Dana gave a half-smile and grabbed a couple of breakfast bars, tossed one to him. “Sorry, I’ve been swamped. There’s nothing better.”
“No problem,” he said, the breakfast bar package torn half-open. “It’s better than I’ve had in a while.”
She studied him while they ate. “So how bad is it?” she asked, voice carefully neutral, between bites.
His stomach roiled a little. Felt like his intestines were knotting. “It’s …”
He wanted to say “It’s not that bad,” but the words died on his tongue. “It’s … a lot.” Her eyebrows rose. “Upwards of five hundred thousand.”
It was a curious and disquieting sight. He’d always of ‘watching the blood drain out of her face’ to be little more than a phrase that writers, or maybe morticians, used when they needed to be poetic. He’d never actually seen it happen in front of him.
“It’s really bad, I know,” he said quickly, “but I’ve analyzed it carefully—I had little else to do for most of the trip home—and with Aru’s help, I figure—”
“He’s an autonomous bot, helps me control the ship. He’s part of the deal. It’s a long story. With his help, I figure—”
Dana wasn’t listening, but she wasn’t exploding with rage, either. She had a distant look in her eyes, calculating. Hope rose in Corwin’s chest; this was exactly what he’d hoped to see. Dana worked in interstellar trade logistics, and he could almost see estimates and predictions running behind her eyes. “I’m going to have to meet this Aru,” she said finally. “Go over the numbers. I assume he has more specifics than you do?”
Corwin nodded and took his tablet out of his pocket. He started to hand it over, then noticed a message alert awaiting his response. “A package was delivered to the Night Star's hangar. I had it rerouted to your apartment.” No sooner had he read Aru’s message than the door chime sounded, and a glance at the door confirmed that the delivery had been made. Curious; he hadn’t been expecting anything.