip.
There was a flash of realization, the man muttered “What–” and then a loud gunshot filled the room and he collapsed to the floor.
“That was my cue, right?” asked Cyrus from behind E’etan’s body, holding the lightly smoking gun, now aimed right at Fiearius, a little too tensely for comfort. Sneaking around behind enemies without detection he may have mastered, but gun handling, clearly not so much.
“Close enough,” his brother answered, stepping forward and gently nudging the gun out of his direction. He then reached a hand out to Leta. “You alright?”
She took it and he pulled her to her feet. “I jumped into a skyscraper today, Fiearius,” she said which made his brows rise high on his forehead, though she apparently didn’t feel the need to elaborate. “I can handle being shoved by a boy.”
A genuine smile lit his face, which she resisted returning, crossing her arms over her chest, turning away and sticking her chin in the air. She only lasted a moment though before she glanced back at him and smirked.
“Has anyone ever told you you’re a good actor?” Fiearius snaked an arm around her waist and pulled her back against his chest. “Logically, I knew this whole thing was your idea, but you still made me feel really really bad about it…”
Leta shrugged. “It’s not hard to channel anger towards you.” She turned in his embrace and reached up to put a hand on each of his cheeks. “I just think of all you’ve put me through,” she explained sweetly.
Fiearius clapped a hand to his chest as though she’d shot him there. “You wound me, my dear.”
Her hands pulled his face towards her, their noses brushing and their lips a mere inch apart. “You’ve survived worse,” she whispered and Fiearius felt a shiver run down his spine as he leaned in to close the distance.
“Really?” The two of them looked up at Cyrus who was across the room at the late E’etan’s console looking unamused. “Right now?”
Leta turned pink as her arms fell back to her side. Fiearius let out a barking laugh. He had a point. Still, he leaned in to place a very brief, but very forceful kiss upon Leta’s lips before squeezing where his hand had landed on her rear and leaving her (even more pink) to join his brother.
“Tell me it worked,” he pleaded.
Cyrus lifted his head proudly. “What’s it look like to you?” Stepping aside, he revealed the console he’d been working on, displaying the same interface E’etan had been using before. The one only accessible to the Satieran Councillor’s personal CID embedded in his arm and now accessible to the chip held in Cyrus’ hand.
“It looks like I owe you some congratulations, Councillor Soliveré.” Fiearius patted Cyrus on the back cheerfully, but he waved him away.
“Oh fuck off.”
“So the transfer went fine then?” asked Leta, finally returning to a normal color as she joined them. “You had enough time to get it worked out?”
Cyrus made that face he made when he was particularly proud of something he’d done, but it was far too nerdy for anyone else to understand. “I’d already managed to replicate the Verdant transfer system in the gun, all I had to do was find the right target CID to trigger the transfer and he’d left this console connected to it, so really it was easy to–”
“She was asking if we distracted him well enough,” Fiearius cut him off.
Cyrus provided him a frown. “Yes, you distracted him fine. Now we have access to his command system as well as yours. The fleet’s ours.”
“Thank the gods, it was so hard not to kill him.”
“Speaking of which,” Leta put in quietly, eying Cyrus with a hint of worry. “Are you–” Her head tilted just slightly towards the body behind her. “Okay? I mean, with–” The question had also occurred to Fiearius. His brother tended to avoid the more murderous parts of life on the Dionysian and yet he had just shot a man in the head. It wasn’t the first time Cyrus had needed to kill someone, surely. But it was definitely the first time he’d point blank assassinated someone.
But Cyrus just shrugged and said, “I’m fine. He killed my nephew, fuck that guy.”
For a moment, Fiearius wondered if he’d stumbled into some alternate universe. Leta, the innocent, self-righteous doctor coming up with deceitful plans and lying her way through them with ease. Cyrus, the even more innocent, timid engineer, shooting people in the head and cursing about it. There was a time either of these things would have been unfathomable. Now–
A high-pitched whirr followed by a tremendous boom that shook the ground beneath their feet instantly drew Fiearius out of his daze. One part of the plan may have been done, but outside the apartment’s window, Satieri was still being systematically destroyed.
“We should get moving,” he heard himself suggest as he fixed his gaze on where the latest blast landed.
“On it,” replied Leta and, glancing back at her, he found her already leaned over the other console and the COMM already trying to connect. It let out a cheerful ring when it made it through.
“Doctor Adler,” greeted Gates’ stern voice on the other side of the line.
“Admiral, we made it!” Leta exclaimed, sounding younger somehow when she spoke. “We found Fiearius, he’s taken control of the Society fleets, he’s holding them off! Stop attacking!”
The line went dead. No response. When Leta looked over at him, Fiearius was almost sure there wouldn’t be one at all. Had the signal been cut? Did Gates cut it himself? Maybe ‘Fiearius is alive, stop attacking’ was the last thing he wanted to hear.
But finally, his voice came through. “Is that so?”
Fiearius couldn’t help but glance outside again where just then, three distinct blasts rained from the clouds above and exploded into the city’s surface. One in the shipping district. One by the city center. He could have sworn he saw a spark of neon lights when the third hit the entertainment district.
“He killed the Councillor,” Leta continued to explain. “He’s controlling all of their ships now. That’s why there’s no retaliation.”
In the silence that followed, Fiearius could picture Gates with his hand on his chin, frowning thoughtfully and giving that slow nod he always gave. Any second now, he would give the order, the attacks would stop and Fiearius could call in his own fleet to force them into surrender. He had his finger on the COMM, ready to hail Aeneas with the signal the moment the time came.
But Gates didn’t give the order. Instead, he said, “That’s very interesting.” Leta gave Fiearius a look of alarm. Cyrus mumbled something under his breath and Fiearius frowned. Something was wrong.
“Because we thought they weren’t retaliating because you sent them across the Span.”
Leta’s eyes went wide. Her mouth fell open, but she said nothing.
“It was surprising enough to hear from our sources on Ellegy, Vescent and Ascendia that the Society fleets were focusing their efforts on our undefended bases instead of protecting Satieri,” Gates continued, his tone icy. “Imagine my shock to then learn we’d intercepted the very orders to do so coming from a tiny little stealth ship carrying our supposed allies.”
“They intercepted the transmissions out of the Spirit?” Cyrus breathed in disbelief. “How–”
“So let’s say we dispense with the charade, shall we, Doctor? I think you’ve lied enough for one day.”
Fiearius watched Leta as she went from shocked to confused to, finally, angry. Her fingers curled into a fist against the desk. Her jaw clenched. Fiearius felt Cyrus watching him, watching Leta, back to him, a silent urging behind his expression, but Fiearius was still, patient.
“Alright, Admiral. No more lies,” she said at last, the youth in her voice gone. “We’ve killed the final Councillor, we’ve assumed control of the Society, you’ve lost Ellegy, you’re about to lose Ascendia and, I haven’t checked in for a few minutes, but you’ll be lucky if you ever set foot on Vescent again. As for Satieri, we still have the firepower to dismantle your entire fleet.”
From across the room, she met Fiearius’ eye and nodded. “Now, Aeneas,” he said into his COMM. The captain on the other end gave him a noise of confirmation and Fiearius turned around to watch the dark skies as, far far above them, a cluster of lights appeared amongst the neverending expanse of stars. His loyal fleet, Quin’s loyal fleet, arriving in Satieran space.
“And we’re not afraid to use it,” Leta threatened to Gates, looking particularly pleased with herself as she leaned against the desk and watched the window along with the two brothers.
The ceaseless bombing that had started what felt like days ago, slowed. And then it stopped. For the first time in twenty minutes, the constant barrage of noise was gone. Paradiex was peaceful. Covered in smoke and burning, but the skies were not filled with fire and ships and explosions. Fiearius heard Cyrus let out a breath he’d been holding far too long.
But then Gates spoke again. “I see.” His voice from the console was clear and precise without the interference of destruction outside. “So this is where our alliance comes to an end.”
Fiearius refused to acknowledge the pang of guilt he felt in his chest. Before, Leta may have been pretending for E’etan’s sake, but some of her words had rung a little too true. It wouldn’t be the first time Fiearius was branded a traitor. It probably wouldn’t be the last. But hearing Gates himself come to terms with it didn’t do any favors to his ego. The man had pissed him off far too many times, but Fiearius couldn’t help but have a certain respect for him after all they’d been through.
Leta seemed to experiencing the same conflict. “It doesn’t have to be,” she told him, her voice a little less harsh than it had been moments before. “But this is where your siege of Satieri ends. You’re outnumbered, you know it. We don’t want to shoot you out of the skies, but we will if we have to. Surrender, it’s done.”
There was a long silence on the other end of the line. The other noises from the streets below were starting to filter in. People shouting, sirens blaring, a slow build of chaos in some ways far worse than the explosions themselves. A tension gripped Fiearius’ chest. This was the plan, it was going fine, they had almost won, so why did he feel so nervous?
Then Gates spoke again. “I’m afraid it’s not, Doctor.”
The three of them shared one short look of confusion before the ground started to shake. One quick, violent motion that nearly knocked Fiearius off his feet, followed by a sharp but steady rumble. Was the building coming down? was the first coherent thought that passed through his head. Had they been hit? Had E’etan rigged the place?
But Cyrus had the answer long before he did and when his brother, staring out the window in wide-eyed horror, breathed, “Dov’ha ti’arte…” Fiearius knew too.
On the horizon, just where the city met the sky, there was a sickly green light. A light every person in that room had seen before and prayed to never see again. It was bright, lighting up the clouds of smoke across the entire city. Night turned into a nightmarish day. Fiearius felt Leta brush up against his arm as she joined him at the window, but neither of them could speak.
“Corra’s message,” mumbled Cyrus beside him. “It wasn’t–not die, not–It wasn’t ‘not’ it was–”
“Nautilus,” Leta finished for him, swallowing hard. “I thought we blew that thing up on Vescent.”
“We did.” Cyrus’ voice cracked.
Fiearius’ brow creased in a frown and his fingers closed into a fist so tightly they drew blood. They did blow it up. He remembered that day well. It haunted his dreams more often than he cared to admit. Quin had dropped the bomb herself. He’d seen the ruins days later. They’d destroyed it. Nautilus was damaged beyond repair. Or so he had been foolish enough to believe.
The growl came from between gritted teeth. “Carthis fixed it.”