His feet had carried him back towards the console before he even knew what he was doing. “What the fuck?!”
“Ah, Admiral,” said Gates, a certain cheer in his voice that made Fiearius want to pick up the desk and throw it across the room. “You’re alive after all.”
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?!”
“Winning the war, I believe,” was the answer that made Fiearius actually grip the desk in preparation for the toss.
“By fucking destroying the planet you wanted to take over?! Why?!”
“Above my pay grade, I’m afraid. These are orders direct from the president. Though I’d imagine if you asked her, she’d say something about demonstrations and power, influence, showing our strength, etcetera etcetera.”
“That’s the–” Fiearius let out a groan and settled for slamming the table legs onto the ground. One of the cracked. “Turn it off! Now!”
“I suppose I could,” Gates replied simply. “I mean. What difference would it make? My career’s already over. I brought a piece of space debris into the fold of Carthis’ honorable army, trusted him with my life and the lives of millions of our people and he went and got most of them killed. I’ll be court martialed as soon as I walk off this bridge.” There was a pause before he added, “Oh wait. That’s exactly why I won’t turn it off.”
Fiearius laughed a single humorless laugh. “If you’re trying to make me feel bad for you, it’s not gonna work.”
“I would never expect such a complex emotion from you. Goodbye Fiearius–”
A streak of panic ran through him. “Wait–”
“Enjoy the last few moments of your precious Satieri.”
“Kaiser, hang on–”
“And, in your own immortal words,” he paused for dramatic effect, “Go fuck yourself.”
The line went dead. Fiearius was left staring at the screen, his mouth open and the burn of rage running through every one of his veins. It was so intense, that no comprehensive thoughts could even make it to his head. Just anger. Lots and lots and lots of anger.
Then Leta said, “Well that went fucking great,” and he snapped back into himself.
“Aeneas!” Fiearius shouted into the COMM. “Change of plans. No more warning shots, blow them all the hell!” His eyes narrowed on the blank screen of the console. “Start with the lead dreadnought.”
“Wait, wait, wait, shouldn’t we have them attack that?” Leta pointed frantically out of the window where the green light was steadily growing larger.
Cyrus was already shaking his head. “It runs with ECRO-gen shields.”
Leta looked between the two of them, frustrated. “What does that have to do with anything?”
“None of our ships have the weapons capable of even making a dent, they wouldn’t–”
“What about the Society ships?” Fiearius suggested, desperation flooding out of him. “We could call them back.”
Again with the head shaking. “They can’t either, it’s–”
Fiearius groaned and ran his hands down his face. “Why the fuck did you build this thing to be indestructible?!”
Cyrus opened his mouth in protest. “I didn’t know we’d be fighting it one day!”
“It’s a fucking terraformer, it doesn’t need to be indestructible anyway!”
“Are you–do you have any idea what kind of–”
“No because these things shouldn’t even exist anymore so–”
“I was doing my job, Fiearius, I–”
“Hey!” Leta suddenly screamed over them, pulling the brothers out of their argument and their attention back to her. “Focus! We need a plan! What can we do?”
She was looking at Fiearius. Fiearius looked at Cyrus. And Cyrus looked at his feet. He tried to make his voice even and calm as he said, “C’mon, Cy. We can’t just run away and let this happen. There must be something we can do.”
Cyrus didn’t look up from the ground. Not even when the building shook violently again, reminding them of truly how little time they had. Still, he had no answers. It was Leta whose suggestion came first.
“Okay, we can’t attack it from the outside, what if we attack it from the inside? Take out its crew, turn it off ourselves.”
“It’s unmanned,” said Cyrus quietly. “It’s run remotely.”
“So they’re controlling it from up there?” Fiearius gestured to the sky. “Can’t we just blow up the ships controlling it then?”
“If the connection is lost, there’s a chance it’ll shut down, but–there’s a chance it won’t. We never got far enough into the project to test that kind of scenario, if the program’s already loaded and running, it might just keep going and–” He shook his head. “But you might be onto something?”
Fiearius shared a look with Leta. “What, blowing things up?”
Cyrus frowned. “What? No, not you. Her. Attack from the inside. If someone can get inside it, we could disable it.”
It was a start. “Okay, get inside it, is that possible?”
He took a moment to stare, mouth open, at the wall across from him and then nodded. “Yes! Yes, there’s a hatch on the starboard hull, it’ll take you right into the guts of it. We just need to–get to the hatch.” His eyes traveled to the green light on the horizon. “Up there.”
Fiearius followed his line of sight. He heard Leta release a quiet groan at the thought. Okay, it wasn’t an ideal plan, boarding a massive functioning terraformer mid-flight. But damned if he was going to stand here and watch his home get destroyed.
“Do we have a ship?” he asked.
“No,” Leta answered.
Cyrus, however, turned to E’etan’s console and tapped a few keys. Across the room, a wall panel slid aside, revealing an elevator Fiearius hadn’t realized was there before. Cyrus smiled shakily. “But I do.”
“I still vote no.” Daelen’s arms were crossed over his chest. “We have no idea what it does. It’s far too risky.”
“I vote no too,” agreed Alyx, shaking her head. “It could cause more problems for all we know.”
“How can you say that?” demanded Addy, not even hiding her desperation. “You, of all people, know what that thing can do. What it’s already doing–”
“Hey,” Alyx cut her off with a stern glance. “That has nothing to do with this. I’m not arguing that we should be fine with the Nautilus destroying planets. I’m not. Believe me, I’m not. But this?” She gestured to the device on the table they all stood around. “Is not an answer. It’s not even an educated guess.”
“Cyrus and Leta and Fiear are all down there.” Addy threw her hand towards the bay window where they could see the flashes and lights of the Carthian ships doing battle with Fiearius’ fleet, they could see the smoky surface of Satieri and, even from here, they could see the bright green light of the Nautilus.
“If there is any chance that this thing could save them, I’m willing to take it,” Addy finished sharply.
Beside her, Cai was nodding slowly. “I think we should too.” It was the first time he’d spoken in this argument and all eyes flew to him. “No, we don’t know what it does exactly, but–I think it came to us for a reason.” He didn’t seem to notice Alyx rolling her eyes. “There are a lot of people dying down there. Even more than Archeti. I think maybe this is the reason.”
Well, a half hour of argument had gotten them nowhere. It was still two to two. Corra sighed and looked down at the Transmission she held in her hand. She didn’t have an answer nearly as strong as the rest of her crew seemed to. Both sides of the debate seemed entirely valid to her. Messing around with ancient technology could yield any kind of results. Some good, some that could possibly save Satieri, save their friends, end the war. Yet some…potentially catastrophic.
“Superstition aside, we need to look at the facts,” Alyx went on sharply. “And those are that using this thing is stabbing blindly in the dark when we could be better spending our time coming up with a real plan.”
“And what exactly would a real plan entail?” Addy’s voice shook like she was about to crack from despair.
Alyx’s face wasn’t devoid of sympathy, but no matter how softly she said the words, the message was just the same. “We could take the Beacon down to the surface and find our friends and get them out.”
Addy’s mouth fell open in shock at the suggestion. “And just abandon an entire planet? Let Satieri be destroyed?”
“What other choice do we have?” At any other time, Daelen’s calm tone would have been a blessing, cutting through the chaos and soothing the room, but now even he seemed to have no effect. “Cyrus built the thing and he said before we have no chance against it. There’s nothing we can do.”
“We can do this,” said Cai bluntly, pointing at the Transmitter. “This is exactly what we can do. This is what we’re meant to do.”
“And what if it’s not?” Alyx argued. “What if it makes things worse?”
“Then at least we tried,” he said, shaking his head. “At least we did something other than run away and watch a populated world crumble to dust.”
“Again…” Addy said quietly, so full of meaning that the room went silent. All of them stared down at the Transmitter. Corra swore she felt the tension pressing on her skin. There was no easy choice here and it was one she didn’t want to have to make. The more time they wasted though, the more lives would be lost.
When she finally looked up again, she found four pairs of eyes staring at her.
“It’s your decision, captain,” reminded Daelen and no one refuted him. But there was still one person here who hadn’t given his opinion. The one person who wasn’t looking at her, who had stood silently in the back of the group with his chin in his hand since this conversation began.
“Riley?” His eyes flicked up towards her. “What do you think?”
Addy jumped in to convince him. “Finn, you can’t let what happened to Archeti happen here. We have to do something–”
“Adds, I love you to death, but you need to stop throwing that around,” Alyx growled through gritted teeth.
“She’s not wrong though,” mumbled Cai.
“Archeti isn’t just an argument you can use–”
“It’s part of this discussion–”
“Quiet!” Corra snapped over all of them and the room grew quiet again. She locked eyes with Finn and asked again. “Riley. What do you think?”
Everyone seemed to be holding their breaths waiting for his answer. Corra had abstained, which made him the deciding vote. And frankly, his opinion meant more to her than any of the others. Whatever he decided is what they would do. And by the look on his face, he knew it.
Corra watched as he looked down at the Transmitter again, then the Transmission in her hand. Finally, he turned his head toward the window and the others followed. The green light grew larger by the minute. Corra hadn’t watched Archeti as it was swallowed whole, but she knew it wouldn’t take long. Time was running out.
Which was likely why Finn at last turned back to her, met her eyes and nodded. “Do it.”
Corra didn’t wait for any other reactions. She didn’t need her hand stayed any longer or more indecision to cloud her head. She slid the Transmission into its slot and held her breath as the the circle of light flicked on and started to grow.