Notes: More Reformation, this time with Cody and Ten and a little family time...which goes terribly, as family time occasionally does.
Title: Reformation: Chapter Twenty-Two
“This is ridiculous.” Ten stared at the three-dimensional model of the ship that Cody had helpfully projected in their quarters and shook hir head. “Completely ridiculous. I can’t believe that while I’ve spent the last week being dragged through fifteen levels of sanitation—fifteen levels! Like they can’t settle on a central location and route everything to be processed there, because nooo, that would be too easy—you’ve managed to just…just spy your way across a third of the ship with no one fucking wiser!” Ze turned to glare at Cody. “Since when did you get good at being covert?”
“I’m not being covert,” he said. “I’m walking around in an engineering uniform and fixing things. People are happy to see me. It’s amazing what you can get done with a molecular bonding wand and a little conversation.”
“You should bring me with you next time.” Ten reached out and flipped the hologram around, peering into its corners. “You’re missing a few deep pockets here and here, we should go back and fill those in. And two of us would be a lot faster at mapping out the rest of this thing. You’ve got the ports and engineering and a lot of the housing section, but there’s a plethora of secondary and tertiary piping that it would be good to get a handle on, especially if we want to be able to estimate how things will react with each other in unpleasant circumstances.”
Cody didn’t bother trying to correct Ten about any future unpleasantness. Ze was probably right, after all. Still… “I’m not the one who’s been whisking you off on projects every day without giving me a second glance. Livia, right? Chief sanitation engineer?”
“Chief pain in my ass,” Ten muttered. “She looks over everything I do. Everything! Like I need supervision or something! Like I’m not the best welder on this whole stupid ship, because it’s a skillset any infant could pick up. Like I don’t know how to connect pipes carrying disparate acidities and have no idea how to manage basic chemical interactions, my god. It’s like being with Symone again. I’m so sick of it.”
“Not sick enough of it to tell her no.”
“We’re supposed to be making ourselves useful, right?” Ten shrugged. “I recall that being shoved in our faces by the bitch that runs the place. I’m trying not to give her an excuse to make a nuisance of herself. But if you asked for me to go with you instead, I bet Livia would say yes.”
“Maybe.” Cody leaned back against the wall behind their cot. “And then maybe she’d bring it to Grandma’s attention and instead of me being able to slip away unnoticed because no one wants to work with me, we’d be watched and followed and everything would be reported back to her.”
“Everything is probably reported back to her anyway.”
“Yeah, probably. But she hasn’t—” The com unit on Jack’s ship sounded, and a second later they heard his voice.
“Corva wants to talk with you, Cody.” He didn’t sound happy about that fact. “There’ll be someone to escort you to her audience room waiting outside the shuttle. Don’t…don’t stall, okay?”
Ten arched an eyebrow and looked at Cody. “She hasn’t what? Kicked us off the ship yet? Clapped us in irons? Summoned us to her fucking audience chamber, who the hell does she think she is, queen of the universe?”
“I guess I spoke too soon.” Cody hesitated, then reached out and took Ten’s hand. “You don’t have to come. You could stay here and—”
“Yeah, no, crazy, you’ve got to be ill to suggest such a thing, are you ill?” Ten pressed the back of hir free hand to Cody’s forehead. “Don’t be stupid.” Ze leaned in and kissed Cody, then toppled forward onto his lap as Cody tugged at hir hand. “Mmmno, we—”
“Have to go, I know.” Cody knew he should feel nervous about it, but the truth was he was having a hard time feeling much of anything lately. It had been a week—a little more than that, actually—since he’d found out about the attack on Pandora. He’d spent the first part of that time feeling so much, worried and afraid and angry, so, so angry at everyone even obliquely involved. Angry at his dad for being there, angry at Garrett for not stopping this from happening, angry at Darrel and Grennson and even Ten for not being as affected as he was. It was stupid, and exhausting, and he’d felt guilty over it even as he’d indulged himself.
Walking around the way he had, just him and his mapmaking and his small efforts at fixing small things, had been kind of meditative for him. It had helped him tamp down on the storm inside of him, enough that he could at least make a good effort at being okay with the world. That kind of repression wouldn’t fly with Ten for long—ze noticed everything eventually, it was part of what made hir such a good scientist—but as long as he maintained his equanimity around hir, he could probably manage for a while longer. Of course, going to see his grandmother would probably test him, but he wouldn’t know until he tried.
“Okay.” He kissed Ten one more time, desperate to pull hir back down onto the cot so they could just be together for a while, doing anything other than talking, but now wasn’t the time. “Let’s go.”
The person waiting for them was Livia, a familiar face at least, but as usual she made no eye contact with Cody. “Let’s go, kiddos,” she said impatiently as they stepped down the shuttle’s ramp. “It’s not good to keep Corva waiting.”
“Ask me how much I care,” Ten replied.
“Ask me how many more kilometers of pipeline there are to be fixed up over the next week.” She turned and led them out of the bay, and Cody silently activated his map. If they were going somewhere new, he wanted to document it.
“Not fair, not fair at all, I’ve been doing more work than all the rest of your minions combined for the past week and you know it. You should let me do something interesting, I’m curious about the state of your oxygenators—are you using algae in conjunction with the sanitation system to emit more for the environmental system, or are you just cruising through space hoping you don’t run out of the stuff and that your scrubbers keep working and that there’s no localized explosion that opens a gap and vents all your precious resources into space before you can refill at whatever planet will have you?”
“You never shut up, do you?”
“You already knew that.” Ten kept up a steady flow of questions as they walked…and walked…and walked. It took almost half an hour of winding walkways and some very improbably stairs to finally make it to Corva’s location. Cody was sure they hadn’t gone the easy way. If she was trying to make it hard for them to find their way back, well…he smirked quietly as he registered the route and watched the changes integrate into his map.
The audience chamber wasn’t all that large, but it was definitely the most technologically advanced room that Cody had seen so far. Screens and holograms projected flight data, ship specs and a series of more personal notes that vanished the moment Cody and Ten walked into the room. In the center of it all was Corva, sitting in a chair that had an old-school direct connection to her ancient implant. She lifted her head off of the metal prong that slotted into the back of her head, and turned to look at them. She might have frowned, although it was hard to say—her expression barely changed. She reached for the mug sitting on the armrest of her chair and sipped at the dark, oily liquid within.
“Finally.” She glanced at Livia. “Leave. Take the other one with you.”
“You’re in no position to make demands of me, child. Livia.”
Ten was making that face ze made when ze was about to do something spectacularly destructive, and so Cody squeezed hir hand. “It’s okay. I’ll be back with you in just a few minutes.”
“Is that true?” Ten demanded of Corva.
“Get out and find out.”
“Really.” Cody smiled for Ten, grateful that he was still so empty it felt natural. “I’ll be fine.” We won’t be disconnected, he added via the implant, and Ten nodded reluctantly. Livia pulled hir away, and as soon as the door closed, Cody turned back to his grandmother.
She didn’t waste any time. “There are no communications going in or out of Pandora. None. The planet is either dead or under siege, and this ship has no business putting itself in harm’s way. Not for the likes of you.”
“You were heading there anyway,” Cody reminded her. “Your business there came before me.”
“We can sell our goods elsewhere.”
“Not for as much.”
“Better that we still have someone to sell them to than risk annihilation at the hands of whoever is attacking that colony. I don’t want to go to Pandora.” She cocked her head. “But I also don’t want you on this ship.” Her voice turned harsh. “You’re a canker, a blemish. You’re a scut child who should never have been made, much less born. I told your father to get rid of you once he realized there were going to be problems, but he wouldn’t. I raised him too softly.”
“I’m sure you don’t make that mistake anymore.” Cody was amazed he sounded so calm.
“You’ve got them all fooled, don’t you? Fooled into thinking you’re a real person, when you’re just as fake as the womb you were incubated in. You’re a medical mistake, and it doesn’t do to let people start thinking of things like you as real. I won’t kill you,” which answered a question he hadn’t let himself wonder yet, “but I won’t be responsible for keeping you alive here. We’re turning toward Pollux. You’ll be on your own there.”
“No.” It was a gut instinct to argue, and Cody knew he had to follow it up with facts, fast. Corva clearly hated him—he had to make it worth her while to stay on course. “You should keep going to Pandora. Not because of the trade for your goods you’ll get there, but because of the trade you’ll get for me.”
Her eyes narrowed. “What are you talking about?”
“The Federation has deployed a fleet to the colony. They’ll be there soon. They’ll take care of the pirates, and they’ll pay for my return.”
“The Federation doesn’t pay for hostages.”
“Then they can be used to relay a message about me to my stepfather, who will pay for me. He’ll pay anything you ask.” Cody knew that much was true. He hadn’t left things very good with Garrett, but Garrett would never turn away from him.
“That’s a lot of trouble to go to for an uncertain future.”
“Everything about your entire life is uncertain,” Cody said, letting a little of his disdain show. “Your ship is falling apart. Your people live huge parts of their lives in the dark, reduced to their work and nothing else. You have cargo that you can’t easily offload, but you have an expensive hostage to help offset your costs if you play your game right. Wait and see what the fleet can do. Bargain for me. You’ll be surprised at what you get.”
“Perhaps.” Her lips pursed like she was about to spit. “You know, I’m inclined to keep your little friend. Livia says he’s useful.”
“It’s ‘ze,’” Cody corrected. “And trust me when I say that you can’t handle the hurricane Ten would drop on your ship if you tried to separate us.”
“Fine. Then you’ll be offered as a package deal, but if I don’t get enough for you? I might rethink my stance on keeping you alive.”
Well. At least it was all out in the open now.