Eve sighed heavily. Peitho was an obvious snake… but her offer made sense. As enemies they could only harm one another, and Peitho was clearly a control freak who wouldn’t rest until this threat was eliminated. It didn’t do Eve any good to take Peitho down, which would almost certainly give away her identity. To live their lives with blades pointed at one another’s throats simply wasn’t sustainable.
Meanwhile, Peitho’s abilities could be crucial in keeping Eve hidden. A manipulative sociopath was well-suited at keeping secrets unlike the obviously unreliable Coronis. “How am I to trust you?” Eve asked slowly. She didn’t want to take the offer, she would accept any reason to refuse… but she just wasn’t finding one.
“It’s easy to hide things in Lethe-2 from the outside world. Almost impossible to hide things from within the base.” Peitho’s smile grew and grew. “It’s a closed system, and gossip is the only meaningful currency we’ve got down here. Think about all the things you’ve learned since you got here yesterday, and how much of it is stuff someone would rather you didn’t know.”
That was absolutely correct. “So I couldn’t betray you, not without you finding out,” Peitho continued- she really did love the sound of her own voice, didn’t she? “We’d see each other every day. I can tell how sharp you are… do you really think I’d be so much of a bungler as to try anything while under such tight scrutiny?”
All very convincing. “And by the same token… how can you trust me?” Eve asked with a stony stare..
But Peitho had an answer ready for that, too. “You’re desperately hiding something, aren’t you? If I had any doubts before, this conversation confirmed it. You don’t have the luxury of making an enemy of me either. We can’t destroy each other… so we may as well become partners.”
Peitho, Eve noticed, had hidden both her hands under the table. So Eve couldn’t see her bandaged right fist and be reminded of the moment of their meeting. Eve took a series of deep breaths to center herself, then opened her eyes. “What would you want me to do?”
“Do whatever you like. Get high with Coronis. Actually do work. I couldn’t care less. Just let me tend to my projects in peace.”
“Like Eirene?” she asked crisply.
“You don’t understand what she and I have,” Peitho said smoothly, as though Eve had walked in on them arguing. “And honestly, what she and I do together isn’t your business.”
“You beat the shit out of her so you could feed off of her terror,” Eve said, compensating for the churning fury in her gut by forcing her voice to be flat and emotionless. “You’re just a big mosquito who looks like a person. You suck the life from the people around you to keep yourself strong… and you want me to become a part of it.”
“Far from it.” Peitho seemed unruffled by the comment. None of this phased her, or if it did it didn’t show on her face. “I want you to not be a part of it. Just leave us both alone. I know what it looks like, but I have no intentions of hurting Eirene.”
“So what was last night?”
Peitho looked away, her cheeks pinkening. “Err. That’s private. Let’s just say Eirene enjoyed that a lot more than you’d expect.”
“What?” Eve felt herself move forward, although she had no input over this decision. Peitho put up her hands defensively.
“I’m serious! She enjoyed it! That… that’s our foreplay, all right?” Now there was a genuine emotion: fear. Peitho had grasped the gap that existed between them physically… no wonder she was so intent on making an ally of Eve. “She likes it when I’m rough. All the squirming and crying is just… roleplay.”
Eve stopped a few instances in front of the desk, breathing to calm herself. She had come close to a meltdown right here in Peitho’s office. She scowled at Peitho. “Eirene didn’t mention that.”
“Would you give intimate details of your sex life to someone you had just met?” Peitho relaxed once she realized Eve wasn’t going to bound over the desk and crush her like a bug. “She gets off on it. Don’t let that nice girl routine fool you too much, she’s one kinky bitch. And I do care about her, quite deeply. She’s the most precious person in the world to me.”
During their first meeting, Eve had been able to tell when Peitho was sincere and when she was bullshitting. Today, it was harder: everything Peitho said sounded sincere enough. But calling Eirene her most precious person… Peitho was utterly inscrutable. She seemed to both completely believe it and know it to be false all at once. A truth-lie.
Eirene had seemed half-hearted in her desire for protection. It seemed more like she desired company. And while she did seem afraid of Peitho, her feelings also struck Eve as more complicated than simply wanting her torment to stop.
Did it even really matter that much, what Eirene wanted? Eve didn’t have the luxury to predicate her decision-making almost entirely around how they made some random person feel.
Was Eirene miserable and vulnerable? Certainly. But Eve wasn’t a defender of the downtrodden. She was a monster a thousand times more vile than Peitho, and this knight in shining armor routine was little more than a charade. She was just using Eirene to fuel her delusion that Eve was somehow fundamentally decent. That was a laugh.
Perhaps protecting Eirene was the right thing to do all the same. But that right thing could lead to another meltdown, which would kill everyone aboard Lethe-2- including Eirene.
“I need… some time to think about it,” Eve finally settled on. “Let me get back to you.”
There was a flash of rage in Peitho’s eyes, one that quickly subsided. “By all means,” she said. “I don’t expect to be helped unless it’s out of self-interest on your part… which is something that warrants careful weighing. You know where to find me.”
Eve staggered out of the office feeling worse than she had in months.