Rooms are, when leaning towards the optimistic end of the spectrum, filled with air.
Air crisp and plentiful, and reassuringly breathable, except for the times it suddenly isn’t.
To Augusto, the stuff that is slowly filling his lungs feels thick and cold, and so endless it can only be described as confusion.
– Are you really afraid of me? – his voice is quiet, insistent.
Beatha averts her face to the side, not looking at anything in particular. It’s a silent confirmation of a fear Augusto didn’t know he had.
– If anything, this is insulting… You’re the one who sought me out! I received a message …-
– You’ll have to forgive me for that. The wording was informed by wine far inferior to what we are enjoying now. – Beatha is lying. It wasn’t the quality of the wine that she had trouble handling, merely the shameless quantity of it. Her guards did not take well to her new nightly habit that would leave her sobbing uncontrollably, staring blankly at the wall or, as they found her one morning recently, with a hand under her unbuttoned uniform shirt, feeling her left breast and mumbling her way through the same old children’s song they left her singing the night before.
A few weeks ago she woke up curled in a ball outside her cabin with a bruise on her left thigh the size of a fist. Made it further than I would’ve bet, she thought to herself and looked around to find the key. It evaporated from her thoughts the moment she saw her comm unit tossed to the side. A blinking message light signaled an exchange she did not remember initiating.
Rebellin, if time has not answered your questions or dulled your need for asking them, wait for me just this much longer. On Nov 8th, 13h, a load of diamonds will arrive for inspection on the Myriadis. Come aboard and talk to me. Come and meet your maker.
She bit her lip, mortified. She hadn’t signed her name at the bottom, at least that much sense still governed her actions, sober or not. Within the hour, an answer arrived.
What good can come out of that?
Nevertheless, I will.
The quick response sent her thoughts into an abyss of doubt. If he was that easily persuaded to meet the doctor, then he must know a good deal more than she had anticipated. Maybe even enough so that he’d been looking for her, too. And there weren’t that many plausible reasons why he would. Beatha gathered herself from the floor and the doubts in her mind dissipated to leave her with the sad clarity that if she were to meet Augusto as her adversary, then she’d best confront him on her own terms. Here and now, it is this clarity that she relies on to see her through a plan she is resigned to stick with, no matter what.
– When I promised you can meet your maker, I did not lie. But the man you are expecting to see is not on this ship. With considerable effort and some smart investments, I have been able to acquire his current position. It’s only a day and a half’s journey either way and you are welcome to join me on it.
– No, – is the answer and it comes without hesitation. – No, Beatha.
– May I know why? It’s not a chance you’ll get twice.
– It’s not a chance I’ve asked for even once. – His head tilts. – I thought it was Doctor Salazar who was coming and wanted to talk to me. Though it made little sense to me why, I decided I wouldn’t shy away from whatever meeting him brought about. But I see no reason to chase after him, with or without company.
– So it’s settled, then, I suppose.
– If that’s all you care to discuss.
– I won’t lie, I thought you’d find interest in my proposition. I was hoping you’d consider it a fair deal, if I brought you to him to … find resolution, together with me. An extended hand, of sorts, to foot a long-standing bill.
Realization falls like a shadow on Augusto’s face.
– It won’t bring you any peace, you know… It won’t fix you, it won’t cleanse you and it won’t ever let you let go.
– So you’ve thought about it then.
– I’d lie if I say I haven’t… Ages ago.
– And what about me?
– No! Not now, not ever.
– Now, this is the part I find hard to believe, as much as you say it. He ripped you apart, used you for spare parts. And it would never have come to that if it weren’t for me. Nothing can make this right, but if you’re prepared to reconsider, my offer still stands.
– I am done here. – Augusto is quickly on his legs.
– You’re most definitely not. – A light smirk lands momentarily on her lips in response to his baffled look. – You’re supposed to be inspecting the payload, remember?
– I care as little about your precious stones as I do about your pointless quests. I insist on being granted access to my shuttle.
– Have it your way, then! Just release the diamonds so I can leave here, too. – She shoves a datapad under his face just long enough for him to enter his personal authorization code. Inside, his soul is bolting for the door and his body is doing its best to resist catching up.
– You know the way, see yourself out. – she remains seated in her chair.
All he can do is turn, cursing under his breath as the door gets nearer one step at a time. It’s only after it shuts behind his back that he lets out a quiet whimper, to the bemusement of the two women standing guard in the corridor. He quickly regains his composure.
– You’re not worth your packed lunch, you two. Your precious employer was this close to having her throat snapped while you were picking strawberries here. Now get out of my way, or else.