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There was an outdated myth amongst humanity that life was short, as the generations went by and modern science continued to explore and advance Nina herself had become aware that life was in fact very long. Sometimes, when she took stock of everything she had done in her still relatively young existence it seemed incomprehensible how much more life she would go on to live. How long would she look this young? How long would she live this lifestyle of travel and carnage? How had she ever been stupid enough to consider marrying that man those many years back and thinking it could have possibly lasted even until now let alone till death did they part?
Nina rubbed the scar where she had burned out the memory of that man from her wrist irritably, till death do you part. What an outdated concept when life truly was so very, very long.
Death itself was on the verge of becoming an outdated concept. With all her mind of science and probabilities the truth was Nina had no way to even estimate an age on her potential natural demise, and even if she could by the time she was said age, there would all new science to apply to mankind’s relentless quest for immortality.
“You’re quieter than I had expected.” Zeries mused from beside her, his presence just enough in her space to have a physical feel without touching. “Is it a warrior’s thing, or just a reaction to being on the hunt?”
Nina swallowed, not entirely unpleased by his closeness and clear interest in her, but stared ahead into the dark hallway pointedly. “I’m just one of those people used to thinking deep thoughts that most lack the philosophical outlook to understand.”
Zeries smirked, turning and relaxing against the wall in a way that would’ve made most blind to where they were focusing but not for his GI Halo providing him constant 360 imaging. “You’ll have to try me someday, I have perceptions others lack.”
Nina smiled, indulging this was most likely quite true. “Yes. I suppose you would, speaking of, can you see through walls with that thing?”
Zeries shook his head. “I can try thermals, but honestly, I doubt Death would read. The dead are room temperature, but why would death be hot, cold, or anything between?”
“Do it.” Nina directed quickly. “He should read as an anomaly. Blank space. Uninterpretable to thermal imaging.”
Zeries nodded, seeing the logic at once as he tapped the temple of his band and searched their prey.
“Nothing.” He frowned. “But there is someone hot-blooded moving in a very suspicious fashion a few halls to our left.”
Nina frowned as well, pursing her lips. “Keep the thermals on and alert, let’s look into it.”
They passed silently down the halls, Zeries leading and then falling back again the wall and communicating in standard Space Fleet sign language that their target was around the corner, and stationary for the moment. Nina would not have taken him as a military man and wondered if that was how he had come by need of his GI Halo. Nina would never ask a fellow warrior about their past injuries however, instead she silently readied her blade and moved swiftly to face the threat.
Doctor Harrison moved to let out a terrified scream as Nina leapt into the hallway and Zeries was on him in seconds, a silencing hand over his mouth. “Now now Doctor, no good alerting our clearly mutual prey of our position.”
Harrison nodded meekly, white as a ghost as Zeries released him and Nina switched off the energy of her blade, letting the hit rest casually in her hand not ready to fully lower her guard just yet.
“So tell us, good Doctor.” Zeries asked softly. “Who are you using as bait?”
Nina was impressed, rather than ask the unimaginative question of why any man of science would be unable to keep himself from hunting death Zeries was logical enough to not only know this obvious answer but to have piece together Harrison’s strategy in seconds. If he was military he was clearly a special branch before Jameson had scooped him up on the open market.
“The old woman.” Harrison gasped, straightening himself up and trying to steady himself. “Duport. It’s only logical Death would come for her first, she’s practically dead already.”
Nina pursed her lips, the beauty of Death being of course it was rarely so predictable, still it was their best guess.
“Right.” Nina nodded, turning to rap on the door.
“What are you doing?” Harrison demanded.
“If a creature is capable of choosing to be bait, it has earned its evolutionary right to.” Nina replied coldly. “Sentience actually matters to some of us, Doctor.”
“Says the woman who has murdered thousands of sentient creatures in her life, no doubt.” Harrison sneered.
Nina smirked coldly. “I never said I wasn’t a predator, only that sentient prey has a right to know when it is being hunted.”
Harrison swallowed pallidly and Nina turned her attention to Madam Duport’s door.
“Come in.” Came the almost eager reply and Nina realized for the old woman was hoping they were Death come to court her, she smiled at this and opened the door.
“I need to use the lavatories.” Harrison spoke up, Nina feeling his exit and hearing Zeries’ light snicker but not caring to turn back as she entered.
“Oh.” Duport murmured softly, clearly a bit saddened as she made out Nina and Zeries’ faces in the dimmed lighting. “It’s you, dear.”
Nina smiled softly. “It seems you and I are courting the same danger this journey, Madam Duport.”
“Yes.” The old woman smiled wistfully, spreading out the blankets across her lap where she sat perched up by the canopy bed. “Nothing to be helped for it I suppose. Some tea while we wait then, dear?”
“That would be lovely.” Nina replied gently, taking a seat in a floral printed chair beside her bed with an easy grin.
* * *
The lavatories seemed dimmer than usual, most likely a luxury installed to spare tired eyes the excruciating surprise of their full mass. It cast Harrison’s efforts to innocently relieve himself in an eerie aura of foreboding and so the young scientist moved about the act as hastily as he could.
A movement behind him and a sudden chill came then and Harrison quickly righted his pants, having no interest in facing whatever came next with his pants down.
… and he screamed.
* * *
Nina and Zeries were out the door without even the need to share a glance, racing after the screaming alarm in unison. However it was cut short, and a cold silence greeted them in its place. Silence, and a cold corpse on the bathroom floor.
“It seems Doctor Harrison found what he was looking for.” Zeries murmured, toeing the body with a boot. “Too bad any answers he might have gleaned from the encounter are now retired along with him to the grave.”
Nina frowned, fingering his pulse as she crouched before the body with an examining eye.
“No outer damage.” She observed, looking up to Zeries. “What do your scans say?”
Zeries shook his head, flipping through his vision channels and giving the body a thorough look over from his end as well. “All organs and bones intact. No internal damage to tissue, nerves, or circulation either. Based on his expression I would say he quite literally just found Death.”
Nina pursed her lips, standing to her feet. “Efficient.”
Still, something more was here, Nina could feel it with her well honed instincts. However, she had a feeling the only way she would be able to find out what it was would be when she herself finally met the Dagger Man. That was the thing about unexplained mysteries, often the only way to solve them was with your own eyes.