Caelum Lex http://www.caelum-lex.com A Sci-fi Web Serial Sat, 21 Nov 2015 16:11:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.10 The End http://www.caelum-lex.com/2015/11/21/the-end/ http://www.caelum-lex.com/2015/11/21/the-end/#comments Sat, 21 Nov 2015 08:00:34 +0000 http://www.caelum-lex.com/?p=4318 It’s a strange feeling to finally see the end of Caelum Lex. This silly little space opera has been such a huge part of my life for exactly three years and two months as of today and now it’s finished. What a three years it’s been.

Of course I want to thank all of you for all of your support, whether you’ve been with me from the start or you’re only just joining me now. Your comments and feedback and even just seeing that little view count every day have been a constant source of motivation for me to keep going even when it was rough and man, was it rough sometimes. But we made it through! And I can’t express enough how much that means to me. You read a lot of words to get here. Thank you so much.

As for me, I don’t know what’s next. I’m not much of an editor. I’m of the strict persuasion to just let sleeping dogs lie because if I didn’t I literally would never finish anything, so the story of Leta and Fiearius and Cyrus and everyone will likely stay as it is, here on this site, typos and plot holes and questionable late-night Thursday choices and all.

But maybe not. Maybe in a year I’ll feel differently. Maybe we’ll live to see an ebook or three.

Or maybe I’m not done with writing this Span. Maybe I’ll write the ‘sequel’. And believe me, I know exactly what that is and what it looks like and it is everything I didn’t have the capacity at the time to do with the original Caelum Lex.

Or maybe I’ll start a whole new project entirely. We’ll see I suppose. Whatever happens next, I’ll update here to let you lovely readers know where I’ve gone, so keep us in your feeds. In the meantime, I’m taking a little break to enjoy the holidays and some other hobbies I’ve had to sacrifice for a few years.

One thing though. I fully intend to keep this site up for any future readers to stumble across it or past readers to re-explore it. Hosting costs money and I’ll pay it regardless, but if you are so inclined, I will definitely not turn down financial support. No pressure though.





Again, thank you so much for reading Caelum Lex. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Dov’ha re’jia.

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Chapter 50: Eighteen Months http://www.caelum-lex.com/2015/11/20/chapter-50-eighteen-months/ http://www.caelum-lex.com/2015/11/20/chapter-50-eighteen-months/#comments Fri, 20 Nov 2015 08:00:19 +0000 http://www.caelum-lex.com/?p=4312 image1

There couldn’t have been a more perfect day for a wedding.

Well, maybe there could have been. Back on Vescent, one of Leta’s long-term patients had relapsed in her absence. There had apparently been a violent riot on Ellegy, the first in nine months. And someone had been shot to death outside of Paradiex’s city hall.

But those were all things that Leta easily pushed from her mind as she watched Cyrus and Addy Atelier walk down an aisle of their friends and family, hand in hand, smiling so bright they shone. And in that moment, things were perfect.

It was Leta’s first Ridellian ceremony and while some things were a little unusual still (the requirement that guests wear dark clothes and hoods chief among them. Something about the new couple standing out to the dov’ha apparently. She had looked at herself in the mirror of her hotel room this morning and thought she was attending a funeral rather than a wedding), there were some elements that she’d preferred as well.

Another requirement dictated that the wedding take place in unison with the sunset, another dov’ha visibility issue she surmised, but one that led the backdrop to be a gorgeous orange and made Addy’s hair light up like fire. A section of the ceremony centered around describing Cyrus and Addy’s reasons to join together had been particularly touching and Leta had cried like a baby when they painted nervous, imperfect circles on each other’s palms in permanent ink.

Her favorite part though, she realized, came at the end, when the newlyweds lead the way to the party and the crowd was encouraged to throw brightly colored powder at them, to stain their white dress clothing in patterns of vibrant multicolors.

“It’s so the dov’ha pay attention to them and bless their marriage,” Corra explained, mid-toss as they tread carefully down the hill towards the lanterns, cluster of tables and the shiny dance floor below. “That seems to be the entire purpose of this event. ‘Hey, look over here!’”

“I wonder what happens though,” Leta posed curiously, “If there’s more than one wedding in one day. Surely there must be.”

“Oh yeah, they’ll get distracted, huh? I guess that’s why you’d want to throw a bigger, more attention-grabby party than everyone else?”

Leta nodded seriously. “What a fantastic marketing scheme for the Ridellian wedding industry.”

“It’s genius,” Corra agreed and then cast Leta a skeptical look. “Dunno about your gods, but my God, doesn’t need reminding to look out for me…” When Leta snickered quietly, she caught the eye of an older woman, clearly Satieran in her garb, perhaps Addy’s great aunt or something of the like, glaring daggers at the two of them. Corra saw her too and smiled awkwardly. “To each their own.”

The sun was well-hidden over the horizon and definitively blocked out by the hill when they reached the bottom, leaving the entire area lit only by the warm glow of lanterns and the strings of lights that, attached only to dark beams, seemed to float in mid-air over the dance floor and dinner tables. Leta looked around, admiring the ethereal atmosphere and wondering how, so close to such a huge city, this place could feel so distant, as she followed Corra to a table.

Briefly, she caught sight of the happy couple, still swarmed by a crowd of people offering their well-wishes. Through it all, even with his aversion to large groups of people, Cyrus was beaming. Kalli, who Leta thought did a wonderful job containing her energy during the serious portion of the event, was now running circles around the dance floor, her arms spread wide like a bird and a flurry of sound effects filling the air around her. Her uncle, Leta realized, was trailing after her.

She swallowed her discomfort and looked away to sit down beside Corra who, as always, knew exactly what she was thinking.

“Talked to him yet?”

“Haven’t had the chance.” She glanced back over her shoulder just as Fiearius caught Kalli in his arms and lifted her off the ground where she squealed in delight. “And I think he’s avoiding me.”

Corra snorted in agreement. “Probably.”

Surely, she meant the solidarity to be comforting, but Leta had to force a smile in response. Swiftly, she changed the subject. “Speaking of which. Finn seems to be avoiding me as well.” She cocked a brow at Corra who gave her a clearly fake look of surprise.

“Oh, really?”

“He walked away as soon as I came up to you two after the ceremony.”

Corra found a glass of water on the table and sipped it. “Hm.”

Leta leaned a little closer and fixed her with the accusatory glare she knew she deserved. “Don’t suppose you had anything to do with that?”

“W-what?” Corra took another gulp of water and smiled shakily. “I don’t–no way, I–” Fabulous secret Conduit agent, Corra may have been, but when it came to Leta, even she knew she had no chance.

“Okay, fine, I told him to get out of the way until I talked to you,” she admitted, dropping her head in her hands in defeat.

“Talk to me about maybe why he had his hand around your waist the whole evening?” Leta surmised.

Corra peeked up at her through her fingers and grimaced. “Yeah? Among other things?”

“Corra.” Leta took her hand and pulled it away from her face. “Are you and Finn– y’know?” Corra didn’t answer, but by the way her cheeks turned bright pink, she didn’t need to. Leta’s jaw dropped. “How long?”

“Eh–” She saw quick calculations running behind Corra’s eyes. “About– a year?”

Her jaw dropped even more. “A year?! Why didn’t you tell me?!”

Corra buried her face again. “Because I thought you’d be mad.”

Now, Leta laughed. “Why would I be mad?”

“Because you don’t like him,” Corra pointed out, frowning at her dully.

“What? That’s not–” Okay, it was sort of true. Finn was not exactly her favorite person in the Span. But — “I don’t dislike him!”

The answer did not appease Corra. She continued to frown.

“No, you don’t understand, I don’t like him for me,” Leta tried to clarify. “But for you! I have no problems with him for you!”

The frown lessened and swayed back towards embarrassment. “I don’t know, I know you think he’s immature and irresponsible, but — he’s changed a lot since the war,” she tried to defend. “And if you talked to him now, you’d be really surprised I think, he’s gotten a lot better and really got his shit together and –”

“Corra,” Leta cut her off. “It doesn’t matter what I think. What do you think?”

She blushed again and looked out into the darkness beyond the lanterns. “I think he’s cute. And nice. And he makes me laugh. And I like being around him…”

“Then for all intents and purposes, consider my position on Finnegan Riley officially changed,” Leta declared, finding her own glass of water and lifting it in a toast. Corra turned back to her and smiled, lifting her glass and taking a sip.

Leta drank the water and replaced it on the table. Unable to help herself, she glanced back over her shoulder. Nothing seemed to have changed around Cy and Addy as they were still churning through well-wishers one by one. Kalli was now safely restrained in her father’s arms and Fiearius, she couldn’t help but notice, was deep in conversation with a pretty brunette in a dark green gown. She also couldn’t help but notice that the bar was practically abandoned.

Leta nudged Corra with her elbow and tilted her head in its direction. “Think we have time for a drink?”

————————-

The cheers were still echoing through the night when Addy hit Fiearius in the chest with her palm. He caught her wrist and smiled down at her frowning, tearful eyes.

“You’re not supposed to make me cry,” she groaned, sniffling and hastily wiping her cheeks with a napkin. A dirty napkin. Cyrus noticed first, carefully replacing the one in his wife’s hand with a clean one. “Thank you–” she muttered to him before turning her fury back on Fiearius. “How dare you. I’m not supposed to be crying at my wedding.”

“I think you are, actually,” Fiearius pointed out, earning him another half-hearted slap on the chest. He shared a grimace with Cyrus and smiled down at her hopefully. “Good crying though? Right? Good crying?”

Finally, her anger broke. She sucked in a breath and sniffed herself back to composure. “It was a beautiful speech,” she admitted, still sounding a little offended about it though. It wasn’t until she smiled warmly and threw her arms around him that he knew he was in the clear. “Thank you.”

“No problem.” He patted her affectionately on the back and then added, knowing exactly what would happen, “Least I can do for my sister.”

He braced for the hit this time and tried not to laugh when she snapped, “Stop that. Stop it, I’m serious.” Addy spun back to Cyrus for help, but apparently just looking at him made fresh tears spring to the corners of her eyes. “Gods, I can’t –” She covered her face with her hands and shook her head. “I need a minute, okay?”

“I thought we were gonna dance now,” Cyrus suggested with far too much of a mischievous smirk on his face to be innocent.

“A minute,” Addy said again, controlling her breathing. “I’m gonna go talk to Finn or — Daelen or — someone who doesn’t make me cry and I’ll be back.” Without uncovering her face, she spun around and stalked off onto the dance floor, barging straight through dancing couples who had to jump out of her way in surprise.

Cyrus and Fiearius watched her go for a moment before Cyrus let out a happy sigh and muttered, “My wife’s the best. Gods, that feels weird to finally say.”

Fiearius laughed and slapped his brother cheerfully on the back. “You’ll get used to it.”

“Suppose so.” Cyrus sighed again. “That was a good toast, by the way. Really good. Thanks.”

Fiearius shrugged. “If I can’t give a proper toast to my lil brother finally marrying the woman of his dreams, what good am I?”

They fell into silence as Cyrus nodded slowly and watched the crowd of people milling around, seemingly having a good time. And then he said, “I’m glad you’re here,” which Fiearius thought was an odd thing to say.

“Why wouldn’t I be here?” He regarded his brother curiously. “I know I hit a bit of a rough patch a while back, but–”

“No, no, I don’t mean that,” Cyrus cut him off. “I mean, obviously you’d be here now. Of course, I knew you’d come, I just mean — from before.”

Fiearius continued to stare at him blankly. “I’m not following.”

Cyrus groaned and ran his hand down his face. “I mean. Before — everything. Before, all of this happened. Before the war, before the Dionysian. Back then. Back then, I would never have thought my brother would be at my wedding. Though…back then I didn’t think I would ever have a wedding, but that’s a different –” He shook the thought from his head. “Anyway. I’m just — I’m glad. I’m glad that you’re here. And not just here.” He pointed to the ground. “Here.” He waved vaguely in the vicinity of everything. “It’s just good to have a brother again,” he decided at last. “That’s what I’m trying to say I think. It’s good to have you back.”

Fiearius eyed his brother for a moment. It was a sentiment even he had a hard time making light of, as much as his instincts wanted him to. Feelings were challenging enough. Feelings from Cyrus felt flat out impossible. But finally, he reached out and dropped his hand on Cyrus’ shoulder. “It’s good to have you back too, lil brother.”

Cyrus smiled and the two of them shared what an outsider might have referred to as a ‘bonding moment’, which was not a strong subject for Soliverés. Fortunately, Cyrus had recently become an Atelier and was already learning the ropes.

“Anyway, I should go find my wife, gods, my wife, can you believe that?” He shook his head and then fixed Fiearius with an expectant stare he had definitely picked up directly from Addy. “And I think you have your own thing to take care of still, don’t you?”

Fiearius clamped his mouth shut and smiled humorlessly. “Eh–yes. I…suppose I do.” Cyrus raised his brows and crossed his arms over his chest, apparently waiting for him to do just that. “Okay, okay. I’m going.”

Satisfied, Cyrus turned away to scour the area for the only woman not dressed in black, but Fiearius spotted the silver pot still sitting on the table beside them and couldn’t resist.

“Oh, Cy?”

Cyrus glanced back at him just as Fiearius tossed the bright blue powder from the pot directly in his face. “Dov’ha seré’a!” Fiearius cheered as his sibling attempted to glare at him through color coated glasses.

“Fuck you.”

“What?” Fiearius laughed as he walked backwards away from him. “You said you were glad to have your brother back!”

“I retract my statement,” Cyrus growled as he tried to clean his glasses and Fiearius turned away to walk across the dance floor.

Being back on Satieri hadn’t been exactly what Fiearius had always hoped for, that much was certain. The last year and a half had hardly been the triumphant return of his dreams. But as he walked through the crowds of friends and family dancing underneath the clear Satieran skies, surrounded by warm lights and brightly colored Ridellian banners, for just that moment, it felt okay. For tonight at least, home was what he remembered it as. For the first time since the Nautilus cracked open a hole in the sky, Satieri felt like Satieri again.

And gods, it was good to be home.

As good as his spirits were, a little extra spirit wouldn’t hurt for what came next. Dodging a group of preteens (his cousins? he wondered. Second cousins? It was almost impressive how many relatives Fiearius had forgotten about and Cyrus had not.), he made his way towards the bar. But just as he reached it, the music changed, everyone in the vicinity turned towards the dance floor and Fiearius watched the bartender saunter away on a break.

Sure, he probably could have reached over the bar and poured his own drink, but out of respect, he turned back around and watched as Addy pulled her nervous husband out onto the floor in front of everyone. The powder Fiearius had splashed him with may have been blue, but looking at him now, Cyrus was definitely green.

As eye-catching as Cyrus on the verge of vomiting was, someone else grabbed Fiearius’ attention just as the dance started. Only a few people in front of him, there she was, the woman he’d been looking for.

Well, shit. Apparently he was doing this sober.

Gently easing past a few grumbling relatives, Fiearius sidled up behind Leta. She was seemingly enthralled by the dance so for a moment, he said nothing, simply hovering just behind her left shoulder and enjoying the spectacle himself. Of course, Cyrus was only barely stumbling through the steps, but Addy had enough grace and a beaming smile to make up for it. Fiearius had seen this dance before at weddings in his youth, but he had to admit, this was the best performance of it he’d seen. Messy and inexperienced as it was. If anything, that made it better.

Finally, to Cyrus’ clear relief, the dance ended. Everybody clapped, Leta turned a quarter circle, met Fiearius’ eyes and nearly dropped her drink in surprise. Despite his own nerves, he wanted to laugh and as she recovered, he flashed her his best casual grin. “Hey there.”

“What the–why are you–don’t do that,” she scolded, holding her hand over her chest. “How long were you standing there?”

“Long enough,” Fiearius replied flippantly as he regarded the woman more fully now that he had her attention. Gods, it had been far too long since he’d seen that face. Nearly every day since then, he’d been haunted by the memory of that last night they’d spent together exploring Paradiex’s ruins, the last embrace they’d shared at the base of her father’s ship and the last words she’d spoken to him.

And just as badly, he remembered the final message he’d received six months ago when everything they had had at last fallen apart…

But of course, she’d flown to Satieri for the wedding. He’d known she would be here for ages now and yet he still didn’t feel prepared for this confrontation. Here she was, looking gorgeous as ever in a long slinky dark blue dress that tapered out at the bottom around her feet. Her silky brown hair was tucked into a traditional headscarf and the Satieran sun had already made its mark on her face which looked more freckly than ever. And he knew, he fucking knew he owed her ten thousand apologies.

But all he managed was, “Enjoying the wedding?”

She regarded him with something that might have been suspicion, but in true Vescentian fashion, she showed nothing but civility. “Well the ceremony was lovely. That thing they did with the candles in the beginning?”

“The ori’anné?”

“That’s it. That was beautiful. And the reception–” She gestured to the gathering around her. “Very nice. Open bar’s always appreciated.” She glanced over at Cyrus and Addy who were now huddled together over a plate of appetizers. “Happy couple. Perfect.” And then she looked up at Fiearius with a genuine smile that made his heart skip a beat. “And your toast. How long did it take you to come up with that?”

“Oh that?” He forced a laugh. “Please, that was all improvised.”

Leta rolled her eyes. “Sure it was.” She took a careful sip from her champagne flute and then, as easily as she might have mentioned the weather, accused, “I thought you were avoiding me.”

Fiearius hid the wince. “I was,” he admitted which earned him a look of surprise. But before she could comment on it, he changed the subject. “So why no handsome doctor on your arm, hm? Couldn’t convince anyone to fly all the way to Satieri?”

“One, I don’t date other doctors, you know that,” she told him, a little haughtily. “Two, only Cyrus and Addy could convince me to come back here, it was so hot today. Three. There was no one worth convincing.” She shrugged indifferently. “Besides, who says I need a man at my side to have a good time?”

“Not a soul,” Fiearius agreed obediently.

“Well where’s your date then?” she asked, crossing her arms over her chest.

“Ah right, let’s see, where’d she go?” he mused, turning from her to peer through the crowd, but only after taking note of the small flash of surprise and (he hoped) alarm at his response.

It didn’t take long to find the girl in question. “There she is.” He pointed across the way and Leta, with what looked like genuine interest, followed the line of sight. “See her? Blonde hair, purple bow, about 3 and a half feet tall?” It took Leta a moment, but finally she put her hand over her eyes in exasperation and laughed. Kalli was currently dancing wildly around Alyx’s feet. “She’s a heartbreaker though, totally unfaithful, I don’t know how long I can take it.”

“Babysitting duty, huh?”

Fiearius shrugged. “My life’s purpose it seems.”

Leta bit her lip thoughtfully and looked around her. After a moment, her expression turned toward a frown. “Who’s that woman?” She nodded towards a group of people near the buffet table. “Brown hair, dark green dress? Pretty young thing.” As Fiearius narrowed his eyes at the cluster, Leta muttered under her breath, “I think you were talking to her earlier.”

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Chapter 49 Bonus: Sixteen Months http://www.caelum-lex.com/2015/11/19/chapter-49-bonus-sixteen-months/ http://www.caelum-lex.com/2015/11/19/chapter-49-bonus-sixteen-months/#comments Thu, 19 Nov 2015 08:00:12 +0000 http://www.caelum-lex.com/?p=4310 Cyrus winced as a speck of oil from the pan burst up and hit him in the cheek. “Godsdamn it…” he muttered under his breath and Fiearius groaned behind him.

“Stand back, lower the flame,” he drolled from where he sat atop the opposite counter. “Also you don’t have to just stand there the whole time watching it. C’mon, genius, use your common sense.”

Cyrus shot him a glare, but did as he was told anyway. The meat in the pan sizzled at the temperature change and the violent spitting of oil slowed to a stop. It was difficult to admit when Fiearius was right, especially when he so often wasn’t. But, Cyrus supposed, if he was going to be right about anything, it might as well be the thing he was teaching him.

“How’s it going in here, boys?” called Addy as she leaned up against the kitchen doorway, though her eyes were glued to the tablet in her hand. “Is my future husband a gourmet chef yet?”

Fiearius slid off of the counter and sauntered towards the pantry to dig through the shelves. “More like a diner busboy, but we’ll get there,” he promised her, finding what he was looking for and turning around to drop an onion in Cyrus’ hand. “Cut this.”

“I hate cutting onions,” he muttered, staring at the vegetable in distaste.

“But you like eating them,” his brother countered. “Cut it.”

“But–”

“Do you wanna be a good husband?”

“Well yeah–”

“Do you wanna deserve your wonderful, intelligent wife?”

“Of course–”

Fiearius frowned and shoved the handle end of a knife towards him. “Then you cut the fucking onion.”

Still grumbling to himself, Cyrus smacked it down on the cutting board and brandished the knife as Addy finally looked up from the screen.

“Fiear, I’m trying to get a headcount together. Are you bringing a plus one to the wedding?” she asked with that tone that Cyrus recognized as her ‘I know this question is awkward so I’m going to say it as perfectly casually as I possibly can’ tone. Unfortunately, Addy’s definition of ‘perfectly casually’ was not always the best.

But Fiearius either didn’t notice or, more likely, didn’t care. He shrugged and answered, “Probably not.”

“No?” she pressed curiously. “There’s nobody you might want to bring?” If Cyrus had not been holding a sharp object, he might have face-palmed. Wonderful and intelligent, she surely was, but subtle she surely was not.

But as awkward as it may have seemed from the outside, Fiearius just laughed. “If you’re asking me what happened after you two so very gracefully left me alone with Kalli’s daycare teacher last week, the answer is nothing.”

“Really?” Addy seemed more disappointed than shocked. “You were hitting it off so well though.”

“You know I appreciate you, Adds. I know you’re just tryin’ to cheer me up, but — I told you before. I’m just…not interested right now.” Fiearius shrugged and the kitchen grew quiet and a little uncomfortable. Only the sound of slicing onions broke the silence until Fiearius added, “But what the hell. Put me down for a plus one, it’d be embarrassing to show up to my little brother’s wedding alone, right?”

Addy beamed at him in relief, but Cyrus suddenly remembered, “Wait, what about Kalli?”

Fiearius regarded him curiously. “She doesn’t get her own invitation?”

“No, I mean, we need someone to watch her,” he clarified, putting down the knife. “I thought you were going to.”

“Sure, I can.”

“But if you have a date–”

“Oh,” said Addy from the doorway, but apparently not to them. She was staring at the tablet in her hand again, her eyes wide. “Oh.”

Fiearius eyed her for a moment before turning back to Cyrus. “Yeah, I can handle both. I can multi-task. Unlike some people.” He gestured to the pan. “Put the onions in.”

“Crap, right.” He scrambled to slide the onions off the cutting board and onto the stove.

“No, I don’t think you should bring a plus one,” Addy said suddenly, looking up at them with an expression that for once Cyrus couldn’t read. Excitement maybe? But weird excitement. Unsure-if-she-should-be-excited excitement.

“O…kay…” Fiearius muttered, equally unsure, moreso even. “That’s fine.”

“Because of Kalli?” Cyrus guessed.

Addy shook her head. “Nope. Well — that too.”

“Then why?”

Addy grinned mischievously, but didn’t answer so Cyrus abandoned his station to join her and peer over her shoulder at the screen. It showed a new message. He skimmed it once and understood. “Oh.”

“I don’t really care…” Fiearius felt the need to clarify as he watched them, seeming a tiny bit worried now.

“But you will,” Addy suspected then turned to Cyrus. “Do we tell him or–”

Cyrus grimaced and examined his brother carefully. “I dunno…It’s a little–” Insensitive, maybe. Poking a wound Cyrus wasn’t sure had healed. Undoubtedly Fiearius’ self-proclaimed ‘lack of interest’ in romantic pursuits was the symptom of many causes, but there was no doubt in his mind that one rose above the rest. Cyrus had been raised to let things like that lie, not to dig up insecurities, no matter how obvious they were.

Addy, however, had been raised differently.

“Look what I just got.” She turned the tablet around and held it out to him. Fiearius met Cyrus’ apologetic grimace before leaning in and peering at the screen. He read through the RSVP, expressionless.

“So? I figured she was coming…” he said at last, his voice equally as blank. Or trying to be at least. It was so blank that it was obvious what was hiding behind it.

“Of course, but look here.” Addy pointed at the lower corner. “She’s coming alone.”

Fiearius glanced up at her skeptically. “Alright…”

Addy seemed a little crestfallen by his lack of enthusiasm. What the hell had she been expecting? Cyrus had to wonder. That Fiearius would jump for joy to find out that the woman he’d been in love with and inadvertently broken up with through neglect caused by an extended period of crippling depression would be attending a wedding halfway across the Span without bringing a date? It didn’t mean anything. Except that it would probably be awkward. Less awkward than if she had been accompanied, perhaps. But awkward nonetheless.

“Shit, I gotta get to work,” Fiearius declared suddenly, noticing the clock above the door.

Cyrus looked up at it as well. It was barely four o’clock. “I thought you only worked night shifts.”

“I do,” Fiearius answered, edging past them into the living room and retrieving his jacket. “But the evening cook just had a baby so I’m filling in for her shift too.” He shrugged as he pulled the hood up over his head. “I could use the extra cash.”

“Is she gonna be out long?” Cyrus asked, following him through the room to the front hall.

“I dunno, however long it takes to stabilize a tiny human being I suppose,” Fiearius muttered, tugging his shoes on.

“I mean, are you gonna be working evenings still next month?”

Fiearius frowned at him curiously, then cracked a smirk. “I’ll get someone else to cover the twelfth, if that’s what you mean. You’re not getting out of your bachelor party that easily. I have big plans. Big fucking plans.”

Cyrus was suddenly very aware of Addy standing beside him and his cheeks flushed red. “I–I don’t mean that. Kalli’s performance is on the third.”

“Oh, of course,” Fiearius assured him. “Would never miss our lil monster beating up other kids.”

“She’s not beating up other kids…” Addy pointed out. “It’s just forms and solo demonstrations and–”

“Soon enough though,” Fiearius interrupted with a grin, opening the door. “Alright, I’m out. Enjoy your wedding planning. Bye Kalli!”

From where she was playing in the back room, a little girl, or perhaps a monster, roared her response. Laughing, Fiearius stepped out and the door was mostly shut when Addy shouted, “Wait! I need a final answer. Plus one?”

The door (rather, Fiearius on the other side of it) hesitated. And then finally, they heard a decisive, “No,” before the door slammed shut and footsteps stalked out over the landing.

When Cyrus turned back to Addy, she was smiling proudly. “Knew it.”

He laughed and stepped closer to her, reaching up to brush a strand of hair behind her ear. “You are so nosy,” he cooed affectionately.

“Someone’s gotta look out for him,” she argued, sinking into his embrace as he slid an arm around her waist. “And no offense, sweetie, but you’re terrible at it.”

Cyrus snorted in disagreement, but didn’t actually argue. “Did you go through all those documents I filled out for us? The catering thing and the location and the Advocate. There were a couple spots I wasn’t sure of so I left them blank.”

Addy was nodding before he even finished speaking. “All done. There was one though I wanted to ask you about actually.” Without actually leaving his arms, she turned around, leaning her back against his chest and holding up the tablet for both of them to look at.

“Most of these are fine,” she muttered as she skimmed through different documents. “This is good, fine, done, here.” Her finger paused on one. “This one. The Certification of Marriage Under Satieran Law. It asks for a name, you just put mine, Atelier. But I think it’s talking about what joint name we want to use.”

“Yeah, it is,” Cyrus agreed. “So I put Atelier.”

Addy looked back at him. “We didn’t talk about this.”

“Sorry, did you want something different?”

“No, I just — “ She frowned back at the screen and then once more at him. “You don’t want to even consider using your name?”

Cyrus shrugged. “I did consider it. And honestly, I’m kinda tired of being a Soliveré. It’s got so many connotations now. Anyone who hears it immediately thinks of the war and all that awfulness, but Atelier? Atelier is all good things. Atelier is the man that took charge rebuilding Satieri. Atelier is the engineering firm that’s going to take the Span by storm. Atelier is my amazing daughter and my incredible wife.” He pulled her closer against him. “I wanna be an Atelier.”

Addy watched him over her shoulder for a moment, her brows high on her forehead and a tiny smile curved into her lips. And then finally, she chuckled, “You are such a dork.”

He barked an indignant laugh. “What?! I thought you’d be happy.”

“I am, now I don’t have to use the argument I practiced, it’s just your reasoning.” She slid the tablet onto the table beside them and spun around to face him, her arms draping over his shoulders. “So cheesy.”

He scoffed and kissed her quickly on her forehead. “You’re cheesy.”

“You’re cheesier,” she shot back.

“You’re the cheesiest.” He grinned as she frowned up at him. But then her expression faltered and she sniffed the air.

“Do you smell–is that smoke?”

Suddenly, Cyrus remembered. The cooking lessons. The pan on the stove. The dinner he was supposedly making. “Oh shit,” he growled, releasing his hold on her, stumbling around her and sprinting towards the kitchen as Addy laughed raucously behind him.

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Chapter 49 Bonus: Thirteen Months http://www.caelum-lex.com/2015/11/18/chapter-49-bonus-thirteen-months/ http://www.caelum-lex.com/2015/11/18/chapter-49-bonus-thirteen-months/#comments Wed, 18 Nov 2015 08:00:01 +0000 http://www.caelum-lex.com/?p=4308 Fiearius stepped out onto the landing, taking a breath of the crisp night air that stung as it filled his lungs. The warm light of the apartment behind him flooded out of the windows and it was tempting to turn back. He didn’t want to leave. Gods, he didn’t want to leave. But he couldn’t impose himself on Cyrus’ family any more than he already had. It was time to go.

Another deep breath and he lifted his hood over his head. As he headed down the stairs, he reached into his jacket pocket and drew out a tiny bundle wrapped in paper. When he reached into his other pocket, however, he found nothing in place of where a lighter should have been.

“Shit.”

Taking the last few steps out of the building and onto the street, he looked around for any sign of life. It was quiet tonight. Rather, it was too late on a Tuesday for any sensible Satieran to be wandering around the residential area of the Shipbuilding District. Well, they were missing out, Fiearius decided. He wasn’t fond of the cold on any planet, but Satieran desert winter held a certain familiar hatred to it. And even he couldn’t argue that the clear skies and endless expanse of stars were a sight to behold.

He’d walked a few blocks before he spotted a couple young guys and a woman leaned against the wall of an alley nearby. They were laughing and joking with one another and the orange glow of burning cigarettes lit their faces.

It would do.

Fiearius approached the group and one of them, the woman, noticed first. She nudged her friend in the ribs and told him to hush, gesturing at the stranger until all three grew quiet and watched him suspiciously. One of them even stood up straight and puffed up his chest as though it might actually intimidate him. Fiearius chuckled under his breath.

“Can I bum a light?” he asked once he was close enough. The two men glanced furtively at one another, but the woman, hesitant as she was, unhooked herself from where she was leaning against him and sauntered towards Fiearius, digging in her pocket.

She handed the lighter to him without a word and watched as Fiearius lit the paper and held it to his lips, breathing in until he could feel the weight of it filling his chest, hard and sharp and mildly comforting. The rumor had always been that once you’d taken Flush, nothing else felt the same. Turned out, that rumor was painfully true. But at this point? Any little bit helped.

Fiearius released the long breath of smoke and watched it drift upwards into the night. “Thanks.” He handed the lighter back to the girl and turned to leave, but she stopped him.

“Wait.”

He probably should have just kept walking. Because of course, he could guess at what was coming. But foolishly, since he apparently never learned his lesson, he turned back.

“I know you. You’re that –” She clicked her fingers beside her ear and scrunched her face. “Soliveré right? The admiral? From the war.”

Her friends joined in before he could put an end to it. “No shit?” One of them squinted his eyes to peer closer at Fiearius. The other let out a disbelieving laugh. “You’re kidding, this guy? Here? The fuck are you doing here, man, shouldn’t you be out livin’ it up somewhere? Damn!”

The girl made a grab for his arm that Fiearius narrowly avoided as he took a step backwards away from them. “Come on, we should take you out somewhere,” she suggested enthusiastically. “Can you imagine what people will say when we tell ‘em we went drinking and smoking with the Rogue Verdant?”

“No way will anyone believe us,” said one.

“What d’ya say Soliveré? Admiral? Sir?” said another, laughing. “What do we call you? Come out with us? There’s this sick place down by–”

“No,” Fiearius cut him off finally lest this go on any fucking longer. The three of them went quiet, watching him with a growing sense of disappointment he couldn’t care less about. He took another long draw from the joint, needing it now more than before. “Sorry, you’ve got the wrong guy.” He exhaled and dropped the still burning embers on the ground before turning back to the street.

As he walked away, he could hear the group whispering behind him, debating his identity, questioning the woman’s eyes, but he didn’t listen to the words. He just pulled his hood higher up over his head and pretended, as he always did, not to hear them.

Gradually, it was becoming less of a problem. With the war over a year behind them, fewer people were so acquainted with Fiearius’ face that they’d recognize him instantly on the street. Even so, Ridellian dress code had been a surprising blessing. With a hood to hide what was likely his most noticeable distinguishing feature, he could at least move about the city without the constant attention he’d received early on. It was a lot easier to be identified as religiously devout than a controversial war figure.

A hood couldn’t solve everything though and Fiearius’ method of traversing Paradiex like a ghost was far more than clothing choices. The cover of night helped, of course. As did avoiding crowded places. Or entirely uncrowded places, for that matter.

The preference was what had drawn him to the Tailspin. It was a bar just outside the PIT train stop nearest his apartment and, as its name suggested, it was a frequent hangout for people whose lives weren’t exactly moving in an upward direction. It was a dump. The door creaked like it was about to fall off. The booths seemed like someone had taken a knife to them. Half the bar stools were missing and had been replaced by chairs from someone’s kitchen table. The bar itself wore a crack right through the center that made every drink set upon it unbalanced.

But when Fiearius walked through the creaky door, late on this Tuesday night, not one of the four or five patrons inside looked up. Only the woman behind the bar acknowledged his existence, and only enough to pour him his regular to be ready when he sat down. Not a word was spoken. Not a question was asked. He was free to sip his pure Satieran tequila in peace.

Something was different about tonight though and for a while, he couldn’t quite place his finger on it. Not until the man seated two stools away from him said, “So. This is what happens to washed up old admirals, is it?”

Fiearius’ fingers tightened around his glass, already knowing he was going to end up punching this asshole if he said one more damn word. But when he glanced over at his neighbor, he realized something about the man’s accent. It wasn’t Satieran. It wasn’t Ellegian. It was…Carthian?

The older man turned towards him and Fiearius got sight of his face. His mouth dropped. “No fuckin’ shit…”

Gates raised a brow at him and then shook his head and took a short sip of his drink. “I see your manners haven’t changed at all.”

“The hell are you doing here?” Fiearius demanded.

“Having a drink, what does it look like?” Gates smiled humorlessly and Fiearius simply glared back at him until he relented, “I may have asked around a little where I should have a drink.”

“Why?” was Fiearius’ gut response. His second wasn’t much different. He lifted his glass to his lips and looked away. “I have no interest in talking to you.”

Gates let out a sigh. “Stubborn as ever.”

“Fuck you.”

“I came all the way out to this shitty part of town and you won’t even honor me with a conversation?”

Fiearius scoffed indignantly. “If I recall correctly, it’s your fault it’s shitty.” He shot him a glare. “Y’know. The whole…destroying the planet thing.”

But if Gates was intimidated, he certainly didn’t show it. If anything, he only looked more curious. “If it’s shitty, why do you live here? Your council, they gave me and my family a huge loft in the middle of downtown and I’m nothing more than a political refugee. Surely the hero of Satieri could do better than–” His hand waved in the general direction of the door. “This.”

“I could,” Fiearius answered and left it at that.

“Yet here you are,” Gates concluded, continuing to press.

Fiearius’ fingers left his glass to massage his temple where a headache was already spreading. “Why do you fuckin’ care?”

“Curiosity,” was his only reason and though Fiearius could easily have ignored it, without knowing why, he didn’t.

“I used to live here,” he explained, his voice growing quiet. “With my family. It wasn’t as shitty back then. It was a good neighborhood.” He shrugged. “Feels like home.” The last shot of tequila in the glass could not have slid down his throat any quicker. The glass hit the bar with a dull ‘thud’. “Even if half of it’s in the Void.”

Fiearius didn’t have to look at Gates to know that he was watching him with that obnoxious stare he’d always had. The one that made Fiearius feel like a beast behind a cage in a zoo. Or like a fucking carnival attraction. Thank the gods, the bartender had already poured him another drink.

“So how you likin’ Satieri?” he asked, blatantly changing the subject and fully expecting the man to counter. Strangely, for perhaps the first time ever, he didn’t.

“It’s different,” Gates admitted. “Maryah loves it, actually. The kids just started school, they’re enjoying themselves.”

“And you?”

He frowned down at his hand on the bar. “Under other circumstances, perhaps I would welcome the change. But playing the part of mild-mannered Gordin Lareis from Ellegy to avoid being murdered in the street is a challenge…”

“Probably a good idea though.” Fiearius tapped his index finger against the bar. “Secret identities…maybe I should try that.”

Gates glanced at the room around them. “Right. Not so into being famous, I see.”

“It’s not that exactly. Hell, let em sing my praises all they want, just — side effects aren’t so grand,” he muttered, tracing a symbol along the wood. He fell quiet for a moment before letting out a short laugh. “Y’know no one will hire me?” Gates tilted his head in consideration. “It’s true. Or if someone will, they just want to do it for the publicity. Which I’ve had numerous offers for, but — an actual daily something-or-other to occupy my time?” He shook his head slowly. “Not a one.”

“That seems odd,” he remarked.

“Is it?” The question came out harsher than he’d intended. “What exactly am I qualified to do? I spent a decade as an assassin, few years as a gun smuggler and another five as an over-glorified foot soldier. Can you really see me working downtown in an office?” He groaned his frustration and put his head in his hand. “I didn’t even finish high school.”

“Aren’t there programs now for that exact thing?” he asked.

“There are. Real nice government sponsored programs to — what are they calling it? Integrate pre-Restructure Society agents into post-Restructure life? It’s real popular with my old Internal Affairs colleagues. Me though?” He grimaced and took a deep sip from his glass. “I went to a meeting at my brother’s behest. Half of them wanted to thank me, the other half wanted to kill me. In the end, the guy running it told me I was ‘too distracting’ and ‘detrimental’ to the progress of others.”

Now Gates grimaced too. “Ouch.”

“Exactly.”

Both men lifted their glasses and drank, unintentionally in unison. When Gates’ glass met the bar again, he frowned. “I don’t think you’re giving yourself enough credit though.” When Fiearius glanced over at him, he was looking curiously up at the wall behind the bar. “You have plenty of marketable skills. You’re resourceful, adaptable, a problem solver, you think quick on your feet. Not to mention you’re a natural leader.”

Fiearius couldn’t stop himself from gaping at him. Gaping until he laughed. “Sorry,” he managed through the chuckling in response to Gates’ unimpressed glare. “Just weird. Hearing that from you of all people…”

Gates shrugged. “I brought you in for a reason, Soliveré, believe it or not. We wouldn’t have had a chance without you. I stand by my decision.” He lifted his glass again in a toast, although it lowered a few inches moments later when he added, “Even if it got me fired. And criminalized. And exiled from my entire home system…”

Fiearius clamped his mouth shut and scratched the back of his neck nervously. “Yeah…I guess I owe you an apology for that. But — I’m not actually sorry.” Casting him an apologetic smirk, he explained, “Honestly, I don’t regret a thing. I’d betray you again in a heartbeat…”

To his surprise, Gates did not look angry, nor even disappointed. He just nodded a slow understanding and admitted, “I know. And between you and me?” His eyes glanced behind him, just in case, before he whispered, “I’m kinda glad.”

Fiearius smirked. “That so?”

“Not that it absolves me or anything, but I voted strongly against reviving that awful thing,” he explained. “And if you hadn’t stopped it? Well, we had measures in place to try and evacuate as many civilians as we could, but –” He shook his head. “It was never going to be enough. And frankly I’m not sure if I could live with that much blood on my hands. I’ve already got enough as it is.”

“Yeah,” Fiearius murmured and lifted his glass. “I can drink to that.”

The two of them clinked glasses and downed what was left of the liquor. “Well,” Fiearius declared as he slid from his stool onto the floor. “It was less awful seeing you than I expected.”

“Same to you,” said Gates.

“If you hear of anyone looking to hire a washed-up old admiral.” He shrugged half-heartedly. “You know where to find me…”

Gates snorted a laugh and nodded. As he turned for the door, though, he called out, “Good luck, Fiearius.”

Which was surely meant to be hopeful or reassuring. But as Fiearius walked out of the Tailspin and back into the street and above him, the sky, tainted by clouds from the Void nearby, cracked open and drenched him in a torrential downpour of rain, he didn’t feel very reassured.

Used to this by now, Fiearius dropped the hood, ran his hand back over his sopping wet hair to keep it out of his face, stuck his hands in his jacket pockets and walked quickly.

Funnily enough, talking to Gates was perhaps the most ‘himself’ he had felt in ages. Nothing was the same as it used to be. Not before he left Satieri, not after. Everything had changed. Cyrus and Addy had jumped right back into normal life as if it were nothing. They helped rebuild the city, they were getting Atelier Industries back off the ground, they were getting married.

And it wasn’t just them. The rest of Satieri had all moved on too. Hell, even Gates had it more together than he did. It had been a year. Everything was back in motion, moving forward, but Fiearius still felt stuck, trapped in some kind of purgatory. He was better now than he had been a while back, but not by much. He couldn’t move forward. But he couldn’t go back either, there was nowhere to go back to.

A year. A fucking year had passed and what had he done besides sit in a dive bar and drink tequila?

Gods, how fucking pathetic.

Fiearius tore open the door to his apartment and rushed inside, eager to get out of the rain. He was dripping massive amounts of water onto the floor, but he didn’t care. The apartment was where he lived, had lived for seven months, but it wasn’t home. It was just an empty box with a bed in it, for all it mattered. Not even a bed. A mattress on the floor.

He stripped off the soaking wet clothes and threw them in a pile across the room before collapsing onto the mattress. Something about that conversation had struck something deep in his core. That urge to fix this. The pull to get his shit together, to veer out of this downward spiral and get better. He had no idea how to do it, but suddenly, he knew exactly where he wanted to start.

Sitting up, he reached for the tablet that he’d thrown aside that morning and switched on the screen. Muttering to himself, he practiced what he was going to say. I’m sorry, that was the big one. I’m so sorry. I fucked up. Again. Please forgive me.

Please, gods, let her forgive me.

But when Fiearius found the contact he was looking for and hit the panel for her name, ready to call her, ready to start over and mend things, the screen displayed something else. It was all the recent messages she’d sent him, but it was the most recent that caught his eye. It was dated just a month ago and he had read it probably a thousand times since then.

It has been exactly a year since we’ve been in the same room. Happy anniversary I guess.

I write, and you don’t answer. I call, and you are silent. You are more than halfway gone.

I know that you’re in pain, that you don’t sleep, that you are living with every single choice you made. I forgive you for shutting me out.

But there’s a wall around you right now, and you’re not ready for us, I can see that. I wish you would let me love you.

Leta

He read it again. And again. He knew every word by heart now, but seeing them there on the screen made them sting all over again. The confidence that had been running through him moments before was gone and his grip on the tablet weakened until it fell from his hands onto the floor with a clatter.

“Fuck,” he said to the room as, certainly not for the first time, and probably not the last, he covered his face with his hands and fell back onto the mattress, knowing that he was likely to lie there all night, awake and more alone than ever.

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Chapter 49 Bonus: Eleven Months http://www.caelum-lex.com/2015/11/17/chapter-49-bonus-eleven-months/ http://www.caelum-lex.com/2015/11/17/chapter-49-bonus-eleven-months/#comments Tue, 17 Nov 2015 08:00:46 +0000 http://www.caelum-lex.com/?p=4304 “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.

“From Fiearius?”

“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…”

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Chapter 49 Bonus: Six Months http://www.caelum-lex.com/2015/11/16/chapter-49-bonus-six-months/ http://www.caelum-lex.com/2015/11/16/chapter-49-bonus-six-months/#comments Mon, 16 Nov 2015 08:00:13 +0000 http://www.caelum-lex.com/?p=4297 “You’ve got a call coming through, Dr. Adler!”

“Coming!” Leta called back, shoving the pile of clean linens onto the shelf and spinning around, nearly running into a passing nurse.

“‘Scuse me, Dr. Adler!” he yelped, hurrying out of her way as Leta dodged around him and rejoined the quick flow of the clinic’s hallway only to immediately have a chart in front of her.

“Mr. Uli’s back with another of his famous ailments,” complained Dr. Halloway, rolling her eyes. “What do I do?”

“Just give him some sugar pills and send him on his way, we don’t have the space right now,” Leta advised, edging around her as she groaned and walked off. A hand shot up from amongst the crowd of doctors and nurses as someone called out.

“Dr. Adler, where did we put that case of supplies that came in yesterday?”

“Storage C!” Leta called back, ducking out of the way as a group of emergency personnel ran past at full speed, pushing a stretcher with far too much blood. She was about to chase after it when she spotted another doctor already on its tail. Taken care of. Good.

Finally, she emerged out of the crowded hallway into the equally crowded main floor of the clinic. Every bed that lined the room was claimed. Her staff huddled around them, working at double speed to handle the huge influx. But as busy as it was, Leta was relieved. Until recently, this level of crowdedness meant violence in the streets, explosions, turmoil. This, though? Six months after the end of the war?

Flu season.

“We’re running low on meds,” someone told her as she passed them.

“Already?” She sighed. “Get in touch with Unity, they might have some surplus.”

“On it.”

At last, after skillfully navigating her way through the maze of cots, she arrived at administration where Nikki was perched on a stool awaiting her. “Patch it through to your office?” he asked without missing a beat.

The room behind her was filled with a cacophony of noise. Coughing, talking, shouting to be heard over everything else. The kind of noise only a busy clinic could make. It was comforting and familiar and as stressful as it was, she couldn’t get enough of it, but as a backdrop to a call?

“Yes please,” she responded, swinging open the door to her tiny private office and switching on the light. It was little more than a closet, but it had a window out to the clinic floor and it held a desk, a console and a few moments of peace whenever she needed them. Collapsing into her chair, her finger hovered over the COMM button for just a moment as she glanced at the screen to prepare herself for whatever exchange was about to happen. She read the name and her heart leapt in her chest.

Soliveré.

“Hey!”

“Hey!” came the cheerful voice on the other side of the line, but it wasn’t the voice she was expecting. Not quite.

“Oh, Cy!” She tried not to sound disappointed, but she didn’t succeed.

“Sorry, is now a bad time?” he asked. “Time maps always confuse me, did I get it wrong? I can call back later…”

“No, no, it’s fine,” Leta assured him, forcing herself to smile as she spoke and praying it would help her demeanor. Fleetingly, she glanced out at the bustling clinic. “I mean, it’s as good a time as any.”

“You’re probably working, huh?” Cyrus guessed and Leta snorted a laugh. “When are you not though? Is your dad still making you babysit peace talks?”

“Fortunately, no! That’s all sorted out now. Didn’t you hear? Vescent’s parliament is reinstated. Except all of the old legislators got voted out and replaced with the leaders of the rebellion.”

Now Cyrus laughed. “You’re kidding.”

“Believe me, I wish I was. If my father makes me attend one more dinner with his friends who can’t shut up about how they were ‘robbed’ and what their plans should be for the next election, I’m going to go nuts,” she moaned, propping her head in her hand. “As far as I’m concerned, some new blood in those stuffy halls isn’t a bad thing. Anyway, I’m sure you didn’t call me to talk about Vescentian politics.”

“Nonsense, it’s my favorite subject.” He chuckled. “But you’re right.” Suddenly, his tone got very serious. “I did call you for a reason. I have some news.”

Leta’s stomach churned with worry. Her mind raced to a thousand places. What had happened? She had known something was wrong, hadn’t she? She’d felt it stirring in the back of her mind for a few weeks now. Taking in a deep breath, she tried to keep herself from jumping to the absolute worst conclusions before she asked, “Good or bad?”

“Both,” was Cyrus’ hesitant answer. “Preference on which first?”

Leta ran a nervous hand through her hair. “Bad,” she decided. “Bad first.”

“Okay, if you’re sure.” Cyrus paused for far too long and Leta clamped her eyes shut in preparation, praying it wasn’t what she was thinking. Please, be alright. Please.

“The bad news,” he began slowly. “Is that–it’s official now. You and I are just never gonna happen. I’m sorry.”

Leta’s eyes snapped open. “What?”

“The good news,” he continued, his voice instantly cheering up, “is that you’re invited to a wedding!”

She gaped at the console for a moment, her brain trying to catch up. “Wait, what?!”

On the other end of the line, Cyrus was laughing raucously. “Yeah! Um–Addy and I are getting married! We don’t have a date just yet, but of course you’re coming, so–”

“Cyrus!” Leta cut him off, slamming her hand down on the desk. “You–you asshole.” He was still laughing and as Leta slowly broke out of her panic, she couldn’t help but release a few breathless laughs of her own. “You can’t do that to me! I was really worried!”

“I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist!” he apologized without sounding even the slightest bit sorry.

“Yeah sure you couldn’t.” She rolled her eyes, but she was too relieved to know something actually wasn’t wrong to be too angry. Besides, this was the best news she’d heard in months. “But your shitty delivery method aside, congratulations! I’m so happy for you two. Tell me everything. You proposed?” She paused. “Again?”

“Ouch,” he hissed, but shook it off. “Okay, I guess I deserved that. But yeah, I proposed. Again. I dunno, I’ve been putting it off for a while, y’know? She always said she wanted to wait til we were back on Satieri, but we’ve been so overwhelmed with reparations and Kalli and figuring everything out and — I mean, there’s no rush. But we moved into our new apartment a few weeks ago and things are finally starting to even out so — I don’t know, why not right?”

“Right,” Leta agreed and added impatiently, “So you–?”

He laughed again, embarrassed. “I eh — it’s cheesy…”

“All the more reason I want to hear it.”

“It’s really cheesy.”

“Cy.”

He finally relented. “Okay, okay. I took her out to the junkyard by the east docks to salvage parts for our project.” Leta couldn’t stop a laugh from trickling out which he immediately took offense to. “Hey! You wanna hear this or not?”

“I do, I do, I’m sorry!” She stifled the laughter. “You went to your nerdy paradise, got it, go on.”

He made a noise of disapproval, but continued. “So we spent a few hours out there digging through it. There were a lot of new additions after the cleanup so we really did find some good stuff that’ll come in handy. Hell, we pretty much found a whole replacement engine if I can just–”

“Cy.”

“Right, sorry.” He coughed uncomfortably. “Anyway, around sunset she said we should head back but I insisted we check out one more area, just in case. So we went over there and there was this really rare adapter we were sure we’d never find just sitting around in a junkyard. Because we wouldn’t. And we didn’t. Because I bought it a few days back and put it there that very morning.”

Leta practically squealed in anticipation. “And there was a ring in it?” she guessed.

“What? No, no, Ridellians don’t do the ring thing,” he corrected. “Though that would have been a good idea…But no, we do the S’aré Circle. The person asking draws a circle on the ground around the person being asked and then you stand together and…y’know…ask.”

“So the rare part she picked up–?”

“Was in the center of the S’aré Circle,” Cyrus confirmed and Leta could picture his cheeks turning pink as he talked about it. “Which she noticed a moment later and then — yeah, I asked her. And she said yes. And now we’re getting married! And you’re invited. Sorry I worried you with the whole…bad news thing.”

Leta shook her head. “It’s fine, you told me an adorable heart-warming story, I forgive you.” Then, she added, far more sternly, “But seriously, never do that again. You scared the daylights out of me.”

“Sorry, sorry,” he said yet again. “I didn’t think you’d freak out so much. What the hell did you think I was going to say?”

The onslaught of potential disasters that she had pushed from her mind suddenly came barreling back in, but this time she was able to quell them. Cyrus would have told her if anything that terrible at happened. She was being unreasonable and she knew it. “I don’t know, just — something far worse than that,” she muttered, trying to laugh it off, but once again, she failed to mask the nerves even in her laugh.

And Cyrus read her mind. “About Fiear?”

She’d promised herself she wouldn’t get Cyrus involved in this as some kind of middleman. He didn’t deserve that. And besides, wasn’t she supposed to be stronger than this? Stronger than worrying about a man halfway across the Span and what he might be thinking.

Her promise, however, forgot to take into account Cyrus’ good-heartedness. “Have you talked to him?” he asked without prompting.

Leta covered her face with her hand. “Not recently…The last we spoke was a couple weeks ago and even that was –” Awkward. Uncomfortable. Full of long pauses and unspoken words. “Brief. I’ve been trying to call him again since then, but he hasn’t answered. Or called me back.” She sighed and added hurriedly, “We don’t have to talk about this, if you don’t–”

“It’s okay,” Cyrus cut her off. “If you need to talk, talk.”

The logical, practical part of her wanted to say ‘no, I’m fine’ but the emotional part just kept going. “I don’t know what happened. I knew this would be hard, but it’s — we used to talk all the time, when I first moved here. Or as much as we could, anyway. Things were kind of crazy, but we made it work. I’ll admit I kind of lost track of things for a bit, with the clinic really amping up again, but, I don’t know, it seemed okay. But now — gods, we barely speak and when we do it’s like there’s some wall between us I can’t break through.”

Her hand ran down her face and she looked up at the screen blankly. Feeling a sudden urge to lighten the mood, she added, “But good to know nothing terrible happened to him, it’s just me.”

Cyrus was quiet for a long moment, so long she almost tried to crack another joke, but before she could think of one, he said, “Well I wouldn’t say that, exactly…”

Leta’s eyes widened in surprise. “What do you mean?”

“Oh nothing terrible happened to him,” Cyrus clarified in a hurry. “Not…really. I just don’t think it’s you. He’s — eh — been in a bit of a funk lately. Moreso than usual. And funk is probably understating it.”

Leta went silent, lost in thought. So Fiearius hadn’t just been acting strange to her which was something of a relief perhaps. But barely. She wanted to know more, but suddenly Cyrus started talking about something seemingly unrelated.

“We finally had our elections early last month, don’t know if you knew that. Fiear wasn’t even on the ballot, he still got some ridiculous percentage of the vote, but Varris and her council won as predicted. They’re making a lot of progress already. The reparations kicked into double-time now that there’s someone managing the budget and we closed the last camp a few weeks ago. All of Paradiex is back in permanent housing now. Businesses are reopening. We even had a festival a few days ago. Things are starting to get back to normal.”

“That’s–that’s great,” Leta muttered, unsure what this had to do with Fiearius.

Until he said, “Yeah, normal is great. But–not for everyone I don’t think,” which made it all click into place within her head. Of course, normal wasn’t great for everyone. Fiearius wasn’t built for normal.

“He’s not adapting well?”

“Again, understatement,” Cyrus replied. “It’s weird, everyone’s mood seems to be gradually getting better, but his just keeps getting worse. He got this shitty run-down apartment near the Nautilus Void, just barely outside the safety line. The new council offered him a damn mansion practically and he turned it down. He still visits at least once every other day and he’s relatively normal around us and with Kalli, but when he leaves? Gods, it’s like we’re turning a puppy out into the pouring rain. No idea what he does on days he doesn’t visit. He’s not working. He always looks exhausted. I don’t think he’s sleeping which is no surprise, he’s been a chronic insomniac since we were kids, but–”

Cyrus released a sigh. “We’re worried, frankly. I haven’t seen him this bad since…well, right after we left Satieri to begin with. He won’t talk to me about it, he brushes off any suggestion to talk to a professional, I thought maybe at least he was talking to you…”

Leta shook her head. “He’s not…But it sounds like depression.”

“I think it’s grief,” Cyrus suggested.

“Over the Dionysian? Quin? Dez?”

“Maybe. But I was thinking a grief older than that.” The theory made Leta go quiet. They’d all lost the lives they once knew long before the war ever started. She’d grieved her own, no doubt Cyrus grieved his, but Fiearius’ previous life had a few pieces theirs had lacked. He had parts of a life that was harder to lose. And she couldn’t agree more when Cyrus muttered, “I don’t know, getting back to Satieri was what he always thought he wanted but — now that he’s here, I think maybe it wasn’t.”

“Yeah…” was all Leta managed, her chin propped in her hands as she stared across the room at the empty wall behind the door. The line went quiet for a long time. So long, she might have thought Cyrus had disconnected.

But finally he spoke again. “I hate to ask this of you, I certainly don’t want you to exert yourself in a way you’re not comfortable with but — I do think if anyone can help him, it’d be you so….” He hesitated. “I’m sorry he’s being a jerk and not talking to you right now, but if you can, please don’t stop trying.”

For the first time since they’d turned to this topic, Leta smiled. “Oh I won’t. Don’t worry about that.”

“You’re a better person than I, I’ll give you that,” Cyrus commented. “Anyway, I should let you get back to work. Sorry this got so dark. I’ll get in touch as soon as we have a plan for the wedding, I know we’ve got a lot of Ridellian culture to teach you before it happens.”

Leta laughed once. “Oh I’m looking forward to it.”

“Take care of yourself, Leta.”

“You too.”

The COMM line disconnected, leaving Leta sitting alone in the relative dark of the tiny closet office. She looked out at the clinic floor and knew as soon as she walked out of that door, she would be bombarded with questions, needs, demands. She would be reabsorbed back into her new life, the one she’d carved out for herself in this new Span. A life she loved, honestly, even more than her past.

But there were still a few things she’d change…

Leta looked back at her console, frowned and scrolled through her list of contacts until she found Fiearius’ name.

She took a deep breath and hit ‘call’.

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Chapter 49: Refuge http://www.caelum-lex.com/2015/11/13/chapter-49-refuge/ Fri, 13 Nov 2015 08:00:34 +0000 http://www.caelum-lex.com/?p=4291 image1

Leta grit her teeth and steadied her hand as she pushed the needle through the flesh and expertly tied it off. “There you go, all done,” she told the little girl who opened one tear-filled eye to peer down at the stitches in her arm. “You were very brave.”

The child sucked in a breath, her father provided Leta a word of thanks and the two of them headed out of the shelter into the camp just as Daelen, carrying a huge box of supplies that covered his face, walked in.

“You should be resting,” he told her, not for the first time, as he slid the boxes on top of the spent ones.

“I’ve rested enough,” Leta shot back without hesitation, already hovering over the crates before he even opened them. “Did you bring me more gauze? I’m running low.”

“I brought whatever they could spare, which wasn’t much,” Daelen replied, nudging her away as he tried to organize. “I’ll check some of the other locations later. There’s bound to be a surplus floating around somewhere.” Standing up and stepping back, he put his hands on his hips and shook his head. “You’d think there would be a more central system by now. It’s been over a week, someone must be looking to organize.”

Leta snorted her disbelief. Satieri was in such disarray, she hardly thought organizing medical supplies was on anybody’s short list. Of course, there were plenty of wounds to treat and plenty of injuries that needed attending, but the pop-up ‘clinics’ (if they could even be called that) dotting the many refugee camps spanning the city were substantial enough for now. People went to whichever doctor was closest to where they were. And where they were was wherever they landed.

Shuffling past Daelen, Leta peeked out into the daylight. For her part, she’d somehow ended up in the camp at city center. It was no doubt the largest of those she’d visited so far, although she’d heard rumors about one at the edge of the packing district that spanned for miles upon miles.

Exymerian neighbors had shipped in temporary shelters within the first 48 hours of the attack, essentially long metal tubes with some dividers and a door on each end, to house the millions of Paradexians that had been displaced by the battle. It was a bit of a sad sight, the rows of grey boxes lying among the rubble of a once great and powerful city, but spirits had seemed surprisingly high since day one. Despite everything these poor people had been through, Leta still saw smiles and heard whispers of optimism for the days to come.

But as positive as the refugee camp may have felt, there was one dark spot on the Satieran skyline. A literal one, even, that Leta’s eye couldn’t help but be drawn to every time she walked outside. The sky was clear except for there, where the clouds were dark and swirled menacingly over a chunk of the city.

The Nautilus Void, they were calling it. A strip of half-terraformed land that had once been homes and cafes and shops, now uninhabitable and highly dangerous to even approach. Researchers had quelled fears that it was growing early on, but that didn’t make it any less terrifying to look at. Especially not to Leta who continued to relive the Nautilus’ fall any moment she wasn’t otherwise occupied…

Which is what she should have been right then…

“Next,” she called out to the small gathering of patients waiting on her. A young man with heavy gauze over his eye hobbled forward. “Hey Nial,” she greeted as she stepped out of the way for him. “Time for new bandages, huh?”

“Might be the last time you change ‘em,” Nial said, sitting down on the kitchen table Leta had been using as an exam bench.

“Oh?” She went to work unwrapping the soiled gauze from his face.

“Heard they’re opening up access to my district tomorrow,” he went on cheerfully. “All secured and everythin’. I’m goin’ home.”

“That’s great,” she told him and raised a cleaning cloth towards his eye. “This’ll sting.”

The man winced, but perhaps not from the pain. “Thought you might be a lil more upset…”

“Why?” she asked without thinking, putting the cloth aside and digging into the last remaining gauze stock. “The sooner they can clear the areas that aren’t gone, the sooner they can start rebuilding those that are and get all these people back to normal lives.”

Nial gaped at her for a moment then promptly shut his mouth and turned his good eye away, his cheeks flushing pink. Behind her, Daelen chuckled and Leta looked between them, confused. Until it hit her. Why. Gods, maybe things really were getting back to normal. She couldn’t remember a time in the recent past when someone had the time, guts or good mood to actually hit on her.

So she couldn’t help but smile as she told him, “Oh I see. Well yes then, I will definitely miss treating the big hole in your face.”

Nial seemed unconvinced. “Don’t have to lie to me, Dr. Adler. We all saw the picture in the news last week. I get it.”

Now it was Leta’s turn to flush for she knew exactly which picture he was talking about. Apparently someone in the crowd of onlookers following the Nautilus’ crash had fancied themselves a photographer. Every media network in the Span had run the photo, at least it felt that way.

“Hush,” she scolded, pushing aside her embarrassment. “Now whether you’re going home or not, keep cleaning this alright? We don’t want it to get infected.”

“‘Course not, doc.” Nial slid from the table and headed for the exit. On the precipice, he turned around and gave her a dramatic wave. “May our paths cross again, Dr. Adler. You are, as always, a sight for a sore eye.”

She didn’t resist the laugh and called, “Good luck, Nial,” after him as he walked out into the camp.

Leta took a moment to pick up the dirty bandages and rearrange her medkit for the next patient. “Now I really need gauze,” she reminded Daelen who groaned.

“Give me a few more minutes, I’m exhausted,” he complained. “I had to carry all those crates here from all the way on the other side of camp. To get more I’ll have to go to the Business District. Do you know how big this city is? None of the PIT trains are up and running yet, the shuttles are too crowded for cargo, it’s a very long walk to–”

“Do you want to switch?” Leta interrupted suddenly, crossing her arms over her chest and raising a brow at him. “You treat the patients, I get the supplies.”

“Yes, I’d love to,” Daelen replied, “But then you wouldn’t get this great opportunity to work on your bedside manner so–” He shrugged. “Here we are. Give me a minute.”

Leta rolled her eyes. “Fine, a minute, but if this next one has to settle for paper towels to stop the bleeding, I’m blaming you.” She strode to the front of the shelter, leaned her hand on the door and was about to call for the following patient when she realized there was already someone standing immediately in front of her in the doorway. He looked older and more tired, but she knew him right away.

“Hello, Leta.”

Her mouth dropped. “Dad?”

—————

A few days ago, Cyrus would not have thought he could feel nervous about anything ever again. He had braved a secret mission to reclaim Satieri. He had jumped out a ship. He had killed a Society Councillor and flown a cruiser through a horrendous storm and stood below a terraformer. Surely that meant that Cyrus was no longer the cowardly engineer he once had been. He was brave and courageous and a hero now.

Yet when Addy told him that after a week of searching, she had finally tracked down her father and they were headed to meet him, his knees shook.

Otra Atelier had not been easy to find. Though Atelier Industries had miraculously been untouched in the chaos, the Atelier home had taken a direct hit from a Carthian bomb early in the conflict. Addy had been convinced, though, that her father had not been inside when it had happened. Cyrus didn’t know what made her so sure, but who was he to argue? He’d just done what he could to help.

In the end, it was Corra who had pulled it off though. Through contacts, she explained without much elaboration, she’d discovered that Mr. Atelier had been staying in the refugee camp by the southwest docks, supervising the construction of temporary housing for displaced citizens and organizing an effort to provide transport to off-worlders and Satierans with family elsewhere in the Span.

Of course he was, Addy had beamed with pride. Otra Atelier, as she described him, was the most generous and giving man she knew. Of course he was helping his people. He was amazing.

Which only made Cyrus even more nervous as they rode in the crowded public shuttle towards the camp. Sure, Addy had always kept in touch with her father over the years, so Otra Atelier already knew all about him and about the little girl Cyrus currently held in his arms, but it didn’t seem to change anything. There was still something very terrifying about meeting the man whose daughter he had accidentally impregnated…

When the shuttle landed at the edge of the camp and the passengers spilled out of it into the equally crowded square, Cyrus put Kalli down on her own two feet and grasped her hand in his. The southwest dock district had never been the nicest area of the city, but now, it was barely a city at all. It had been hit hard by the initial bomb wave and as it was close to the Nautilus Void, it was in even rougher shape than most places.

It wasn’t raining now, but it had been recently. The metal awnings made of whatever salvage they could find dripped from their edges into the puddles that filled every indent in the ground. One of which was now spraying him in the leg as Kalli jumped in it and laughed.

“Iss’yen!” Cyrus scolded, tugging on her hand and casting an apologetic grin to the woman on her other side that had taken a full splash to the thigh. “No jumping in puddles, okay?”

Kalli looked up at him, confused, but before he could elaborate that it was rude, there were lots of people around her, people who had recently lost their homes and their loved ones and were sad and didn’t want to be covered in dirty rain water, Addy seized his arm.

“There he is!” She pointed somewhere through the crowd and ran off before Cyrus got the chance to see exactly where he was. Still, he clutched Kalli’s hand tighter and hurried after her, following only the flick of her blonde ponytail.

The nerves were starting to worsen now. What was Otra going to say when he saw him? Suddenly, another thought struck him. Did he remember that meeting they had way back when Cyrus was right out of college? Did he remember that he turned down the job he’d been offered? Cyrus had nearly forgotten that had happened at all, but it was all flooding back to him. Gods, as if the child attached to his arm wasn’t bad enough, Otra had every reason to hate him.

Cyrus steeled his expression, took a deep breath and reminded himself of that day a week ago. Jumped from a ship. Killed a Councillor. Fought a terraformer. Brave. Courageous. Hero.

But as brave or afraid as he was, when he finally caught up to Addy to find her embracing an older man with greying hair tied back behind his neck, a Ridellian hood looped around his shoulders and his traditional Satieran garb ripped and torn and dirty, he tried his very best to appear as normal and unterrified as possible.

When Otra looked up at him and smiled, it became a little easier.

“Well well, if it isn’t Cyrus Soliverè!” he exclaimed, releasing his daughter who was grinning from ear to ear and, without any further ado, walking over and throwing his arms around Cyrus as well.

Cyrus, cursing himself for his awkwardness, patted the man on the back and immediately wondered why. “It’s — eh — great to meet you again–” He stumbled over his words. “Sir?” This wasn’t the first time they’d met. “Again.” Wait, didn’t he already say that?

But before he could figure it out, Otra laughed heartily and released him. “Please, I know it’s been a long time, but you’re family now, my name is fine.”

“Right, of course, sir–uhm…Mr. Atelier?” Cyrus cringed as Addy chuckled quietly and looped her arm in his. Fortunately, Otra had already moved on to the main attraction.

“And you, oh my.” He crouched down to be on level with Kalli who blinked back at him, her eyes wide and curious. “Look how big you are! From the pictures alone it was hard to tell. But here you are!”

The look on Kalli’s face Cyrus recognized instantly. Fortunately, she first glanced up at her parents for permission. Addy grinned and gave it to her. “Iss’yen, this is your ippa.”

Her eyes grew even wider. “Ippa?” She looked back to Otra. “I have an ippa?” He nodded and her grin broke out. “I have an ippa!” She seized his hands and bounced them up and down. “Ippa ippa ippa!”

Otra’s laugh was warm and friendly and for a moment Cyrus forgot how nervous he was. How could he be when his daughter, always the charmer, was busy winning him over on his behalf. How could he hate Cyrus when his mistake had lead to such a bundle of energy and excitement? Yes, they should have used protection that one time they forgot. But come on, the end result was pretty good, right? he prepared the joke in his head.

Just as he was starting to feel relaxed, Otra got back to his feet, or tried, given that Kalli was still clutching his hand and pulling him down, and gestured to the main overhangs of the camp. “Come with me, I’ll give you the tour.”

Addy fell into step beside her father and Cyrus behind them as they made their way through the crowd towards the cluster of rooftops and salvaged ship hulls that made up the shelters. “I’m sure the camps you’re used to seeing nearer the city center are more robust than this one,” Otra commented, hopefully not because he could see the mild disgust in Cyrus’ face as he watched a young man shoveling human waste out of a pit they had dug for a latrine.

“We were still waiting for the emergency shelters to make it here days back, but it was storming every few hours. We couldn’t wait any longer so we made our own. This area was hit hard. People here were poor. Not much to work with, but we’re doing our best,” Otra went on. “And not just here. I’ve been reaching out to anyone who’s good with their hands. We just need people working together to build and rebuild and just keep going. It’s fortunate we’re a city so full of engineers.”

“All the people from the shop are helping with this?” Addy asked him as they walked past a crudely fashioned pile of junk that, Cyrus realized a moment later, was serving as a generator. Well that was something the fancier camps didn’t have.

“All from Atelier, definitely, but more even. Sonnete’s people reached out to me after it all happened, said they had a lot of people wanting to help but didn’t know where to start. Even Society engineers if you can believe it.” Otra gestured to a group of people underneath an overhang leaning over an array of blueprints. Cyrus counted two libreras among them. “The whole organization’s a little lost until the big restructure happens, but they don’t want to sit on their asses in the meantime. All in all, we’ve got some two hundred planners ready and willing to start redesigning this city.”

They finally entered one of the makeshift shelters where Otra had apparently been staying. The makeshift walls were covered in drawings, pictures, plans. They were so crammed full, it was hard to imagine he’d only been living here less than a week and not years.

“Wow, that’s amazing,” Addy was saying, stepping up to a wall and admiring some of the sketches. Kalli let out a squeal as Otra finally let go of her hand and she ran a full circle around the shelter.

“It is,” Otra agreed, carefully taking a seat on a block of ship metal he’d turned over to serve as a chair. “But…we could always use more. Especially two people who’ve already been so vital to rebuilding New Genisi. Their expertise would certainly come in handy.

Cyrus met Addy’s eyes and neither of them needed to question the other on their stance. It was obvious. They had disagreed about many things over the years, but this was the one thing they were unequivocally united on, always and forever.

“Of course we’ll help,” Addy answered for them both as Cyrus nodded his agreement. “This is home. We’re here, we made it, we’ll do whatever we can to make it work.”

——————–

Corra watched, expressionless on the docks, as the horde of Society personnel carried crates of supplies down the Beacon’s ramp. Or ex-Society. Or still Society? Leta had loosely explained a plan to keep the organization in tact and simply revamp their entire mission statement, but she hadn’t absorbed the details. Whatever they were, in her book, they would always be one thing: the people who took her ship.

Crossing her arms over her chest, she turned away, unable to watch this any longer, only to come face to face with Finn. She stumbled back a step and wondered briefly how long he’d been standing there before he said, “This sucks.”

Corra snorted her agreement, but couldn’t help providing the same argument she herself had been given. “We did steal it from them to begin with.” He lifted a skeptical brow at her. “And they do need it more than we do right now.” The Beacon had been on a constant ferrying schedule to and from nearby planets for whatever they could spare. She was feeding half of the entire Satieran population on her own. Her medical supplies went straight into the clinics that needed them. She was serving an important purpose.

Not to mention the fact that she had become the command ship for the three massive arks hovering in Satieri’s atmosphere ensuring no second attack.

Finn shook off the logic. “We stole her fair and square. Years ago. She’s ours now.”

Was ours.” Corra glanced back over her shoulder at the Beacon once more before shaking her head and walking away. Finn hesitated then followed after her, a mischievous smirk already lighting his face.

“Well…” he fell into step beside her, taking long strides for every two of her short ones. “Y’know….we could always take her back.” Corra’s eyes widened and he threw up his hands in defense. “Not yet! Not now, obviously. They can use her while they need her of course. But when things cheer up a bit? When this place gets back on its feet?” He nudged her with his elbow. “What does it need one more frigate for?”

Corra gaped at him a moment longer then shook her head and rubbed her temple with her fingers. “Plenty, I’m sure…”

“C’mon.” He nudged her again, but no matter how much he grinned at her, she didn’t feel his enthusiasm. If anything, the suggestion made her anxious rather than excited.

Gradually, his smile dropped from his face. “I thought you’d be into this idea.”

“Yeah, well–” She shook her head. Maybe she should have been, but at that moment — “I don’t know.”

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Chapter 48 Bonus: Hey http://www.caelum-lex.com/2015/11/11/chapter-48-bonus-hey/ Wed, 11 Nov 2015 08:00:04 +0000 http://www.caelum-lex.com/?p=4288 Nikkiletter2

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Chapter 48 Bonus: Freedom http://www.caelum-lex.com/2015/11/09/chapter-48-bonus-freedom/ Mon, 09 Nov 2015 08:00:14 +0000 http://www.caelum-lex.com/?p=4285 fiearletter57

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Chapter 48: Beam http://www.caelum-lex.com/2015/11/06/chapter-49-beam/ Fri, 06 Nov 2015 08:00:44 +0000 http://www.caelum-lex.com/?p=4275 image1

Leta had never forgotten the day they lost Archeti. The feeling of the planet quaking beneath her feet, the dark storm swirling overhead, the sickly glow cast over the city that felt like a poison had spread through every brick, every slab of concrete, every breath of air. It had haunted her dreams on cold, lonely nights when the rain had battered her windows on Vescent. And as Cyrus landed E’etan’s ship in the middle of a deserted street of Paradiex and Leta peered out of the missing door, she was living it again. Only worse.

Wind whipped at her hair as she took in the scene. It was as bright as daylight in summer, but the wrong color entirely. Debris littered the street and tumbled along the pavement, driven forward by the constant shake of the ground beneath her feet. Moments before, her ears had been filled with the boom of the ark’s cannon and the high-pitched whirrs of Carthian fire. Now, below the clouds, all she could hear was the crack and crumble and churn of the Nautilus and the sound of her own blood pounding against her eardrums.

And in the center of her vision, of course, was the beam. Blinding green light, seemingly descending from the clouds themselves. Her destination.

Gripping the Caelum Lex in her hand, she pushed her hair out of her face in vain and stepped out of the ship onto the street. But she only made it one step before a rough hand had seized her wrist.

“The hell do you think you’re going?”

She turned back to Fiearius and frowned. Last she’d checked, as Cyrus secured the ship’s landing, Fiearius had been hunched over a console sending out orders to his fleets. She’d hoped she’d have a little more time before he noticed she was gone. Still, she wasn’t about to back down. “You know where I’m going. This is why we landed here, remember? Stay with the ship, I’ll be back once it’s done.”

Leta was unsure if she had ever seen him look so appalled before. “Oh I don’t think so.” Before she could react, he reached over and plucked the Caelum Lex from her hand, released her and took a few steps backwards in the direction of the Nautilus. “You stay with the ship. I’ve got this.”

She stepped after him in a fury, having to shout to be heard over the noise. “No, I’ve got it. Give it back.”

“You’re injured,” he argued shortly.

“I’m fine,” she shot back.

“You’re lying,” he pointed out, nodding towards her arm which gave her a shot of pain in response. “You’ve done enough today. Let me handle this one. It’s simple.”

She reached out for the orb, but he easily held it out of her grasp. “Fiearius,” she chided, but he took another step backwards. “Fiearius,” she tried again, more softly. He didn’t move this time. “Fiear–” She drew closer and was surprised to find he didn’t fight it when she wrapped her fingers around the sphere. But when she tugged, he didn’t let go. She shot him a glare, but he met it with a look she wasn’t expecting. One that bore right through her and made her chest pang with guilt.

“I’m not losing you,” he shouted above the churn of the Nautilus with such intensity in his stare that Leta nearly let go. But after a brief moment of doubt, she seized the orb tighter.

“I’m not losing you either.”

They stood like that in the empty street, each with a hand around the Caelum Lex as the winds and rain tore at them viciously. Until–

“Gods, can you do your melodramatic bullshit later?” Cyrus snapped, seizing the sphere out of their grasp and storming past them down the street. “We don’t have time!”

Leta felt her face flush red with embarrassment, but she quickly brushed it off as Fiearius took her now empty hand and pulled her after Cyrus.

“If this doesn’t work, that thing is going to squash us,” Fiearius warned his brother as they caught up to him. “Or devour us. Or whatever the hell it does.”

“Oh, I know exactly what it does.” For an instant, Leta saw a look of absolute terror rise in Cyrus’ features, but he quickly swallowed it.

“Spare me the details please,” Leta mumbled. It was bad enough hurrying straight towards the source of danger not knowing exactly how it might kill them if her gambit didn’t pay off. But it would pay off. This had to work. Gods, it had to work. The arks were programmed to protect the Caelum Lex, right? That was what Corra had said. So if she put the Caelum Lex in danger — if the Nautilus put the Caelum Lex in danger — the arks would react.

Right?

The further they moved down the street, the harder it became to do so. The winds grew stronger, the rain, harsher, and Leta found herself having to shield her face with her forearm to keep the elements from blinding her. She’d been in hurricanes before. They came every few years on Vescent. But even a hurricane felt nothing like this. It was warm too. Hot, even. Hot and loud. Between the weather, the noise and her wounds from earlier, she was quite sure she had never been so uncomfortable in her life.

She wasn’t alone. “How close do you think we have to be to this thing?” she heard Fiearius shout, sounding far away despite the fact that he was still clutching her hand.

A few feet ahead, Cyrus said something in return, but it was drowned out by the roar of a nearby roof being torn from its structure and horrifyingly bouncing away down the street behind them.

“What?” Fiearius yelled back. Through squinted eyes and past the haze, Leta saw Cyrus shake his head and shrug dramatically.

Looking up, the Nautilus’ beam seemed like it would plow over them any second now. Every few seconds it stuttered or shook, but it remained steadily moving in their direction just as they moved in its. How close was too close? When would the arks above them jump into action? Or when would the Nautilus itself simply destroy them before their rescue ever had a chance?

How close would they have to be to realize this whole plan was idiotic and they should turn back, jump on E’etan’s ship and just flee into obscurity?

But as many doubts as Leta had, she kept moving, one step at a time, even as the steps became struggles themselves, the wind so strong it threatened to throw her all the way back the way she’d come. The landscape began to change. The rain slowed and then finally stopped. The heat became sweltering. Sweat poured down Leta’s forehead. The street was no longer a street, but simply a long path of rubble and destruction. Leta tried not to wonder how many bodies lay under that debris, not quick enough to escape the Nautilus’ wrath.

Cyrus had fallen back to join them, taking Leta’s other hand more for his own strength than for hers, she thought, and Fiearius lead the train, using his body to block out at least some of the vicious winds.

As sure as Leta had been when she set off, the closer they got, the more that confidence faded. They should head back, she thought more than once. They should head back and forget this whole thing. It wasn’t working. The Nautilus was right there and it wasn’t working. She was about to finally voice the dismay that was plaguing her when suddenly she heard a shout and felt a harsh tug as Cyrus yanked her backwards. Her other hand, slick with sweat, slipped out of Fiearius’.

“Stop! Come back!” was all she managed to hear as Cyrus proceeded to shake his head and wave his hands in the air violently. Fiearius looked back and then down at where his foot was against the pavement. Except it wasn’t pavement. Or at least, it wasn’t solid pavement. When he stepped backwards, there was a depression left where his boot had been.

“That?” Cyrus shouted, keeping his communication simple and full of hand gestures as his voice cracked at its volume limit. “That is bad! We go closer, we die!”

Leta tried to calm the heavy breaths that were filling her lungs, the panic that was starting to set in. It wasn’t just the ground beneath Fiearius’ feet, she realized suddenly. All around them, the debris was starting to look less angled, less sharp, like it was very slowly melting away. And even as they stood there considering it, she felt the ground beneath her feet starting to soften.

Alarmed, she stumbled backwards. It didn’t work. It didn’t work. Nothing worked. Tearing it apart from the inside had failed. Attacking it on the outside had failed. Everything she tried kept failing and she couldn’t fix it. This huge fucking shitty death beam was going to destroy this planet and there was nothing she could do about it. Maybe the ark couldn’t track the orb after all, maybe it didn’t think death beams were bad, whatever the reason, the beast of an ancient machine clearly wasn’t interested in protecting the Caelum Lex from being melted.

Subconsciously, she looked down at the sphere in Cyrus’ hand and realization struck her. It wasn’t melted. And as Cyrus kept stepping backwards away from the Nautilus’ range, it wasn’t going to be. Godsdammit.

This was stupid. She knew this was stupid. But it had to be done, didn’t it? They’d come all this way, they’d fought through all that wind and rain and they were the only ones now who could save Satieri from being annihilated. Millions of lives were at stake. Millions of people would die if this thing wasn’t defeated. It had to be done and she was going to have to do it.

Leta heaved in a deep breath, reached out and grabbed the sphere out of Cyrus’ grip before he could figure out what was happening. “It needs to be closer!”

But as she tried to run forward, he pulled her back. “You’ll die!”

“I’m going to die standing here arguing anyway!”

Cyrus shook his head. “We need to figure something else out!”

Leta sighed a sigh no one would ever hear. He could be in denial all he wanted, but, “Cy, This is our only shot!”

“There’s another way, there has to be!”

“We’ve tried everything!” She yanked her hand from his and took another step forward. “I’m taking it a bit further! Just enough to trigger the arks!”

“You can’t go further!”

“I have to, Cy, I have to, this is–”

“Give me that!”

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