23:1 When Mercy Is Shown

Soléne Pape burst into the command pod, shattering Major and Konstantinov’s concentration.

“Are you aware of what that monster has done?” She shouldered her way between the two senior crew members. “Do you condone this heresy?”

Konstantinov stretched back to better see around the indignant buttocks that had suddenly invaded her space. “Velik telom, da mal delom,” she muttered. [Big in body, small in deeds.] “Can you not see, comrade Pape, that we are busy?”

Pape swung around to address the top of Konstantinov’s head, the Russian’s thick red hair tied up in braids to conveniently better ward off the French woman’s attack. “Are you so without God’s blessing that you cannot recognize the work of the Devil when you see it?”

“Soléne, please,” Major interjected. “We have a lot to do before we leave orbit.”

“You don’t know what that heathen bastard has done to one of your own crew?” Pape spat, incredulous. “How can you expect to lead this mission across the solar system if we have not yet left the Earth’s influence and already Satan has made himself manifest … ?”

“Enough!” Konstantinov exploded. “Stop speaking in these riddles and get your French derriere out of my face!”

“Yes, Soléne, drop the indignation and tell us what the problem is,” Major scrambled to defuse the situation.

As if on an invisible track, Pape’s head swiveled back toward Major, her mouth hanging open in outrage. “That fils de pute Zhang considers himself a god and has defiled the one true God’s dominion!”

“That certainly clears things up,” Konstantinov quipped.

Brûle en l’enfer, Nika,” Pape spat.

Va te faire foutre, Soléne,” Konstantinov parried. “Surprised? I used to fuck a Frenchman. Come to think of it, it was probably because you would not, my little nun.”

“That is quite enough, both of you,” Major warned. “Nika is not the only one who has studied French, whatever her motives. It’s time I paid our doctor a visit anyway. Ladies, if you would be so good to take the conn, I’ll return with some answers. Please try not to kill each other while I’m gone.”

The two women settled into a mutual simmering distrust as Major left the bridge.

“Soléne,” Konstantinov leaned over in one last attempt to gain her crew mate’s confidence. “Exactly what did you see that has you so upset?”

“You will find out soon enough, putain. May God have mercy on us all.” 

“OK, ma petite religieuse, if that’s how you want to play it,” Konstantinov chuckled under her breath. “May he have enough left over to cover my shortfall.”

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