LUX #27

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They headed for the kitchens. “So I was thinking, how do you protect a secret?” Coronis asked. “How do you make sure someone doesn’t tattle? You can bribe them, but they’ll be loyal to the money and not you. You can threaten them, but people get unpredictable when they’re under a lot of pressure. You can kill them, but that’s… mean. But there is a better option… any idea what it is?”

Eve shrugged her shoulders. “I’m sorry. I have absolutely no imagination for criminal enterprise. What do you do?”

“Hee hee! Glad you asked. You find a secret of theirs and do an exchange. ‘I won’t tell if you won’t.’”

“How is that not a threat?”

“Because it’s based on equanimity and trust. Neither of you want someone to find out your secret, but you know your secret is safe so long as you keep theirs safe. Trust me, it works every time.” Coronis paused. “At least, that’s what they say on the neo_SMOKE forums. I’ve never actually tried it before.”

They entered the kitchen. This room was heavily automated: the chef Dryas controlled a litany of mechanical limbs that interfaced with a chip in her brain. This let her cook for 140 people a day without standing up. “Hey Dryas, I have a special request,” said Coronis brightly. “Some food to go?”

The chef- a thin and pretty thing with wide misty eyes- smiled at Coronis. “Sure. Anything for you, Corey.”

“Thanks babe. I appreciate it- will put a little extra in your next delivery.” While Dryas busied herself with one of the machines, Coronis turned her attention to Eve. “So, here’s what I’m thinking. It so happens that our buddy Cressida has her own private quarters. You take this tray of food up to her room.”

“And?” Eve asked with a frown. “Poke around and hope to find something incriminating? How do you even know she has something to hide?”

Coronis pantomimed zipping her lips. “I’m sorry, I am, but I can’t tell you. I have an oath of confidentiality with my clients.” An illusory mini-Coronis repeated the motion. “I certainly can’t tell you to check the inside wall of her closet: it doesn’t have a false back, so there’s no point.” 

Eve stared blankly. What the hell was Corey going on about? What exactly would Cress have to hide? “I… all right,” she settled on. There was little choice but to trust Corey. Eve couldn’t very well skip back down to Peitho’s office and ask her to take care of it.

Dryas produced the food minutes later: fish-esque and wild rice with tea-boiled eggs and seaweed salad. It smelled heavenly. “Welcome to Lethe-2, by the way,” she told Eve. “Hope the station’s been treating you well.”

It’s been a nightmare that I can’t wake up from. “Still finding my footing,” Eve said with a polite smile.

They made their way upstairs to the Crew Quarters, quiet in the late afternoon. As the securiy officer, Cressida had her own personal quarters at the end of the hall. “This is as far as I go,” said Coronis, pointing at the door. 

“…You really wanted to say that, didn’t you?”

“I did!” she crowed. “Yet another lifelong ambition filled because of you, Mater. But no, I’d rather Cress didn’t know my part in any of this. It’ll look a lot better if you find out on your own.”

“On my own then,” Eve sighed.

“Mmm. Don’t take too long, Cress will be here in a few minutes- every day before dinner, she works out and then comes back here to change. I’m gonna disappear, but I’ll see you later.”

Eve sighed and walked forward. Absurdly, she was nervous. Not afraid… it took something truly terrifying, like the Enyoni, to scare her.

After a moment, it became clear. Eve was nervous about plumbing the depths of Cressida’s soul. Whatever this “secret” was, it had to be deeply personal. Eve would invade Cress’ privacy so she could blackmail her into silence.

It was shitty. Necessary, but shitty. All those years trying to be a good person… what a stupid charade that was. Eve hid in her library, safely insulated from everything difficult about the world, and convinced herself that this was some sort of virtue. Of course she had been good in there- she had been afraid of moral quandaries so she created an environment where she’d never have to make any real decisions. When she thought back to her life as a contented scholar, her belly filled with a cold cement loathing.

She tried to open the door to Cress’ room, only to find it was locked. Eve glanced behind her to see that Coronis was gone. Shit.

Doors carried biometric scanners and motion sensors. If a TORCH agent (or one of the peripatetic robots, like the cleaning bot she saw last night) stood before it, it opened. However, Cress’ door was specially coded to only open to her. A superior officer could override that, but Cress outranked Maia.

There was no time to find Nysa or Libera and convince them to open the door for her. Eve didn’t even know how she’d do that. Nor could she turn back- for all she knew, Cress planned to tell Nysa what she had discovered at dinner. It had to be now.

That left Eve with only one option: break the door down.

Although she hadn’t designed these sessile bases herself, Eve knew the architecture of LUX bases well. The bases weren’t advanced at first glance, but that was because all the really impressive stuff was hidden from sight. Such electronics were easy to tamper with if you knew how they worked. 

For instance, if the door’s sensors were exposed to extreme heat, they automatically reset to factory conditions and unlocked. This was in place as a fire hazard… Eve could exploit it to her own advantage.

She went to set the tray down, and realized her hands were shaking. Of course they were. This wasn’t like her scrap with Peitho, where all Eve had to do was stand still. She would need to take her headband off for this. She would need to muster her rage and hatred- that’d be the easy part- but not let it consume her. Too much and she’d turn Lethe-2 into a smoldering crater.

She pressed her finger to the back of the Arcane Suppressor. It read her fingerprint and the band went slack. She removed the headband with a shaking hand.

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