Stars, rock, stars, rock, stars, rock…
The now familiar nausea returned. Swallowing, Lucas opened his eyes and focused on his hands resting on the table in front of him. He wasn’t floating in space anymore.
“Commander Ordaz, you need to answer my questions.”
Lucas glanced up at his interrogator. Precision defined her—from her conduct during this interrogation to the perfect knot at the back of her head from which not a single wisp of inky hair escaped. Even her Conglomerate uniform fit perfectly, tailored to enhance her every curve, yet augment her severe expression.
Except... Lucas leaned forward. Something was missing. The expanse of her indigo uniform lacked both a branch insignia and name tag. In fact, she hadn’t introduced herself when she entered the room.
He glanced at her face trying to determine if he’d seen her before—on the main concourse on Maximillian Station, perhaps? He pictured the minimalist lines and stark colour palate inside his employer’s space station. Even through he’d walked those halls hundreds of times, a memory of her face didn’t come to him.
He let out a long exhale and shifted his gaze back to the table between them. Of course they don’t want me to know who my interrogator is—they’re playing games to keep me unbalanced. He swallowed and wished he was elsewhere.
“How about you start from the beginning? What was your mission?” Her firm tone made it clear he had no choice but to comply.
Without moving his head, he looked up. A fringe of his black hair obscured his vision, it was longer than he’d ever let it grow before. How long was I out? He closed his eyes as another wave of nausea swept through him. For a moment, he was somewhere else, somewhere that reeked of a neglected aquarium. Somewhere radically different to Maximillian Station. But where? He tried to remember.
His interrogator snapped her fingers. The sound startled him, bringing his attention back to the interrogation room.
“Commander Ordaz, I need you to focus,” she said. “Stay with me and we’ll get through this as efficiently as possible.”
Lucas stared at the table. It was beige, like the walls and coveralls they had given him to wear. The space didn’t even have a defining scent. The only decoration was a portrait of the smirking face of the head of The Conglomerate mounted on the wall next to the door. He did his best not to look at Nigel Maximillian West’s pompous face.
Since waking, there hadn’t been a single hint of the time or his location—not even a window through which he could glimpse a clue of where he was. At first a trickle of medical staff flowed past his bedside, but not one of them would talk to him directly, leaving his questions unanswered.
He ran both hands over his face and through his hair. He was on Earth—that he remained certain of. The gravity beneath his feet felt solid in a way no spinning space station ever did.
Camila lived on Earth. His wife’s face surfaced in his memory. He longed to gaze into her dark eyes, taste her lush lips… Stop it.
“Does my wife know I’m alive?”
Lucas clenched his jaw, but said nothing.
“You were presumed dead after the Angler’s crash. Mrs. Ordaz was informed at that time.” His interrogator’s tone remained as flat and emotionless as a cheap robot. “That was three weeks ago.”
Lucas bit his lip, shifting his gaze back to the table. Camila had begged him not to go on the mission because she’d been convinced his mission would be a disaster. In the end, she’d been right.
Taking a deep breath, he looked back to his interrogator. Thinking Camila believed him dead made his stomach turn—she must be going through hell.
“I need to let her know I’m okay.”
“First answer my questions.”
Anger flared within him. He ground his teeth together keeping his gaze fixed on his interrogator’s eyes. “And if you aren’t satisfied with my answers? Will I still be allowed to contact my wife?”
She glanced down at her tablet, ignoring his question. After frowning at the screen, she met his gaze. “Three days ago we intercepted your escape pod in a low Earth orbit.”
Lucas scratched his head as his anger dissipated. His last coherent memory was of drifting towards the asteroid, his view alternating between stars, rock, stars, rock… Another wave of nausea surged inside him. He took a deep breath.
“How’d I get back to Earth?”
“That’s what you need to tell me.”
He studied her face. He’d been wrong earlier—she wasn’t perfect. A small scar marred the left end of her upper lip. It drew his attention until all he saw of his interrogator was her flaw.
“There’s only seven days of air in those escape pods,” Lucas said. He ran a hand down his face. Threes week was a lot of time he couldn’t account for. Then he remembered he hadn’t been alone on the Angler. “What happened to my crew?”
“How about you start at the beginning?”
to be continued…