Consciousness came quickly, a jolt of piercing light stabbing through the darkness of her mind. Voices, whispering to her, demanding to be heard. She tried to blink but her eyelids felt weighted. Her breathing was quick, sharp. Was she hyperventaling? Realizing she was still in her pod, she waited, mentally counting backwards from one-hundred to calm herself, knowing that her crew would be stabilizing her this very moment.
Their voices, of course. Those were the voices she heard.
Not the other....Suspended in a thick substance, wired into the pod around her, she waited. Counted. Forced her thoughts to center on the one thing, the numbers. Think of nothing else but the numbers.
So what the fuck had she heard?
No! No. Don't think of it.Ninety.
But something unnatural had spoken to her. A voice, one that wasn't over a god-damned comm channel. A whisper, just behind her ear.
No! Impossible. She was alone in her pod, always alone. There was no way in god-damned-new-eden that she could have heard a voice. And there certainly was no way possible that she could have felt it against her ear, the sofest of whispers, urgent, pleading.
And yet, it unnerved her so badly she nearly crashed her ship on this planet, having to make an emergency landing, nearly killing herself and small crew in the process. It was astonishing they had survived, no doubt her crew would be proclaiming it an act of God, a miracle even. This landing would be the stuff spoken of for years to come at taverns over shared drinks, around hangar decks, and passed down to their offspring.
The liquid inside her pod shimmered with a lumnious emerald light, a sign that the crew was ready to disengage her. She pressed her hand against the inside panel, opening the capsule. As it split, she fell to the floor below. Thick warm liquid oozed into the grating below to be recycled. A crew member pulled the mouthpiece from her lips while another worked to untangle and disconnect augmentation cords from along her spine.
She tipped her chin up to look the Intaki in the eye, "Thank you."
"You alright Lieutenant?" She drapped a warm towel around Shalee's shoulders and handed her another for her face.
Nodding, she forced her voice calm. "Yes."
The older woman looked unconvinced but said nothing. "Let me help you up. You look like you need a stiff drink and a warm bath. Are you sure you're alright...."
A forced smile pulled at the corners of her mouth "Yes, really. Where are we?"
"System malfunction. The boys will have it fixed right up, now don't you go worrying." The woman reminded her of a slave she once had when she'd been very young. "You go on in and have yourself a long bath, I'll have a drink sent in."
"Thank you, you are very kind." Shalee stepped into the next room and took a long soak despite the anxious feeling she couldn't quite shake.
After the bath, she left her drink untouched and dressed into a clean flight suit with the PIE emblem displayed proudly against the collar, letting her hair dry on it's own.
Moments later she stepped out on the crew deck, taking stock of the situation. Preliminary reports indicated the navigation system would take a few hours to repair, though hopefully they could have it online within the hour. There was some other minor damage to the structure but she felt her crew capable enough to make the necessary repairs.
Besides, if they didn't give it their best effort, they not only risked her life but their own.She exited the malediction and glanced around, trying to get a better understanding of where she was.
Glancing up, she noted the three moons, but that meant nothing to her. The stars were scattered haphazzardly and she couldn't recognize any specific formation....and yet she had an eerie sense of having been there before.
It was evening, almost dark, though just enough light left to illuminate the land in front of her. She started walking, turning on a flashlight as she moved along. A drone followed behind her, one capable of guiding her back to her ship should she become lost. Also it had recording capabilities, so she'd make a journal entry while she waited for repairs.
She muted the comm channels, finding the constant chattering of her crew distracting."So we've landed on...well, somewhere. I don't know what happened. One minute I'm in combat, reds blazing across my overview and the next, theres a god-damned voice whispering to me, urging me to stop. To land. Here."
Trailing a hand through her damp hair, she paused and shook her head. "It wasn't over the comm channels. I know it wasn't and it wasn't from ship..."
"I didn't do it. I didn't land us here, I wouldn't have. I'm flying a malediction for god's sakes, I could have outrun 'em, there was no reason to land here. None."
"And yet, here we are."She continued to walk, stepping over fallen limbs and ducking underneath tree branches. "This has been a fucked up week, I shouldn't be suprised really. It's not all been bad, we did manage to win back Halmah. I wasn't there when we reclaimed the system but I'm pleased none-the-less. I know Gaven will be too."
"Also, I did manage to come to some kind of understanding with Ralphael. We talked it out one night at St. Alms. I hadn't planned on it really, not until I found out he was shot down while transporting some stuff for me. He never meant for me to know either, he covered the losses and I would have never known if Garst hadn't mentioned it. So...yeah. He isn't all bad. And he apologized, that helped. We both did. It's worked itself out."
"As for Garst...I still don't know. We met at My Blue Heaven, I tried explaining things to him but I don't think he got it. Said he didn't want to be put in the middle, I tried to point out that he was the cause of it and it was his responsibility as our superior to do something. Oh well."
The air grew cooler as the sun completely faded in the distance. She could hear the gurgling of water nearby and the cacophony of nightime creatures, frogs, insects, and whatever else inhabited the planet.Her boot crunched against a twig and she stopped, making certain that it was she and not someone else.
She laughed at her own unease and chalked it up to nearly going mad in space earlier. She continued to talk to keep herself sane
"The Amarr militia lost another corporation, GDIP. They weren't so bad, I hope they don't follow the same path as the Helljumpers yet I know it is very likely seeing as how some of them were pirates."
"It's a blow but then again, we did manage to take Halmah back without their help, so I think we will be alright. It is the ebb and flow of war, from what I am told. Those who have been here from the begining of the war, like Vaarun, seem unphased when things like this happen. I guess he's seen it already."
The hint of a sarcastic smile tugged at her mouth "Speaking of those who have been around forever. I had the pleasure of talking with Lyra Garris the other day. She is a barrel of information. Not that I had to poke and prod any, she seems all to eager to spill it to anyone who will listen. Anyhow, apparently our glorious Captain Laerise was quite a hellion back when she was coming up through the ranks. She isn't as perfect as she likes to make out, according to Lyra. She was even demoted a few times, once for punching out someone at a wedding, some diplomat or other."
"Just aggrivates me that Laerise seems to care so much about appearances, wanting to get me in trouble for sitting in Garst's lap when she did far worse when she was a junior officer."
"Anyhow, thats my life these past few weeks. A few moments here and there socializing when I get the chance, but mostly in the pod. However things should simmer down some with Dark Rising leaving the Minmatars's alliance."
"I've barely seen Zenton and that bothers me. We had one morning on Inis together but outside of that I rarely see him. I hate that he is in another corporation, on their flight schedule. We always seem to completely miss each other."
"Captain Newelle came crashing into Peons the other night. No idea how she found the place either." She grinned at the memory of Mitara waltzing into the old hallowed out arbie that some of the younger generation of PIE uses as a social club of sorts. They had found it by happenstance one night and later learned that the rusted heap of metal once belonged to their CEO in his younger days. "Never seen so many ensigns and lieutenants scrambling to their feet to salute the Captain. She did a brief tour of it and left, said we'd better behave, yada yada. The standard keep-your-noses-clean spill I've heard a hundred times before."
Shalee fell silent as she continued to walk, moving through the dense forest. Eventually she came to a clearing and stopped, shining the light across the expansive field.
"I met someone."
She hesitated as chill shivered down her spine. Was it from thinking about Davlos or something else?
"I mean, I already knew him. Sort of. I met him ages ago with Koronakesh out at...The Last Gate, I think. It's been so long. Anyhow. He commed me the other night out of the blue, we started chatting, and he invites me 'for a waltz' at some random place I've never been. It was practically deserted and we stayed for a drink and a few dances. Nothing inappropriate happened, he wasn't forward or anything. He was a perfect gentleman really."
So why do I feel so guilty?
"I don't know anything about him, I probably shouldn't have met up with him. But he knows Koronakesh. Anyhow. It was fine, perfectly and marvelously fine. We danced, I've not danced like that in years."
She started to hum the tune to one of the old songs that played. It must be you who haunts me night and day. As she sang a strong breeze gusted across the field, ruffling her clothing and tangling her hair.
Spotlights flickered on suddenly, pouring down beams of gold light. Amarrian transporters rolled to a stop. A whirlwhind of voices, officers yelling, soldiers directing the flow of prisoners who were being lead from the transporters, cries and screams from those in chains.
What the hell?
She watched in horror as they were lined up along the perimeter, their hands forced above their heads. Soldiers were screaming scripture "Those who embrace the Lord and walk in light shall be saved by his grace! For we are shepherds in the dark! His angels of mercy! Those who turn away from the light and walk in darkness shall be struck down by his wrath!"
The prisoners were ordered to turn around and start walking. A sickening melody of gunfire and soldiers reciting scripture exploded at once "We are retribution incarnate! His angels of vengeance!"
Bodies fell to the ground and blood flowed. The next set of prisoners were sent out marching onto the field. Those who wouldn't willingly walk were shoved forward with rifles slamming against their backs.Screams resonated, echoed, drowned her. And all she could do was stand there, frozen, helpless. She tried to move but couldn't, tried to scream out, to beg them them to stop. Tears streaked her face.
Over and over lines of men were sent forward and slaughtered.
And once they were finished with the men they sent out women and children. Mothers held their babies to their chest, children cried, wailed, their pitiful voices filling the night air."Here we are, this is the world of God! We are his chosen ones! This place, this planet of abudance, he made for us! It's ours for the taking!"
Somewhere along the way the maddening sound of gunfire ceased. An eerie silence fell across the field as the lights went dark.
She stumbled to the ground and everything went black.
Later, she awoke aboard her malediction with the kind Intaki woman standing over her."There there child, you're gonna be just fine. Had a bit of a spell."
"Wh-what? Where am I? What happened...oh gods...they died." Fresh tears spilled from the corners of her eyes as her voice became choked "We have to go back!"
"No Lieutenant, you don't understand. Theres no one out there now, this planet has been dead for a very long time."
"What? What are you talking about? I saw it with my own eyes! I saw all these people being shot!" Her chin trembled as she tried to sit up.
"Sit down, you need to rest a little bit longer.""I can't just sit here when there could be more out there! I need to ...call..." Her voice faltered. Who would she call? Who would help? "They could be bringing more....oh gods. I have to do something!"
"Lieutenant. Shalee. Listen to me. What you saw tonight did happen but many many years ago."
"What? No, I saw it with my own eyes!"
"Mayhap you did. In another life. It's possible."
Shalee shook her head "No...no, you're wrong."
"Or maybe you saw the psychic imprint left on the land. Traumatic energy like that can be absorbed by the landscape. The earth, the trees, rocks, the water, all of it, all of it can absorb the energy of what happened, like a recording."
"No. You listen to me. It happened tonight. Get my drone, I'll show you, I was recording a journal post when it happened, you'll see."She scrambled out of bed before the Intaki could protest, found her drone and activated it. She fastforward til the very end then hit play.
Waiting, she glanced to her crew chief "You'll see. I was right there, you'll see it all...."
The holographic image played back and showed Shalee coming onto the field. The camera view pans out to the empty dark field."There were lights. Any minute you'll see lights."
"God damn it! I'm not going crazy! I know what I saw!"
The video played on, showing a dazed Shalee staring at nothing, her features frozen in horror.
"While you were gone we got the systems back online. We've landed on a dead planet, once inhabited by the Gallente. There was an Amarrian invasion. The Gallente tried to fight back but were unable to stop them. Cities were burned and the people who were judged unredeemable were killed just as you seen. Massacres happened until they broke the will of the people. The rest were taken into slavery."
"Yes...for God. Your God. Everything that happened here...." She let her voice trail off as she stood. "All in the name of God." She forced a smile though it did little to hide the anger simmering just below the surface. "How do you know all of this? If it happened as you said it did, there wouldn't be that kind of record, not like that."
"This used to be my home...when I was free."