This is the diary & short stories of Shalee Lianne, in the fictitious universe, New Eden, in the game of Eve Online. Come be a part of her world...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Entry Fifty Six: Leaving the Warzone

She activated the camera done.

"These past weeks can be measured by countless hours of patrols. I've logged more in-pod hours than I care to think about. Every shift is nothing but endless hours of sky time, bouncing from one system to another in an attempt to defend what we had, hold what we've captured, and to push the front lines even further. It has been a tireless effort of the entire militia."

"With the aide of our Caldari allies we've managed to light up the Metropolis star map. In those first few days we had systems falling every few hours. I don't think I slept any. It was a balancing act of trying to help capture those systems while keeping up with my duties as a Recruitment Officer. There was no time to fly back to Amarr, not while everything was in such an uproar. I'd comm the recruits and have them meet me in whatever system we were currently fighting in, meet them at the nearest spaceport and conduct the interview right there admist the fighting. Though usually by the time the recruits made it to the front the systems would be ours."

"It's been a strain on our pilots. We are overnumbered by far. As the Caldari move back into their own space because the Gallente were taking advantage of their absence, we have had to add even more flight hours because theres just so much to now to defend. On top of that, the Minmatar militia picked up several new corporations, including PIE's long time enemies, EM."

"I can't help but marvel over the 'morning' shift's abilities. I know that Dante, Condor, Merdaneth, Veshta, and Laerise have been fighting very hard to maintain control over our space."

"It almost reminds me of the time when Dark Rising joined the Minmatar militia, at how everything was at such a hectic pace for a few weeks, where every pilot mattered. Those long endless patrols very much remind me of what we face now. I remember flying wingman to our then CEO, Gaven Lok'ri in a punisher, losing them quicker than I could fit them practically. It was chaos then, and it is chaos now."

"And it doesn't help matters that Captain Newelle is stuck behind a desk more often than not these days. A lot of the 'night' patrols have Lt Shutaq and I calling the shots."

"Not that I mind. I like the extra responsibility. I like my duties in PIE."

"Or did."

"I stopped off at the Basilica last night to pray and happened to run into the Captain. I stopped to make small talk, catch her up an informal training op with some of the new recruits."

"So anyhow, I wanted to talk to her about a personal matter. I probably should have known better but I'm glad I did, otherwise I would have never found out about PIE stripping Raphael of his commission."

"I wanted to talk to her about Zenton. For the past few weeks he and I have been spending time together, not a lot but whenever we've had some down time. As friends, of course. But he has been there for me. So anyhow, I dropped by his office and there were boxes everywhere...he was packing up and leaving. I just looked at him. That's all it took. One look, and I knew. I knew he had fallen again."

"He had resigned his commission from DIA and it didn't take a titan engineer to figure out what his next steps were. His wingman Xaerik had left DIA earlier in the week for piracy. Obviously Zenton was to follow him. Despite everything, despite every promise he had made to me, he was leaving. He lied to me. Again. He swore he'd come back to PIE...but that didn't matter to me, not really. I was happy knowing he was in DIA, knowing that we were serving the Empire together, didn't really matter to me what banner we flew under individually as long as it was for the same side."

"I don't know if the stress of these last few weeks just pushed him over the edge or if he really and truely is a pirate at heart. I can't believe that he is, my own heart tells me no but..."

"He is out of DIA and no longer a faithful servant to the Empire? So what is to govern him now? What laws will he uphold as a pirate? What will guide his conscience? I have no doubts what-so-ever that he will fall so dark into this pit of vulgarity that he will say anything, do anything. And why not? What is to stop him? What is to stop him from trying to murder Raphael?"

"I still love you Shalee."

"His last words to me were of love! But what kind of love is that? His love is like Garst's, selfish and unpure, and I will not have the love of a pirate."

"I wanted to speak of this to Mitara, to tell her that I have reservations about what is to come, that I wholeheartedly believe that Zenton will come after Raphael. I wanted the Brass to be aware of this because they always seem to be overly involved in my relationships."

"She said, "I don't see how Raphael Saint concerns them anymore."

"I asked her why and that is when she told me they have decommissioned him. In that moment I just lost it. Fueled by exhaustion and a hot temper, I exploded. Right there in the middle of the Basilica, right in front of God and Empire and I didn't care. Words cannot describe the depths of anger that poured through me as I paced back and forth, shouting my words of rage to the Captain. I pulled off my Lieutenant bars and dropped them on the pew in front of her, telling her that I refuse to fly under a corporation that kicks out my own fiance."

"They never even warned me! Not once did anyone come to me and explain to me what was happening!"

"She tried to make me take them back, forced them into my hand and told me to sleep on it and then left. I screamed at her that I was done with it as I threw my Lt bars into the garden."

"Math'ra Hiede was walking in at that same time and tried to talk to me, no doubt overhearing the last bit of my rampage. Math'ra is militia, I've flown with him several times but rarely have I seen him out of pod. He tried to talk to me about it but I was in no mood. I did apologize to him for causing such a scene and then left."

"The other night I had stopped by My Blue Heaven right after patrols and ran into Gaven. We shared a bottle of wine and he told me and Ruah, who had come in later, to "relax some, we have a war to fight, cannot be on edge all the time."

"So here I am. Relaxing. Admiral's orders after all."

The camera drone panned around, showing a rustic cabin room. Once she left the Basilica, she didn't bother to return to the warzone. Or Amarr. She needed time away from it all, to figure out what she would do next.

"I almost believe that Hiigaren is behind this. It wouldn't be the first time he has tried to get rid of one of mine." She had an odd attachment to the recruits that she'd interviewed. Dominic had been one of hers and in the weeks since he'd joined PIE, she had flown with him a lot, he had become a standard in her and Aldrith's plex patrols. So when she found out that Lt Hiigaren had a talk with Dominic and informed him he wasn't active enough, she lost her temper. As usual. She couldn't help but notice the similarities. Had Hiigaren had a hand in Raphael's dismissal? Was Hiigaren secretly working against her? It made little sense to her but then again there was a lot about PIE that baffled her.

Sheer white curtains rippled as the breeze picked up outside of her window. As the curtains split, for the briefest of seconds an image of a small girl stared at Shalee. The same face that had been haunting her for months.

Shalee darted off of the bed and jerked back the curtains to find nothing. As always.

She trailed her hands across her face, frustrated and afraid, exhausted and feeling as if her whole life was shattering into a thousand pieces. Nothing made sense anymore and she couldn't bear the thought of being alone.

Without the distraction of war, it was too easy to let the nightmares bleed over into reality. She never saw anything while she was with someone, it happened when she was alone. That was why she'd spent the last weeks since Raphael's departure everywhere else but their apartment. She'd stayed at Zenton's, the back of the Paradiso, even falling asleep on a pew at the Basilica from time to time. A nomadic existence, staying wherever there was the energy of life. It protected her somehow, kept her seeped in reality, kept her from coming face to face with what was hidden in her dreams...

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Entry Fifty Five: Letters & Nightmares

((OOC note. The nightmare Shalee has at the end of this post was written by Saint. I thought it was interesting and decided to work it in here.))

Morning sunlight slanted through the filigree of leaves, piercing the semi darkness of the forest that she had spent the last hour walking through.

She wasn't even certain where she was, she'd been so tired coming off of patrols that she just randomly chose the closest habitable planet and set course.

Leaving her small crew with her coercer, she took off walking, thinking the fresh air would revive her, clear her head. She was tired of relying on stims.

Plus, she was in no hurry to get home.

Eventually she'd ended up by a creek and settled down on an enormous rock that was half submered in the water.

Pulling her backpack from her shoulders, she dropped it to the rock then sat to pull off her boots and socks, rolled up her pants and dipped her feet into the tepid flow of water.

She activated a recording drone while pulling out a datapad that would let her access her recruitment files and personal mail.

She glanced through her personal messages first:

Congratulations! Even if you have not entered, due to mix up some numbers and names of InterGalatic Lotto, you are a lucky winner anyhow! You win 10 billion isk! All you have to do is send your bank info to...


Delete.

Lianne. Where have you gone? Is your mental state unstable? Your actions are illogical, you continue to cling to emotion when it has failed you. Contact me, there are new developments that need to be discussed. - Vlad Cetes

She sighed as she pondered a response. Should she even respond at all? Ignoring him would only work for so long before he started showing up in her systems again. He would find her. She mused on it, going back and forth, thinking maybe she wouldn't meet him. He had pissed her off by attacking Zenton in Huola the other day, though no doubt that was done just to get her attention.

RE: Vlad. Fine. I'll meet you in the Gardens later. Shalee.

I will be able to return to Amarr within the next day if all goes according to plan. I informed Invelious of my plan to return to service within Praetoria. He wasn't very understanding of it. He spoke to another director that I could have just possibly been a spy in the corporation, I hope that he's since changed his mind on the issue. I do wish them the best... But it's time for me to fly for the crusade once again. - Zenton Karvash

Save.

RE: Zenton, don't be angry with Invelious, no doubt he is just upset over losing one of his Directors. You are an important part of DIA, it's a heavy loss for him. Though honestly this suprises me. I never really thought you'd do it, that you would actually try to come back to PIE. I wont complain. The militia needs you. And of course, I love flying with you. See you in the skies. - Shalee

Shalee, So far my mission has yielded little. It wasn't too long ago that I was told my mother had stopped reporting to the company. She had told me that she would continue to work after my Father's death, and has been doing so for the last seven years. Though I know little about what she actually does, my Father had told me she acts as a representative and sets up business deals. Although the starting of the Caldari branch of SHUTZ had been her work, results from her are few and far between lately, and I wonder if she has been having trouble for some time. I hope this message finds you well and that you aren't having too many troubles. I look forward to returning to you and hope to find you just as I left you. I love you Shalee and I hope you can wait for me. Forever Yours, Raphael

Save.

She read the message several times, feeling a mixture of anxiety and relief. At least he had finally gotten word to her but she knew it'd be impossible to send a response. At least he was alive. She consoled herself with that knowledge, that he was still out there alive, and apparently unhurt. Though he wasn't returning. Yet anyhow. God she missed him.


Shalee, the way PIE (damned derelicts) has responded to the so called "Quebec Power" incident thoroughly disappoints me. I need to speak with you, I need to know if you are with or against me.... I can't stand the thought of you against me but as long as you wear that PIE insignia on your collar...
Just message me... - Garst Tyrell

Save.

She stared at the blinking screen, reading the message twice. She was still so incredibly angry with him, how could he not know that? Had he forgotten how he treated her in My Blue Heaven? He was acting as if it never happened. Raphael had asked her not to see him again, made her promise she wouldn't have any contact with him. And now the new CEO, Archbishop, had issued orders that greatly restricted her expore to No Mercy & Garst. She debated a response then decided against it. It was better if he would forget about her. Let him think she had made her choice, let him think she was against him.

Lt Shalee Lianne, Given my increased administrative workload, I am unable to conduct installation patrols as often, and for as long as I would like. Therefore, I am charging you to take the initiative when I am otherwise unavailable or occupied to form up and lead patrols in the warzone. You do so with my authority. You have spent enough time in my fleets to know how I like things done, so I trust you to lead them properly. I will be appointing a stand in combat FC in addition to your role. Once I have decided on the pilot, we will all have a short meeting to flush out expectations and to answer any questions. Go with God. -Captain Mitara Newelle

Save.

RE:
As you wish, Captain. May I recommend Lt. Shutaq. We already spend a considerable amount of time on patrols together and he is quite knowledgable. I trust his judgement. As it stands, when we do our patrols we already unofficially assume these roles. Also another to consider is Karvash. He will be putting in a re-application to PIE very soon. - LT Lianne

Lieutenant Lianne. We have orders to collaborate on a recruitment campaign presentation to be presented to both new recruits and the press. I'll mail you at a later date with the details. - Lieutenant Hiigaren

RE:
Sounds good. I have some ideas. We can break it up, you cover the history of PIE, perhaps get some quotes from some previous Admirals and talk about how PIE originated and I'll speak on where PIE is today, what our goals are, etc. What do you think?

She turned off the screen and leaned back against the rock letting the sun warm her face and arms. A thousand things ran through her mind at once. Orders and obligations. Friendships and hardships. Loyalty and love and loss.

So many choices to make. Was she doing the right thing? She lay there for an hour letting the thoughts trickle through her mind like the water across her feet. Eventually the sounds of nature and the warmth of the sun lulled her into a relaxed state. Before she knew it, she was fast asleep with the recording drone still flying about, abandoned like the countless scanner probes she'd lost throughout the warzone.

Moments later she was lost in nightmares...


********

Stepping off of the shuttle, Raphael hefted his bag further onto his shoulder as he exhaled, happy to be back. He had promised her he would return, and now he had. She was waiting a mere fifteen minutes away, and soon he’d have her back in his arms. Feeling happy despite the disappointment his recent outing had been, he found himself humming slightly as he began the walk to her apartment.

The entire four weeks he was gone she had been on his mind, sometimes just below the surface as he focused on something else, but never was there no thought spared for her. Finally, he was returning to her, even if for only a short time. He was planning on making the most of it. Anytime either of them weren’t on patrol, he was hoping to spend together.

Entering into a large atrium that bisected a number of the floors in the station, Raphael looked up at the large, backlit dome. It illuminated the entire room, and was set to mimic the daylight cycle of the polar capital of the Ducia Family Refinery Corporation. It altered between twilight and midday; shining at the moment with the glow of a late afternoon sun.

Usually the place was full of militia pilots grabbing something to eat or some shut eye, but Raphael found it almost devoid of life. The only other person in the place was a lone pilot on the other side of the atrium; directly between Raphael and his destination. As he got closer, he recognized the lone figure.

“Garst! What’re you doing here?” Raphael asked in a friendly tone. He was glad to see familiar faces after being gone so long.

“Saint,” came his reply, his voice cool, calm.

“I thought you based out of Ohide, or had already moved out of the Empire entirely.” Raphael came to a stop to talk to his old friend. It had been a long while since the last time the two met face to face.

“I came to see you,” Garst smiled a bit, “and Shalee.”

Raphael cocked his head to the side. “Oh? How did you know I would be here? I haven’t told anyone that I was coming.”

“I’ve had a few friends tracking you on your journey.” Garst reached into his coat as if to retrieve something. “Did you think I wouldn’t keep tabs on my old friend?”

Raphael frowned a bit. “I hope you haven’t already talked to Shalee. It was supposed to be a surprise.”

“Oh, she’ll be surprised alright.”

Raphael heard a loud bang and felt something hit him hard in the chest. He stood there for a second dumbfounded before slowly looking downwards. There was a small hole in his uniform where something had pierced it, and slowly reality dawned on him. He attempted to speak but all that came out was a bloody cough. He took a slight step backwards before collapsing.

Garst calmly took a few steps forward until he was standing over Raphael. “I don’t take kindly to betrayal, Saint.”

A look of confusion spread across Raphael’s face as he tried to comprehend everything that was happening. He tried to speak, to move, but his whole body had frozen from the pain.

“I loved her, Saint. You knew that. You used to defend me on it.” Garst was speaking calmly, wiping the gun down before tossing it into a bush nearby.

Raphael stared up at him, trying to speak, but was gagged by the blood that was quickly filling his mouth.

“But you stole her from me, and tried to marry her. You’re no friend.” Garst was reaching into his coat again.

Raphael couldn’t breathe. The bullet had torn through his carina, and now breathing was impossible. Blood was filling both his lungs, and as he tried to speak, nothing but bubbles came up.

“Oh, have you something to say?” Garst feigned concern.

Raphael couldn’t speak, but he focused until his thoughts were clear. I’m not sorry for loving her.

“Slaver hound got your tongue?” Garst laughed. His hate had manifest, and he was enjoying himself. “I’ve got a surprise for you as well.” He tossed something onto Raphael’s chest.

Raphael willed himself to move, craning his neck up to see what had landed painfully on his chest. It was a datapad, its display lit up with a message.

KOR-AZOR FAMILY CLONING BUREAU
======
OWNER: SAINT, RAPHAEL
CONTRACT STATUS: CANCELED

Garst laughed as he saw Raphael’s eyes widen at the message. “Friends in high places and all that.”

Raphael looked up from the data pad to Garst’s mirthful face. I’m sorry Shalee.

“Enjoy yourself, Saint. As for me, I’ve got to go console an old friend. You know how vulnerable women are after a loss.” He laughed again as he turned away and began walking towards Shalee’s apartment.

Raphael watched him for as long as he could, still craning his neck, straining against the pain. His vision was growing dark, his body growing cold, and thoughts starting to blur. Laying his head back down, Raphael closed his eyes for the last time.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Entry Fifty Four: Trouble With The Brass

She had a hangover.

It had been a long night of patrols, complete with an occassional skirmish with the Minmatar and an ambush or two involving some pirates.

Afterwards, she had met Aldrith at My Blue Heaven to talk things out and then they discussed a little plan she'd been musing on the past few days.

For weeks now their patrol wing had been harassed by local pirates and she'd simply had enough. She wanted to take the fight to them, to hunt them instead of being hunted.

After Aldrith had lost a few hundred million that night, it was the perfect time to get him onboard with her idea. They had a few drinks, discussed a few names, and a new kind of relationship was born. Not quite a friendship, but some kind of new bond forged out of a mutual lust for revenge.

They did a few shots to seal the deal, followed by another few shots as they made their plans and by the end of the night she could barely put one foot in front of another.

Somehow she had made it to Zenton's place and passed out. She'd been staying there for the last few days while he was down in zero zero space just so she wouldn't have to go home to an empty apartment, well, at least it wasn't *her* empty apartment. It was different at Zentons. His apartment on the Roushzar space station was in back of his office at the DIA head quarters. There were always people about, so even if Zenton wasn't there, she never really felt alone.

The next morning she ran across Invelious while in search of coffee. He never really questioned her presence at the DIA HQs and was always up for a friendly chat. As she nursed her coffee, he informed her that DIA was leaving the war. There had been rumors, of course, but he confirmed it.

"Well lieutenant, DIA requires a temporary reprieve from active combat in the militia, this of course does not mean we have broken our loyalty from the Empire. The Theology Council has requested we take a more logistic approach and build on their pod pilot based order. So this is what we will do."

She couldn't help but be disappointed.

Back in Zenton's office, she settled down into his chair to finish off her coffee and to start on a journal recording.

"Activate."

The camera drone panned across the room and zoomed in on her face. She wore a look of misery. Dark shadows beneath her eyes betrayed her restless night of sleep.

"So this past week has been a troublesome one. I got caught on a gatecamp last night jumping into Kour. Lost Incognito had just given the intel over voice comms that it was hot as I was jumping through. I was just in a coercer and figured my chances getting away were pretty okay, but I was wrong. At least I didn't get podded."

She shrugged, "I'm not stressing it."

"But this past week? Yeah, I'm stressing that. It's just been one big misunderstanding after another. Got in trouble with the Brass. Not just a minor slap on the hand, but something big. Something where the goddamned CEO is asking if I need to confess my sins."

"I really thought I was out of PIE by that point, or at least demoted all the way down to Ensign...not that it's that much of a fall. But still." She settled back in the chair and propped her feet up on his desk.

"I had debated on just beating them to the punch and leaving on my own before they got the chance, but one of the Directors got word of it and pretty much talked me out of it."

"Anyhow, that's over and done with. From what I understand I wont be demoted, though I wont be getting a promotion any time soon either."

She sighed to herself, "Which means that smug bastard Hiigaren can lord his rank over my head that much longer."

Not that she disliked Hiigaren, quite the opposite. She really enjoyed working with him on the recruitment council. But he did have a tendency in pulling rank, like during the Lallara incident, even when she was in the right.

"Still no word from Raphael."

"And we've new orders in regards to No Mercy. I have mixed feelings about it, but mostly I think it is a shame that Jade Constantine has 'won'. I mean, all the time the brass spent investigating it could have been spent out on the battlefield instead of fielding paperwork thats really none of our business anyhow. So what if they are pirates? Doesn't stop us from flying with the Helljumpers or countless other unsavories who have made it into the militia. Where are our orders in regards to them?"

"Obviously PIE played right into Jade's hands on this. She pushed and prodded til she got what she wanted. It is ridiculous really. And her obsession with Garst is borderline obscene."

She shrugged to herself. It wasn't like she could do anything about it and she was still pissed off enough at Garst that it didn't really bother her all that much.

Falling silent, she glanced around Zenton's office, musing over the difference between PIE and DIA. In a shorter time than she had been in PIE, Zenton had become a director of DIA. Hell even Garst had achieved much more outside of PIE than in. Her thoughts drifted to Vaarun, wondering what he would end up doing now that he was on the outside too.

After finishing her coffee, she deactivated the recording drone and went off into his apartment to get ready for another grueling round of patrols.

She probably should feel guilty for taking over his apartment like this, she thought as she glanced about his bedroom. Her clothes were strewn all over the place and his dresser was now covered with decorative little bottles of her perfume and other trivial little things that women used on a daily basis; lotions, makeup, and a few other odds and ends.

Her uniforms were piled up over the back of a chair, boots stacked by the bed.

Her brows furrowed as she took it all in. He never said a word, never complained. He even gave up his bed for her, offering to sleep on the sofa just so she could be more comfortable.

Her gaze drifted over to a picture he kept by his bed. Of them, when they were still together as a couple.

She stared at it for a long moment as memories flashed through her mind, of times when they were just happy being together.

And then she glanced down to the ring she wore and thought of Raphael. A part of her couldn't help but feel disloyal to him by simply being there, but another part of her didn't care. Zenton was still her friend, and she was allowed to have friends....right
?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Entry Fifty Three: Haunted

She leaned her forehead against the cool glass, staring off into the darkness of space. She'd been sitting there for more than an hour, slumped in her usual spot on the floor after a bad dream had awoken her.

The InterGalatic Summit channel played softly in the background. She had turned it on to fill the silence, though after ten minutes it had only served to annoy her. The entire channel was nothing but slanderous feeds about Garst and PIE. A part of her thought maybe Garst brought some of it on himself, but the accusations against PIE were intolerable. She couldn't understand why the galaxy at large held PIE responsible for everything that happened within the Amarrian militia, as if they had some sort of special authority to lord over the rest.

PIE had no more favor with the Empress than the fickle Helljumpers.


Her thoughts shifted to Raphael.

It was going on the second week now with no word from him. He had promised to keep in touch if at all possible, and she knew that if he could possibly send word to her somehow he would...

But he hadn't so far.

What could it mean? Was he in danger? Was it worse...was he dead?

She blinked back the frustrated tears. She'd spent several agonizing nights tossing and turning, dreaming, losing herself in nightmares.

Her patrols were haphazard and distracting. She couldn't quite get her mind focused enough to be on the battlefield though she had tried, pushing herself beyond her limits. Stims could only take a person so far.

And now, here she was, going out of her mind.She stared at the reflection against the glass in front of her as she pulled her head away...but it wasn't her own.

A girl of ten or twelve stared back at her. Wide blue eyes, caramel blonde hair. Her delicate pale face was distressed, her mouth twisted into an urgent frown.

Shalee blinked several times as she tried to find her breath, a scream caught in the back of her throat.

What the fuck..?

And as suddenly as she saw her, she was gone. Shalee finally broke through her paralyzing fear and was able to stand, moving away from the glass though all she saw now was her own reflection.

She trailed a frustrated hand through her long auburn hair as she stared at the window, waiting for it to make sense.

"Oh god, I'm losing my mind..." she whispered to herself.Turning around, she looked around the dimly lit apartment. Nothing out of the ordinary. Certainly no child running about.

Her penetrating gaze shifted back to the window and saw nothing but the expanse of space, the planets and sun in the far distance. A sprinkling of stars. Her own faint reflection.

Nothing out of the ordinary.

But the face was familiar. Not her own, certainly but familiar...though how?

Her thoughts were a tumbled mess. She needed a drink, company, and conversation, though at this hour most everyone she knew was on patrol.

Instead, she moved over to the minibar to pour herself a shot while activating the recording drone. She did two more before finding her voice.

"I am out of my mind apparently. Seeing things that are not there. Dreaming of people I don't know. It's like theres something going just beyond my grasp and everytime I try to figure it out, to understand it, it fades."

She started to pace, "I don't even know what I am saying."

Hot tears spilled down her cheeks as she moved around the room, somewhere along the way lighting a cigarette. "Things are changing. Everything is different now. Raphael is gone and I don't know when I'll see him again. Garst can go to hell, I don't want to ever speak to him again."

She darted her tongue out and licked away a salty tear drop from the corner of her mouth, "Captain Vaarun up and quit the Praetoria without an explination. We have a new CEO, Admiral Lok'ri has stepped down and Admiral Archbishop has taken his place."

Her thoughts were unfocused and she lost the will to make a recording about her corporation.

"Deactivate."

Her tear stained gaze locked on the window once more, now convinced that she was hallucinating earlier. Too many stims with too little sleep. That had to be it.

So why couldn't she shake off this feeling of unease?

After another quick glance around, she decided to spend the night elsewhere, even if she had to check into a hotel of some sort.As she packed an overnight bag, she ran though a mental list of other pilot's that would possibly take her in for the night. Condor? Zenton? Atfal? Vince?

No not Vince, you can't run to a Veto pilot everytime you're in trouble, she mentally scolded herself.

She left the apartment thinking she'd figure out the details along the way. Surely there'd be somebody around to talk to...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Entry Fifty Two: Unforgotten

The malediction broke through a heavy patch of clouds before coming to a land near Zenton's punisher. Earlier, at the Basilica she had told him of her engagement to Raphael and he quickly left under the pretense of paperwork. Less than an hour later she discovered he had gone to Inis, a place that was special to them when they were together.

She saw him by the water and made her way to him....

"Some paperwork."

"The paperwork was a lie, I just wanted to get away."

"You're angry..."

"No, not angry Shalee, you did what was best for you I can't blame you for that." He hesitated, "You could have told me... said something, a mail even."

"I didn't know how to tell you. It was like...once you left, you just disappeared from my life for good."

He stared off over the lake, "Yea, glad Rapheal was there to move in and pick up the pieces..."

"You left me, what did you think I would do? Wait forever for you to decide I was important?"

"I... I don't know what I expected, I wasn't thinking about it... I.." He wiped away a tear form his face. "I'm sorry, I should be happy for you."

" ...but you're not?"

"No... I still have feelings for you, and out of selfish desire I'm not. I know I shouldn't, I should just accept this and move on. I came here hoping I might be able to put it all behind me, to say my goodbyes. I think it's only making it worse."

"I'm sorry."

"I am the one who is and should be sorry. My own darkness has brought me to this end, my demons may be quelled but I now must live with the consequences of my actions."

"Zenton...I don't know what to say. When we were together, I wasn't enough for you. I wasn't enough to keep you happy, to keep you from falling into the darkness. You can't imagine how that hurt me."

"I can... probably no less than hearing your engaged to someone else hurt me. I never wanted to hurt you Shalee... God knows that to be true."

"You didn't want to but you did. I just wasn't enough for you..." She folded her arms across her chest, "Did you ever find what you were looking for?"

He glanced to the starry sky, "You would only find me foolish if I answered the question."

"I would not."

"I had what I was looking for the whole time, I was just too blind to see it. The grass isn't always greener on the other side...."

She sighed to herself, feeling horrible without really knowing why. "I dont know what to say to that."

"My empire, my faith, I was even blessed with love for a time. I threw it away in hopes of finding what? A spot amongst murderers? I don't know what I was thinking Shalee. And here I am, a broken soul seeking redeemption."

"You're on the right path. You're serving the Empire again."

He was silent for a moment. "So why did you come, actully how did you even know that I was here...?"

"By chance really. Your friend, Nitrog. He was having some problems with his interface, I was showing him how to work it...anyhow. Stumbled across you on the starmap. Saw you were in Inis...I knew you werent doing paperwork. I came to see if you were okay."

"I'm glad you came, better than me being here alone."

"You should have told me you were coming."

"I didn't want to involve you in my troubles.."

"I'm still your friend, Zenton. I still care for you. Thats not going to change."

"So what do we do about this place? Forget it exist?"

She shook her head no, "I'm not going to forget. And theres no reason why we can't come back here to talk."

He moved closer to her, "Why didn't you look me in the eye when you told me you we're engaged?"

"I don't know...," She glanced away as he approached her.

"You're discomforted by my presence?" He frowned.

"No of course not." She turned her head, looking at him again. "I wouldn't be here if I were."

He laughed nervously, "Too right you are, and I will be okay, to let you know."

"I know you will Zenton. You always come out on top, right?"

He didn't answer right away, "No not always. I don't think I've came out on top yet."

"I don't believe that for a moment."

"How do you figure?"

"Well. You've fallen pretty far at times but you are still in the militia are you not? You've gained the respect of your corporation, chancellor..."

"Chancellor.... it's just a word. I am nothing more than any other pilot in the Bleaks."

"Apparently not. Invelious thinks highly of you."

"He does. I've proven myself and I'm trying to make the best out of everything in DIA. I have no where else to go."

"I don't really believe that. I'm sure there are other places you could go. But I like that you are with them."

"They are a good group... fiercely loyal to one another for the most part."

"Unlike PIE who is at each other's throats half the time."

"I don't remember Praetoria ever being at each others throats."

"Not to your face, that wouldn't be very Amarrian, now would it."

"No I guess it would not."

"But I'm glad DIA isn't like that."

"It has it's own problems."

"Like what?"

"Nothing that needs discussed, internal issues that are bound to be resolved."

"Yes, of course."
He doesn't trust me anymore...

He stood there in an awkward silence for a moment thinking about lost times, "So, whens the wedding?"

"It will be a while. Raphael is going away for a while, a personal mission. So I don't know really."

"I see."

"I mean, we only just got engaged."

"You know I find it unorthodox some fake relationship blossomed into something real, hell... you seemed to hate him last I seen you."

"I know it's hard to understand. It's hard for me to understand sometimes. I did hate him for a while. But we spent a lot of time together."

"That you did."

He walked over to the shore of the lake and picked up a small flat pebble and skipped it across the water. "So when you told me, "It's not what you think" when I first learned about the relationship, what was going on? Surely it's been long enough you can tell me now. Not like it would hurt anything."

"Zenton, so much was going on. Commander Priboj? He went on a mission for the Empress, and got himself into a world of trouble. He told me one night as a hologram. But that put me in danger. Suddenly I was being watched...and they wanted to make certain I would keep my mouth shut." She furrowed her brows, remembering. "Anyhow, Michael came back again as a holo. Saint walked in on us, so then he knew. Michael ordered us to pretend to be a couple so that we could be together to 'watch each other's backs' 24-7. Thats how it happened."

"... it was an order?"

"To 'date' him? Yes. Thats how we started, I hated him back then."

He picked up another stone and tossed it into the water, "Fuck praetoria and it fucks you back, fair enough," he said to himself as he watched the ripples dissapate.

"I never meant to hurt you. I wanted to protect you from it all..."

"Nothing is going to stop the hurt, the hurt of finding out your dating Rapheal, hurt of finding out today -my second day back- your engaged to the guy. Returning to the empire's borders have been nothing but pain for me... the fall of Arzad, having lost you for good to him..."

She couldn't help but to get angry because he was making her feel horrible. "Well I hurt too, you know. When we were together...I didn't even know how you really felt, you never touched me, always kept me at arms length. And YOU didn't ask me to marry you. You never tried to make anything of this relationship. Never asked me to live with you. To be with you. And then you left, I begged you not to go and you made all of these promises on how you wouldn't. But you did."

"You told me to go," he said grimly.

"Long before that." She trailed a frustrated hand through her long hair, "When you left PIE. When you left to be a pirate. When you said you'd come back to PIE."

"I didn't want to rush our relationship... we're immortal, we live forever, we would have had all of eternity... I wanted to build something special that would last forever...." He sat down on the ground and stared out at the lake, "I screwed up when I left PIE I know that..."

She sighed to herself.

"I didn't know that Zenton." So many memories flashed through her mind in that moment. She moved over to where he was sitting and sat down beside him.

"No, you didn't Shalee. I really did want to come back to PIE.... I just... besides you, Mitara, Vaarun, and Omni...I didn't feel wanted, that's why I didn't try to return. And there is no way in hell I'd get back in now after telling Laerise to get over herself." He laughed softly, "See why being impulsive isn't a good thing?"

"I'm not asking you to come back now." She shrugged, "Theres no point. You're good where you are, you belong with DIA."

"I know Shalee..."She watched a shooting star fall across the sky the purple sky. It felt strangely comfortable to be sitting there with him, like old times. In the past they used to stay out by the water for hours, talking about the war, their future, their jobs. "Invelious asked me to come to DIA."

"I wont, and never will say I would be in objection to it...."

"On those bad days that I think about leaving PIE, I admit my thoughts take me to DIA."

"You'd have a bright future in either corporation but... you'd never want to leave your husband to fly with your ex-lover in another corporation. That might look bad to him." He chuckled, "Can't say I would blame him for thinking that."

She blushed, "No I guess not."

He smiled genuinely at her as she blushed. "Thank you, by the way."

"For?"

"Coming all the way to Inis just to check on me..."

She leaned against him, "How could I not Zenny? Once I spent three days scouring ever pirate bar in New Eden just to find you to check on you."

His grin widen, "Only to find me at a loyalist establishment none the less if I remember correctly."

"Yup." She laughed softly at the memory.

"I only ever went to one pirate bar, that was The Sky Hook, and only talked with one person had a drink and left, I'm just not a very good pirate."

"Your security status says different..."

"I've done... some bad things in my time Shalee... I don't try and hide it."

"And now?"

"I just want to repent and save what ever I can of who I used to be..."

"Is that why you were at the Basilica?"

"I went to pray for those who died in the recent battles with the Matari. We incured some pretty grievous defeats yesterday... and I also had an ulterior motive."

"An ulterior motive?"

"To find you..."

"You could have just commed me."

He smirked, "Where's the fun in that? We wouldn't have ended up here, talking away the entire evening."

She smiled in return, "Very sneaky. Did you have the thing with your corp mate planned too?"

He grinned, "Perhaps."

A moment of easy silence passed between them as they sat there. Memories of their past played through her mind again and for a brief second, it was easy to imagine things were as they once were. He had been everything to her; mentor, friend, confidant. She opened up her mouth to tell him about her problems with Garst, "Zenton..?"

He gave her a curious look, "Yes?"

"I..." She hesitated. She had always been too dependent on him, maybe that was one of their problems. Having him fix everything for her.

"I should be going...I have to get back out to patrols...." She stood quickly, "Take care, okay?" And before he could answer her, she was dashing off.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Entry Fifty One: "Taking what I want"

She had awoken sometime during the middle of the night from a nightmare to an empty apartment. Sliding out of the bed, she made her way into the dimly lit living room and glanced around for Raphael though she could tell he wasn't there.

She could feel the emptiness of the open area and knew that she was alone.

Still unnerved by the dream, she pulled a blanket from the back of the sofa and curled up in it as she moved over to the floor-to-ceiling window to settle down in front of it.

The stars were comforting. Space was home. The glow of a planet off in the distance captured her attention, the way it was backlit by a sun. It was beautiful, breathtaking.

She spent most of her time in space, even when off duty they lived aboard a space station and rarely did she go planetside.

Until last night...

The stress of seeing Garst played through her mind. Everything he said, the way he touched her. She forced the thoughts away with a groan of misery.

She was almost glad Raphael wasn't there at the moment, she didn't want to tell him. He was leaving in less than two days and she couldn't bear the thought of adding to his anxiety. She wanted him to be okay with leaving her so that he could concentrate on his mission and come back to her.

Laying her forehead against her knees, she made a cocoon of the blanket around her, wishing away the lingering nightmare. Again she thought of Garst and it brought her to the verge of tears but she would not cry. Not now, not when Raphael could come home any second and find her. She would keep it all bottled up for now, hidden.

She would lie to him.

And as soon as she made up her mind to do so, Condor's words echoed through her mind,
"If I was Raphael...I would want to know. Imagine if he was to find out from someone other than you. I live by a simple little phrase, 'bad news does not get better with age.' It might not feel good, but it would feel worse if he found out another way."

The memory of it all flashed through her mind...

***

She had met him at the Amarr Legio Basilica at his request, surpised to hear from him. She found him in the outer courtyard, sitting alone, deep in thought in the private little alcove she and Zenton used to sneak off to.

Once, Mitara had caught her and Zenton coming out of it and had tried to cause some trouble with the pair, telling her that she had expected to see her coming out with Garst instead of Zenton.

'Ironic,' she mused to herself as she approached him. Something about the way he was sitting there, alone, contemplative, made her feel sorry for him.

"So..." She stopped in front of him, looking down.

He lifted his gaze and slid it down the length of her, "You didn't expect to hear from me so soon." He dusted off the bench, swatting a few leaves away before motioning for her to sit.

Apprehension flashed across her face as she neared him, taking a seat beside him. "No. I did not."

"I don't blame you after what I said. Frankly I didn't expect to... need you so soon."

She stared at him as a thousand unasked question flittered through her mind. She settled on one. "Need? Do you need something?"

He turned to her and lifted his hand, brushing her hair from her face as he cupped her cheek, bringing his mouth to hers. "You."

She lifted her hand and pressed it to his chest, keeping him from kissing her. "Garst...no. You know I am engaged to Raphael." What is wrong with him?

For the moment she had a hard time believing he was serious. He had been her friend for so long, she had trusted him. Raphael had trusted him.

Garst made a show of looking over to the nearby bushes. "I don't see him here, perhaps he is hiding in the bushes behind us?" He grinned at her and she told herself he wasn't serious, he was just trying to break the ice. Trying to apologize.

Voices from nearby caught their attention. Aldrith Shutaq and Ekaterina DeSilverstris were walking through the garden, talking.

Garst leaned over and whispered to her, "Look. Let's go someplace private and have a drink?"

Private? She was too uneasy to be alone with him, though she was trying to rationalize it by telling herself that it was Garst. He wouldn't hurt her. "Where do you want to go?" Also, she didn't want people seeing her with Garst in such a private little spot. Though it was innocent on her part, people had a way of making things into something more.

"My Blue Heaven? I've prayed enough for one day, I need to unwind." He glanced over to the statue of the praying angel.

She relaxed. My Blue Heaven, their old haunt. It wasn't exactly private either. She realized she had been skittish for no reason. "Alright, I'll meet you there."

Twenty minutes later he was waiting for her at the entrance. He pulled the door open and she stepped inside, passing by a lowborn worker. The place wasn't exactly up to the standards of most wealthy capsuleers, but that is why they all liked it. You never had to worry about running across the brass."It's been a while since I've been here."

He took her coat then lead her over to their old booth in the back.

She slid in and turned to face him once he sat. "Are you alright? You seem different tonight."

"Makes sense. I feel different. Like I need a change."

"I see. Well. Buy me a drink then." He gave her a charming smile as he snapped his fingers, telling the shot girl who answered to bring a bottle of the good stuff and two glasses, ignoring her angry glance at his rudeness.

"So...how are things now?" She was reluctant to bring up the news for now.

"Stressful," he admitted before quickly changing his tone. "The last few weeks have been very hard on me. I've got wrinkles on my face and if I had hair, maybe I'd have a few grey ones by now." He chuckled, "I guess I'll have to order my next clone sans wrinkles." His tone was playful.

He smiled again as he sloshed some of the newly bought vodka into the glass, filling hers first then his own. "A drink, as promised."

She did the shot quickly, sat the empty glass on the table and waited for a refill. "I'm sorry things have been so bad for you lately."

He refilled her glass eagerly and did another shot to catch up. He was silent as he looked at her, his expression thoughtful.

She absently ran her fingertip around the top of the shotglass, thinking as well. Though they were sitting in silence, it was an easy silence. Comfortable. Like old times. She felt foolish for being worried earlier.

"A man I knew growing up once told me a man could be successful, and achieve. Or he could be unsuccessful and have friends. I always thought I could have both."

He shifted so that he was facing her, "I was wrong."

"You don't feel that you have both?"

He gave her an odd look but said nothing. Instead, he refilled both shot glasses and picked them both up, holding one to his mouth, the other to hers.

She furrowed her brows as she took the shot, feeling the affects of so much alcohol in such a little time. She blinked, starting to get a little dizzy. After he sat their shot glasses on the table, he closed the space between them, pinning her against the wall of the booth. His mouth covered hers as his hand dropped to her leg, grasping hold of her inner thigh.

She panicked and froze at the same time. Oh god. Fear slithered down her spine. Her eyes widened as she rolled her head to the side, breaking the kiss. Her hands lifted to his chest, trying to push him away. "Garst stop! What are you doing?"

His mouth grazed along her neck, "Taking what I want...what I need."

"No, stop." She managed to push him away, "Garst, I wont cheat on Raphael....and I can't believe you would do this to him."

"Oh get real, what did you expect when I told you to come get some drinks with me in the basillica? Here have a shot, you'll feel better."

"Get real? I expected a drink! This is a public place, I didn't think you would..."

"But you wanted me to. So just have a drink and see where the moment takes you."

"Do you really think so poorly of me to think that I would fuck around on Raphael, that I would go behind his back for sex? God Garst, what's gotten into you?"

He growled as he knocked back a shot, defeated, "'No' is a word I'm hearing too much of lately and frankly its getting old god damned fast."

"You can't just take what you want."

"Recent history says otherwise, and frankly, I'm beginning to like it. So drink up because im not going anywhere."

She was trapped. There was no way out of the booth unless he moved. She glanced around the bar and realized there would be no one to intervene if she called out. A bartender and a waitress, and they weren't likely to get involved with capsuleers.

Resigned, she stretched her hand out for the bottle, willing it steady, not wanting to betray just how afraid she was at the moment. She filled her glass and did a shot.

"That's more like it." He refilled his own glass and drank it quickly then pushed the bottle of vodka away. "I didn't come for this crap. I came for you. Let's go." He grabbed her by the arm and drug her out of the booth.

"No." She shook her head as she struggled to free herself from his grasp, prepared to put up a fight. "No, I'm not going anywhere else with you!"

He locked his gaze on her, anger flushing his face. "Then I'll find someone who will." He shoved her away with a look of disgust, then dropped a few isks to the bartender on his way out.

***

Shalee unravelled herself from the blanket and went to pour herself a drink. She perched on the kitchen counter with a bottle beside her, a cigarette in one hand, a glass in the other.

Activating the recording drone, she started to talk, thinking it'd help her feel better.

"I don't know what I'm going to do about Garst. A part of me feels like he's just...just lost. That the stress of Kamela and Arzad and the war has gotten to him. That he isn't himself. That's what I want to believe...but another part of me feels like I never really knew him at all."

"After I left the bar last night I knew I couldn't go home, not then. Not while being so upset. I wasn't sure where Raphael was and I couldn't risk him finding me so out of it. After flying around for a while, I ended up back at the Basilica."

"I don't know...I thought maybe prayer would help calm me down. Anyhow. Aldrith was there. We started talking.' She took a long draw of her cigarette and blew a mouthful of smoke out into the kitchen. "Apparently the captain has asked Aldrith to befriend me. Stupid really. I don't need the captain setting up playdates like I'm some kind of goddamned child."

She was frustrated, "One night while on patrol, Mitara and I were assisting the Navy, helping to secure a rather large military complex. Boring really since there were no hostiles in system. So I started talking hoping she would open up some. Everyone knows she is dating Aldrith but neither seem keen on talking about it. Anyhow, I mention to her that I felt rather lonely in PIE, that the ranks really didn't inspire friendship but she didn't take the bait. I was hoping she would open up some. But whatever. It didn't work, and now she is sending her pet lieutenant to be nice to me."

"God how insulting. Aldrith of all people." She exhaled another mouthful, sending a plume of smoke towards the ceiling. "He was very insincere about the whole thing and then had he gall to mention something I had confided to him when I was trying to help save his sorry goddamned life."

"I promptly told him to fuck off and walked away. Bastard." She was ranting to one in particular, "Who the hell does he think he is anyhow? Just because he is banging the captain, he thinks he can threaten me like that?"

"Anyhow, I stormed off into the courtyard and stumbled across Condor. Thank god." She calmed a little as she poured herself another drink. "He and I talked for hours, I think. I told him what happened with Garst and then we talked about other things." As she finished off one cigarette she lit up another, "He's a good man, and I think he will be a really good friend to me, especially while Raphael is away."

She sat there for a moment, staring off at nothing. "On the way out Aldrith tried to apologize. I accepted it, but he knew I was just as insincere at accepting it as he was giving it."

Another moment of silence passed as she sat there thinking, drinking, dreading the passing of time. "Only two days left before Raphael leaves." She heard the front door open to the apartment and slid off the counter, trying to hide the evidence of her misery, quickly tossing the empty bottle into the bin while drenching her cigarette under the faucet.

Seconds later she was making her way to him, greeting him with a hug and a kiss, hoping to take advantage of every moment she had with him still and secretly hoping she could somehow convince him to stay.

If only...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Entry Fifty: Losing Arzad

Solar System: Tararan
Sovereignty: Amarr Empire
Constellation: Jayai
Region: Devoid
Location: Space Station

"It took him less than twenty four hours to contact me again." Her voice was slightly muffled as she held a blood-soaked tissue to her nose. She'd just come out of the pod a few moments prior after a small skirmish inside of a military complex where she'd lost a coercer to a pirate.

"Granted he barely said two words, just 'Arzad is vunerable, grab your harbinger and meet up with the fleet' but I guess he didn't really have time for an apology. Though at this point I don't know who should be apologizing to who. We both said things, and well.." She shrugged.

"Anyhow, by the time I got undocked in Amarr, the fleet in Arzad engaged and as I got one jump out, the battle was over and Arzad was lost. I listened to the chatter over voice comm, waiting for the second wave to rally up. After fifteen minutes or so Garst called it off, there simply wasn't enough pilots nearby to make a stand."

"It was Halmah all over again."

"Within moments I rounded up a few pilots to start a plexing patrol. By that point I needed to focus on something immediate, something to shake off the feelings of defeat."

She chucked the bloodied tissue in the bin and grabbed another. From time to time she'd get nasty nosebleeds when pulled out of her pod by someone other than her trusted crew. At the moment the Tararan pod-medics ranked only slightly above the Minmatar and Star Fraction on her shit list.

"We did an extensive patrol, had a few skirmishes here and there, but over all we managed a full defensive sweep and defended a lot of complexes."

Her thoughts were racing. She was exhausted and buzzed at the same time, having to rely on stimms to keep her going the last hour of her patrol. No wonder she fucked up and lost her ship to that pissant pirate. She was worried over the war and couldn't quite focus because of Raphael and Garst. Raphael because he was leaving and Garst because of her fight with him. The previous night had unnerved her. In a short amount of time he had sent her emotions spiraling all over the place. And she hated to admit it to herself, but a part of her was afraid of him. Before, when he was in PIE his larger-than-life presence was tempered by her commanders, by rules and order and military command. Even when she confided her darkest secrets to him she knew he wouldn't ever really hurt her. But now she wasn't so sure. Now he was answerable to no one.

His words echoed in the back of her mind,
"Do you feel safer with or without me fighting for you? Do you sleep better at night knowing im at the gate holding the barbarians at bay?"

He thought he was saving her from the barbarians but who would be there to save her from him? Could he not see what he was becoming? His lust for the fight was consuming him, turning him into something dark and powerful, someone to fear. "You're not the man I once knew."

She tipped her head back while keeping the tissue pressed against her nose, starring at the recessed lights. A part of her wanted to just run away from it all, to leave PIE, the war, and everything that came with it. She longed for a break though she knew in her heart that she wouldn't walk away. Not now, not while the pressure for reclaiming Arzad was on.

Her thoughts drifted to Raphael. She had a little less than four days left with him and she was stuck here in some goddamned holding room while she waited for Scotty to ready her ship.

Four days and then he would be gone. But she wouldn't think about that now.

Liar.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Entry Forty Nine: Laurel wreathes and fallen heros

She had asked him to meet her at the Paradiso and waited for him in a corner booth near the back hoping they could have a bit of privacy. He found her moments later and bowed formally.

"Ms. Lianne"

"Mister Tyrell..." She nodded to the seat in front of her, "Wont you sit...please?"

"I cant say no to eyes that blue...," he said with a coy smile as he slid in beside her.

"So..."

He said nothing as he leaned back in the booth, his gaze intent upon her, expression relaxed. From the corner Vlad Cetes watched them.

She placed an order to the passing waiter then looked at him again, needing to know. "Is it true...?"

His smile faded. "What now?"

"What they are saying on the news...is it true Garst?"

"I dont watch the news."

"That you are wardecing Amarrian loyalist corporations for profit. That you have fallen to piracy..."

"Loyalist corps eh? Is that were there saying now?" He chuckled mirthlessly.

Vlad Cetes made his way over to the table. "Lianne. Tyrell."

She gave a glance to Vlad, her face paling, then she quickly looked away. "Well. Explain it to me Garst."

Garst distractedly nodded to Vlad, "Explain what?"

"Who you are wardecing, and why."

"My my darlin, did you join the Theology Council since last we spoke? You remind me of my old instructor. He always wanted the details, now now, now!" He grinned as he took a shot of whiskey.

"It's important to me Garst...I want to know the truth. You spoke so badly of Zenton after he left to pirate, I dont want you doing the same thing."

"So eager to judge. Just like every one else."

She shook her head, "No I'm not. Thats why I asked you here, to ask you the truth." She poured herself a shot and finished it in one gulp. "So. Tell me."

"Sometimes the truth is not all it is made out to be," said Vlad.

"Perception is reality. If they want to call me a pirate, then I guess im a 'pirate'. A week ago I was the 'Hero of Kamela'! Probably Loyalist of the year! Laurel wreathes and praise. Now a friend I haven't spoken to in weeks who calls me here to judge me? I dont need this honey." He knocked back another shot.

"I'm not judging you dammit."

"Bullshit. You already think I'm the monster those bastards make me out to be, or else you wouldn't have called me here. Damned if I was expecting this."

She glared at him. He always could push her buttons. "No. I don't.....what did you expect?"

"Tyrell, "those bastards" can be made to change the public's perception of you, with some encouragement." Vlad said.

Garst snorted at Vlad, then looked to Shalee again, "What did I expect?"

"Yes."

"Maybe a friendly drink. Im such an idiot. I thought for one second an old friend would want to catch up, and here I am jumped again from all sides."

"So stay. Have a drink. You're the one trying to walk away....like always."

"Maybe im tired of being hurt."

An awkward silent moment passed between them, and then she asked, "So if you came to catch up....let's catch up? What have you been up to Garst?"

"Pirating" or so they say."

She frowned. "Yeah. Okay."
Asshole.

"Isn't that what you wanted to hear? You did drag me here into this little trap, I can see the accusation in your eyes."

She wrinkled up her nose. "Is that what you really think of me? That I brought you here to accuse you? I thought to have a drink with you, to find out the truth. But whatever. You're not the man I once knew."

He sat there silently, visibly hurt.

"Is it all worth it? All of the glory, the isk." She slid out of the booth and stood, ready to leave, "You sold out, Garst."

"Sold out? You don't know a damn thing."

"You admitted to piracy!"

"Admitted? Sarcasm honey."

"Sarcasm? So you are not going after easy targets to fuel your war machine? Amarr corporations...?"

"Are they admitted loyalist corporations?" Vlad asked as he slid out of the booth, moving away to talk to someone else at the bar.

"Amarr corporations? Let me ask you this Shalee. Do you feel safer with or without me fighting for you? Do you sleep better at night knowing im at the gate holding the barbarians at bay, or off in some wormhole, chasing selfish riches?"

"You're not the only one out there defending this Empire."

"My record speaks for itself."

"And so does your arrogance."

He frowned, "There you go judging again."

"It doesn't even matter what I think anymore," she shrugged lightly.

" .... It matters to me."

"You have a funny way of showing it."

"You know how I felt. You didnt care."

She stared at him for a moment then shook her head. "Don't. I'm going to marry Raphael."

"Have a nice fucking life."

She sighed and turned to go, "I will."

He grabbed her wrist and pulled her roughly down into the booth, "Why? I have to know."

She locked her gaze with his, "What do you even care? You're out playing hero to Kamela and the rest of the god'damned New Eden. What does it matter to you now."

"It's who I am. Who I was born to be. I wont deny my nature any more than I will my obvious feelings to you. You knew damn well how I felt but didn't care. I keep grasping at straws and it just hurts, I dont know why I keep crawling back every time like clockwork."

She looked down, unable to meet his gaze. She stared at his hand wrapped around her wrist. "Im not going to compete with your lust for fame and power and everything else that you need to substain you."

"My lust for fame? Last time I checked the news has been talking about me, and not in the way I'd have liked, so yeah I'll trade this 'fame' anyday."

"That's a temporary thing and you know it. Next week they will be singing your praises again."

"Not if my enemies get their way. They want to destroy my reputation. Destroy everything I've worked for. PISSES ME OFF." He slammed his fist against the table.

She could feel the anger radiating off of him and instinctively leaned back, a little bit afraid. "But they can't."

"I'll kill them all first."

She nodded slowly, "I know you will." She kept her tone low, trying to soothe him.

He glanced away into the distance and forced a calming breath."Are you going to be alright?"

"When I've put this embarassing slander campaign behind me I'll let you know. It's reaching a turning point, one way or another.....I just hope they dont succeed in ruining me."

She wet her lips nervously, "Then don't give them ammunition to do so. Don't pirate...stop these wardecs. There has to be other ways of making money."

"God dammit stop listening to their lies! Theres no pirating! Rule number two in my corp charter: No pirating or ransoming. Going GCC for reds is fine but we dont shoot random neuts or probe down mission runners." He quoted it from memory.

"What you're doing *is* piracy."

"Is it now?"

"Isn't it?"

"I serve the Empire. Cracking a few eggs along the way doesn't bother me." He released his hold of her and stood. "Oh and by the way? Those innocents? Those wardecs of mine? They were working with Final STAND in Ohide last night. Trying to kill my pilots. I podded them and sent them screaming back to whatever hole they dragged themselves out of. Innocents my ass."

"I see." She blushed, feeling embarassed for not believing him earlier. "I'm sorry."

"Without people like me making the hard choices and defending the Empire you would be." He hesitated, "I don't want you calling me for a while. Maybe when this is over, maybe, I'll contact you." He turned and left her without another word.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Entry Forty Eight: Drinking Games

She entered into the Choonka apartment wearing a flight uniform with her damp hair hanging in a loose ponytail.

Yawning, she kicked her boots off by the door, discarded her jacket across the back of a chair, and unzipped her flight suit and left it haphazardly by the minibar.

She poured a stiff drink as she activated the recording drone.

Standing in front of the windows, she could faintly make out her reflection against the glass. Dark smudges beneath her eyes contrasted against her pale face. She looked tired, though there was no mystery why. Long patrols combined with sleepless nights, either with Saint, or missing him if he happened to be elsewhere.

And it didn't help matters to know that she had just a handful of days with him before he left on a personal mission to God only knew where.

She emptied her glass in one big gulp before pouring another, and then started talking sounding edgey and wound up. Frustrated.

"Mmm this has been a fucked up day. As soon as I went on duty, the Captain seemed anxious to have us all out on the field as quickly as possible. The map was glowing so I didn't bother to reship into something more durable. I stayed in my 'ceptor and immediately hit the closest contested system. Decontested that, then moved on to the next. As soon as I entered the facility a pirate warped in on me. I wasn't fit for solo combat, so I warped out, hoping he would grow bored and find someone else to harass."

She sighed to herself, finished off her drink and poured another. "I went back in. The bastard came in on me again. We did this little dance about five or six times. Meanwhile, I'm asking for some back up from PIE. Lt. Omnicide was about four or five jumps out but en route. He ran into a little combat problem along the way so I had to wait for him to reship."

"I really wanted to decontest this system and move on, plus I had no desire to leave because of some goddamned pirate...so I asked Garst if he was busy. I assumed he would be, or pretend to be if he wasn't. We haven't left things on the best of terms, you know?"

She shrugged to her reflection, "But he came. Just like that, he came."

The words he had spoken to her before he left PIE echoed through her mind, "You just dont get it do you? I don't think its any secret I feel that you're more than a friend to me... you've made me feel like no one else before and I've been trying to fight it but I just can't any longer."

"He was three jumps out when Omnicide told me that he'd asked a militia pilot to assist me, someone he'd met earlier. Against my own judgement, I didn't wait for Garst and warped back into the plex. Both the militia pilot and the pirate was sitting by the beacon. I relaxed slightly, neither was engaged, so I started towards the beacon."

"That was a big mistake. The pirate locked and scrammed me, and before I knew it I was a ship down....while that bastard militia pilot sat there and did nothing."

"Nothing. Not a goddamned weapon fired, not one attempt to do anything at all."

"That just reinforces my opinion that the militia as a whole is useless."

"Anyhow. Garst asked me why I didn't wait, I tried to explain that I thought I wouldn't need his help. He came anyhow, baited the pirate and ended up shooting him down for me."

"I admit that I took satisfaction in that, and I also took satisfaction in seeing the wreck of the militia pilot that did not help me after I warped back into the plex." She smiled with a guilty little grin of indulgence.

"So yeah, that was my last 'ceptor," she bemoaned. "That one was courtesy of Lord Berk."

She took the bottle over to the sofa and stretched out.

"After that little mishap, I met up with the fleet in Ezzara. It was a mess. As soon as we started in on the majors, the Minmatar came in on us en masse. We had to evacuate and reship. We rallied in Lantorn and joined up with Invelious and his pilots. Zenton was there...but we didn't speak."

"Anyhow, on the way back out we were to pick up some Ordo, though I believe they got snipped before making it to us."

"Once in Ezzara, we made a stand in a major complex while waiting for Garst and his pilots to join in the fight. The second wave took place at moon six with No Mercy reinforcements."

"The odds were stacked against us but our side managed to win the battle." She took a celebratory sip from the bottle, "Amarr victor."

Picking up the remote, she activated the holoplayer and turned it to the IGS channel. The holo'ed face of the infamous Jade Constantine blinked into view, sprouting off her 'free space' nonsense and attacking Garst. As usual.

"Don't you ever get tired of hearing youself old gal?"

Shalee propped her bare feet onto the coffee table and decided to play a drinking game with herself. Everytime Jade said Garst's name negatively she'd do a shot.

By the time Raphael returned home he'd find her passed out on the sofa...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Entry Forty Seven: "I'm Sorry"


Solar System: Choonka
Sovereignty: Amarr Empire
Constellation: Ryra
Region: Devoid
Location: Imperial Armaments Factory Space Station

A camera drone followed the young lieutenant through the living room of her new apartment on the Choonka space station.

Their apartment, actually.

Raphael hadn't hesitated to purchase it for her even after the realtor had named a ridiculous price. In the last few days in between patrols they had started moving their things over, turning the empty space into a home.

Their home.

It was at least four time the size of her place inTuomuta, though she never really cared about that apartment. It was just a place to sleep in between patrols, a place to store some of her ships and other odds and ends. She'd moved there on the suggestion of Garst months ago after finding out that a lot of 24th pilots lived there. It was functionable, but she never felt like it was home.

Choonka would be different. It was more than an apartment, it would be where they would start their lives together as man and wife.

She paused in front of the floor-to-ceiling viewing window and stared out into the darkness of space as the memories of the proposal played through her mind.

He had sent her a set of coordinates that lead to a space station. There she was contracted another set of coordinates for the next system over, Romi. She had flown out to the bookmarked location to find an amazing display of his love. He had painstakingly flown in over one hundred containers and positioned them perfectly to spell out "Im sorry". In a container beneath the display, another one contained a ring and an invitation to meet him at St Alms.

She had found him by the altar and had thrown her arms around him. "I love you I love you I love you."
"I see you got my message..."
"It's been horrible without you. I don't care anymore about Nephanie, she was your past, I am yours now."
"I'm hoping it wont only be now."
"I will love you forever. So...there was a ring?" She didn't want to just assume it was a proposal.
"May I see it?"
He had taken it from her hand and knelt in front of her."I offer us a chance to start anew. To see each other in a new light. To experience, for a first time, our life together as sacred partners, eternal lovers...as husband and wife."
"You mean it...you want me forever?"
He smiled up to her, "If you don't mind, I'd like a little bit longer."



She turned her head slightly as she noticed the camera drone in the reflection of the glass. She had meant to start recording much earlier but had gotten distracted with unpacking instead.

"So, here I am, in my first apartment with my fiance." She settled down on an unpacked crate and opened up a bottled water while turning on the holoplayer to watch a recording of the PIE promotions ceremony from the previous day.

"It's been strangely wonderful, to wake up beside him, to come home to him, to live day to day with him....it's more than I thought love could be."

"We've been mostly okay...there was one small bump in the road involving Michaela. She tried to sabotage us, it was horrible. And in that moment it was hard for me to not believe her when I knew that he had been with her before, that she was the reason he did not marry Nephanie."

She got a far away look in her eyes as she remembered the conversation with Michaela, Raphael's childhood friend who grew up to become much, much more than a friend. The woman had found Shalee when she had accompanied Saint to the mining colonly while he caught up on some business matters. Michaela insinuated that she'd been with Raphael recently and that Shalee meant nothing to him, that he would use her and then abandon her.

"But it doesn't matter now. Michaela is out of the picture." In great irony, the girl had attempted suicide once she had realized she could not come between Shalee and Raphael.

She took another sip of her water, "And we are happy. *I* am happy, very happy."

"Happy at home, happy at work." Her thoughts drifted to PIE inc. "Well, mostly. I'm only slightly annoyed by the fact that I'm still just an Interviewer and not a full Recruitment Officer despite being the most active recruiter since coming on board. I'm probably just being petty about the whole thing, but at the same time I can't help it. You want your superiors to take notice of your effort and when they fail to do so, you can't help but feel slighted. I plan on speaking to our CEO about it, I think."

"Hmm what else. There was a crusader op the other day lead by Commander Merdaneth to celebrate his 1000th crusader kill. It was a rush to fly under him, usually the scheduling differences have me on patrols with Captain Mitara or Lt SG Condor, so it was a nice change to fly with someone different."

"We also had a promotions ceremony yesterday. Aldrith was promoted to Lt JG, kind of suprised really, I never thought he'd last. I suppose everyone thought the same about me before I got my commission."

"The brass gave out a few awards, mostly the Captains were awarded for their work on the Corp Store, and then most everyone else was awarded the St Junip medal. That was nice really, my first medal."

Shalee stood up as the grandfather clock started to chime, marking the hour. Soon Raphael would be home. She hurried off to the bedroom to change into something to wear out to dinner as Commodore Shaikar's recorded speech echoed from the living room.

"Praetorians, it was a year ago that the Matari were defeated at Kourmonen and the remains of St Aman interred on Dakba. That year has seen the Crusade push on against the tribals, not only reclaiming systems but most importantly ensuring those systems stayed reclaimed. It has not been easy - the enemies of the Empire try our defences daily and many have fallen along the way. Halmah succumbed briefly and systems from Lantorn to Sahtogas have seen constant engagement. These are tests we will pass, no matter the cost. We must make His gift deserving. With God behind us we will emerge triumphant over the Matari, as we were with the swift relief of Halmah. St Junip spoke of tests at a dawn of greatness and and I believe we stand today at such a dawn, united behind the Empress. So on behalf of the Admiralty, it is my privilege to recognise the hard work and effort of the Praetorians over the last year with the creation of a new honour, the second campaign medal of this Crusade, the 24th Imperial Crusade - St Junip. This will be presented to all Praetorians who have fought in and supported the Crusade over the past year. Full details will be available on our communications nexus shortly. We cannot fail, for we have the Empress to lead us and destiny to follow. Amarr Victor."



Thursday, October 29, 2009

Entry Forty Six: A temporary death..

She rolled her head to the side, groaning. Her mind felt foggy, thoughts distorted, abstract. Her eyes parted slightly and at first her vision was blurred. Just a sliver of pale light was visible. She blinked several times, trying to focus, forcing her eyes open all the way.

A large window came into view with rain gushing against the other side, pelting against the glass.

Phantom pain ached along her wrists.

Her body felt heavy as she tried to sit up in the bed, aching all over. She looked around the room...a hospital room?It looked sterile and cold, impersonal with bare metallic walls. She started to panic.

Sliding out of the bed, she moved over to the door and found it locked. Fear trickled down her spine. She tried the door again, this time beating her fist against it.

"Goddammit let me out of here!"

Silence.

She searched the room for another exit and found nothing but the window, and even that wasn't a real way out. As she slammed her fist against it, the hologram rippled.

Her fingers trailed through her hair out of frustration.

She spun around as the door opened. Vlad Cetes stepped into the room looking cautiously at her.

"What are you doing! Why do you have me locked in here? What's going on...I'm not your goddamned prisoner Vlad."

He closed the door behind him and leaned against it. "You tried to terminate your life."

"What?" She shook her head no, "I don't believe you."

"It happened. I found you a few hours after you had went to bed," his voice was ever so calm, void of any emotion, starkly contrasted to her hysterical one.

The memories of the previous night were vague and distorted as they flashed through her mind. She hadn't went to sleep as she told him she was going to do. Instead she started to drink. She had been far too distraught to simply sleep after what she'd been through with Raphael followed by watching Micah die, then nearly dying herself to Kathetel. But had she really tried to commit suicide?

I wish...I wish I could just erase it all.
Well, you can, you know.

The conversation she had with Micah before he died ran through her thoughts. He had suggested that she do it so she could forget, though it wouldn't have been a real suicide, not a real death. Clone jumping, but in the process losing all memory of what had happened since her last brainscan.

Her gaze met Cetes, "Why did you stop me?"

"Because you weren't in your right mind, you didn't really want to do that...did you?"

I don't even remember it...

"No.."

She absently put her hand to her head, feeling faint, the memories congealed into a mishmash of blurry images and emotion but nothing she could fully grasp. "What exactly happened? How am I here and not in some clone vat in Amarr? How did you stop me?"

"You attempted to terminate your life."

She grew angry, "You keep saying that but I don't remember it! I don't remember anything that happened last night after I left you!" She started to pace the medical room, trying to make sense of it. It was possible he was telling the truth. She had completely broken down, she remembered that much. The feelings of betrayal from Raphael, the anger, feeling used. Micah dying.

But it also didn't seem like something she would do. Not willingly.

"I don't feel right," she said as she moved over to the bed, sitting on the edge.

"A medical drone administered a sedative. You are now recovering from the after affects."

"A sedative..it wouldn't make me feel like this. I don't feel right..." She glanced down at her wrists again. No bandages.

"How...?" She looked at him questionally, "Did I...did I die? Am I cloned?" If she tried to do something and failed there would be some kind of visible mark left behind, wouldn't there be? Had she succeeded? Was she cloned? A million questions ran through her mind at once. "How am I here?"

"Your human body is dead...you have been placed in an artifical one. For the moment."She felt sick to her stomach as she shook her head to protest, "What? I don't understand.""Your human brain remains as your DNA created it. Same with other organic components needed for vital life support...with some upgrades. Your skeleton system has been replaced with a carbon nanotube structure, your muscles an advanced microfiber system."

She paled, "Oh god...what have I done?"

"You have advanced. Thrown away your humanity and embraced evolution."

She rubbed her hand across her forehead, "You should have let me die."

"Negative. Permitting you to die would be counterproductive."

She glared at him, "Why do you even care?"
Why do I even trust you?

"You know too much."

"I don't understand." She leaned her head against the pillow, staring at the artificial rain. All she felt like doing was sleeping. "I don't know anything."

"A ...mistake was made."

"Mistake?"

"A data packet was added to the download."

"What does that mean to me?"

"It means that your mind has data it was not supposed to have. Data that is secret for a reason."

"What data? What are you talking about?"

"I will not reveal what the data is. I do not wish to compromise it anymore."

"Is that why you had me locked in here?"

"Affirmative. I will need to determine if the data is removable...or if not...plot another course of action."

"Fuck you, you're not keeping me here. I have duties to return to, I have a life to get back to."

I have to talk to Raphael..

"An absence would result in questions being asked, that is why I am letting you go when you are capable of flying out of here...however, I will be watching to ensure nothing unusual happens."

She looked at him incredulously, "I wonder how you would measure unusual after everything that's happened in the last twenty-four hours."


****

A few hours later...

A flash of light was the last thing she remembered before darkness enveloped her.

Gasping for breath, she pulled the breathing tube from her mouth as she came up out of the cloning vat.

Glancing around, she calmed as she looked around the familiar facility, Amarr Medical Center.

Attendants were helping her up as she tried to remember the last few moments before 'dying'. She was flying out of Stain in a ship of Vlad's. It was too easy not to hit the microwarp drive after she jumped through a bubbled gate. So very easy to watch as her ship got locked and do nothing. She braced herself as her display started to flash red.

She remembered thinking about what had happened, how Vlad had saved her from the cathedral only to trap her into a hellish existence that wasn't even human. She refused to live that way, to lose her emotions, her humanity. She would not become like him, existing only for one's self. It was selfish. She needed more, a purpose for living. She needed love...

After a quick shower, she dressed in a typical flight suit with her PIE Lieutenant bars pinned to her collar.

She slid on her boots then picked up her datapad, thumbing through the in-coming messages.

RefID:17590348483332 Your friendly insurance company has transferred..

Delete.

Clone Activated. So you died? Well you have a Clone Grade at...

Delete.

My Dearest Shalee,
I know the horrible truth of our origins hurts you. It weighs heavy on my heart as well. I know using you was wrong. I will make no excuses. I only hope that you that you can find it within you to forgive me and return to my arms. These past nights without you have been horrid, the memory of the night I told you haunting my memories, a wraith of guilt that has taken hold of my heart and even now consumes me.
I hope you will remember the love I have shown you, and know that my love for you is both true and deep. All those times I could have turned you away, left you alone, but stayed at your side. It is these times that prove my devotion to you; that I love you dearly.
I have contracted a set of coordinates to you. I hope you will accept them and immediately go there.
-Raphael

Save.

She never noticed the half written, unsent message to Saint saved in the drafts tab.

Dear Raphael.
I can't do this anymore. I can't live with the truth of us, knowing that everything was a lie. Even if it is true now, it was a lie then. So many memories of us together. I don't want to know that they weren't real for you. I can't live with that, knowing that you were with her in your mind. Oh god how I hate her and hate you for using me to get to her. It consumes me, Raphael. Every memory of us has now been weighed against this knowledge and I'm left wondering where she ended and I began. It disgusts me to know that, to know that you took my innocence and wasn't even seeing me lying beneath you, but her. I told you from the begining that if I slept with you I would love you. You knew. You had to have known, but you didn't care.
I'm sorry Raphael. You've hurt me and it should be so easy for me to walk away, but I cannot. I love you too much to just let you go.When I wake up...I wont remember any of this.
Never tell me again. I can't go through eternity with you second-guessing you, having some secret part of me resenting you, hating you for hurting me.
I'm sorry, but it's better this way.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Entry Forty Five: I watched him die..

((OOC note. I played around with the POV of this post, and took the RP Vlad and I did and wrote this out from his perspective))

Vlad Cetes leaned against a burnt out lamp post across the street from St Alms, hidden in the shadows.

He stared at the cathedral doors, observing the scene with well practiced patience. She had been inside for at least half an hour, talking to the imposter priest and he could hear everything being said thanks to a few special implants that were hacked into the church's security surveilance.

He listened to their conversation though he really didn't consider it eavesdropping per se. It was more or less gathering intel.

It didn't mean he was a goddamned stalker, after all, even if he was standing outside of a random cathedral in the middle of the goddamned night just to make sure she was okay.

Not that he cared or anything, he told himself.

He was beyond caring about anyone or anything. No human emotion. Most of his humanity had been replaced over time with artificial implants. Emotions were weakness, actions based on anything other than logic were a hindrance.

So why are you here? That little voice in the back of his mind nagged him. He told it to shut the fuck up.

Movement across the street caught his attention. He watched as another person entered into the cathedral.

He could hear them. Shalee, Micah, and Kathetel. He grimaced as he heard Kathetel's threat.

Fuck.

He ran across the street and pushed open the stained glass doors, easing into the foyer in time to see Micah die.

As Kathetel forced Shalee to start walking, Vlad yelled out, "Cease and desist immediately."

He spun around bringing Shalee with him, looking at Vlad. "Vlad!" She screamed out his name, only to be choked by the agent.

He advanced toward the agent, "Release her at once, or die." As he spoke he was communicating via the Nexus, a highly sophisticated implant that gave him thought to thought communication with his subordinates. He gave the orders for some of his guards to move in on the cathedral.

Kathetel laughed, his voice ringing out across the chapel. "Make one more step and she dies."

The security team entered in with their rifles drawn."I believe we have a standoff, human." Vlad said.

"Human? You must be joking." His fingers tightened around Shalee's throat to the point that she started gasping. "Send your men away and she lives."

"I do not believe a human can asphyxiate a standard human being faster than aimed projectiles can eliminate a human's ability to live. You have five seconds to release her, or they will shoot."

The agent scooped her up into his arms and started to back away, using her as a shield. "Shoot me and she dies too."

"And what is she to me?" He bluffed. "It appears though you were interrogating her. If she dies, you lose. You think you can attack me and walk away?"

"I don't need to. I just need to get the girl out of here," he said as he continues walking backwards making his way to the backdoor.

Vlad sent a mental command to a guard -Flashbang! Now!-. The guard instantly tossed a cylindrical object towards the back door. As it exploded, it's magneisum charge blinded the room with light while emitting a 180 dB sound.

The agent had lightning fast reflexes but wasn't able to make it through the door in time with Shalee struggling in his arms. His vision changed, adapting with the burst of light as the pair of them were blown forward by the blast, and in the process he lost his hold on her.

Vlad Cetes sprinted forward and grabbed Shalee. She fell into his arms, smearing Micah's blood across his shirt. As she went limp, he scooped his arm beneath her knees and started to carry her towards the exit, crouching as security provided fire over the top of them.

Railgun projectiles pierced the billowing smoke as another grenade was set off. Tear gas filled the chapel.

Shalee buried her head against Vlad's shoulder, terrified, coughing, gasping for breath.

"Fight through the gas Shalee, it wont kill you."

Kathetel made it half way up the aisle before falling to his knees, choking on the smoke, bleeding.

The security officers continuously ripped into him with bullets, slaughtering his body long after he died.

Once outside, Vlad carried her across the street. "Are you alright?"

She was pale, trembling, still in shock. She stared at him with wide eyes then finally shook her head.

He couldn't leave her like this.

Without a second thought, he carried her off to his waiting shuttle. Once inside he sat her gently down onto one of the seats then headed off to give orders to the pilot to join up with the legion. Armed security kept watch out of the portholes.

He went back to her, easing himself down beside her.

She was still in shock, white as a ghost, staring off at nothing. Finally she broke the silence, "You were following me...why?"

"That will remain a secret."
Because I don't know..

She was too out of it to argue. "I can't go home. I don't even know where Saint is ...but I can't face him now." Tears dripped down her cheeks. "I just can't. And oh god...I saw him die. Micah." She glanced down at her blood splattered hands.

"We will go to Stain. It is far enough away, give you time to think."

The shuttle docked aboard the Legion, then a course was set and cloak was activated. They would not be followed.

"I've never been to Stain." She attempted small talk, though he did not respond.

"How are you so calm?"

"Calm under pressure is a nature of my enhancements. The elimination of emotion is one of the steps of evolution."

Her expression showed her confusion, "I don't know what you mean."

"My medulla oblongata has been surgically removed. I do not feel joy, pain, anger, sadness...no emotions. I function off of logic."

"No emotion? No love?"

"Negative."

"And you are okay with this? How long have you been this way?"

"It does not matter. My path is set."

"But why? What happened to make you like this?"

He ignored her question and checked the time.

"Why wont you tell me? What are you hiding?"

"I realized early on that humanity was flawed, that it had to evolve or die."

She shook her head, "So you chose to do this to yourself?"

"I have seen it's benefits against humanity. I chose correctly."

"Without emotion you're little more than a drone with flesh."

"Negative. Drones do not have true intelligence. I have the benefits of machines and humans, augmented with the AI of the Sleepers."

"And thats enough for you?"

"No. There is always more to be done."

"For your whole life, you will never know love or happiness or joy..?"

"The process isn't complete. I will eventually be omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. That is the goal..though for the moment that is unreachable."

"To be like God..." she frowned.

"There is no God....yet. To be a god, that is the ultimate goal."

"There is a God."

"I will not debate the obvious. Believe what you want." He glanced to her, noting her disapproving frown. At least her color was starting to return. Sparking her anger made her forget about what she had witnessed. "We are almost to Stain."

As she turned her head, he caught a glimpse of her reflection against one of the viewport glasses. Her words replayed through his mind again,
"No emotion, no love?" "Negative."

That nagging voice whispered against the back of his mind
. "Liar."