A camera drone followed Shalee as she paced the lower decks of the ship they had borded for the night. She couldn't sleep. Somewhere in the middle of the night she had awoken from a nightmare about the Imperial agents and couldn't shake off the feeling of unease. Deciding a walk would clear her head, she grabbed a cigarette and left the room. Not that she had ever been a smoker, until recently that is.
"It's been over a week and no word from Michael. I don't know if he is even alive at this point, I want to believe he is but..."
She glanced away, shaking her head.
"He probably isn't. He probably died alone out there on some goddamned planet in the middle of nowhere and we will never really know what happened."
"I'm just so frustrated over the whole thing. Theres nothing I can do but worry, constantly worry and watch over my shoulder for the next attack."
"How is this happening? How can loyal subjects to the throne be subjected to such horrible mind games? I am a capsuleer for god's sake! I've given everything, my eternal soul, for the goddamned empire and this is how I am repaid? Every day we put our lives on the line to protect imperial sovereignty and this is the gratitude we are shown in return? Michael left abandoned and possibly dead in some unnamed system, Raphael and I threatened and beaten like common slaves. A part of me believes that I've put too much trust in Michael...that maybe he has it wrong. Maybe he isn't working for Her Majesty. Maybe it's all some big fuck up, you know? Maybe he only thinks they are from the Empire? Maybe he wanted to believe it because he really wanted what they were offering him and now he has drug us into this madness and now there is no escape."
She trailed a hand through her long messy hair and paced some more.
"How long is this going to last? I suspect by this point they aren't even worried with Saint and I because they figure we will end up killing each other before too long."
The memory flashed through her mind. Moonlight Sonata played in the background of the Pax Praetoria as his fingers wrapped around her throat, murder glazed over his drunken eyes. He wanted to torture her, to kill her, to smother the very life out of her. Every second stretched by agonizingly slow. She couldn't breathe, not by his force but from her own choking fear. She gasped and then closed her eyes, his face the last image she'd ever see, she thought. The face of her protector. Her murderer. But he couldn't do it. He couldn't go through with it.
She had nearly driven him to the brink of madness, but he looked at her knew he couldn't go through with it.
Gods how she hated this situation, hated all of the lying. The manipulations. The double life they lived. And she hated herself, hated her weakness, hated being vunerable, of needing him, needing his comfort because he was the only one who really understand the mental torture she was under.
Sleep with me.
She couldn't even bear to sleep alone anymore, not after being drug from her bed by the Imperial agents and having been told they were always watching her, even when she slept. It was humiliating, sickening, to remember his mouth against her neck, his hot breath against her ear, kissing her, whispering to her. Everynight she woke up from a nightmare with his voice still lingering in her mind, him telling her he watched her as she slept and knowing that he was still out there somewhere.
"I make Raphael sleep in the same room as I. I can't stand being alone. I wake up at the slightest of sounds now."
"Sometimes I think he hates me... and it doesn't matter, I still force him to share a room with me because I'm too much of a coward to wake up alone. He probably hates that too. Hates the situations I force him into, simply because I outrank him."
She took a long draw off the cigeratte and sent a plume of smoke spiralling upwards.
"We are almost together twenty four hours a day. Granted not every second because that would be impossible. We have to continue with our duties of course, have to pretend that everything is normal. Pretend, pretend, pretend. Lie. Who cares. What does anyone care about the truth so as long as everything appears normal?"
"So tired of this fucking masquerade."
Another plume of smoke dissolved into the air above.
"We ran into Zenton last night in the Garden of Babylon."
The camera drone recorded several moments of silence as she stood there, looking out a viewport. She darted her tongue out and licked away a tear that had settled into the crease of her mouth.
"I never meant to hurt him. He was going to Aset anyhow but I could see the accusation in his eyes last night. I sent him away. I sent him away so that I could be with Saint."
She shook her head, "He came to tell me he was leaving. He did this. Not me. He put us on this path of seperation." She trailed a frustrated hand through her hair as tears streamed down her face. "He left me when he left PIE. He knew things would change. He didn't love me enough to stay. He didn't love me enough to fly with me, to be with me. It was about what he wanted. He wanted to try piracy and didn't give me one goddamned thought when he left. He did this. He seperated us. Not me. He said he would come back to PIE but he has not. He said he would do anything to be with me but he will not."
She wiped at her cheeks with the back of her hand, "He forgets all of that. He forgets so easily the hell he put me through, those long days where I had no words from him. I had no idea what was going on with him, only that he had left. Everyone looked at me with either pity or accusation. Everyone knowing his security status was dropping more and more, everyone knowing what he was becoming. And they couldn't question him about it, so they looked to me for answers and I had none."
Pacing the corridor again, she inhaled the fragrant smoke and exhaled it slowly, trying to calm herself out of the exhaustive frenzy she was in but failed to do so. Words came tumbling out, all of the things that were wound up in her mind, all of the things she wanted to say to him but couldn't. "Fuck you Zenton for looking at me like that, for accusing me. For not understanding, for not trying. For not caring. For not fighting for us. For three days I abandoned my duty to find you, I never gave up on you. I went to every goddamned pirate bar in New Eden to find you. I never stopped caring, I didn't let you go. Even when you left me I didn't leave you. Even when you told me it brought you pleasure to kill, I never gave up on you. I still loved you god dammit."
Hiccuping, she choked on her words, sobbing. Every pent up emotion from the last few weeks came flooding out. Again she wiped at her cheeks, using her sleeve to wipe away her tears.
"It doesn't matter now. He's left and it's over. And I'm with Raphael."
She laughed at the irony. Raphael, the man who probably loathed her more than anyone ever could.
"I just hope we can find Michael and end this charade. I know he is tired of me, I can see it in his expression. He doesn't even have to say anything. I know... I just feel it. I know he wants his space, his freedom, his life back. Even if any of it was real, he would never love me. He doesn't believe in love."
"We attempt normalcy. We have started going out, but usually it ends up in the silent treatment on the way 'home' because he really doesn't like most of the people I associate with."
"And if we are with the people we know, it is still awkward. We caught up with Garst the other night at My Blue Heaven. Garst was out of it, not drunk, just exhausted. And a little angry at us, not because he knows of the ruse, but because he thinks we didn't miss him all of those weeks he was gone. Saint and Garst argued over other things too but by that point I just sat there with my mouth shut. Thats how they are, apparently. They fight harsly in one moment and in the next are buying each other drinks."
Her pacing brought her to another viewport. She stared out mindlessly, not really noticing the space station they were nearing.
"I used to think I could tell Garst anything. I hate that we are keeping this from him."
"I just don't even know who I can trust anymore. I guess I never really have. Trusted my Father and he betrayed me. Trusted V and he used me. Trusted Zenton and he left me."
She licked her lips, tasting the salty tears, "It isn't a guarantee that I can trust someone just because they are in the Praetoria. And if I can't trust my own corpmates, then how am I supposed to trust Vincent?"
Leaning her forehead against the cool glass, she finally took notice that they were about to dock soon. "He found me in the capsuleer garden inin Tzvi again while I was waiting for Raphael to reship the other night. Vincent could tell I was upset, jumpy. Somehow he got it out of me. Not everything, only that I was in trouble, being followed. Without any details, he offers me help, says he has a ship we can hide out on if I ever am in need of refuge. Just like that, this man is offering to help me...but can I trust him? I don't even really know him... and he is Veto. But so is Davlos."
"At this point I don't even know if they are part of the problem or part of the solution."
"And goddamn Cetes! He fired on Garst the other night. My own corpmate, my friend. How dare he be so brazen, so bold, so heartless. I ran into him in the Gardens and chewed him out for it, swearing I will never speak to him again."
"He simply had no right."
A saccharine-sweet automated voice rang out over the internal intercomm, announcing that they would be docking within the minute.
She terminated the recording and tried to force her emotions under control, knowing that she would have to face Raphael soon for their next round of patrols. She dropped the cigarette and stomped it out with her foot, then made her way back to the captain's quarters, hoping that he was still asleep...