'I will not hesitate when the test of Faith finds me, for only the strongest conviction will open the gates of paradise. My Faith in you is absolute; my sword is Yours, My God, and Your will guides me now and for all eternity.' -The Prophet Kuria, 'Paladins Creed'
The camera drone followed Shalee as she turned a corner, stopping to catch her breath. Dropping her hands to her thighs, she inhaled a long breath then slowly exhaled, trying to bring her pulse down. Straighting up, she started to walk the corridor, trailing her hand across her sweaty forehead.She had run the corridors of her malediction for the last hour, making one long continous loop through the empty halls.
The ship was a gift, one she couldn't fly yet but like her retribution, she had already started to spend her off duty time aboard, getting a feel for her.Making the long walk back to her cabin, she decided to take advantage of the time by recording a journal entry.
"As always, so much to catch up with. I swear I can't find a free moment these days."
"Captain Vaarun has declared a state of emergency for the defense of the Amarr Empire. All pilots have been working overtime, trying to push back the Minmatar. Our orders prior were to concentrate on Vard but now we are pulling out and focusing our efforts on maintaining what we do have. It has been an enormous effort not only on the part of the Praetoria but the whole of the Amarrian Militia."
"We have taken a hit lately with the boys from Helljumpers pulling out. Honestly most are happy to see them go. They are good, granted, experienced and very efficient at what they do, but on the flipside they are irresponsible and take needless risk that endanger too many lives. Theres a fine line between being a ballsy good pilot and just plain out foolish."
"It's really bad timing though. As we lost them, the Minmatars gained the RKK and they have been at it hardcore. I am told the battlefield now resembles the days following the start of the war. No where is safe. Even the backwater systems are seeing an unusual amount of action."
"I've been on patrols with so many new pilots lately, both in and outside of PIE. Flying with the Praetorian recruits, it has been daunting to be a 'Lieutenant'. I still feel like an ensign most of the time though honestly I do believe I am gaining more confidence. Surely more so than when I first joined the corporation. It takes time and experience to have the knowledge and skills of the brass. But I'll get there, one way or another."
"PIE has recruited some really good, loyal pilots lately. Among them, Nusak, Ignatius, Markanus, and Rain. Ignatius and I have done quite a few patrols together, we have a good rapport and I really enjoy being his wingman. Markanus is a good one to have along for a fleet as well, he is a master scanner, so much so we've unofficially dubbed him 'mad eyes'."
Her boots clinked against the metallic grated floor as she passed by an empty crew station."I've not had a lot of time to think about all the things that have been going on personally lately. I've purposely avoided it in fact, I just don't need the distraction from the war right now. Thats the last thing a pilot needs in combat, to be distracted by thoughts of relationships. I can almost understand why Raephael refuses to love."
The conversation she had with Garst the following week played through her mind like a scene from a dramatic black and white holo-reel.
"You've been on my mind a lot lately."
"A lot. And all that business in P.F... Well it just means I've been thinking more."
"All what business exactly. We were just having fun. Thinking more about what?""About you..and us."
"Whatever you're going to say....I don't think you should. I love Zenton, you must know that."
"Then you already know what im going to say."
"I don't know....maybe."
"Im not following."
"Why Zenton? Why not me? My whole life I've been shoveling shit, then suddenly you walk into it. And everything changes."
"Because he pursued me first, you did not. He made me fall in love with him."
"Made you love him. I'm not even sure what means."
"Why are you telling me this now? Why now?"
"I wanted to be sure. Maybe I didnt know it was a race. Maybe I've never felt this way before..."
"So... You know me Shalee... things like this don't come out easy for me to say. I'll talk ships or the scriptures all day, but...feelings..well..."
"I know, and Garst know that I have feelings for you too. But I love Zenton."
"I just dont understand why! He betrays you! He forsakes all our ideals, spurns you and runs off to "pirate", but in the end just leaves PIE. Leaves us. Leaves you. What is he, too good for us now?! I help you find your purpose again. You come to me in your time of need and I try to help you find again your love of God...but I'm still a second class citizen to your heart."
"Can you explain love? I dont know why. I just do. No Garst it's not like that. I do love you, I do. You're a dear friend to me, I could ask for no better."
"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. That night in the bar? That was driving me crazy, I could barely control myself. I had to leave before I did anything really inappropriate.."
"Lust isn't love."
"Can't it be a part?"
"A part. Yes."
"I see. So you lust for Zenton?"
"I really shouldn't talk about that sort of thing with you...I just don't know what to say."
"...That makes two of us. Ive said how I truly feel... for you.""Not really, you haven't. But, I don't think you should."
"Why, you need a good laugh?"
"You really can't guess? You know how awkward this is for me and you want me to say it anyway?"
"No. No I don't want you to say it."
"Shalee please dont mock me, this is hard enough as is"
"I am not mocking you!"
"You think I can't tell the difference between genuine feelings and mere lust?!"
"I'm not saying that at all, Garst. It would be disloyal for me to hear it, okay? I wont betray him, I wont speak of feelings, of lust, of anything. We are friends. We have to be just friends."
"Disloyal to someone who "makes" you love him."
"It's not like that. I didn't mean it that way."
"Im lonely. I don't even know why im telling you this, I guess I just needed to finally admit it to someone." "Of course. You're just lonely. It has nothing to do specifically with me."
"Sure it does. Anytime I'm around you I feel so much better. You brighten my day... I cant wait to see you. But I'm not going to beg. You know how I feel. You must know how embarassed I feel now."
"Please don't be embarassed. Know that I love you dearly as a friend. If it weren't for Zenton, I probably would be with you. I know I would be with you."
"I'm sorry...I had no right to try and steal you..or something. I'm so weak. I despise weakness. I guess I should just look in the mirror next time."
"You should probably lighten up on the alcohol."
"And you shouldn't be telling me these things."
"I just thought... was, well hoping.."
"No. I'ts easier not to know, it's easier to pretend like nothing has been said, that none of it is true."
"You would want to live a lie?"
"We fight to bring God's truth to the galaxy, how can lies be better?"
"My whole life is a lie. It's easy to pretend, Garst."
"For you...maybe. My life has always been black and white, bad guys and good guys."
"I'm not hearing this."
"Why? You're acting like you don't even know who I am."
"Because it is disloyal. Because I'm not that kind of person. I am not a cheater. I'm not."
"Ch-Cheat? No...I didn't want to...steal you away...I dunno."
"So then we....just be like we always have."
"Since I talked with Garst at the bar, we've come to an easy truce of sorts. We fly together but we haven't really spent anytime off of the battlefield alone. Though come to think of it I've not really done anything but patrols, I've not seen anyone lately except Zenton for a few moments here and there."
"I think I've come to realize why we younger Praetorians rarely see any of the brass off duty. It must come from years on the job. Just in the few short months I've been with PIE I've been learning how to shut off all emotions when flying. A pilot's whole instinct is focused on the objective and survival, everything else is tuned out and turned off. No thoughts of love or people or anything can surface, you can only concentrate on the objective. Everything else must be smothered out else reflexes will suffer and death will occur. I think maybe that somewhere along the way the longer we are in a pod, the more of our real selves we lose. It's like...you just can't turn it back it on, can't reconnect with those very human parts of ourselves coming out of the pod. I think maybe somewhere along the way people just give up, stop trying. It's easier for them. I just hope I never become like that, I hope that I can always maintain a balance."
"The point of that whole tangent was to mention Mitara. Since that night in the Basilica I've flown with her several times. It's a bit strange how out of the pod I still hate her, but while suited up I trust her with my life. I respect her as a commander. Personally I still think shes a bitch, but I'm glad that we can work together. Maybe thats a part of the problem, come to think of it. Maybe she sees something in me that she has lost somewhere along the way. Love, compassion, friendship. All of those things seem lost to her now."
"But I'm not going to lose any sleep over it."
As she neared the door of the captain's cabin, she paused to stretch "I heard a rumor the other day about Dame Death, apparently she has left CVA and is back to her old pirating ways. I really hate that for her...but I've been thinking about it all and I think understand why. It's just her nature and she fought against it to be in CVA, but it wasn't really where she belonged, it wasn't who she is at the core. Likewise with Zenton. It is his nature to be good and honest and Amarrian. He went against his nature for piracy but now he is back where he belongs, back in the Amarrian militia fighting the war."
"And back with me."