Eve woke up ready to kill someone.
An orbital bombardment of a heartbeat pounded in her chest and rage flooded through her. Her nails dug into her palms, her teeth clenched so hard that they felt ready to crack. Her body was soaked in a cold sweat that sizzled against her skin. She opened her mouth to let out a guttural scream of fury-
And breathed. One breath and two, three and four, five and six. She envisioned chains wrapping around her heart, pushing the Other Eve back inside and locking her deep away. Everything stored in a nice box, cast into a black hole where it’d be warped and crushed and reduced to blissful nothingness.
She had regained herself… for the moment.
Eve sat up, her body heavy and her mind sluggish. She pulled the thermal blanket off and reached for a faintly glowing silver circlet on her nightstand. It was her customized Arcane Suppressors, meant to prevent a witch from using her powers. It was modified to have a far stronger jamming effect than a typical AS… an extra strength Suppressor for an extra strength witch. She pulled it on, strapping the cool metal block to the center of her forehead and securing the band in her hair.
Her body immediately felt lighter and looser. Her focus sharpened, and feeling returned to her fingers and toes. The rage did not die, but it retreated to the recesses of her mind.
But it’d be back. It always came back.
Now she was ready to get up for the last day of her five-week trip aboard this dumpy two-room ship. Standing up, she downed half a pitcher of water on her nightstand. Still thirsty… Eve lumbered over to the “breakfast nook” (a table with a dispenser that spat out a biscuit when she pressed the button) and refilled the glass pitcher.
As always, breakfast was a well_SPRING waifer, fortified with all essential nutrients to promote health, homeostasis, stable weight, and osmoregulation. It tasted a bit like a salted piece of looseleaf paper.
Washing the biscuit down with some more water, Eve entered the cockpit. Most things looked better from a distance, and from a distance the planet Lethe looked like a dirty puddle.
“What’s my arrival time?” she asked nobody.
“GOOD MORNING,” the computer replied. Her only company for this five-week voyage had been that flat, monotonous male voice. “WE WILL BE ENTERING THE ATMOSPHERE OF LETHE IN APPROXIMATELY 25 MINUTES. WE WILL REACH THE PLANET’S SURFACE IN APPROXIMATELY 29 MINUTES. WE WILL REACH LUX RESEARCH BASE LETHE-2 IN APPROXIMATELY 85 MINUTES, INCLUDING CONVERSION TO THE DEEP SEA MODULE.”
Less than an hour and a half. Eve had been in solitude for over a month, and in less than an hour and a half she would be with new people. She would introduce herself, make pleasantries, eat and drink among them, come to know their personalities and foibles. Be part of a community again.
Sapiens, she didn’t want to.
Eve sat in the cockpit chair as her stomach churned. Here she was lonely, but she could control herself. The constant battle to keep herself in check was an easy one, so long as she stuck to her routine.
But every conversation, every encounter, even something as simple as passing someone in the hallway… that gave Other Eve more control over her. That gave Other Eve an advantage, a hill, and one of these days it’d push her so hard that she would collapse inwards and that would be the end of her and of everything.
She didn’t want to land. She wanted to turn around and fly back out, deep into the recesses of space, wait for the life support to fail and the water purifier to break down and then she could make this nameless unregistered spacecraft her funeral pyre.
It wasn’t too late, was it? The ship was on an automated course, but she could override it. They were already on the boundary of TORCH space, and who would come out after her if she destroyed the navigator and made the ship untraceable? Yes, this was it, this was how she could finish it with dignity instead of clinging to life like a barnacle and a parasite and a loathsome, monstrous abomination-
Breathe. She inhaled and exhaled again, for a count of six. That was a bad one. “Okay. No,” she said aloud. “I have unfinished business to take care of. I won’t let it win, not yet.”
Lethe-2 would be her home. And whatever battles she fought there, she’d have to win. There was no alternative.