LUX #24

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The statuesque personnel officer strode in like she owned the place. She would have been more intimidating were it not for her hand, entombed in a mitten of bandages. “I hope you’re enjoying your first day,” she said brightly to Eve. “Which also seems to be a day off.”

“It looks like I’ll be getting some work done today anyways,” Eve replied, standing up to face Peitho. She kept her voice cool. “What do you want?”

Peitho didn’t break eye contact with Eve. Her eyes were milky and pale, with a predatory hunger behind them. “A minute of your time, in fact.” She didn’t even look at Eirene. “It’s protocol for me to interview new arrivals… something I should have done the moment you landed, but you’re the first-ever new arrival so it slipped my mind. Silly me.”

Eve glanced back at Eirene. She couldn’t really say no… and maybe this would be her chance to learn a little more about Peitho. “Okay. Let’s go. Catch you later, Eirene.”

“Yeah Eirene. Catch you later.” Peitho smiled cheerily at the redhead. She led Eve out of Engineering, up two decks to the offices on Deck 5. Peitho’s office was a little too colorful, cheap and tawdry and over-decorated. “Have a seat,” she said, sitting on the other side of the desk.

“I prefer to stand,” Eve said, crossing her arms.

“Sure. So then… Maia Oread. Our woman of mystery, eh?”

Eve said nothing. Boredly, Peitho leafed through a file on her desk. “Previous psyche report describes you as ‘adventurous’, ‘outgoing’, ‘fun-loving’, and ‘effervescent’. My, how you’ve changed.”

Where was Peitho going with this? Eve couldn’t tell. She had so many conversations that could be interpreted as people on the verge of discovering her identity… it was dangerous to snap to that conclusion, though. Some may have just picked up on the friction between the real Eve and the mostly fictional Maia.

“I wonder, why did we need another Enyoni researcher? There are a dozen of them, and I know for a fact eleven of them do no work.” Peitho’s calm smile flickered. “And the file is noticeably devoid of reasons for your transfer. You got injured, spent some time recovering, and now you’re here? Why?”

Nysa had asked the exact same question. That more or less confirmed that Peitho had doubts about her cover identity. “I don’t know,” Eve replied. “They just told me I was being transferred, not why. What does this have to do with your job?”

“I feel like we got off on the wrong foot last night.” Peitho’s grin widened. “Eirene and I have a complicated relationship. I know what it looked like, what you saw, but there’s more to it than that. You probably see me as some kind of monster now… but I’m just trying to make my way, same as you.”

She was good. Smooth, clear delivery, eye contact. A fantastic liar. Eve could definitely see people buying this veneer of affable civility. “I saw you for exactly what you are,” Eve said, clenching her fists. “And you can’t fool me. You can try to provoke me, or you can stay far away from Eirene and me. If I were you, I’d go for the latter.”

If Peitho was concerned, it didn’t show on her face. “I can’t do that, unfortunately. So why don’t you and I be friends instead? Eirene is a sweet girl, but she can’t do you any favors. You help me out… and I can make sure nobody asks too many questions about this file of yours.” She pressed her finger to her lips. “Not even Nysa.”

Eve opened her mouth to tell Peitho to go screw, but paused. Did… did she even have the luxury of turning down this offer?

Already, Cressida knew her true identity. Nysa had at least an inkling. Coronis had a big mouth. At this rate her secret would be out in a week. “How do I know you even have that ability?” Eve asked suspiciously. God damn it, she was actually humoring this.

Peitho’s eyes sparkled. “Aren’t you at-all curious as to how a base like this can exist? If LUX at-large knew what a massive waste of money and resources Lethe-2 was, we’d all be tried for crimes of incompetence. Nysa’s solution to this is to fudge her reports and bury her head in the sand- or the water, heh. Your buddy Coronis doesn’t spare a second thought as to how much attention her drug-running brings. And Libera… Libera is barely here. She’s barely anywhere.”

Peitho pointed to herself proudly. “I’m the one who keeps the wheels running. I’m the one who assuages the higher-ups, who deflects whistleblowers, who keeps LUX in the dark about what goes on here. If you had any idea of the kind of shit I’ve buried in my years down here… well, let’s just say I’m the real power behind Lethe-2. Not little Nysa, as much as she thinks she’s in charge.”

“Yeah, you’re really wonderful,” said Eve, feeling her temper climb her throat once more. Peitho truly was a despicable shitstain, wasn’t she? “But if you’re so special, tell me this: why are you down here? Such talent should have carried you to LUX’s Board of Directors, or our representation in Chantico. And if you’re so ambitious and hard-working, shouldn’t you have blown the whistle a long time ago?”

Eve half-expected Peitho to freak out, but instead Peitho just shrugged the comment off. “None of that is your concern. I have my reasons for being down here… just as you do. I can spend some of my valuable time and considerable resources finding out exactly why you’re here, or I can spend it making sure nobody else finds out.”

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