The mess hall was a knot of commotion. It didn’t look anything like a LUX research station… more like an Academy dormitory. Owls forsook utensils to eat with their hands. At least a few seemed to be having tequila and pills for dinner. Some were smoking cigars, not even electronics, real tobacco ones… where the hell did they get them?
Half the women were eating in their pajamas or their underwear. One was completely naked from the waist up, and nobody seemed particularly perturbed. Two women were nose-to-nose in an argument, egged on by the people surrounding them. Another three seemed to be midway through foreplay, and that was equally encouraged.
This was a nightmare. So much noise, so much touching. Eve longed for a quiet, sterile place, like her library back on Pergamon. Now that had been the place for her. Everything neat and ordered and air-conditioned. She could go two weeks and talk to no one if she felt like it. She could just read and research all day, eat when she wanted to, sleep when she needed to.
This was the opposite of that, simultaneously too many and not enough rules. Eve had hoped that a forgotten little research station on the edge of TORCH space would be well-maintained, and Nysa’s demeanor had emboldened those hopes. This? This was anarchy.
Her first instinct was to turn around, walk back to the berthing bay, climb onto her ship, and get the fuck out of here. Except no, the ship was automated and Eve didn’t know how to fly it manually.
Her next thought was to leave the room, find the sleeping quarters, and hide- but she had no idea how to get there, and all the doors were blocked off by the bacchanalia playing out before her.
Libera must have mistaken Eve’s look of shock for amusement. “Fun, huh? We keep things loose down here. A hell of a lot more entertaining than Vidian, right?”
Without warning, a woman bounced towards them. Eve glanced over at the newcomer, who seemed to be vibrating with excitement. The ebullient glint in her eyes look gave Eve a good idea of who it was.
“Oh, hello Coronis,” said Nysa. “This is the newcomer I mentioned, Maia Oread.”
“Psyched to meet you!” As Coronis spoke, a little figure burst from her mouth. It was a cheering, happy girl that dissipated in the air moments later. A magical power to create small visual illusions… how frighteningly useless.
Coronis didn’t look how she sounded. Her chirpy voice and effervescent personality had caused Eve to imagine a flitting, spritely slip of a woman. Instead she was tall, solidly-built, almost statuesque with broad shoulders and strong-looking legs. She was clad in a tank top and sweatpants and her curly teal hair fell in a mop around her ears. She was very expressive, especially through her short fat eyebrows.
“Hey, Corey!” Libera’s eyes lit up at the sight of her subordinate. “How busy are you, say, tomorrow?”
“Oh, about as busy as I need to be, boss lady.”
“Not too busy to act as tour guide and mentor to our new arrival?”
“Not too busy to become the new best friend of the beautiful and talented Agent Oread, no.” A hugging pair of little figures, one green and one red, appeared next to Coronis before dissipating again. “You know me, boss lady. I’m the kind of girl you can depend on.”
“Perfect! Now, if you’ll excuse me…” Libera cleared her throat, then shouted at what Eve hoped was the top of her lungs. “Does anyone have a drink for her fucking director?!”
Half the room cheered as Libera ran ahead. Nysa sighed. “Behave yourself,” she told Eve. “You can consider that an order. We’ll talk more later.” She went after Libera.
That left Eve alone with Coronis, who drew closer. “I would hug you, but I know I’d burn off most of my skin if I did,” she said, illusions of flames appearing around her mouth. “It’s su~u~u~uch an honor to finally meet you in person, Mater.”
“Enough of that,” Eve hissed, forcing herself to control her temper. “I’m Maia Oread, my friends call me May, and we’ve never met before.”
“Right right. Don’t worry, I’m great at keeping secrets.” A woman zipping her lips shut appeared next to her while Coronis grinned excitedly. Eve had her doubts.
“Can you control that at all?” Eve asked, gesturing to Coronis’ illusions. An unusual power… yfilios-type in all likelihood. The illusion was nothing more than colored lights, so it didn’t seem to have many applications.
“It’s just my power. Fairy Story. If I try to be really dry and boring, yeah, I can control it okay. But I like ‘em… gives me personality. You might find me dull otherwise!” Corey winked. “Not one-one millionth as amazing as your power, though. Born from Atom… so cool.”
The power that Eve used to kill dozens of people was not often described as “cool”.