Cyrus had never cared much for hospitals. At least the clinic he'd managed to find on this foreign planet - or rather, the clinic he'd thrown himself into like a madman - was hardly the image of mild terror one might expect. The clear glass medical building appeared pleasant, clean and quiet this evening. All was well. Until he burst in, out of breath, and all eyes turned onto him.
Ignoring the startled looks of a dozen waiting patrons, he advanced toward the main desk, immediately meeting the eyes of the curious receptionist.
"Hi, I need help," he began, short of breath. "The captain of my ship was wounded and it got infected. Badly infected. He's got a fever of 105 and he's completely delirious. We knocked him out with some sleeping pills, but we don't have the right treatment and we don't have a doctor aboard. Please, I can't get him here. I need someone to come with me. The ship's just in the north dock, not far. We can pay."
The receptionist heeded his plea with an intent, steady gaze; if she was startled by the panic in his voice, it did not show. But even this could prevent him from further panic. But no, he couldn't lose it. Not today, not now. Not while he was, technically, acting captain of the ship. Especially not while the real captain was out of commission. He could panic later. For now, he just needed his brother back on his feet and their ship back in the air and on its way.
Unfortunately, the captain's injuries weren't even the worst of their current mess. The crew was in the middle of what was supposed to be a very quick pass through alpha cluster space where they weren't particularly welcome to begin with. He'd pushed the poor old ship as fast as she could go to get out of Exymerian territory, but he wasn't willing to risk leaving him untreated for the amount of time it would take to reach friendlier skies so he'd had to settle on Vescent. Thankfully, Corra had dug up some drugs that had knocked their patient out cold so he didn't have the chance to argue as the ship landed. The plan was to get to a clinic, get some treatment and then get the hell out as quickly as possible. Ships like theirs weren't appreciated in a place like this. She marred the scenery, to say the least. Not to mention the potential kinds of people here who might take great pleasure in bringing in the Society's most-wanted vessel and its crew. As beautiful as the watery city was, it was, to them, as bad as Satieri itself and Cyrus wanted out immediately.
So it was with great haste that he'd departed the ship, navigated the docks and made his way through the cobblestone streets of the city he'd never been in before. Thankfully, no one stopped him along the way. No passers-by paid him much attention at all. His mind ran faster than his feet as he dodged through the moving crowd of people in the main square and, at last, spotted the glowing signage overhead: Unity Health Emergency Care.
Now, he simply had to resist losing his mind, though the receptionist seemed only mildly perturbed by his presence, a furrow in her brow.
"Of course sir," she replied evenly, glancing away only to type into the console keyboard at her fingertips. "Right away. However, Unity Health no longer treats off-worlders, so I am putting you in contact with the docking bay nurse station. First I need your last name, and then the name of your vessel - "
"Name of my..." Cyrus repeated in mild horror under his breath. He could only imagine what would happen if this receptionist typed the title of the ship into her console. No chance in hell he could let that happen. "Why do you need that?" he demanded, a little too hotly. "Can't you just send me a doctor?"
"I'm afraid that's planet-wide legislation, sir. Now please, have highly-qualified personnel down at the nurse station to aid you, we just need documentation - "
"He doesn't need a goddamn nurse," he growled, unable to contain himself now. "He probably needs a surgeon. And you can preach to me your laws all you want, I'm not leaving here until you give me one, got that?"
"Sir, I'm going to have to ask you t-"
"Look, my captain is dying right now, I don't have time to argue with you about legality, I need you to-"
"What's the problem here?" a curious female voice broke in.
Looking sharply to his right, Cyrus expected the appearance of a security guard, but what he found, instead, was a pale brunette woman dressed smartly in doctor's uniform, standing on his side of the receptionist's desk, a bag hanging over her shoulder, her eyebrows raised faintly at him as if he were only mildly interesting and not, in fact, attracting the attention of every soul in the waiting room. She looked far too young to be a true physician, but nonetheless, the receptionist addressed her hastily, "Doctor Adler, he says his captain is ill, but I tried explaining how we can't just send a team of doctors to an unregistered-"
"What happened?" the doctor continued, apparently more interested in him than the receptionist. "Your captain's hurt?" Just as he made to explain, she cut him off, "I'm a trauma specialist, I can help. Take me there."
At once, Cyrus felt a wave of relief rush over him. Someone willing to help? Progress, finally. Moving forward. It was all going to be okay. Which is the exact phrase that he kept repeating over and over again as he turned around and headed straight for the exit, his saving grace of a doctor miraculously on his tail. In the meantime, as he took to the streets once more, he had to figure out just what, exactly, to tell this woman.
There was the truth, obviously. But some people, particularly those on the alpha planets, tended to be a little alarmed by the idea that out there in the far reaches of the span, other people were shooting one another. Even if they weren't alarmed, they started to ask questions. Why was he shot? Who shot him? And why, exactly?
She had said she was a trauma specialist though, so perhaps she would be able to handle it better than others. Besides, she was going to find out when she looked at him anyway.
"You said he was wounded," the young woman prompted, her eyes on him as they fell into step and cut across the city's main square.
"He was shot," he told her over his shoulder. "A couple weeks ago. I think he got the bullet out, but he must have missed a piece or I don't know. All I know is that it looks like something out of a zombie picture. That and he's got a fever high enough to make him start talking to himself and forget where he is." As they crossed through the iron gates to the ship's docks, he glanced back and added breathlessly, "I appreciate this. I really do."
He appreciated it even more when they strode down the length of the wooden pier and, ahead, his ship loomed in view, that bulky junk of metal roughly the size of a house. She imposed herself amazingly against the other sleek metallic vessels around her. But it wasn't the sight of his rusty tin-can of a ship that halted him sharply in his tracks. As they approached, a more horrible scene met his eyes.
Somehow, things had gotten even more complicated.
The ship's main hatch was open, and at the very top the cargo ramp stood the tall figure of the captain, conscious once more, and beside him, the smaller, womanly figure of Corra nearby, apparently trying to contain his rage. But Cyrus' eyes were on the captain - his brother - so easily identifiable by his towering lean figure and fiery red hair and the fact that he was waving his arms and shouting at the top of his lungs.
Standing as a shell-shocked witness at the bottom of the ramp, Cyrus awaited the young doctor at his side to bolt. Who the hell would want in on this? But all she did was mutter, dryly, "I take it that's our patient."
It wasn't even the shouting that was most alarming. Fiearius shouting was not exactly a rare sight to behold. It was what Fiearius was gesturing to up in the sky that caused the pit of dread in his stomach.
Above their heads, across one of the tallest buildings in the skyline, a long banner billowed in the sea breeze. It read something about welcoming travelers to Vescent, and underneath it was a symbol, displayed proudly. A symbol Cyrus had seen many times. Fiearius himself wore it in bitter pride on his upper arm. And with that, Cyrus knew he was going to be in a lot of trouble.
At the ramp, Fiearius stopped shouting, dropped his hand and looked over at his brother with the coldest glare of rage he had ever seen.
At his side, Corra simply sighed. "Sorry, Cy-cy," she called easily, "I tried to put him out, but I figured you didn't want me to shoot him again."
Cyrus spared her a short glance, but he was far more concerned with the more immediately pressing issue. The two brothers stood as complete statues before finally Fiearius breathed furiously, "What the hell have you done?"
Cyrus stared back at him, and managed, "I didn't have a choice."
"You didn't have a choice?" Fiearius repeated, his tone far more mocking this time. "Really, Cy?" He waved his hand at the massive banner. "You didn't have a choice. Really." He lowered his hand and let his expression sober into a pure, sharp face of anger as he stalked down the ramp to face the acting captain directly. "What's the one rule we established when we left? The one thing we'd never do?" he asked coldly, his voice barely above a whisper. "We never. Ever. Ever. Land on an occupied alpha planet. Ever." His grin was sick and sarcastic as he spread his arms as though presenting a prize. "And yet. Here we are."
"I didn't have a choice, Fiearius," Cyrus gritted out, almost equally as angry now. Angry to the point that he was willing to sink to the same level of primitive sibling arguing. "You were out of your mind and needed a doctor. Not to mention you look like your gun arm's about to fall off." He gestured to the bandages crudely applied to the captain's upper arm, only barely hiding the veiny, discolored mess of infection and blood hiding beneath. "And then you'd be completely useless."
Surprisingly, Fiearius laughed, though it was less a laugh of humor and more of sour bitterness. "Well that's real smart, little brother, but unfortunately it won't matter how useless I'll be. Because soon? We'll all be useless. Because we'll all be dead." He again grinned the sickening grin. "So, we're leaving. Now. But let's be honest, we probably won't be going very far since they've already probably flagged us and they'll be on our tail the moment we lift off. I do hope it was worth it." He wiped the grin away with a flash and looked over Cyrus' shoulder at the wide-eyed, silent girl behind him. "That your doctor?"
Cyrus was about to reply with the snarkiest remark he could think of when it hit him just what would happen if he admitted that he had found this Vescentian doctor in a Vescentian clinic. Vescent was a Society planet. There was no telling whether or not the doctor he'd picked up had Society ties as well. In which case, having her even here right now was a serious problem. On the other hand, though Fiearius was apparently lucid enough for the moment, there was also no telling how much worse his condition could get and they were still days from a neutral planet. He needed treatment. But if he even thought that she might be in with his ultimate enemies, he'd kill her in an instant. And he'd be probably right to. But right now? Cyrus was thinking short-term. He'd deal with a potential Society threat later.
"She just got off a small merchant ship, said she'd have a look," he lied, hoping she would have the good sense not to argue with him.
Fiearius stared at the girl for a long moment, a small crease between his brows and a harsh hint of judgment in his eyes. Finally, he agreed, "Fine, bring her. Corra, lock up the hatch, we're in atmo in under 120 seconds or someone's getting fired."
As Corra hurried off, Fiearius turned on his heel and stormed away towards the bridge and Cyrus, cursing himself a thousand times over for fucking up this badly, returned down the ramp and, a little forcefully, in case she tried to make a run for it, took the young doctor's arm.
"I'm so sorry about this," he told her under his breath, not meeting her eyes as he led her up into the ship. "Please just play along and I swear I will figure this out and make it up to you later."
Kidnap, Leta realized in alarm, as the captain stalked off before her eyes and the young man's hand closed around her upper arm to guide her up the ramp. Surely, that's what this was, by all accounts. A kidnapping.
She should have ran and she knew it. Wrenched her arm free and dodged toward the hatch before it closed behind her. Yet, as her feet staggered to a standstill in the interior of the ship, she felt, in painfully equal measures, the impulse to burst into tears and burst into laughter. Bring her? Take her? Is that what he'd said?
"But I'm not allowed off planet," she protested, laughing, though her laughter died rather quickly. "Like come with you? Are you nuts?"
Dazedly, she recognized, her presence was needed rather urgently. The captain's wound - she couldn't help but notice it, even with the chaos of the ramp - was wrought with raging infection. Now, feeling somewhat ill, she swept her eyes through what was, clearly, the cargo bay. The room resembled a bustling warehouse, with a half a dozen crew members shooting off in different directions. Preparing for an emergency departure. With her inside.
She was doing some very fast, very panicked thinking as she nearly stumbled over her feet beside Cyrus. How many times, thought Leta wildly, had she envisioned her departure off of Vescent? It certainly looked nothing like this. How many times had she hoped for it? Fought for it? It'd been two months since she was allowed near a registered departing vessel. Beneath her wall of shock, she'd found her heart was starting to pound in her chest as realization spread through her. This wasn't a registered vessel.
This might have been the ticket she needed.
Standing there numbly, she moved her lips, but it was a moment before she found her voice. "How can we leave?" she asked suddenly, and then, with more strength than she actually felt, she demanded, "Won't they follow? Where're we going?"
As soon as she'd spoken, across the room, the captain halted, suddenly, at the top of the stairs. He turned on his heel and locked eyes with her as the bay fell into silence. Without breaking eye contact, he raised a brow and remarked, "This is why I didn't want a doctor. They ask way too many questions." He then smirked grimly and shouted to the room at large, "Wasn't kidding about those two minutes. Move, people!"
With that, just as Leta furrowed her brow in immediate defense, she felt another tug at her arm. Apparently ignoring the captain's orders, the same young man (the captain's brother? Was that actually true?) drew her to the side and halted before her, his expression creasing in a wince. Now that she was able to look him fully in the face, he looked just as alarmed as she felt.
"Listen," he sighed shakily, "I know you're probably pretty confused right now and I will clear things up, honestly. But for the immediate moment, I think I need to make one thing very clear. At this current point in time, I really don't care whether you're, well..." His eyes moved hesitantly back toward the hatch, the Society banner still visible in the air. "One of them. Not right now. Doesn't matter. But it is vitally important that under no circumstances do you mention it to Fiearius, whatsoever. He will kill you. No questions asked. He'll kill you."
"For now, don't worry about treating him," he continued, just as Leta opened her mouth in shock. "Once we get in the sky and things smooth out, you can do your thing, but until then, I strongly suggest you sit down and hold on," he told her, a little less seriously, backing out of the alcove and making to turn towards the main wing of the ship. "Come on, I'll show you to the passenger lounge." Before he began to walk away, he paused to add, "Oh, by the way. I'm Cyrus. Welcome aboard the Dionysian."