Modus Vivendi

Despite his cracked ribs and the burnt flesh above his hip, Seiko managed to laugh. “Do you know what your problem is?”

Astrid didn’t answer. She was busy dragging herself away, leaving dark red smears across the cold floor of the Second Law‘s bridge.

“You’re not prepared to die.” He laughed again, but it morphed into a gurgling hack. A blood bubble formed on his lips, popped, and dribbled down his chin.

Astrid was halfway to the escape pod.

“Now me,” Seiko continued, “I’m ready. I could die any time. And that makes me free. Free to take any risk. To push against any barrier.” She didn’t seem interested in engaging. He tried another tactic. “Let me help you.”

Astrid growled through gritted teeth, spittle spraying from her mouth like the rabid stray that she was. “Fuck you.”

Seiko pulled himself painfully to his feet and limped a few unsteady steps to a red cabinet. He took from it a canister of Panacea Paste and rolled it to Astrid. She looked at him with an expression halfway between rage and respect.

“You’re a lawless turncoat,” he said, “more renegade than revolutionary. Your allegiance changes with the wind. But neither of us wants this young commandant playing space sheriff in our backyard. Let’s send him home in pieces. Then you and me can go back to trying to kill each other.”

Astrid spat at his feet. “Fuck you,” she said again, and started to apply the Panacea Paste. “But fuck him first.”

Seiko laughed his sickly laugh again. Chaos always increases, he thought. Yes, indeed.

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