LUX #28

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Eve tried to steady her hand as the headband clinked to the floor. Why was she so scared? Why was she such a fucking coward? All she did was run and hide, run and hide like some sort of rodent. The most brilliant scholar? Hah! That was just her trying to avoid people, because books never surprised her. The most powerful witch? What good is a gun that doesn’t shoot where you point? All she could ever do was blow up, incinerate everything no matter how much she loved it. That was what happened to poor, stupid Juno eh? Juno tried to stand close to Eve, tried to find the good in the devil, and she died horribly for it. She melted, her hands clawing at her face as her flesh turned to butter and her eyeballs boiled in their sockets.

Eve did that. Eve killed her. That’s what she did. She killed people who loved her, and she laughed about it.

A hysterical giggle escaped her throat. Who was she fooling? Why not turn Lethe-2 into her grave? She and everyone here was clinging to life like a barnacle, literally bottom feeders. Libera was a junkie and Coronis her dealer, Nysa an enabler and Peitho a psychopath, Cressida a coward and Eirene a mute victim. Nothing worth saving down here, least of all Eve.

It wouldn’t even be hard. All she had to do was let go. It’d be like sinking into a warm bed after a never-ending day of labor. She wouldn’t feel anything but relief and she’d die happy- and who would be hurt, really truly?

Yes. She’d do it. She was laughing now at the idea, at the thought of all these useless and pathetic girls who had perverted her vision for LUX into this tumor of a base screaming as their clothes burned and their skin flared up like flash paper…

Something sharp hit her in the face, knocking her from her bleak reverie. Eve blinked and realized it was herself. Her own hand had slapped her.

Grace. Grace would be hurt. Grace, who when Eve went supernova showed neither fear nor hesitation. While the rest of TORCH tried to get as far from her as they could, Grace ran straight towards her and slapped Eve in the face. She mutilated her hand doing so- but she saved Eve. 

Grace, the only true friend Eve had left. They would never speak again… but they were still friends. 

Eve touched her lip and realized she was smiling at the memory. Fucking Grace. What was she doing right now? Probably stressing about how to do the right thing and help people as usual. She never changed. 

Eve quickly scooped up the headband and put it back on before anything else set her off. Relief spread through her body and she sighed. That had been far too close.

Fortunately it had worked. The door slid open.

Cress’ room was sparsely decorated. A poster of Napster, the popular SPRING musician known for her beautiful voice and hypnotic dance moves, was over Cress’ meticulously-made double bed. The dresser was crowded with make-up and haircare products… soldier girl took better care of herself than it seemed from first glance. Besides that, it was pretty sparse other than a strange smell that Eve couldn’t exactly put her finger on.

“Cress?” Eve called in a pantomime. “You in here? I thought I’d bring you something to eat.” This was stupid. Who was she talking to? With a huff, she set the tray down on Cressida’s desk and looked around. There was no private bathroom, so the door on the far wall had to be the closet.

Eve opened it to find it full of pressed uniforms, polished shoes, and modest swimsuits. There were also more casual clothes: baggy pants, skirts, and loose blouses that’d be perfect for clubbing.

And, sure enough, there was a big space between the clothes. Eve tapped it and it rang hollow. “Huh.” Experimentally, she gave it a push and the entire wall gave way. “Oops!”

There was a small room behind- and there was someone in there. Eve stood back with her hands on her hips. “What are you doing in there?”

“…Hiding from you,” the answer came. The voice was deep but slightly nasally, and definitely male. Abundantly male, really.

“Well, come on out,” said Eve. What was going on? Why was Cress hiding a male agent in her room?

He stepped out to reveal he was extremely tall: close to two meters. His hair was short and dark and speckled with grey, and his skin was both pale and oily. “…Hi,” he said, staring at her blankly.

“Who are you supposed to be?” Eve asked. Something was very wrong here.

The male didn’t answer. He just turned his head to look at the door. Cress was standing there, wearing an athletic swimsuit that showed off her powerful arms and legs. “…It’s not my fault,” he said. “She barged in. I don’t know how-”

Cress ran over. For a second Eve thought she was going to attack, but instead she just placed herself between the two of them. “What are you doing here?” she asked, her voice deathly quiet.

“I came to bring you some food so we could talk…” Eve pointed at the tray. “But I heard a noise from your closet so I went to investigate. Who’s, uh, your friend?”

Cressida was deathly pallid, while the male sweat like a pregnant nun at confession. “Th-this is… ummm…” Cressida swallowed her words. “My… friend… St… Sterope?”

“Why are you asking me?” Eve asked incredulously. “Why does your friend live in your closet?”

He cleared his throat. “Well, I mostly live in this room. I just hide in the closet.” Cress shot him a glare, but he kept talking. “My name is Stanislav. It’s nice to meet you.”

Only when he spoke did Eve finally realize it. His hair. It had grey in it. No TORCH agent, no matter how old they got, had grey hair.

Stan was not a TORCH agent. Stan was… something else. “Where were you born, Stan?” Eve asked.

“Err… Vladivostok. Russia.” He swallowed dryly. “Planet Earth.”

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