He never moved, he gave no acknowledgement that she had even spoken. He just stood there, hands clasped behind his back staring silently down at the planet below. His face was probably quite handsome in a rugged way, but the grim expression gave it a foreboding look of imminent darkness. There was something else, too.
It was his eyes, she decided. They were deep blue, lined with fatigue. They were also empty, pitiless and cold.They told of a life of heartbreak and violence, an otherwise good man now broken and somehow altered by his experiences.
This was a bad idea, she decided. Best to wait a minute and then casually walk away; some guys weren’t worth the trouble, even if they were a wealthy podder.
“Yes it is.”
His lips hardly moved; for a minute she thought she’d imagined it, until he turned his head slightly towards her and looked her in the eye. A cold shiver ran down her spine, but his eyes never followed it.
That was odd, she thought. She had a good figure that she worked hard to maintain and a pretty face framed by dark hair that was always washed and brushed to perfection. She could not think of a single time a man had failed to sweep their eyes up and down appreciatively; either quickly, or slowly, when first seeing her.
He held her gaze for a minute or two and then returned to staring at the azure blue sphere turning lazily before them.
Something held her there, some intangible force that she couldn’t quite put a name to. Not the desperation that had motivated her to try her luck with this dark figure in the first place, that was gone. In some significant way, this guy was different.
“How much is it worth, do you think?”
A lesser woman would’ve slapped his face at that point, darkness be damned. She knew he wasn’t talking about that, though. He was referring to the planet, or at least she thought he was.
“I have no idea, I’m afraid.” Did he think she was a real estate representative, perhaps? Who the hell bought and sold planets? She was well aware of the incredible power some podders had. They owned entire regions of space in some instances, but they didn’t buy them. At least, not with money. They fought for them, littering the surrounding space with wrecks, corpses and debris with the same abandon that young boys on her home planet used to smash each others sand castles at the beach.
Then she realised what he meant.
“A lot of innocent lives, I would guess.”
He flinched at that, but said nothing. She stood there with him for a while, both staring at the incredible jewel in space which until a few days ago was firmly held in a stranglehold by the Guristas pirates. The station they were on was still surrounded by wrecks and debris, the former being rapidly drawn in and gobbled up by the veritable fleet of Noctis salvaging vessels that cruised among them.
“You from down there?” He had no expression in his voice at all, just a trace of some vague regret.
“Yeah. I left two and a half years ago to explore the stars. I came back here as soon as I heard this was no longer Guristas property.” The last two words were spat out with all the venom she could muster. She had no tears left today and there was no catch in her voice as she continued,”Too late to save my family, though.”
Now all I have to worry about is me, she thought. She had burned all her savings just getting back to help her family; a total waste of time, as it had turned out. She hadn’t even been planetside to see for herself, the station records showed her Father, Mother, brother and two sisters all deceased. Many would’ve wanted to be sure, to make some contact with their former home, but not her.
In fact, the situation she was now in meant she couldn’t have gotten planetside even if she wanted to. Her pay per day apartment on the lower levels would be empty tonight, they didn’t have much pity if you hadn’t planned your finances properly; regardless of your circumstances, business was business everywhere you went in New Eden.
It was the reason that she had originally thought to seduce this man beside her, a forgotten hope now.
“Too late for a lot of people.” His words held a tone of menace, as though something was unfinished.
He turned to look her in the eye once more.
“Use it wisely.” He turned and left, pulling out his neo-com as he went. She just managed to make out what he was saying, “We prepped and filled yet? Good. Fire up the cap and warm the engines, we’re going. Hmmm? Wherever those bastards are.”
She was still standing at the viewing platform ten minutes later, trying to figure out what his last words could possibly have meant when the huge, menacing shape of a Machariel battleship left the un-dock. It turned with a litheness that belied its bulk and leapt into warp toward the only star-gate in the system.
Her communicator flashed and she saw with foreboding the face of the apartment manager for the stations new owners. This was going to be ugly, she thought.
“I realise I’m late with paym …” she started to blurt out. He cut her off, the awe in his voice palpable.
“I am calling to advise you that your new apartment on the first class level will be ready in less than two hours ma’am. I do apologise for the delay, but we only got the purchase order five minutes ago and we are somewhat short staffed at the moment.”
Her eyes were drawn from his face to the figure in her bank balance window. The numbers were no longer small and red in color, but black and the sum was significant enough that she need never work again.
She managed to acknowledge the apartment manager and turned to look towards the star-gate again.
As the tears came, she managed to whisper, “I will.”
It’s all in the mind, you know.