A silent gray burst of ejecta fountained up from Miranda’s edge, bright as it caught the sunlight against a black sheet of sky, and Evelyn knew it was done. Aboard the Force Majeure, she walked from the bridge to the galley and poured herself three fingers of cognac and threw back a good portion of it in one great gulp. She left the bottle open on the countertop and returned to the empty bridge. The plume hung still over Miranda, falling slowly back to that icy tomb. She couldn’t see it yet, but the computer alerted her that the shuttle was inbound. Gideon was on his way back. Dieter was dead.
Evelyn had never had someone taken out before—to use the vernacular—and it didn’t put her mind at ease in the way she’d hoped it would. Gideon had never murdered someone before—to call it what it was. She couldn’t imagine what he must be feeling. Dieter was the only real killer among them. Not with bombs or with blades, but with self-serving policies and greed. The long arc of history magnifies the sins of the short sighted. She’d probably saved future billions.
She sipped at the amber liquid with an unsteady hand and finally saw the shuttle come into visual range. She chewed her lip anxiously and wished Gideon would get the hell on board so they could leave this mess behind them once and for all.
Cutting through the galley on her way to the shuttle dock, she grabbed the cognac bottle and ditched her now-empty glass. As she walked lightly through the clean white corridors she ran her fingers over the walls and drank straight from the bottle. The shuttle was locked in place by the time she arrived and she leaned against a bulkhead waiting for the pressure to equalize. Her flight suit stuck to her sweaty skin. God it was hot.
At last, the shuttle hatch clunked unlocked and swung softly open. Slowly, carefully, in a torn and blood-spattered tunic, a man with wild eyes and a thick mane of hair stepped aboard the Force Majeure. He looked into her face and the bottle slipped from her hand, shattering against the hard floor like old dreams.
“I’m so sorry, Dieter. I’m so sorry.”