Release: September 29 2015
On the video screen, Althea saw that Domitian had reached Ivanov’s cell. Without a word, his face still and set as stone, he opened the door. Ivanov didn’t move even though he had to crane his head back to look at Domitian’s face.
“We know who you are,” Domitian said, his low rumbling voice poorly picked up by the cameras, so that Althea had to lean forward to listen. “We know who your companion was.”
Ivanov cocked his head to the side. The camera in his cell was positioned above where Domitian now stood, and so Althea could not see Domitian’s face clearly but Ivanov’s face was nearly head--on.
He was smiling, insolent, amused.
“What we want to know,” said Domitian, “is why you are on board.”
Ivanov took a beat longer to reply than was normal. Althea’s fingers were tight around the edge of the control panel.
“Simple curiosity,” Ivanov said. His accent had changed. No longer sharply, purely Terran or broadened by the traces of an adopted Mirandan drawl, it had something of Jupiter in it, faintly similar to Domitian’s accent. “We were flying past, and by pure chance we saw your strange ship.”
Ivanov’s eyes flickered up and straight into the camera. Althea knew he couldn’t see her, but she was made uneasy nonetheless and was relieved when a moment later he looked away.
“You don’t expect me to believe that,” said Domitian.
“I don’t expect you to believe anything I say,” Ivanov said, “but I’m telling you the truth. Mattie and I were on our ship, headed for Mars, when our path intersected with yours. We wouldn’t have even found the Ananke if we hadn’t nearly run into her. Now, men like us, when we see a ship this magnificent—-”
Domitian interrupted. “If you’re hoping for rescue, none is coming. Gale was killed trying to escape.”
Althea supposed Domitian was telling the truth in a way; Gale would be dead soon from asphyxiation or starvation unless he was picked up by another ship, and with no one looking for him, his escape pod probably would never be found.
Ivanov went very still in exactly the position he had been in, his head cocked slightly to the side. His face showed nothing at all.
Then his face relaxed back into the insolent amusement he had adopted against Domitian.
“You know, the first rule of interrogation is to get the subject’s trust,” Ivanov said. “You just lost it.”
“I killed Gale, and I can kill you, too,” said Domitian.
“Then why don’t you kill me?” Ivanov asked. “You could shoot me in the docking bay. Fire that gun there”—he nodded at Domitian’s hip and the weapon resting on it beneath Domitian’s heavy hand—“-right into my chest. And I fall. And then you leave and open the air lock. My body, my blood, all the mess goes flying out into the solar wind. Maybe I’m already dead, or maybe you’re a bad shot and I’m not dead yet, so I get to drown in my own blood and suffocate in a vacuum both.”