The last thing Eve did was open Libera’s own author portal. There were several in a few different fields, all relating to exotic matter. Libera moved seamlessly between disciplines like an eel slipping through a net, and her papers were nothing short of dazzling. Detailed, innovative and yet entirely sound methodology. Complex topics translated so coherently that even a layman could understand the thrust of Libera’s research- without the sacrifice of any fidelity to detail. All written with a sharpness and verve that effortlessly demonstrated the author’s intelligence and humor.
It was the best paper Eve had read in months. It was dated five and a half years ago.
Libera hadn’t published anything since. Not a single paper since she became director of Lethe-2. That made sense on some level, a base director had countless duties besides research… but the author of this paper had clearly gone the extra mile to do excellent work.
What had happened to her? Eve didn’t want to even think about it. None of the answers that drifted through her mind were pleasant… and she was fragile enough as is.
Eve put her watch aside when her eyes began to hurt, but she still wasn’t tired. The few girls who were still partying had gone off to the lounge next door. The vast majority of the base was asleep.
Gingerly climbing the ladder past her sleeping bunkmates, Eve decided to take a walk through the ship to better orient herself. It had been so cramped on that tiny transport. Stretching her legs would be good for her.
Deck 1 was home to officerial accommodations, so she stayed away for fear of running into Nysa. Instead she headed down to Deck 3, walking through the mess hall which was in the midst of being scrubbed by a SPRING_Cleaning probe. TORCH generally disdained robots, but custodial duties were a waste of even the lowest agent’s time and talents.
For a few minutes, she watched the cleaning probe methodically suck up bits of food with a vacuum appendage, then spray away wet spots with disinfectant. Eve was no better than a hobbyist in engineering, but the skill of the roboticist was evident. Every inch of its design served a vital purpose, no wasted space. Rare to see these days.
The quiet was good. This was how the world was meant to be: not a shifting vortex of chaos but a purposeful silence broken only by useful or interesting information. The whirring of machines was one of the few sounds that quelled Eve’s fury for a moment or two.
She headed below-decks to the “workstations”. This office room was nearly as large as the galley but looked to have been overrun by a mob of teenagers. Cubicle walls had been torn down. Desk forts had been constructed. Marker graffiti was everywhere.
Of course. Work had all but ceased in Lethe-2, so what purpose did this room serve? Two pairs of feet stuck from beneath one of the desk forts, one over the other. They were trembling and moaning. Eve decided to go.
The hydroponics growth chamber made her feel sick- too much water in the air- so she went down another deck to the meeting rooms and sick bay. Not much to see here, on down to the research lab on Deck 6. This was the closest thing to an ordered place in the entire facility, although disturbingly sparse.
Phoebe sat at a large desk in the center of the room, utterly engrossed in a half dozen screens that surrounded her. She glanced up at Eve, then looked back down. “Docent Oread,” she said tersely. “Do you need something?”
“Just taking a walk. Sorry to bother you-”
“It’s fine. Kindly remedy that by vacating the premises.” Phoebe was staring at her watch screen with a frown. Eve was used to rudeness, but that didn’t stop it from sticking in her craw and flaring her temper- but then, what didn’t flare her temper?
“I read your papers,” she blurted out. “On the Enyoni. They were quite good.”
“Thank you.” Phoebe kept staring at the screen.
“It must be difficult… being the only person in this base who takes her work seriously. I just wanted to say that I’m glad there’s at least one woman like that.” Eve tried to stay positive: if she had a smile on her face and a kind word on her lips, it was easier to maintain her composure.
Phoebe just nodded. Out of respect for her fellow scholar, Eve made no further attempt to break her concentration.