Eve made her way over to Eirene who was huddled in a ball on the floor. “Are you all right?” she asked.
“…Is she gone?” Eirene murmured from behind her knees.
“She’s gone. You… didn’t see any of that?”
Eirene didn’t answer. “Thank you,” she said at last, looking up. “I- thank you.” Her eyes were red and bleary, her nose stuffed, her mouth smeared with blood.
“Come on, get up.” Eve tried to keep her voice gentle. “I’d help you, but… my powers won’t let me touch you.”
Ponderously, Eirene got to her feet and wiped her face. “W-what are you doing here?” she murmured, even quieter than usual.
“Just going for a walk. What was that all about?”
“Oh… um, nothing.” Eirene became very interested in the floor.
Eve was unconvinced. “She was beating the shit out of you over nothing?”
“Believe it or not, yes. I mean, it’s kinda hard to tell… maybe I did do something and Peitho just didn’t want to say. Or maybe something else had her mad.” Eirene shook her head in disbelief, as though she had just realized the absurdity of what she was saying. “I never know what she’s thinking.”
Eve decided to change tactics. “Stronger than she looks, though,” she mused. “Is that some sort of arcane power?’
“Y-yeah. It’s called The Only Thing To Fear.”
“…’Is Fear Itself’?”
Eirene smiled through a busted lip and bloody teeth. “She gets the stronger the more afraid you are. You’d have to ask Peitho about the specifics of how it works… not that she’d say.”
Curious. It was a somatikos power like Born from Atom since it only affected Peitho’s body… but it drew strength from the emotions of others, giving it an empathic quality. That was the fascinating part about magic powers, they so often escaped easy classification. Eve would love to spend days and days studying every aspect of Peitho’s ability to see what she could learn from it…
But now was not the time. “Wait, she was hitting you so you’d be scared of her?” Eve scoffed. That was sickeningly straightforward. “And knowing this, you’re still afraid?”
“I-I can’t help that. Fear’s not, like… logical. I know that Peitho wants me to be scared of her, that doesn’t do much to make me less scared.” Eirene hugged herself. “I’m n-not strong like you, May. Probably I’ll get the rest of the beating plus interest in the next few days.”
“I made things worse for you, eh?” The black pit in Eve’s stomach grew in size and heft. Of course Peitho would try again the moment she thought she could get away with it. Eve hadn’t protected Eirene, she had just made herself a target. “Well, in that case, the only option is for us to stick together.”
Eirene looked up. “B-but…”
“I’ll be your bodyguard. I may not look it, but I’m good in a fight. I’ve dealt with bullies like Peitho before, and they always seek weak targets. If she thinks you’re well-protected, she’ll leave you alone.” Eve’s anger left her for just a moment- the instant she noticed its absence, it returned.
Eirene didn’t look convinced, her muddy brown eyes glossy with tears. “For a time. But you can’t protect me forever.”
“Plenty of time to think about forever. Let’s just worry about tomorrow.” Eve turned to leave. “You work down here, right? I’ll probably set up shop one level above in the research lab. Where does Peitho hang out?”
“Work Areas, Deck 4. She’s, um, our personnel officer.” Eirene calmed down the more they talked, and although they couldn’t touch she stuck close enough to Eve that sweat was forming on her brow. “Probably the most powerful person on the base after Vice Director Nysa.”
As Eve suspected. “Libera’s just a puppet, eh?”
“It’s more like she doesn’t really care about what happens. I don’t think she even knows my name… to Libera, you’re either someone who can give her pleasure or you don’t exist. Or you’re Nysa.”
Wonderful. Not one day aboard Lethe-2 and Eve had already managed to tick off the two most significant people aboard. Classic. Even when her one and only goal was to not make waves, she still managed to leave a trail of enemies in her wake. She was like a cancer cell, infecting communities, undermining and weakening and ultimately destroying them.
While she’d usually despise herself for this, Eve was starting to think it wouldn’t be such a bad thing if Lethe-2 was destroyed.