The investigator’s eyes trained on me.
I tried to hold my body still and fight the shaking. I shut my eyes tightly. Breathe. Five seconds passed. Ten.
I exhaled for another ten seconds. Then I inhaled once more. With each slow breath, I pulled myself closer into the present moment, and away from the memory. Colour returned to my vision. My muscles felt shaky, yet they remained still.
“What’s wrong?” said the investigator. Her face was barely concerned; instead she wore an expression of confusion, as if she could hardly understand my reaction. When I saw her expression, my stomach twisted into a knot of rage. How could she not understand my grief? Didn’t she know by now how much K mattered to me? Hadn’t she been listening?
My eyes narrowed, and suddenly my blood boiled. Under her hat her eyes watched me with a quiet menace. My fingers tightened around my glass as I watched her.
Had she no compassion? She was not my friend. She was not my ally. And in that moment, my grief and depression were replaced with wrath. I fought to contain it within me, but I could feel it beaming out from my eyes. She flinched when our eyes met.
“Nothing is wrong,” I lied.
“Alright,” she said calmly. She adjusted her hat and glanced outside, breaking eye contact. The sun was beginning to set behind the distant mountains across the water. Astraloth’s moons spun slowly around the planet. As the glow of the sun began to fade in the sky, the purple and red nebulas started to come into view. Massive TAU ships circled above the city.
“So,” she continued, looking back my way. “K died. You and Jonathan put her into one of the Brotherhood’s stasis pods. Then what happened? You retrieved the plans to the Shade Beam. And you only had so much time until Duhrnan would use it to attack Earth, as he had threatened. So what did you do?”
“Well,” I said, “I looked at the timer, and I told Jonathan that we needed to leave. Then he broke down crying. He told me that he couldn’t leave K. That he needed to take care of her. That he was responsible for her. That he needed to find a way to save her, somehow.” My eyes fell to the table. I lifted my glass to my mouth and slurped on the straw, but it was long since empty.
“So you left Voren by yourself?”
“Yes. I got back in my ship and took off towards Earth to meet with Joëlle and the fleets.”
“Leaving Jonathan and K behind on Voren?”
“Yes,” I said.
She leaned forward. “When a reconnaissance team went to the base on Voren weeks later, they found it completely abandoned. No sign of Jonathan, K, or any of the clones.”
I nodded. “Yes, I know.”
“The secret labs were completely empty. No one was there.”
I nodded once more.
The investigator tilted her head. “Are you saying that you had nothing to do with their vanishing?”
I sighed deeply. “I was just as shocked as everyone else to hear that the base was empty.”
“So you have had no contact with Jonathan since leaving Voren?”
“Not since leaving Voren.”
“You know that harbouring a bioweapon is illegal now, and aiding a Brotherhood agent- even one who claims to have renounced the Brotherhood- is a crime. Your contact and closeness with K and Jonathan puts you in an awkward position, as you can probably imagine...”
“That was the last time I saw them,” I stated firmly. “I have had no contact with Jonathan since that day. And he hasn’t tried to contact me either.”
After a moment of silence, the investigator relaxed in her seat. She eyed me carefully, but she seemed convinced. And I caught sight of a strange smile creeping across her face. She looked excited. Perhaps this was what she needed to hear this whole time.
“Alright,” she said. “I believe you.”
“Good,” I said. “Is that all you needed to hear? Should I stop the story?”
“No, please go on, your majesty.” she said. “I want to know what your experience at Earth was like, when the attack happened. After that... I think I’ll have everything I need, and you can finally rest.” Her eyes were like a snake’s.
I breathed out a shaky sigh, watching her carefully. She believed me. But I could tell her confidence was growing. The story was almost done. The trap was ready to be sprung, and I was walking right into it.
“Excellent,” I said. “I’m eager to conclude the story... it would have felt strange to stop so close to the end.” As I spoke, I subtly activated my holo-gauntlet beneath the table. I needed to send a message.
A second later the message was sent. Everything was in place. I only hoped that I knew what I was getting myself into.
I shuffled in my seat, and cleared my throat. “More refreshments?” I asked. She nodded, and I stood from my seat and walked to a small food synthesizer in the corner of the room. I took a few moments to generate a fresh root beer for me and coffee for her. I could feel her eyes on me.
“No servants today?” she asked. “Come to think of it, the temple has been rather empty since this morning.”
“Oh,” I said, trying to keep a calm expression. I gave her the drink, and returned to my seat. “Yes, it is a special holiday for us skythers, today. The temple is empty today because of it, aside from us of course, and a few essential workers in the lower levels.” I forced a smile. “The quiet is nice, is it not?”
She had no trouble smirking at this. “Yes. It is nice indeed. I’d love to learn more about skyther culture some day,” she said. She looked immensely pleased. “But for now, I’m just eager to hear the end of this story. It would be great to finish it today.”
“Then let’s get back to it.”