Fifty-One

Sephora watched through the viewport alongside her seat as the station came into view, a pale beacon in the inky black of space. This had been the last place held by the Commonwealth where Winston had been before he’d headed to E-557. It would be the same with she and Ben. Her husband’s hand wrapped around hers, fingers squeezing.

“What’s wrong?” he murmured.

She shook her head. “Nothing. Just thinking. We’re nearly there.”

“Do you think there are any ships heading in that direction from here?” Ben asked, peering past her at the station in the distance.

“There must be,” Sephora said. “Mission Systems has been using the station as their base for the move of their operations. There will still be ships.” And if there’s not, I’ll think of something. “So far as I know, they’re not done moving yet.”

“We’ll have to hope.” Ben squeezed her hand again. “Thank you.”

“For what?”

“Letting me come with you. I’m glad you didn’t want to do this alone.”

She stared out the window, her fingers tight around his hand. “This is something I shouldn’t do alone. Besides, you were with me when it started all those years ago. You deserve to see it through as much as I do.” Her gaze drifted to meet his. “I love you, Ben.”

“I love you, too,” he murmured, then kissed her cheek. For a moment, she found herself wanting more than that, wanting it so badly that it hurt somewhere deep inside, but she pushed the feeling away, tucked it back into its corner—for now. There would be time enough for more later. Now wasn’t the time and here wasn’t the place.

“Will you make contact with them once we’re on the station?”

Sephora shook her head. “No. I’m hoping to run silent between here and there. The less communication from me, the safer everyone is.”

“Except us,” Ben said with a wry smile.

She snorted. “Especially us. Ben, if no one knows where we are, they can’t stop us and they can’t make us a target.”

His brows went up. “Is that something you learned from Freder Rose?”

“Among other things.” The fingers of her free hand brushed against his cheek. “There are other things he tried to teach me that I should have paid more attention to.”

“Like what?”

“I never should have let you go.” She stole a kiss from his lips, then smiled as she drew away, just staring at him.

“Mm.” He smiled back, eyes sparkling. “I think you’re right.”

“This time, at least.”

Her husband’s humor faded. “How long do you think we have until someone notices you’ve vanished and starts asking questions? Other than Padraig and your people?”

Sephora snorted softly. “No one pays attention to me whether I’m there or not. Two or three weeks, I’d guess. Hell. I’ll probably be announcing my findings before anyone notices I’m gone and damning someone in the process. Then they’ll notice and scream about it all.”

Ben laughed ruefully and she smiled, though sadly.

“It’s true. If I vanished and never came back? That would be the best day ever in conglomerate history. Oversight would vanish with me and they’d be able to do whatever they want.”

“And humanity would be doomed.”

Sephora shook her head, barely containing the chuckle that threatened. “You already sound like the Foundation.”

“Their methods may be extreme, but they were right about one thing.” Ben smiled grimly. “Without someone to save us from ourselves, humanity is doomed.”

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