Pergamon, the ringworld that was home of LUX’s center of operations. That had been the site of their first meeting. “I was completing my studies on Pergamon in 28 and 29,” Eve said, recalling the bio. “And I stopped there a couple times after that between assignments.”
“Huh. Maybe we shared a drink or something.” Libera didn’t seem to want to dwell on Pergamon much. “Well, pleased to remeet you! May, by the way, is a super cute name. You the shy quiet sort?”
“Erm… I suppose.” Eve forced a demure smile. The facial reconstruction had worked… or maybe Libera just didn’t have the best memory. “Would you be the loud, flirty type?”
“What gave me away, sexy?!” Libera’s shout reverberated off the berthing bay’s walls, and she laughed. “Knees is obviously the serious, responsible type. She’s been my right hand since we were in school, I leave the technical stuff to her mostly. Which is a perfect segue tooo your interrogation!”
“Not an interrogation,” Nysa said coolly. “Just a few questions about minor inconsistencies I spotted in your records, May.”
Inconsistencies? Had Coronis screwed up? No, unlikely. The smuggler came off as spacey, but the bio appeared quite thorough and believable at a first glance. A typical administrator would have accepted that bio without two thoughts.
But there was something about Nysa that Eve didn’t like. Maybe it was the way she stared like Eve was a loathsome insect befouling the station. Maybe it was the way she stood back with her hands, her posture stiff and judgmental. Maybe it was that her small stature and piercing gaze reminded Eve of Hyperion and… someone else.
“Firstly, how did you secure this transfer?” asked Nysa.
That hadn’t been in the bio, so Eve opted for indecisiveness. “I have no idea. I was just told one day that I’d be sent here. I wasn’t, erm, the best fit for my last position.”
“Vidian.” Another planet in the Gehenna sector, one with a major LUX presence. “I was researching the… complex reproduction of the natives. It wasn’t exactly my forte…”
“Oooh, hear that Knees? An expert on mating rituals. She’s gonna fit in great.” Libera playfully stuck out her tongue. Eve tried to hide her annoyance.
“Says you went MIA for six weeks,” Nysa said as though Libera hadn’t spoke. “Care to explain that?”
“Yes, I had ranged far out to do field work when I took a tumble off a cliff. I broke my leg and smashed my communicator… I had to wait for my leg to heal then hike back to the nearest TORCH base on foot.”
Nysa pressed a few buttons on her watch and pulled up a hologram of Eve’s file. “Hmm. Interesting. Says here you fell out of a tree, not a cliff.”
Eve said nothing. Silence could not condemn her. The bio definitely said cliff… didn’t it? She had read it in a hurry but…
Eve made eye contact with Nysa, but found no purchase. The Vice-Director was waiting for a sign of weakness, and then like a bird of prey she would strike.
Libera rescued her. “Lay off, Knees, she fell and hurt herself. Maybe she doesn’t wanna talk about it.”
Nysa nodded. “Very well. The headband, Docent Oread. You need it to control your powers, yes?”
“Yes,” said Eve, noting that she was now Docent Oread and not May. “My static charge can be hazardous to others without it.”
“What side effects does it cause?”
Depression, anxiety, numbness, paranoia, the odd suicidal tendency, occasionally fits of gluttony or lust that were agonizing to rein in. “Nothing serious,” Eve settled on. “Hunger, mostly. Sometimes I get overwhelmed by loud noises and commotion and need some time to myself.”
“Could be worse. You said it doesn’t work perfectly?”
“Unfortunately yes.” Malfunctions were uncommon but far from unheard of… but malfunctions also would be noted in a comprehensive personnel file. “It’s… not something I like to talk about,” Eve added.
“Mrrg. Just one more question then.” Nysa stared her dead in the eye. “You’ve been with LUX your entire life. Did you prefer the leadership of Chancellor Eve Volcanis, or the current leadership of Chancellor Hyperion Aprilis?”
Terror and fury jolted through Eve. Nysa knew. She had figured it out somehow, she knew exactly who “May” was and any second now a fleet of witch hunters would descend and Other Eve would go nuclear and-
She breathed. No. Nysa didn’t know… she wouldn’t have ever let Eve dock if she knew. It was a psychological test. Calming herself, Eve made her face as cool and passive as possible. “I don’t think it’s smart of me to talk politics on my first day on the job, Fellow Meros. Respectfully, I decline to answer.”
“Boo. I wanted a catfight.” Libera made a mocking claw gesture and grinned. She had gone momentarily grim at the mention of Hyperion. “C’mon, let’s make May feel welcome. Enough of this inquisition, let’s eat dinner.”
“As you say, ma’am.” Nysa’s eye contact was unblinking. “I just think it’s crucial that, when women live and work together in such confined conditions, that trust be established. When an agent is hiding something from her peers, even if it seems innocuous, the ramifications can be catastrophic. Life 50,000 meters below is a delicate thing… it’s my responsibility to keep this base functional. To do that, I try to know everything I possibly can about my subordinates.”
For the first time, Nysa smiled. Her mouth became a thin, sharp line, like a garrote wire. “So anything I don’t know about you, Docent Oread, I soon will. I thought it better to learn it now than have it parceled out later. You understand, right?”
Eve forced a smile. “Impossible to misunderstand.”