Eve’s heart had only just settled from the encounter with Cressida. She glanced down at her tea, covering her mouth with her cup to hide her snarl. “Of course,” she said, all of her willpower going into keeping her voice neutral. “The Mater’s work on the links between Titans and teleoarcanism are essential.”
“Certainly. I never got the chance to work with the Mater Veneficis, but I was at her periphery.” Nysa inspected her nails with exaggerated indifference. “She worked closely with Hyperion, who worked closely with Libera, who worked closely with me. I’m not much of a scientist, but even I could see the beauty of her writings on the Titans. Her enthusiasm and love of her craft… it shone through in every word of every paper.”
Eve peeked up and nodded. “Yes… her writings were the underpining for much of my research. I also never met her, though.” That much Eve could say with confidence. She had never met Maia Oread- although she had read some of her papers years earlier. The late Docent Oread was an adequate researcher with a solid writing style, but her methodology was faulty and her thinking shallow. Nothing special- Eve had in fact forgotten all about them until last night.
“That’s a shame. Eve fascinates me, you know.” Nysa folded her hands on the table as she leaned in. “In the same way, oh, Stalin fascinates me. How someone so brilliant could be so vile. How she could write with such sensitivity and wisdom, and commit such a horrific atrocity.”
Eve shut her eyes. The pounding of her heart was like the clanging of a hammer against an anvil. She sweat like a hog, and the smell of ozone filled her nostrils. “Yes,” she squeaked out. “I agree.”
Nysa’s eyes glimmered with triumph. “You seem to have strong opinions on the Mater, May- would that be right?”
Eve just nodded.
“I wonder. Are there any other Matres you have a high opinion of? Say… Schwarzschild? The Mater Peregrina?”
The late founder of SMOKE, who committed suicide rather than face tribunal for high treason. Now there was someone Eve didn’t think about very often… probably because she hated Schwarzschild’s guts.
Even before her meltdown, Eve had difficulty keeping her temper much of the time- a problem exacerbated a hundred times over by Schwarzschild. Like Eve, she had been gifted with incredible magical abilities. was called Field Equation, the magnificent power over portals let Schwarzschild only move whole starships across the cosmos. Not only that, she could also gift a weaker form of her powers to others. The latter ability let Schwarzschild create an entire branch centered around her and her ability.
But unlike Eve, oh-so-careful every minute of every day of every year to keep Born from Atom in check, Schwarzschild used Field Equation without a care. That was a deadly quality for a portal operator. Countless girls died because their portal opened hundreds of feet above or below ground, or the depths of space, the middle of the sea, the inside of a star…
But what made Eve truly loathe the woman was that Schwarzschild never admitted fault or apologized. Eve lost her temper once and it led to several dozen deaths- something she’d never be able to forgive herself for. Schwarzschild let millions die over the decades because of her laxness, and never spared them a whit of grief.
Strangely, thinking of Schwarzschild went a long way to calming her down. Perhaps because it let her focus her hatred on one target instead of everyone and everything. “Sorry?” she asked Nysa.
“Many in LUX are big fans of Schwarzschild… some would even consider their loyalties to lie with her. There was a newsphere poll recently about the approval rate of neo_SMOKE across branches… over eighty percent of LUX girls said they approved.” Nysa shook her head, her golden hairbun bobbing. “I don’t understand it myself. Why would anyone choose to worship someone who failed on every level? And yet, countless do… some even down here.”
It clicked into place. Nysa had licked the truth… but mistaken the flavor. “You think I’m neo_SMOKE,” Eve said softly.
Nysa gave her a hard smile. “I never said that.”
“You think that I, disillusioned by Eve’s fall, rejected LUX and instead became a member of neo_SMOKE. Now I’m just a LUX agent on paper.” They both knew this, but talking it out was Eve’s most effective methods of calming down. “And I came down here to…?”
“That’s what I’d like to know. Nobody gets transferred down here- ever. So what makes you so special? Your file is devoid of anything but cliches. There are a million women just like you- and yet they sent you down here. Why?”