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Episode 3

Disclaimer: This is a free work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. Copyright © 2020 Rhea V. May All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced in any form, by an electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except quoted brief passages in a review, post, article or other pieces of content. This work is intended for mature audiences only (18+).

Terran Prime station, year 2398 TST


Halfway to the Prime, she had learned the name of the Commander-in-Warrant. Zale Corvald.

Too late to turn back around.

And even if it wasn’t, she didn’t think she’d have returned. She had already accepted the job from Austin Leeweather, and the days when she could choose her clients were long gone.

Lima had lost everything. Her fame, her reputation, her family…

This title of hospitality manager and her connection to Leeweather Holdings were the only things she had left.

So, even if the thought of seeing Zale again was making her wish crawl into some hole and wither away, Lima had to confront the situation head-on and talk to him.

After all, this was a new Lima. And new Lima had to learn how to stand on her own two feet and not let the others decide for her like she used to.

She had to mend the bridges as much as she could with Zale if she wanted for this to work. She had to grow up. She had to apologize.

But not right now. Now, she was on her way to visit her twin brother’s best friend. The one that got her this job.

Orion Peyton Quinn was the Chief Medical Officer here on the Prime. Relying on VALID to direct her to the medical bay, Lima studied the station as she passed through the corridors. She’d traversed four levels from her assigned cabin and never met another soul. A heavy air of desolation and neglect enveloped the Prime.

“The medical bay is on your right,” VALID announced, and she paused before turning the corner, thanking the neuronet.

The doors to the bay opened automatically and after the brightly lit corridors outside, Lima blinked in the darkness of her surroundings. “Ri,” she called, looking around. Her vision adjusted just as the room lost its golden glow and the lights came on.

“Lima,” Orion replied to her calling, exiting an adjacent office, and approaching her with his arms outstretched.

After a brief hug, Lima leaned back to study him. “You’re looking well,” she said, smiling when he flashed her his trademark grin.

“Thanks,” he answered, fiddling with the pierced lobe of his left ear. “Tell no one, but I think I put on some weight.”

Lima laughed at his joke. Orion had always been on the slim side, even if he ate a lot. “Are you the only doctor here?” she asked, noticing they were alone in the bay.

Orion snorted. “Yes. Supposedly, there’s another one, an ancient Testran Rendition. But in all my years here, I’ve seen him come in only two times.”

“Sorry, Ri,” she said but Orion waved her support away.

“It’s fine. There’s not much to do around here, anyway. Patching scrapes and bruises, and the medbots take care of most of that,” he replied, and she could detect the sour note in his tone.

“And I’m sure you’re rocking those tasks,” Lima said, then winced internally at her pathetic words. Clearing her throat, she changed the subject. “Well, I wanted to thank you for what you did for me, for your help in landing me this job—”

“Nope. Not necessary. You’re family to me, both you and your brother Cairo, and it’s what you do for family. Trust me on that, I’m gypsy,” he grinned again, and it prompted her to chuckle in return. “Aaand… I didn’t do much, to be honest. I made a passing comment to Cairo about how Keepers Inc. was looking for partners in repurposing several modules, now that the Watch is almost over. Cairo did the rest.”

“You vouched for me,” Lima reminded him.

Orion snorted again and shrugged. “Come,” he said, turning away, and leading her into his office. “Have you had breakfast yet?”

“Yes, thank you. Whoa, it looks like you’re all ready to go,” she gestured to the heap of packed boxes. “Excited?” Lima waggled her eyebrows, giving him a lopsided grin.

Orion’s grin slipped and he collapsed into the chair he’d pulled up for Lima, sighing and rubbing his palms over his face. Frowning, Lima kneeled in front of him and placed her hand on his arm. “What happened?” she asked.

“Cairo didn’t tell you?” he mumbled, looking away.

“No,” Lima answered, bracing for the bad news. “It’s been a week since I last spoke with him.”

Resting his head on the chair’s back, Orion looked to the ceiling and gestured around him. “All my life, I’ve been in closed quarters. First, my parents’ freighter. Now, this fucking station…”

Nodding, Lima searched his face as she waited for him to continue. She already knew about Orion’s tragic diagnosis of severe social anxiety bordering on agoraphobia. It was how him and her twin had met, actually. In the first year of university, back on Novalis, Orion suffered a serious panic attack right in the dorm’s mess hall. Cairo had been the only one to help the poor guy up from his fetal position on the floor, the rest gawking or laughing as people did.

Having spent all his life on a freighter in the Far Reaches, Orion had never been diagnosed, because he’d rarely interacted with large groups of people. But coming directly to the crowded campus of Novalis University, Orion soon became overwhelmed and snapped.

Using the Harris-Pratt name, Cairo pulled some strings and arranged for Orion to continue his studies from the safety of the college dorm room.

“I was supposed to leave the Eye in less than a week,” Orion continued, his shoulders slumped. “Did you know I wasn’t even supposed to be here, on the Eye? A colleague of mine from the Institute signed up for volunteering and then accepted a prestigious position in a medical study. Connor fucking O’Bradley…” he sneered the name. “The study looked promising. Modifying fluid data to treat a series of psychological and psychiatric conditions… When they reached him on the waiting list, the Keepers, he was already engrossed in the research. So, he approached me, promising me a sure spot in the upcoming medical trials, in exchange for me going in his stead.”

“Then what?” Lima asked quietly.

“Then, he betrayed me,” Orion stated on a sigh. “I was supposed to receive state-of-the-art treatment for this awful condition of mine that brought me nothing but desolation. Maybe even a cure… As my time here was almost up, I contacted Connor. But I couldn’t reach him, he never answered any of my comms. After about a week, I contacted the Institute directly. Imagine my surprise to find out that not only Connor never put me on the list, but he had been fired two years ago for inappropriate behavior.”

“Oh, Ri…” Lima said, blinking back tears. “I’m so sorry.”

As the first tear fell, Lima dove into his arms and hugged him tightly. Her heart broke for him. Orion was such a nice person, so full of life. So undeserving of this illness that tortured him to no end. She knew that his greatest wish was to be normal so he could do more, help more people. He was one of those, those people who became doctors out of the real desire to heal and help and aid.

“Thank you, Lima,” he said, breaking apart from her and getting up from the chair to hide his own red-rimmed eyes. Pacing a little farther away, Orion shrugged. “It’s fine. Life, eh? I’ll figure it out, don’t worry.”

“Yes,” she nodded, straightening herself too. “You always bounce back in no time. I admire you for that.”

Orion snorted, then swept the air in front of him with one hand. “Enough about me. Tell me, have you seen Zale yet?”

A scowl twisted her features. “Yes. He was there to greet us last night.”


“And?” she drawled. “What do you want me to say, Orion? You know what I did. I know I have to apologize but, how can I?”

Shrugging, Orion looked straight into her eyes. “You just do.”

You just do. Hours later, Orion’s words were still echoing inside her mind. She’d procrastinated for as long as she could. But now, the time was up.

Swiping her sweaty palms down her thighs, Lima stared at the bold gold script adorning the closed door. Station Commander, it said. Swallowing for the umpteenth time, she tried to dislodge the heavy pebble in her throat.

She remembered a time when just seeing Zale managed to calm and center her. He was her refuge from the constant onslaught of her anxiety. Now…

Taking a fortifying breath, Lima slapped her palm over the door’s sensor. Nothing happened.

“There’s a short list of people sanctioned by the Commander who can enter his office without permission. You are not on it, Miss Harris-Pratt,” VALID announced.

Sighing, Lima looked up into the tiny camera above the door. That put a damper on her plans. “Thank you, VALID.” What was she supposed to do now? Knock?

“Shall I announce you?” VALID asked.

“Please,” Lima nodded. “And thank you!” she added as an afterthought.

“You may come in,” the neuronet announced after a second, opening the door.

Lima supposed she could be happy Zale invited her inside. Entering, her eyes fell on the imposing man immediately. He was seated behind his desk, placed in the center of the room. As she advanced, Lima hoped he couldn’t see the way her knees threatened to buckle.

Despite her nerves, Lima couldn’t look away. Like every other time she’d seen him in the past, he was consuming. Piercing. Imperious and impervious to anything. The only difference now was that his eyes didn’t soften in her presence.

The door closed behind her with a snick, and Lima gulped. She was locked inside, with him. Alone. Her heart started beating faster and faster, and she felt herself teetering on the spot, as the room started spinning. Wouldn’t it be just great if she fainted right now, in front of him? Would he feel satisfied by that?

“Zale,” she greeted, wetting her lips immediately after. More mature now, his face seemed nothing but angles. His constant tendency to scowl carved two deep lines between his eyebrows. Other than that, his caramel skin looked smooth and unmarred.

He said nothing for long moments, studying her with his golden eyes. “Commander Corvald,” he corrected in a harsh tone.

“Commander Corvald,” Lima acquiesced. “Thank you for making me the time to see me. I… may I sit?” she asked, gripping the back of the chair in front of her as she felt her legs turning to jelly.


Lima blinked. Oh, how he must hate her. “Right. I wanted to… I know it’s well past time, but… I’m sorry, Zale. For how… we ended things. And for… what happened after.”


“Why?” she parroted back, completely bewildered. “Why what?”

“Why now?” he grated. “Because you need me to finish this project of yours? Because you need me to succeed and show everyone what a good girl you are? All these years have passed, and you never bothered to contact me.”

Lima hugged herself and nodded. “I k-know. I’m sorry. I didn’t think you’d want to hear from me ever again… But no, I’m not apologizing to you because I need your help…”

Arching an eyebrow, he regarded her in silence for another long moment. Flushing, she stammered out the truth, “Fine. Yes. I need us to get along for this project to work. And it’s not mine, I’m just an employee.”

“At least you’re honest,” Zale mused. “If I wasn’t here and in charge, would you have bothered apologizing? Would you have ever looked me up to say sorry?”

“Probably not.” She flushed again at his mirthless chuckle. “Because I knew you probably hated me and… ugh! Let me start again.”

“You’re the same poor little rich girl you’ve always been,” Zale stated, rather bluntly. “And to think I told your father to shove it when he commed to threaten my future if I didn’t end things with you…”

“Wait, you did? He contacted you too?”

“What do you mean, me too?”

Rolling her eyes, Lima finally straightened her spine. “Come on, Zale. You knew how I was when it came to you. You couldn’t have thought I’d go from completely smitten to cold as ice the next day without some interference. My bastard of a father commed one day, after he learned we were seeing each other, worried I’ll ruin the family reputation if people saw me with you. Of course, he found out, even if we tried keeping things secret. He threatened to disown me if I didn’t end our relationship and when that didn’t work… he threatened he’d make Cairo’s life an even bigger hell. So…”

That worked, huh?” he drawled, lips twisting in a cruel smile.

“You know it did. The reason behind my behavior was all him, but… how I actually handled things wasn’t. That was all me. And I apologize for that.”

“You could have come to me. Talked to me.”

“I know. But he’d already leaked the juicy info to my snotty friends. And…” Lima paused and sighed. “And, I did nothing to stop them from disparaging and degrading you when you came to talk with me. For that, I am sorry.”

Zale stood and rounded his desk. Her skin prickled in anticipation of his nearness, but he passed by her and approached one of the consoles near the door.

“You think I cared about some foul comments? Think I cared about some rich girls calling me what I am, a prison planet runt?” he asked, his back turned to her as he fiddled with some controls. “Know what? It doesn’t even matter. It’s been a long time ago.”

“I agree. We were young and stupid. So, you’ll accept my apology? And we can be friends?”

“We can never be friends, Lima,” he replied, leaving her other question unanswered. “The best we can manage is a strictly professional relationship. Now, go. I’m busy.”

Shoulders slumping, Lima turned away and left his office. She’d told her piece. She apologized. It was all she could do.


Next episode (Meet Mason & Casey)

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