She felt Fiearius’ hand on the back of her chair. “No idea. Just came out of nowhere and started attacking us. So brought in Aeneas for backup, Carthis followed and now…” He waved his hand toward the window at the flashing clouds of the battle. “This.”
“Well it’s not shooting at us anymore so I’ll take it,” muttered Cyrus in the pilot’s seat who, for someone sitting down, was remarkably out of breath.
Leta frowned. “If Carthis is attacking it too…”
“Not theirs,” Fiearius confirmed. “They probably think it’s ours.”
“But it’s not?” Leta glanced at him. “It’s not some Society thing? Security or–” Fiearius was already shaking his head. As was Cyrus.
“It’s not even the right tech,” he said, seemingly relieved to have a reprieve from the intense piloting. “I’ve never seen anything like this, I don’t even know any planet capable of making something like this, it’s–”
Suddenly, his voice choked in his throat. Leta looked over at him in alarm to find his eyes wide and his jaw dropped. Before she could ask what was wrong, he answered. “It’s not Carthis. It’s not the Society. It’s Corra.”
Fiearius and Leta shared a look. “Corra’s trying to kill us now too?!” he demanded.
“Wha–no!” Cyrus growled. “She’s trying to help! This ship, it’s not something from our time. It’s ancient, it’s foreign, it’s–”
“From the Origin,” Leta breathed, her eyes transfixed on the shadow obscured by clouds. “She used the Transmission.”
“Looks that way…” Cyrus muttered in confirmation.
Fiearius had a frown of confusion upon his brow, but he seemed to decide now wasn’t the time to question. It was the time to act. “Can we get in touch with her?”
“We can try.” Leta spun her chair back towards the controls and activated the COMM. It was fortunate she’d called the Beacon so many times from so many locations that she’d finally memorized its CID number. The screen lit up its connection right away, but it wasn’t Corra’s voice that greeted her.
“The system you are trying to reach is occupied by Origin Ark Assist,” said an other-worldy voice, interspersed with static from the shoddy connection. “Communications are currently on back-up and cannot be–”
Suddenly, it was cut off. “Connect, connect, connect, god, this thing!” And that voice was miraculously familiar.
There was a gasp. “Leta! Thank god, I didn’t think it was going to let us answer. It’s blocking everything, we can’t even–”
As many questions as Leta may have had about what ‘Origin Ark Assist’ meant, why it was occupying her ship and how it was blocking her communications, there wasn’t a lot of time to waste asking them. “Corra, what happened, what is this thing? Did the Transmission call it here?”
“Sort of,” was her cryptic answer. Another ten questions Leta didn’t have the free seconds to ask sprang into her mind. “They’re arks, they’re empty as far as I can tell, but they have a moral obligation to–”
“Wait, they?” interject Cyrus. “They?”
“I guess you haven’t looked up in a while.” That was Alyx. “There’s three.”
“Great,” Leta heard Fiearius mutter behind her. “Not one, not two, but three giant death machines.” He paused a moment and then presumably looked out of the bay window and remembered the green pulse in the storm. “Sorry, four.”
“We can’t control them,” Corra told them. “Addy’s trying everything, but we can’t override their programming. Not until we get the Caelum Lex back.”
“The–” Cyrus stammered. “Why?”
“Their prime objective is to protect it. I guess being on the Nautilus classified it as under attack. And now they’re under attack which is the second thing and — this doesn’t matter,” Corra snapped impatiently. “We need the Caelum Lex out of danger. Being on the Beacon is out of danger. Then they’ll stop attacking. That’s it.”
Cyrus looked worried, Fiearius frustrated, but Leta, for the first time in days, smiled. She felt the weight in her pocket and thanked the gods she’d done something right at least. Just as Cyrus was saying something about going back, she cut him off. “I have it.”
Both pairs of eyes swung to her. “I took it from the Nautilus.” She reached into her pocket and drew out the sphere. “I have it.”
“Shit,” Fiearius breathed in appreciation. “You fuckin’ genius.”
“Well–good! Get it here, then! We’re just entering Satieri’s atmosphere,” said Corra.
Cyrus gripped the ship controls and started to turn her. “Locked onto your signal and on the way.”
Despite the raging storm outside (and partially inside), despite the ancient ships hanging over the planet, despite the myriad problems still laid out in front of them, as Leta leaned back in her chair, she felt some glimmer of hope that all was not entirely lost. She watched as Fiearius leaned over her to send out a command for all ships to disengage from the ark. She glanced at Cyrus, skillfully navigating them around ship fire from the raging battle. And then she looked out of the window as a Carthian ship lifted into its vision and blocked their path.
“Oh shit,” Cyrus whispered as the cannons started to charge a shot.
“Don’t they have something better to do?” snapped Fiearius.
“Cy?!” exclaimed Leta when it didn’t seem like their ship was moving out of the way fast enough.
And then in a flash of red light, the Carthian ship was gone.
The three of them stared in wonder as they zoomed past the explosion, barely any debris left to speak of. The ship had been entirely decimated by the blast from the ark, a few chunks of metal plating and dust all that remained. The ark had certainly done them a favor. Convenient, Leta thought, feeling a little shocked by it. Coincidence…
Or maybe it wasn’t.
As they continued through the storm, she saw another flash of red and, below green. The idea struck her straight in the chest.
Both Cyrus and Fiearius looked over at her in alarm. “We can’t go to the Beacon yet. We still need to take care of the Nautilus,” she argued.
“Yeah, I’m aware of that, but one death machine at a time, okay?” Fiearius grumbled.
“No, you don’t understand.” Leta pushed herself up in her seat, ignoring the sharp pain that ran from her arm through her chest. “We can use one to fight the other.” She lifted the Caelum Lex in front of him, hoping the thought would click in his head.
It didn’t. “What the hell are you talking about?”
Leta groaned and put her hand over her forehead. “Didn’t you see what just happened? That Carthian ship threatened us. And the ark took it down.”
“Its prime objective is to protect the Caelum Lex,” Cyrus muttered, thankfully understanding where his brother did not.
“Exactly!” Leta exclaimed, turning around in her chair to face Fiearius. “And when it tried to shoot you and hit the Nautilus instead–”
“Its blast went straight through the shields,” finished Cyrus. “Whatever it’s using, it’s not tech that we planned for, the shields are useless against it.”
Leta lifted the Caelum Lex even higher in front of Fiearius’ face. He glared down at it thoughtfully and then glanced at her. “You suggesting what I think you’re suggesting?”
“If what you’re thinking is crazy and dangerous and based only on a rough understanding of ancient programming and its reactions to things, but just might save your planet from being completely destroyed? Then yes.”
Fiearius considered her for a moment. It was a long shot, Leta knew, but as of this moment, it was still the best shot they had. And since when did Fiearius turn down long shots?
“Alright.” He shrugged. “Cy, land the ship.”