I did my doctoral thesis on their culture."
"I thought their love incantation was the most romantic thing in the world. I used to recite it to my husband. ''The love that knows no borders.''"
His smile seemed to crack then.
"I'm familiar with the line. I'm afraid you mistranslate. The correct meaning is, ''The love that abides no borders.'' You can see my article in Archaeology Quarterly."
She wondered if he could be right, if she and others could have mistranslated it. Maybe he did know what he was doing. She'd have to check into it. She sifted through the other artifacts.
"I was surprised to find that you were living right here on the station. How do you like it?"
He picked up the love stone.
"It's liveable. I had to get away from Earth."
"Why, are you wanted?"
His smile grew in intensity for a horrible moment, then it fractured and fell away. She could see his features attempting to regroup.
"You probably saw it on the news."
Then his face became still: controlled, fragile, waiting for an answer.
"No-not that I know of."
"My wife and daughter were killed in the terrorist bombing of the Io jump gate last May."
Anna wished his eyes would drift away from hers now. They had fastened onto her, as if daring her to respond. She didn't know what to say. She'd come here determined to uncover his deceptions or incompetence. She'd never imagined she would find something like this. It was just like Chang to leave something personal and critical out of the file.
"I'm sorry. I was on a dig last spring. I heard about what happened, but I never watched any of the feeds."
"Many people still recognize me. I guess I was screaming or something. I don't remember."
"I'm so sorry for bringing