Amaya strode down the gently curving corridor, glad she had worn her sensible heels to the reception. All the corridors at the Lublina Space Station curved gently. It made you long for straight lines and sharp, right-angled corners. She was worried and hoping she’d find Mayana where she always went when she needed to find peace. Amaya had been too far away to hear what that git, Edward, had said this time, but close enough to see Mayana’s face for that millisecond of naked pain. Then her face had shut down completely and she had simply turned and quietly walked away.
Ignoring the appreciative glances around her, she went faster. Clearly being blond and blue-eyed meant you wanted to be stared or even leered at. Both men and women behaved as if she owed them something just because nature had been kind to her, as if she had to be grateful for their admiration and give them something in return. And the only thing she wanted admiration for was her keen mind and her hard work. She snorted as she told herself to stop obsessing about her non-problems.
Turning into the Star Lounge, she was oblivious to the floor to ceiling sheer walls and the tapestry of stars beyond it. Her eyes sought only the figure of the elegant woman in the green cocktail dress, sitting on a (gently curving) seat and staring unseeingly at the glittering stars.
– There you are! I thought I might find you here. I was too far away to hear what happened. What did he say?
– Does it matter? He cut me down in public again… He’s having another affair and that always makes him particularly vicious… I don’t want to be in this marriage or in this job any longer. I feel like if I have to stand it one more day, I’ll scratch his eyes out or poison his coffee!
– (Leaning over and taking Mayana’s hands) Do you trust me?
– (Looking down at their joined hands then back into her eyes) Yes, I think I would trust you with anything.
– I’ve had everything ready for almost a month… I just ran out of courage when it was time to talk to you about it.
– What do you mean?
– Well… I’ve organised everything so you can leave tonight if you want… We’ll go pack the essentials and you can stay with me whilst you find your feet. As for work… well, Edward has been too busy taking full credit for the Lightning Drive to pay any attention to your work on shields. I don’t know how you can stand that sod having claimed your work!
– The original idea for the Drive was his.
– But it would never have bloody worked if you hadn’t solved all the bugs. It’s like… Mrs Tolstoy! She edited Tolstoy’s books several times and he never acknowledged it or thanked her for it. Who remembers her, her hard work and her loyalty? Anyway, I’m getting off track. Does Edward know about your breakthrough that will allow us to shield ships so they can travel through a wormhole?
– It’s only a working hypothesis so I haven’t said anything yet.
– Good (releasing Mayana’s hands and taking out a small electronic tablet from her clutch bag and tapping rapidly on the touch screen for a few minutes). Ok, I’ve activated it. Tomorrow morning, when they boot up the system, a virus I planted weeks ago will wipe all your files and there will be no record left of your work.
– No record? But that’s two years’ work!
– No record other than a backup I put on my tablet here. I also took the liberty of contacting the Star Council in your name, as your assistant. I gave them an outline of your research so far and they have agreed to fund a lab and tests.
– But… why have you done all this?
– Um, ah, well… what the hell… (leaning over and kissing her softly).
– (Touching her lips) Oh my, that was… unexpected… but nice (initiating another kiss, this one lasting rather longer). You always did have a brilliant but evil mind. Shall we get my things now? I have one condition though – all the research will be our joint research and any papers we write will be signed by both of us.
– As you wish. (They kiss again very enthusiastically and, this time, it’s impossible to tell who initiated the kiss.)