“We should get up,” Corra suggested for what was probably the fifth time. And once again, Finn laughed defiantly, rolled towards her and pressed his lips against hers. The feeling of his hands roaming down her bare back had worked every other time to keep her in bed, but this time, guilt and responsibility were starting to settle in.
“I’m serious,” she protested, though her efforts to pull herself out of his embrace were half-hearted at best. “Alyx is gonna be mad…”
“Pfft,” he breathed against her neck before letting his mouth explore the sensitive space just below her ear. “Captain Iwata doesn’t scare me.”
“Because you have no sense of self-preservation.” Corra’s breath caught in her throat as Finn’s fingers stumbled down her thighs, but she somehow managed to get a hold of herself enough to seize his wrists and pull them away. Her eyes locked on his and she frowned in determination. “I do.”
Lest she be tempted again, Corra took his momentary surprise as her opportunity to wiggle out of his grip and roll out of bed. She winced as the covers slipped away and her feet touched ice cold ship-metal. “God, it’s freezing.” Her hand reached for something, anything, to cover her naked body. She was pulling a warm sweater over her head when she caught Finn’s eye, smirking at her, smug as he leaned back against the pillows.
“Karma for leaving me here,” he reminded playfully.
Corra rolled her eyes, but she knew this game well-enough by now. She returned his smirk and got back onto the bed, crawling on all fours until her face hovered over his. “How about we make a trade?” she cooed in the most sultry voice she had in her arsenal.
Finn cocked a brow in interest. “You have my attention.”
Carefully, she lowered herself til their lips were mere inches apart. “Come with me now,” she breathed, “and I promise I’ll make it worth your while later tonight.”
The interest was piqued. “You mean…?”
She broke a grin. “I mean.”
He stared at her for a moment, entranced by her face and the warmth of her breath. And then suddenly, he shuffled out from underneath her, stumbled to his feet and within instants was dressed (albeit messily) and ready to go.
“Come on, what are you doin’, lazy, get up.” He tugged on her arm and Corra laughed as he pulled her to her feet on the bed where, with him on the floor, they were actually at an equal eyeline for once.
“You’re ridiculous, y’know that?” She dropped her arms on his shoulders.
“And you,” his typical drawl turned suddenly posh, “are the most beautiful woman my unworthy eyes have ever seen. You are a queen, the light of my life, the hope in the darkness, the–”
“Hang on,” Corra cut him off, her brow creasing in suspicion. She recognized the line. “Have you been reading my book?”
He shrugged. “Thought it might be useful.” He snaked a hand around her waist. “See what it is that gets ya in the mood. My sun and moon and stars–”
A loud groan rolled from Corra’s throat as she grabbed his hand and jumped off the bed, dragging him behind her, still rattling off key phrases from The Bard’s Conquest all the way out of their quarters.
Alyx didn’t look up when Corra and Finn strode into the bridge, hand in hand, but she did greet them. In a sort of chiding way…
“Ah, the two lovebirds finally grace us with their presence.” Corra’s cheeks turned pink, but more out of embarrassment for how much of the day she’d spent locked in her bedroom than anything else. Her romance with Finn had stopped being embarrassing months ago when the entire crew of the Orion had admitted they already knew what was going on between their pilot and their operations manager.
“Yeah, I knew back on the Beacon too,” Alyx had added which had made Corra wonder if she was actually a terrible liar. Cai, however, who claimed he’d had no idea, gave her a bit of reassurance.
She still hadn’t mentioned it to Leta though…
“Sorry,” Corra responded, finding her way to a seat and offering no further explanation. She glanced out of the bay window at the scaffolded skyline of New Genisi and asked, “What’s going on?”
Instead of Alyx answering, another voice piped in from the ship’s speakers themselves. “Ark 0230 is en route to Ellegian moon Yeven for rendezvous with Conduit agents Balker and Nerrin and an estimated 346 recovered allies. Approximate arrival in 3 hours 24 minutes. Ark 0231 remains in orbit around Ascendia in preparation for agent Palava’s extraction. Ark 0232 landed in New Genisi carrying 546 Frees 2.2 hours ago.”
Corra glanced at the orange console screen beside her. “Thanks, Double-A. Not what I meant. But thanks.”
“We–” Alyx began.
“You are welcome, Ms. Corra,” interrupted Ark Assist.
Alyx was glaring at the console. “I do like this thing more now that we’ve got it helping us rather than hindering but…I wish it was a little less rude.”
Corra snorted a laugh as Finn defended, “Nobody’s perfect, Alyx.”
“Yeah, you know all about that, don’t you?” Alyx shot back under her breath.
Finn feigned offense. “I know all about being human? Yes, unlike some people.”
The two of them continued to bicker back and forth, but Corra easily tuned them out, instead examining the Ark Assist interface again which had just lit up with a notification. ‘New update from Ark 0106’ it read. It wasn’t the first time she’d seen a notification like that. In fact, the Ark Assist seemed to get new updates from various arks nearly every other day.
Each time, Corra contemplated reading them, exploring the adventures of these other mysterious people in far away mysterious parts of the universe. And each time, she marked the notification as read and logged it away without looking at it and without telling anyone it had ever existed. Maybe one day. Maybe later. One can of worms at a time.
“So Cai’s back?” Corra asked, her voice loud enough to cut through Finn and Alyx’s perpetual argument.
“Oh, yeah,” Alyx answered, shooting one more glare at Finn for good measure. “Daelen’s helping him and Aeneas get the newbies off the ark and into processing. I guess we’ve actually got enough real housing for all of them now so Petro’s chugging through that to figure it all out.”
“Poor guy,” Finn muttered.
“He’s dedicated to seeing Genisi resurrected, I’ll give him that,” Alyx sighed as two pairs of footsteps marched into the bridge. Corra glanced back and her face lit up.
“Cai!” She launched herself from her chair and across the floor to catch him in a hug. She hadn’t necessarily been worried about him, but it was his first solo mission. Cai himself had been a little hesitant when he’d boarded the ark two weeks ago. Hesitant, but determined. And Corra was hardly in a position to turn down any help she could get.
“I did it!” he declared proudly as he hugged her back.
“You did!” Holding him back at arm’s length, Corra grinned. “And you freed so many!”
Through a chuckle, he shrugged and murmured, “Couldn’ta done it without your planning, boss.”
“Shh.” She patted him affectionately on the cheek. “Take the credit you’ve earned. Think of all the lives you’ve just changed for the better.”
Behind her, Aeneas was addressing Alyx. “Fleet’s up in orbit. Ready to move on your signal, admiral.”
“I told you not to call me that,” she groaned quietly, running her hand nervously through her purple hair.
“Yes, Aeneas, haven’t you heard? She prefers ‘Grand Leader Iwata the Third,’” Finn put in with a mischievous smirk, earning him yet another harsh glare.
“Alyx is fine,” she growled.
Finn put his fingers to his chin in thought. “You know, it’s been, what, nearly a year since Satieri and I’ve yet to figure something out.”
Alyx’s fake smile was overly wide. “How to keep your mouth closed for more than two seconds?”
Corra couldn’t contain her snicker, but Cai seemed disheartened and impatient. “Again?” he asked through a disappointed sigh. Throwing his hand towards the two of them, he looked at Corra in despair. “Still?” Of course, still, she thought to herself as she nodded slowly and patted the man on the back. If Alyx and Finn ever stopped arguing about something, or more accurately, nothing, the Span would probably implode.
“No,” was Finn’s unphased response to her slight. “I haven’t figured out how it is that you went from taking orders from us–” He pointed to himself and to Corra who shook her head and stepped away, wanting no part in this, “–to us having to take orders from you.” She watched as Alyx’s brows rose high on her forehead. “How come you suddenly became an admiral? Where did this fleet even come from?”
Whatever Corra thought Finn was going to say, it wasn’t that. And the same could apparently be said for everyone else. The entire bridge went quiet as all of them stared at Finn in mild disbelief. Even Alyx had no quippy response, her mouth slackening a little as she watched him with a confused frown.
It was Aeneas who finally answered. “The fleet belongs to Archeti. We lent our services to Soliveré during the war, but now we serve the new admiral.”
Finn didn’t look any more appeased. “But why is she the admiral? Shouldn’t you be the admiral?”
Now it was Aeneas’ turn to frown. “No…”
Finally, Alyx got a hold of herself. “Seriously, Finn? You’ve been on this ship with us for, like you said, nearly a year? How do you not know this?”
This conversation clearly hadn’t gone where he’d wanted it to. Perhaps he’d thought he was setting up an entertaining joke, but now he just looked a little silly. Still, as was Finn’s way, he played it casual. “I don’t know. I just followed Corra and — yeah, I thought it was a little weird, but — I don’t know, I never questioned it really.”
Corra released a sigh and ran her hand down her face. “Oh, Riley…”
“She inherited the title,” Aeneas answered at last.
“What? No!” Alyx rolled her eyes. “From my mother.”
The clarification seemed to do nothing for him which was when Corra realized that somehow, ever after all this time, Finn had never found out Alyx’s unkept secret. She watched as the same realization slowly dawned on Alyx’s face.
“Quin?” she prompted. “Quinida Utada? She was my mother.”
Finn’s jaw practically dropped off its hinges. “Quin was your mother?!” He stared at her in disbelief and then looked around at Corra, Cai, Aeneas. “Did all of you know this?” Corra closed her mouth abruptly, trying to look innocent, but he had already turned back to Alyx to hesitantly ask, “Did you know about…Fiear and–?” Without waiting for that answer either, another one occurred to him. “Wait, who’s your father?”
Alyx was overwhelmed, holding her hands out at her sides as if to block the flood of inquiries. “Yes, they all know. Yes, I knew about Fiear…And I don’t know. My father wasn’t around. Why does it matter? I don’t know who he was.”
“Riley,” said Aeneas thoughtfully.
“What?” asked Finn.
He shook his head. “Not you. Alyx’s father. I met him a few times. He was an asshole. Man named Riley. Atur Riley.”
The bridge went quiet as the information sunk in to each of them individually. Corra had heard that name before. Atur Riley, an asshole, was exactly how Finn had described his own father. And if Finn’s father was also Alyx’s father…
Finn looked confounded. Alyx looked horrified. And as Aeneas smiled innocently and walked from the bridge, Corra couldn’t help but look at the two half-siblings, always bickering and arguing and muttering to Cai, “It all makes so much sense now…”