Diedre sat on the hospital bed, hugging her legs to her chest. The datapad with the AAR report that Lt. Brogan had handed her earlier that day laid out on the end of the bed. She fought the urge to kick it flying into the room.
I'm in a hospital for cryin' out loud! Wounded in the line of duty! But nooooo, paperwork!
Running her hand through her hair, she let out a heavy frustrated sigh. A soft but firm knock came from the door. Without waiting for a reply, the door opened and a head popped in.
"Got a minute?" Elizabeth asked, leaning in to look in the room.
Diedre looked up from the bed and gave Elizabeth a scrutinizing look. "I suppose so. I don’t really have anything else to do here."
Elizabeth nodded. "Good."
She glided into the room, managing to look graceful and awkward at the same time. She was wearing an old and much weathered military surplus jacket over a long-sleeved jersey and tight jeans.
She sank down gingerly into the sole easy chair in the room. Although she showed no physical evidence of the damage she'd received from the ambush, she moved like someone still nursing aches and bruises.
Once she was comfortable, Elizabeth regarded Deidre with a level gaze. After a pause, she took a small breath, sighed it out and dove in.
"I can't help but notice you seem to have some problem with me. Let's air this out."
"Well, I don't know, you were pretty comfy with 'airing it out' today in the dance studio."
Elizabeth arched an eyebrow.
"Well, I'd say seeing your team being gunned down in front of you can bring out the worst in anyone. Wouldn't you agree?"
"Like hunger?" Diedre asked pointedly.
Elizabeth frowned, looking confused for a moment, then her expression cleared.
"Oh, I get it. You meant..." She lifted her hand in a claw-like gesture and clenched it as if snatching something from the air.
"Sorry to disappoint you, dear, but people don't do anything for me as a diet. That little perk didn't come with the package."
Elizabeth gave a sly smile. "I keep my slim figure the old-fashioned way."
"I wasn't specifically referring to eating people per se... there's a lot that can be fed upon. Hopes, dreams, fears, anger, suffering... not all entities come to seek and destroy humanity. Some, like Mitch's father, even eat their own kind—but you already know that."
Diedre paused, and continued dogmatically, "Your behavior yesterday in the lockups at the Jungle gave hint of what you feed on—spiritual energy."
She paused again. "How can you willingly feed on people this way?"
Elizabeth cocked her head, appraising Deidre with a slight smile. "Someone didn't fall asleep during class, I see."
Straightening herself from her slouch, Elizabeth addressed the young woman with no trace of mirth in her voice.
"First, it's more accurately emotional energy. Strong emotions, normally, although I can usually pick them up at any level.
"Second, as I've already said, I don't feed. I get no sustenance from the emotions I sense. Unfortunately, that doesn't stop the craving.
"And third, for someone who's perfectly willing to blow huge chunks out of people with energy weapons, I'm not sure you're in that good a position to pass judgment on what I can do."
The last statement was said without heat or rancor, the very voice of reason.
Diedre closed her eyes, and a wave of gut-wrenching guilt washed over Elizabeth. Diedre swallowed hard, and continued.
"There's a difference between being willing to do something and taking deep gratifying pleasure from it." Diedre replied, as if reassuring herself, "Yet just because you don't feed, doesn't mean it doesn't. If I recall correctly, Malachai Brogan has never actually eaten an entity, yet the creature within him survives on the death of its own kind. Besides, being killed by a maser leaves your soul intact. What happens after that is their responsibility."
Elizabeth emitted a dry chuckle. "Spoken like a true follower of Enoch, splitting hairs with the greatest of ease."
She leaned back on the chair, lacing her fingers and resting her chin in her hands.
"Which brings up something else. Seeing as we're being all open and chatty here, let me ask this.
"Did you quit the Order of Enoch on your own, or did they kick you out?" Or did you never leave, the third option was left unsaid but strongly implied in Elizabeth's tone.
Diedre shrugged. "I got bored so I left, and eventually they stopped paying the credit card bills. Are you through with this inquisition, or would you rather have me gutted open and split upon the rack?"
"Well, excuse me." Elizabeth's tone dropped a number of degrees. She stood up and regarded Deidre on her bed.
"I came in here willing to level with you, maybe work things out. I answered your questions straight, no bullshit. But when I ask for the same courtesy, you get all dodgy and indignant. Fine, be a bitch about it."
Without letting Deidre get a word in edgewise, Elizabeth continued. Her voice betrayed the first sign of true emotion, the faint refrain of familiar and oft-visited pain.
"Y'know, I was willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. You struck me as someone who was willing to follow her own mind, not just blindly toe the party line. I guess you fooled me real well."
She turned to go, then shifted back to fire one last sally. "Oh, and nice choice of words there. News flash, honey, inquisitions and racks are your peoples' thing, not mine."
With as much dignity as she could muster, Elizabeth stalked from the room.
"No." Diedre stood up from the bed, "You came in here to judge me. You interpreted my answers to suit your own needs - to justify your own prejudices about me. You came in here thinking 'oh, well, guess I've got another inquisitor on my hands' without even trying to figure out who I am."
Diedre was visibly shaking with anger at this point. "You don't have any idea who I am, what I've been through, what I've lived through. You don't get to judge me and then blame me for it. You don't know a damn thing about me, hypocrite. Just because I have some misgivings about your ability to transform into something that, oh, I don't know, eats people doesn't mean that I wasn't going to give you a chance."
"Fine. Go on, get out of here." Diedre flipped her hand out at the corridor. "Go back to your self-made world of pity and regret. Leave here with the assurance that your world is just the same as you thought it was and that some pink-haired twit isn't going to challenge it."
"But when you're ready to find out who I really am, instead of who you've judged me to be, then we'll talk." And with that, Diedre slammed the door to the room, shutting Elizabeth out.
Elizabeth stood dumbfounded for a few seconds from Deidre's outburst. Then her face twisted as her anger exploded in return.
"Judge you? ME JUDGE YOU?" she yelled at the closed door. "Try looking in a mirror, Little Miss Holier-Than-thou! That is, if you can look around that big fat log sticking out of your eye!"
"You're the one passing judgment, deciding who and what everyone is based on your own damn narrow-minded viewpoint! You don't know the first thing about me, but you're all ready to accuse me of... of..."
She sputtered as she tries to keep control of her anger, then let out with a bellow at the top of her lungs.
"AND FOR THE LAST TIME, I DO NOT EAT PEOPLE!!!"
She noticed out of the corner of her eye an orderly, standing nearby and staring at her wide-eyed.
"What are you looking at?" she snarled at the nurse, then stomped off down the hallway.
Diedre ripped the door open again, a snarl on her face. She had quickly (and rather sloppily) changed from the hospital scrubs into jeans and tank top, holding her boots in her hands.
The nearby nurse approached her. "Miss, you aren't cleared for- "
But the man was cut off as Diedre shoved him into the ground, "F- off."
Diedre started putting her boots on as she clumsily made her way down the corridor after Liz, screaming "Hey! You’re not getting off that easy, Elizabeth! I'm not done with you!"
Elizabeth turned to watch Deidre's approach. Her anger drained from her face and body like oil from a broken vessel, leaving her regarding the other woman with an expressionless, level gaze.
Finally, she spoke as she gestured with her head in part-invitation, part-challenge.
"Wanna have a drink?"
Taken back a bit by the gesture, Diedre looked around, "Y-yeah. I’m sick of this Hospital anyway."
"Good. I know just the place."
— TO BE CONTINUED —