There was a portrait on the wall, and for some reason Kilbourn couldn’t take her eyes off it. It was black ink on canvas that had grown sickly yellow-green long ago. She couldn’t decide if the face was a man’s or a woman’s. Every time she thought she’d made up her mind those eyes seemed to shift and make her question herself again. The face wore a worn down look, a thousand-yard-stare that saw only more trauma ahead.

“Do you know who that is?”

Kilbourn jumped at the raspy voice behind her. She shot to her feet and spun around in one motion, startled to find Penelope Kymersh standing only a few feet away, straight-backed and thin-lipped, her slicked back gray hair cropped short. She was shorter than Kilbourn had imagined.

“Please, please, sit down Ms. Kilbourn,” she insisted as she circled the desk and sat at he high-backed leather chair behind it.

Kilbourne wondered if her feet touched the ground from that perch, picturing them dangling beneath the heavy desk like a child’s might. But no child ever wielded such power of presence.

They sat in silence for a moment; perhaps a moment too long, because Kymersh shifted in her seat and motioned back at the portrait. “That’s Judith Rutledge.”

A woman then. Kilbourne said nothing and gazed at the portrait, following the windswept locks of shoulder length black hair.

“Leader of the Equinox Rebellion…” Kymersh added.

Kilbourne turned to find her staring back intently, reading the lack of recognition on her face. Kilbourne made a small shrug.

“Organized an uprising back in the 2400’s. Coordinated simultaneous strikes against the Demesne Authority on a dozen planets across five systems.”

Kilbourne was never much interested in history. She nodded. “So, you like her, then?”

Kymersh’s face was as old and unchanging as the moon of Old Earth. Again, the silence went on too long, but Kilbourne couldn’t break it, crushed as she was beneath that stare.

“The Authority captured her within a week. She’s been in virtual interrogation ever since.”

Eight centuries of interrogation. Kilbourne didn’t know it was possible to live that long, but she supposed if you never left the tanks—

“I have the interrogation contract,” Kymersh added harshly. “Tell me now why you’re here in person.”

Kilbourne felt the recording device implanted in her sternum pressing back against her lungs like a bulldozer. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.

Notes: I used an image as a writing prompt for this piece. You may be able to find the image on the artist’s ArtStation page.

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