Eve’s heart began to pound at the prospect of recognition. “Were you ever stationed at Pergamon?” she asked, trying to keep her voice even.
“LUX Command? No… never. Before here, I was only ever stationed in Chantico.”
Her heartbeat only intensified. Maia Oread had never been to Chantico… but Eve Volcanis had spent much of her life there as a well-known public figure. Eve had grown out her hair and hired a neo_SMOKE surgeon to alter her facial features, but things like her body type were harder to disguise. Anyone who had met Eve before would probably recognize her, unless they were particularly oblivious. “Well… maybe we ran into one another somewhere else. What did you do in Chantico?”
“I was BEACON in those days. Worked at a checkpoint.” BEACON was TORCH’s military arm, they partially handled security services in the capital. “Did you ever go there for vacation or something…?”
Coronis interjected before Eve could respond. “May, didn’t you present your research at a symposium in Chantico?”
“Oh! Oh yes.” That was a good cover. LUX ran multiple symposiums a year in Chantico, and it would be the main reason for an owl of May’s station to travel there. “Yes, I suppose that must have been when we met.”
“Huh, okay.” Cress didn’t sound convinced. “Well, it’s nice to remeet you. Uh, I wanted to talk to Eyes about something, but if she’s busy…”
“No, no, I’m finished.” Eirene stood up. “Um, I’ll see you later May. Cress and I will be in the engine room.”
The two of them left the mess hall, leaving Eve alone with Coronis who finished up her sandwich. “You and Eirene really hit it off, huh,” the smuggler said, a burning woman and an angel dancing beneath her chin. “You know who she reminds me of sometimes? Juno, the Mater Sapientia.”
Juno flashed through Eve’s mind. The gentle, doe-eyed, astonishingly brilliant woman who was Eve’s very favorite conversationalist. Soft and kind, but strong as steel in her convictions and unrelenting in her pursuit of truth. Emerald of hair and eyes, quick to joy and tears, and the best scholar Eve had ever known.
Eve had reduced her to a charred pile of meat.
“You never met Juno,” she said through her teeth.
“But you do see the resemblance, right? I was a biiiig fan, almost as much as I was of you. You gotta understand, I spent so much time reading about Matres, I feel like I’ve known you for years now.”
“So I’m just as the texts describe me?”.
Corey shook her head, her curls bouncing. “Nah. You’re way cooler in person. Anyways, how did you and Eirene become such good friends?”
Eve hesitated to tell the story to Coronis, but decided to be truthful. Peitho was going to be a problem moving forward. “…so now I have to protect Eirene. It seems to me like Cressida is the one who ought to handle that, but whatever.”
“Cress? She’s… well, don’t expect too much from her.” Coronis sipped her coffee. The story had no visible effect on her. “Poor thing can barely choose what socks to wear in the morning, let alone to stand up to someone like Peitho.”
“She knew me,” Eve hissed. “Maybe we met in Chantico… I don’t remember her. But if we did meet, it’s only a matter of time before-”
“May, May, may I ask you to stop worrying so much?” Coronis moved to put a hand on her shoulder, but realized what a bad idea that was midmotion. “We can handle Peitho. We can definitely handle silly old Cress. I invited you down here because I thought the calm and quiet would help relax you… but how are you going to do that if you keep inventing problems for yourself?”
Eve scowled. Did Coronis not see how this was her fault? She brought Eve down to this godforsaken base where tinpot tyrants like Peitho thrived. She failed to vet everyone properly, putting Eve close to at least two people who could recognize her. She didn’t account for the suspicions of Nysa. All because of how excited Coronis was at the prospect of her very own Mater friend. “So what are we going to do? Just… nothing?”
A visage of what looked to be Eve and Coronis dressed as burglars appeared by Coronis’ head. “I didn’t say that. I’ll talk to Peitho- she and I have an understanding. Cress though, she’s truly no threat to you or anyone.” Coronis stood up. “Okay, I gotta lot to do today but we should get dinner together!”
She wandered off, leaving Eve to finish her meal alone.
Eve expected most of the crew to bother her with introductions, but they were giving her a wide berth. Not that she was complaining, she hated to awkwardly seek common ground with a stranger. She’d prefer curling up with a long, boring research paper in her room any time.
But it remained unsettling. None of them had any interest in the first newcomer to the base ever?
Eve hadn’t quite polished off her plate when Nysa approached. “Good morning, docent,” she said, hands folded behind her back. As yesterday, Nysa stood out with her meticulous and professional dress sense. Today it was a butter-yellow pantsuit with a jacket that went down to her knees. “This seat free?”
“Not unless there are invisible girls down here.”
Nysa smiled with half her mouth. “I knew an owl like that. Naturally there was a twist to it: she couldn’t turn her bones invisible. If she lost her focus she turned into a shambling, levitating skeleton. It was probably the worst thing I’ve ever seen.”
Eve mustered her most polite smile. There was no way Nysa was here for small talk. She was here to squeeze Eve for more information.
Nysa sat across from her and stared a hole into Eve. “I was reviewing your file again, docent, and I wanted to ask you more about your Pergamon deployment. I was there for several years, but I don’t believe we ever met.”
“It’s a ringworld,” Eve replied cautiously. “A floating city. Close to a million agents live there, not all of them LUX.”
“Very true. Plus, you were a researcher while I was on the administrative side of things. I read the papers you published on Pergamon and found them illuminating- especially your theories on the Titans.” Nysa chuckled ruefully. “You know who studied the Titans extensively? The Mater Veneficis. Eve Volcanis.”