Mercy climbed out of the excessively luxurious bathtub within her cabin on the Argo Two and sniffed at her fingers, critically.

            She frowned. I can still smell him, damn it.

            Mercy sighed and rummaged through the selection of bath salts, oils and bubbles that she had assembled on the nearby vanity. The table’s surface was almost entirely covered by cleaning agents, mouthwash and several kinds of toothpaste. A brand new outfit hung on the back of the bathroom door; silently waiting for Mercy to finally decide she was clean enough to get dressed.

            Wrapping herself in a thick robe while she drew another bath – her third since returning the Argo several hours ago – Mercy conceded that the Sons of Ether had much more lavish taste than she had expected. Her image of them had never credited them with being concerned with such creature comforts as sybaritic furnishings and comfortable clothing, but every aspect of the Argo belied her long-held stereotype. At the moment, she was very glad for the well-stocked cabin, as she tried to scrub away any reminders of the past few hours.

            The small injuries – bites and bruises – had been easily healed, once she had returned to the ship and had access to her foci. That alone had made her feel much better, but the clinging smell of Kommandant Straussman was lingering on her skin, and that irritated her.

            The short list of things I’ve done of which I am ashamed just grew a little longer… she thought angrily. It wasn’t the tactics of which she was ashamed – if a man was weak enough to be distracted by sex, she was going to use that against him – but this particular incident galled her.

            Mercy uncorked a pungent bath oil, heavy with the scent of gardenia and jasmine, and poured most of it into the rapidly filling tub. Several loofah sponges floated and bobbed in the water. Mercy sighed, plucked them out and tossed them into a nearby sink. There was no point in scrubbing herself with something that might still smell of him.

            A Nazi right out of a pulp comic book. Mercy repressed a shudder. I suppose I should be glad he was a good lay, at least. That little tryst should be worth a lot to Virtual Dan. Mercy fiddled with the bracelet on her wrist that was recording her goings-on, to be released as a full-immersion video when she returned. Thank fate I have final edit rights, Mercy thought, not for the first time.

“Fucking the enemy seems to be a growing trend,” Mercy muttered as she climbed back into the tub and took to scrubbing her already well-scrubbed skin with a fresh sponge. She paused for a moment and frowned. “Well, technically Newhope’s an ally…Technically.”

But that’s not what’s got you so upset, is it, woman? She could be honest enough inside her own skull.

“Nope.” Mercy sighed. “What’s got me so bloody upset is that I had a good time with that pig,” she gave an incoherent growl of frustration and reached for the soap.

The bad mood had suddenly overtaken her on the way back to the Argo and, just as suddenly, she shook it off. You’re feeling conflicted. She sternly reminded herself that this was nothing new.

The center cannot hold…” Mercy mumbled, activating a rote that would enable her to neatly box up her unpleasant feelings and shove them into the back of her mind, to be ignored for as long as necessary. It wasn’t something she felt the need to do that often – which made her feel all the worse when she did do it.

“I’m one of the good guys,” Mercy smiled, bright and brittle. “I’ve just got to keep that in mind. I’m one of the good guys.”

Aren’t I?


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