032 – Empathetic Leap

Zee shivered from the cold in her drenched clothing. Water puddled at her feet on the rusted floor of the tug. Her head, arms, and hands ached, though the millites worked slowly to heal her wounds. She could feel them moving through her muscles and tingling just below the surface of her skin, knitting what was broken or burned.

Rice stood at the wheel, whistling a tune and seemingly overjoyed at the prospect of taking on the governor. She hadn’t asked very many questions. Jun sat in a corner, eyes darting fearfully between them. Ben returned from deeper within the cabin with a towel and placed it over her shoulders. He sat next to her, anger practically steaming off of him.

He didn’t speak, so Zee did. “I know my limits,” she said without looking at him.

“I don’t think you care about limits,” Ben said, voice soft with anger. “Either that or you have a death wish.”

Zee shrugged. “You said you couldn’t lower three people slowly with the nanoblade. That two would be very difficult. We had to get out of that building before they found a loophole. I did what I had to.”

“You jumped,” Ben said. Something in his voice, a cracking sound, grabbed her heart with icy fingers of fear. For the briefest moment, her perspective split. She saw herself jumping from Ben’s point of view, the breathless fear, the unuttered scream of denial, muscles ripping to reach her before she disappeared. Empathy. With a grimace, Zee gritted her teeth and swallowed back the bile in her throat.

She stared at Ben. “I—” her voice failed and her lips trembled.

His expression softened, the anger and shock seeping away at the edges. “Just—next time talk to me before you…leap.” He smiled wanly. “I know we could come up with a better solution together.”

Zee nodded and wrapped the towel tighter around her shoulders.


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