Hey everyone! Thanks so much for reading. We hope you're enjoying it so far :) Don't forget, the illustrated chapters and more are at and if you have any questions, comments, requests, demands or anything, don't hesitate to contact us :D We love to hear from you guys.
-It took only a single glance at the captain's shoulder to see how horribly the gunshot wound was infected. His flesh was dozen shades of putrid purple and needed attention nine days ago. And yet, the ship's medical infirmary, Leta came to see, had hardly been used.
It was a rectangle room, far away on the low deck, the size of an average living room, ghostly quiet and lowly-lit. Perhaps the space had once been clean and bright, but that must have been decades ago. Now every cabinet and surface in this room was aged, yellowing and covered in dust. Not to mention outdated. After staring at the rusting countertops, for a moment, Leta looked to the captain at her side for explanation.
He had no explanation.
In fact, all he said was, "Alright, doc, let's get this shit over with before I change my mind," as he trudged into the room and sat down heavily on one of the stiff, blood-stained infirmary beds.
Immediately, Leta wanted to leave. But this was why she was here, wasn't it? To administer treatment to a needy patient? The sooner she did this, the sooner she was gone. Although she did wish Cyrus and Corra hadn't disappeared to leave her with this man. Cyrus, still angry, had stalked off towards the bridge and Corra had been tasked with finding someone to clean Leta's lunch off of the floor.
Tense and expectant as she felt, she had to admit it seemed unlikely this man wished her immediate harm. Not at the moment. In fact, he seemed entirely disinterested in her as he glared at the wall with contempt and impatiently tapped his fingers on his knee.
Swallowing hard in her throat, Leta finally directed her attention elsewhere in the room. Her eyes found the prime medical station, the counter in the center of the room that was crowded with supplies, and, in a rush, purpose and familiarity flooded through her. No, she could do this. She could most certainly do this.
"So," she began, her voice stronger and more relaxed than she felt, as she crossed toward the prime station. "What happened?" she prompted, picking through a tray until she found a pair of gloves. "You were shot?"
"No," he replied shortly. "I'm naturally decomposing." Their eyes met and a maddening smile spread across his face. "Like the undead." The smile vanished and he looked away again, his eyes narrowed in boredom. "Yes, I was shot," he went on impatiently. "A couple weeks ago. I got the bullet out. For the most part." A subtle glare of frustration fell onto his discolored upper arm. "Clearly, I missed a spot. But lo and behold, now I have you." The same glare roamed upwards to her face where it scanned over every feature diligently. "You and all your many years of experience to mend my mistake." His eyes rolled skeptically and he returned his dull stare to the wall across from him. "Lucky me."
"Lucky you," Leta agreed quietly. Finally tugging the gloves up her wrist, she moved toward him, her eyes drawn toward the gunshot ripped through his shoulder. Below it, displayed bold and proud, was the tattoo of the Society. Instantly, she had to know if those two marks were related. Pulling the nearest medical cart closer, she asked, evenly as she could, "Who shot you?"
The frown on Fiearius' face sharpened instantly. "Don't see how that's got anything to do with you."
Fair enough, she thought, though she refused to be deterred by her patient's bad attitude. That tattoo on his arm was too important. And too telling. Cyrus implied he hated the Society and she was painfully curious why. What had they done? What had he done? If he'd pissed off the Vescentian government, she might have had more in common with this man than she thought. It was enough to temporarily quiet the fear stirring in her chest, even if he was regarding her now with nothing but disdain.
"Medical relevance," she offered passingly, before bringing his arm closer to study the gnarled flesh. "This was at close range, wasn't it? I'm going to start with sterilization."
Seizing a vial from a tray at her side, she turned back to him and admitted, "I don't know how you managed to fly your ship with your arm this infected. You needed treatment weeks ago." She paused, then glanced at his face and added quietly, "You know Vescent will send more of those border guards."
"I'm aware," came his disgruntled response, sounding annoyed that she had even opened her mouth. "Relax, kiddo. Let 'em send as many as they want. I'm not concerned with them."
"But they seem awfully concerned with you," she said, unable to help herself. Pulling her hand away from his arm, she looked at him straight on. "Why?"
With that, Fiearius finally cast her a long, sideways glance. Slowly, a mischievous smirk twisted into his lips. He held her gaze for a few moments in silence before relaxing his brow and giving an absent, too-casual shrug.
Leta was stunned. She could not imagine anyone crossing the Vescentian government and coming away from it smirking like that. Perhaps another fever was on its way? Perhaps he was suffering a concussion as well. Or, perhaps (and Leta dared it to be true, she urged it to be true) they really did share a common enemy here.
"What?" she demanded quietly, her eyes on him as she awaited an explanation that looked like it would never arrive. More impatiently, she realized, "Hey, you kidnapped me you know. I think I'm entitled to a little information here."
"I didn't kidnap you," Fiearius corrected her instantly, now finding more interest in the wall than in her again. "You just happened to be on my ship when I decided it was leaving. Not my fault you weren't paying enough attention to get off before that happened." He turned his head slightly to face her, his eyes narrowed. "And yet you think you're entitled? That's cute. How 'bout we scratch that and you just go ahead and tell me what kind of doctor my brother dragged onto my ship? Off a merchant vessel, he said? What were you doing on Vescent?"
"Research," replied Leta at once. Technically, it was not a lie. She'd just also been living on Vescent while she'd done this research.
Trying to ignore just how tense she was feeling, she gathered a cloth in her hand and poured salve solution into it. It was a basic easy routine, but inwardly, her mind was racing. This was a game, she realized. She had to be careful.
"I'm not sad to leave," she continued, relieved to hear her voice was more relaxed. "The feds are a bit - uptight there." As she leaned in to swab the wound, her eyes flashed toward his tattoo, the primary symbol of those feds. "No offense."
Fiearius' eyes followed her own to the marking on his arm where they rested in thought. "None taken. Your little ship must not get around much though," he commented briskly. "That ain't exclusive to Vescent."
"I know." Carefully, she placed the cloth back in the cart at her side. "Vescent. Acendia. The Society's spreading through Ellegy." Her voice might have been wistful, were it not for the bitter smile at her lips. She stared down at the rusty tools in the tray, ready and waiting to be picked up and used.
But first, she could stand it no longer. Casting her eyes to him, she held his gaze. "But you have the mark. Are you with them or not?"
Fiearius' eyes narrowed even more and settled upon her face as though reading it for something hidden. "They just sent six fighter birds after me and more to come, isn't it obvious?" he pointed out, raising an eyebrow brow at her."No. Not anymore."
Leta blinked her eyes slowly, now a perfectly captive audience. "Why?" she asked at length, a tug of desperation in her voice. "What'd you do?"
There was a long passage of silence as Fiearius just glared at her curiously. A passage so long, it seemed he might never answer at all. Even when he did, in fact, he did not. "You here to fix my arm or interrogate me, kiddo?" he asked harshly, deepening his glare, which Leta ignored.
"The Society's no friend of mine either," she continued, trying and failing to contain the lift in her voice. She knew it was important to not be too eager, but it was no easy feat. "To say the least. And people don't just 'quit', or leave. Those people end up in bodybags. Not captaining spaceships."
"Well," the captain replied cheerfully, despite the look of apathy engraved in his features, "Maybe I'm just special."
Leta was not deterred by his lack of enthusiasm. "Special enough to evade them. Some people - " she hesitated then, choosing her words carefully as her expression tinged with sadness, "aren't quite as lucky. So how?"
"Do I have to say it again?" he growled, jabbing his finger towards the still unattended wound. "I need this thing to stop being a problem by the time we land in two days. I've got a job to do. People to feed. Ship to run. So let's hurry it up, shall we?"
This time, silence fell between them, sharper now. He'd given her more questions than answers. Her curiosity was burning.
But, with an intake of breath, she told herself to wait. For now. She'd waited three months for answers, she could wait a bit longer. After a long, stiff pause, she reached toward the cart and slowly withdrew another vial and, this time, a syringe.
"Well it's not doable in two days," she told him flatly. "Try weeks. You need antibiotics. Long-term treatment."
"I don't have weeks," Fiearius replied grimly. "I don't care what you have to do to make it work. Give me all the antibiotics you want, cut me open, slice me up, whatever, I just can't show up with my arm falling off. Two days." He glared at the purple and green infected mess of his shoulder. "Figure it out."
"I am. This is preliminary work," she deadpanned, adjusting the needle carefully before half-glancing back at him. "Unless you're planning to drop me at this next stop."
A small chuckle rippled out of his throat. "I don't think you're gonna wanna be at this next stop," he remarked, visibly amused at his unexplained joke. "I ain't gonna keep ya if you're so damn desperate to leave though." He glanced back at her, knowingly. "I ain't gonna stop ya from stayin' either. Do what ever ya damn please. I leave it to your wise doctorly discretion."
For moments longer, as she concentrated on preparing the syringe, Leta was quiet. As far as kidnappings went, this was about as tame as she could imagine. Fiearius didn't care if she stepped off the ship in two days. And now, with what he'd said about the Society, she wasn't sure if she would.
It had been a long time since she'd had an ally.
Once the shot snapped in place, Leta merely looked up, murmured, "I guess we'll see then, huh?" and stuck the needle sharply into his arm. Perhaps a bit sharper than necessary.
At once, Fiearius flinched and grumbled some unintelligible curse at her, though she withdrew the needle without a word. In the corner of her eye, then, she noticed movement near the door.
The figure of Cyrus tentatively sidled up where it waited in the shadow of the hallway, hands clasped nervously behind his back. Once Fiearius had recovered from his antibiotics, he followed Leta's line of vision and looked over at the door frame expectantly.
It was apparently all the cue Cyrus needed.
"We're on course," he said. His eyes were on his brother. "I did some rigging that should scatter our signal. We'll be way out of range by the time they manage to sort through even half of it," he explained, his voice cold and professional as he stepped deeper into the room. "I'm still gonna push her through the night just in case though. We should be in orbit morning after next. Little ahead of schedule."
"That's fine," Fiearius replied briskly, an answer that made Cyrus visibly twitch with frustration. Leta, meanwhile, chose to say nothing as she carefully disassembled the syringe in her hands. Unapologetically curious, she glanced back and forth between the pair.
Looking uneasy, Cyrus glanced at her, then to his brother's arm and finally asked, "So, how's..." His finger indiscriminately waved towards them. "That?"
"Fine," Fiearius said again, watching the referenced arm curiously as he shrugged. It must not have felt quite as fine as he claimed, however, as the action caused him to wince ever so slightly. "It'll be fine," he amended, casting a pointed look at Leta. "By the time we land. It'll be fine."
"Good," Cyrus said, knotting his hands even tighter and making strict eye contact with the floor. "That's...good..."
Another silence unfolded, interrupted only by the clank of metal as Leta dropped the syringe back into the cart, and kept unfolding.
"Well, if you're done," said Fiearius abruptly "I've things to do. Places to be. People to harass." He grinned maniacally before adding, "Sleep to catch up on..." Rolling his eyes tiredly, he pushed himself from the edge of the bed and made his way towards the door. On the very threshold, however, Cyrus stopped him.
"Fiear," he interjected suddenly, catching both his brother and Leta by surprise. She looked up just in time to see the elder sibling pause and the two of them stand there in the doorway, staring at one another, neither speaking a word.
Leta wondered if this was finally about to escalate into shouting. But they said nothing, and she had to wonder what possibly could have been passing between them. Finally, Cyrus said, quietly, "I'm sorry. I didn't know where else to land."
To Leta's immeasurable surprise, the captain did not snap. He did not retort. He smiled more kindly than seemed possible for him and said softly, "It's okay, little brother." He rested a hand on his sibling's shoulder before sauntering past him out the door and disappearing into the shadowy depths of the ship.
As the footsteps on the metal grating died away, Leta stood there a moment longer, nearly forgetting Cyrus' presence until he heaved a sigh. Gradually, he brought his eyes back to Leta and, here, his brow creased.
"I owe you an apology too," he began. "A few, actually. And some gratitude." He glanced hesitantly over his shoulder in the direction Fiearius had gone. "I'm sure he's not the easiest patient to put up with. But thank you. I wish there was some way I could repay you, but..." His face twisted into a grimace. "We're about as broke as we've ever been. And I don't think we'll ever be going back to Vescent in my lifetime, so I can't exactly offer to take you home." The grimace faded into a weak, sheepish smile. "I'm afraid you're a bit stuck here for now. But I promise, I'll try and make this up to you. Probably not today. And probably not tomorrow. But somehow. Somehow, I'll fix this."
Did he expect her, Leta wondered, to scream and cry? As any true kidnapped victim would? Truthfully, that had seemed like a strong possibility before. But it was no longer. Now, as she regarded the young man across the room - he looked strikingly earnest - she was feeling something quite foreign and different; it took her a moment to place the feeling.
Hope. That's what it was.
"WeIl, I think I might believe you," said Leta finally. She backed up a step, and edged herself onto the patient's bed. "And since I'm going to be here a little longer than I thought - I should explain a few things."