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...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Entry Sixty Four: Monsters

"I think....that-that...I'm going to..." she stuttered as her heart skipped a beat, "...kill my brother."

He nodded very matter of factly. "I think that's a good idea," he said quietly, then added, "And I am going to help you."

***

Shalee Lianne, ex-Praetorian, entered into the confessional booth of St Alms Cathedral. As she pushed the sliding screen open, ambient light filtered through the filigree lattice and cast a kalediscope of shadows across her face.

She knelt and started to whisper, "Forgive me of my sins."

A familiar voice responded. "Shalee?"

"Yes..." She frowned, realizing who was on the opposite side of the confessional.

"What are you doing here?"

"Trying to confess...why are you still here, Micah? You're no priest."

"Semantics, dear."

She sighed.

"Funny story really. It is suprising the amount of intel one can gleam from the confessional booths."

"Ha ha. Now would you please send in someone else?"

He waved a dismissive hand, "Whatever for? I can talk to God just as well as anyone else. Come on, out with it. What has you so worked up?"

She hesitated. He wasn't a priest, but an Imperial Agent who had been assigned the Michael Priboj case. Somewhere along the way the pair had become friends, despite being on opposite sides. She had confided to him before, but this was different.

"Really Micah, I need a real priest."

He sighed in response. "Shalee, theres nothing a 'real' priest can do for you that I cannot. So tell me. What's wrong?"

She was silent for a moment, then confessed, "I'm going...to kill someone. Premeditated."

Confussion laced his voice, "How do you mean?" She was a capsuleer for the Amarrian Empire, she killed every day in the name of God. What made this different, he wondered.

His question was met with silence, and after a few seconds, he heard the curtain being pulled back. He chased after her, dashing up the aisle.

"Shalee? Wait." He caught up with her as she exited the church, grabbing her by the arm, "Wait, please? Shalee, what's wrong? Talk to me."

She scowled at him, clearly frustrated.

His gaze slid down her, taking in her disheveled hair and wrinkled clothing. Her face was ashen, marred by bluish smudges beneath her eyes. Obviously she wasn't sleeping well. And her usual Praetorian uniform was replaced by a general militia one. His brow cocked up questionally.

"What happened with PIE?" Praetoria Imperialis Excubitoris, an Amarrian corporation loyal to the Empire, one of the leaders of the faction war against the Minmatar. She had served under their colors for nine months, working her way up to Lieutenant and one of the head recruitment officers.

"I quit," she said in a small, dull voice.

"Why?"

"I had to."

"Why?"

"Why is this any of your business?"

"Because I care. Because theres something obviously wrong and you need to get it off your chest. So tell me."

"I don't know where to begin."

"Just start talking, I'll figure it out."

"I...I don't know. One minute I'm a Praetorian and the next I'm resigning my commission. One minute I'm with Raphael and the next he is gone. One minute I know who I am and the next..." She shook her head as all of the frustration of the last few days came pouring out. "I know nothing at all."

He merely listened.

"I tried so very hard to do the right thing, to be the right kind of Praetorian. I don't know." She hesitated as she tried to place her jumbled thoughts into some kind of order. "I wanted to matter. I wanted to make a difference, but it seemed the harder I tried..." She exhaled a breath, "I just wanted, needed...needed to make a difference. To serve God, to somehow make up for all the things I have done."

He lead her over to a bench in the garden beside the Cathedral and sat, motioning for her to continue.

"It was easy to forget what I was...am. Am? I don't know anymore. At what point do I stop being her?"

"Her?"

"The girl you don't know, the real me."

"Tell me about her."

"I was...twelve? Twelve, I think, when I first killed someone."

She stared at him, waiting for some kind of response, repulsion, disgust. Anything. And when he said nothing, she continued.

"My Father was a blooder and so were my brothers. I think they tried to protect me from it but I found out...and once I did, I was a part of it. I tried not to be but...they knew how to break a person."

He sat silent, letting her finish.

"Eventually I ran away. I dropped my real last name and thought they would never be able to find me." She shrugged, "I guess that was foolish huh."

"Anyhow. My past has caught up with me. Hadrien..my brother. He is here. On Amarr. He found me." She went very still as she fell silent, staring off at nothing in particular.

"I thought I'd never see him again...hoped I wouldn't. I blocked it all out. Tried not to think about it, and after a while...I did forget. After so much time, I started to believe I was Shalee Lianne, capsuleer for the Empire. God fearing Amarrian, someone respectable...decent. Someone who could make a difference, someone who could matter."

"But now...he's back. And he is here to remind me that I am an imposter. That I am nothing that I pretend to be, that the past is always there hiding in the shadows." Her hands were trembling as she quickly swiped away a tear. "He threatened to expose me to PIE...so I left." She exhaled a shakey breath, "I beat him to it, but he wont stop. He will ruin me until he has me again."

"What did he do to you...?"

Misery flashed across her face as she remembered...


***

Her entire body ached. She'd been chained to the wall for days until she had lost count. Consciousness came in spells. Blurrying images of macabre scenes, rituals she was forced to watch. She tried to look away, not to see, not to hear. But it was impossible not to know what was happening.

Eventually her hysteria faded into a dull acceptance. She was trapped in a nightmare she couldn't wake up from. She was hungry, thirsty, tired, and sore.

They had left her in her own filth, waiting for her to break. And after so many days she did.

Hadrien, the eldest brother, gently unshackled her and carried her away from it.

Almost gallently he had carried her into the main house and into her rooms. Servants were summoned, a bath was drawn and food was prepared. She was bathed and fed and he held her while she cried. Eventually she drifted off into a fitfull sleep and he stayed, arms curled around her, whispering words to soothe her.

The next night he guided her through her first blood ritual. He stood behind her and held her upright, kept his hands wrapped around hers, guiding her movements, instructing in a soft, loving voice.

Blood was everywhere. Drenching her robes, splattered across her skin, staining her hands. The last thing she remembered before passing out was the cold dead gaze of her victim.

She awoke to the sound of Hadrien whispering to her.

"Hadi?"

"Yes Shalee?"

She glanced around the room. Her room. It had been a place of safety her entire life, a place she'd retreat to after so many trivial things had upset her throughout her young life. Problems with boys or servants or overbearing tutors. It was a safe haven, a place where no demons or monsters could enter.

Until now.

In that moment she realized that the monsters of fairy tales were nothing to compared to the monster that she had become.

She held out her blood slicked hands and stared at them, trembling as hysteria started to bubble up again.

She was the monster, she was the one to be afraid of. She was the thing that would kill you in the middle of the night, a creature to fear.

Her eyes glazed over as she saw her reflection in the mirror above her dresser. The white robes she'd left in were stained red. Her pale arms were splattered and her face and mouth was smeared with it. She could still taste it.

She wanted to be sick, she wanted to scream, to faint, to die. To escape the nightmare of what she was.

But he wouldn't let her. He held her to him, rocking her, soothing her. His hands were brushing across her damp tangled hair. His mouth was against her ear, whispering how she'd been such a brave girl.

He whispered words of love, adoration, and how he was going to take care of her like he always had.

His mouth was against her ear, whispering, and then he was kissing her.

She stared absently at the mirror, watching as it happened, dully observing, as if it were happening to someone else.

***

"Shalee?"

She blinked out of her reverie and looked at Micah. The breeze ruffled her hair as it blew through the gardens of St Alms.

"Sorry. I was just thinking." She forced a smile to her mouth.

"Will you tell me about it?" He offered, though he already had a good idea of what she had endured.

Her gaze slanted to him, "I don't know....no. I'm tired of thinking about it. I just want the nightmare to be over and I know that it wont be until he is dead."

He nodded without judgement. "What will you do now?"

"I don't know yet. I'm staying at the Paradiso til I figure it out. The owner is a friend of mine, so I'm safe enough there." She brushed a strand of hair from her face as she sat there, silent for a moment, then said, "When he found me, we were at the Basilica. I...I didn't say anything. Nobody knew, but they knew something was wrong. They could tell he upset me. Afterwards, some of them offered to 'take care' of him." She almost smiled at the sentiment. It was strange to her how she had come under the protection of some of the most notorious criminals in New Eden.

He nodded.

"Anyhow, I need to go. There are some things I still need to take care of."

"Patrols?"

"Actually, no. I need to get in touch with Koronakesh...Invelious of DIA is missing...and I think I'm the only one who knows whats happened to him..."

Friday, January 22, 2010

Entry Sixty Three: Accusations

Eventually she made her way to the Pax Praetoria and stumbled inside. She held her hand against her mouth, trembling with terror. She could still feel him, the warmth of his body, his wandering hands, his mouth. His lies.

All she wanted to do was run. To retreat to the safety of her apartment...was it safe, even? Would he find her there? Was any place truely safe from him? How far would he go to have her?

She stumbled again, bumping into a chair, the screetching sound echoing throughout the room. She glanced around suddenly, seeing Aldrith by the waterfall, holding a snifter of brandy. His eyes were closed and he didn't appear to have noticed her.

Which suited her just fine.

"Hello Shalee."

"Aldrith." She tensed, then glanced over her shoulder, looking at the door. Wondering if Garst had followed.

Nervously she made her way to the mini bar to grab a bottle of whiskey, bumping into it, knocking a few glasses off by accident. As they shattered against the floor, she knelt down to pick up the bigger pieces, still trembling, though trying to play it off, trying to keep from falling apart.

"Goddammit," she muttered under her breath as she started to clean up the shards of glass.

"You seem preturbed," he said with a bland, overly-casual tone.

"I'm fine."

His face was a mask of indifference. He seemed to hesitate before asking, "Would you like to sit with me? Or... well, I understand if you would not."

"Good night, Lieu...Guardian." She said at the exact same time he asked her to sit. She hesitated, "I don't know." From where she stood, it was easy enough for him not to see, not to know. But there was this other part of her that was hysterical to tell someone.

"I know we haven't always gotten along... and after tonight... well..."

Her brows drew together as fear flashed across her face. After tonight? Did he already know? Panic bubbled inside of her at the thought of people knowing, and then it dawned on her. Tonight. Not with Garst, but before, much earlier, when she was at the Paradiso. Aldrith had been with Mitara when Mitara had pretty much made her leave the club.

She relaxed ever so slightly as she realized he couldn't know yet. It was still her secret. At least she had that much control. Grabbing a shot glass and the bottle of whiskey, she made her way to him and sat, eerily calmer than before, as if she were consciously making an effort to appear normal.

Her gaze locked onto his and she dared him to say something, to acknowlege her swollen bloodied lip, the marks around her throat. Notice it, Aldrith. Say it isn't my fault, that I have not lead him on. That I do not deserve this. Make me believe that 'love' doesn't come with violence because all I have ever known is misery at the hands of those who say they love me the most.

She waited, tensed, hoping for compassion, for some kind of insight on why.

Instead, his face flashed with disappointment and swelling worry. He quickly looked away.

A thousand things flashed through her mind at once. Accusation. He blamed her. Whatever happened to her, it must be her fault.

Forcing her hands steady, she poured herself a shot of the whiskey and downed it quickly, as if readying herself for whatever he had to say. "Well go on. Say it. I'm a whore. Is that what youre thinking? That Im a 'seductress' of men because I danced with him." Rage simmered through her.

Before he could answer, she continued, "But you don't have to. Mitara already beat you to it."

He was silent.

"Say it goddamn you!"

Silence.

"Say whatever it is you're thinking. Say it."

His face flashed with mild suprise. After a moment of silence he said, "I am thinking that your lip looks bad. I'm thinking I should get you some ice for it..."

It was her turn to look away, embarassed by her little outburst.

"Would you like some?"

She shrugged, "Okay."

He sat down his glass and rose, all of his movments slow and careful, almost like he was an old man. He walked over to the minibar and wrapped a handful of ice into a cloth, hardly any noise coming from his actions. He placed the wrapped ice upon the table in front of her to use at her own will and sat, the soft creaking of the leather chair the only sound made as he returned to nursing his own drink.

"Thank you" said upon his return, wincing slightly after holding the icepack to her mouth.

He stared past her at the waterfall, sad and serene as he was before. After another long silence he at last said, "No. I do not think you are a whore." He let that linger in the air for a moment before looking at her. "But unwise to the point it chokes me with strain every time I see you... yes."

"Unwise? Because I danced with him? Because he is a friend to me?"

He winced, a hint of desperation leaking into his voice. "It's not just that... bartender, Shalee. It's everything you do. It's how you told me about your past without knowing what I'd do. It's about how you goad and shirk our superiors sometimes...it's about how you pay no attention to how others might see you and take yourself as granted to be seen as how you are. Especially with us, hard-headed Amarrians. And it's about how you seem to have completely forgotten about Raphael already."

He added in a low voice, "Which in some ways I cannot blame you for... but you said yes to him."

She could only hear 'everything you do'. Everything. Nothing was right. She was an utter failure. Everything she did was wrong. As a pilot. As an officer. As a Praetorian. As an Amarrian. As a fiance. As a woman. Everything. "Right. Of course." She stood quickly and knocked over the bottle of whiskey by accident but this time she didn't care. She left it. "I bid you goodnight." She started towards the back.

He sighed, closing his eyes again. "Wait Shalee. I do not even know why I care enough to tell you this... but I do. We fly together for the same ideals, for the same people. We depend on each other. I just want... I want you to be alright."

"I'll be fine. Once we are on patrols again, I'll be fine," she lied.

He blinked open his eyes and stared off at the waterfall once more, his concerns shriveling into a dull, empty ache that gnawed at him. His voice was dead. "Very well, Lieutenant. See you then."


****

She made her way into the apartment and slammed the door, her anger rolling through her like a tidal wave.

How dare he judge her? How dare he...

She was trembling from a myriad of emotions, fear, rage, guilt.

Making her way into the bathroom, she turned on the shower then stepped into it, as if she could wash it all away. Water splashed against the back of her head and streamed down her dress. She held her hands to her mouth, shaking violently.

She slid down with the water running and pulled her knees to her chest and stayed that way long after the water turned cold.


****

The camera drone followed her around the bedroom the next morning as she dressed for patrols. She'd managed to cover the bruising along her throat easily enough with makeup. The swelling of her lip had practically disappeared by the next morning.

From a casual glance she looked unaffected, normal even.But of course, she was used to playing these games. She had spent her childhood putting on a mask to the rest of the world. This was nothing new to her, she was good at pretending.

She trailed her hands through her long red hair, fussing with it, attempting to pull it into some kind of order when her comm unit chimmed with an incoming call.

She opened up the communication with Invelious, CEO of Deus Imperiosus Acies.

"Mister Invelious..." she glanced to the digital readout of his location. Ashab. Her brow arched with curosity.

"Lieutenant Lianne. How goes it?"

"Guardian." She managed to get her hair clipped into place. "Fine. Yourself?"

"Guardian? PIE changed the ranks?"

"Yes, they have streamlined things." She gave a shrug, "Doesn't really change what I do."Invelious gave a dismissive glance. "Either way...Guardian." He smiled, "I'm in lock down at an office meeting, nothing special. Bored. Very bored. I yearn for open space."

She sat on the edge of her bed to lace up her boots, "Office meeting? Why aren't you in space?"

"I work for the Empire adminstratively also my dear. Even combat pilots, especially a leader of an order..." His gaze seemed to look beyond her, distant, as he shook his head. "...pushes paper."

Something seemed off with him, but at the moment she wasn't about to pry. She had her own worries. "Yes of course. I have my own fair share of paper work with recruitment. So I know how it goes."

As she waited for his response, she moved over to pick up her datapad. The mail program was flashing. Hmmm. Letters from the Corp, recruitment applications, Eido, and Davlos.

She clicked on Davlo's letter as Invelious responded in the background. "Only a couple of people know this, a lot will know it soon enough, but I have stepped down as CEO of DIA."

Her eyes widened, the mail from Davlos forgotten for the moment. "But why?"

"I'm going on a pilgrimage."

"What sort of pilgrimage? To where? For what purpose?"

"Everywhere loyal to the Empire and beyond. For the purpose of strengthening our numbers in this war, my dear." He hesitated for a second, "...and to search my soul."

"And you had to quit DIA to do this? What will happen to your pilots?"

"Graelyn has taken over. I always intended on passing the helm to him...and yes, I had to drop the Order to achieve what I must."

She frowned, "Will you come back?"

"In time, I will always be with DIA, that much is certain. Unfortunately many members have been lost, and only the truely strong and loyal remain. Theology Council has tasked me to find more potential agents."

She nodded solemnly, "I wish you sucess...and if you need me in any way, you know I will do all that I can, Invelious."

Static hummed across the transmission, the holo flickered a few times and his face faded. She glanced at it, waiting for the signal to pick back up. While she waited, she glanced down to read the letter from Davlos.

My Favorite Ni-Kunni,How have you been, Shalee? I'm sorry that I wouldn't be able to comm you today, because I just got podded some two hours ago and the medical staff insisted that I must burn yet another day for a full checkup.
I saw that you were really under the weather yesterday, and the Captain Newelle harsh on you as usual. I'd be damned, I had to politely drag her away before she could continue her public humiliation on you.
What happened, though? I'm probably not the most qualified Deteis in the cluster to have a shoulder to cry on, but just as much as you were there for me, I will do what I can to do likewise for you.
Maybe you just need time off. For all of your notable contributions to the fight out there, I'm sure your superiors will think you deserve some well-earned rest. Despite our implants and what not, we are human after all. During the time off, I could also put you through some stress-free simulations to help you get better with flying in space.
Regardless of what you think of how I don't love you, and maybe I still need to sort my emotions out, but yesterday had me decide that I didn't wish to see your face like that again. I must admit, it broke my heart. I hope to see you again, and maybe you could tell me all about it.
Sincerely, Davlos

The transmission regained signal and Invelious's face popped back onto the holo. She smiled as she lowered the datapad, thinking perhaps she should ask to join him on this 'pilgrimage'. Perhaps it would do her a world of good to get away for a while.

Before she could ask if she could go with him, he started to speak, cutting her off, "Well my dear, than..." Suddenly a black bag wrapped around Invelious's head. Voices were muffled and she watched in horror as Invelious struggled, elbowing his assailant in the ribs. A stun baton flashed across her view as they dropped him easily to the ground with it then, then drug him from the room.

Seconds later the connection was killed.

Entry Sixty Two: Dangerous Obsessions

(Posted on PIE forums Jan 19th)

Five days ago:

Garst Tyrell returned to his shuttle after pounding on Shalee's door, asking the doorman and finding out she had left hours ago. He stormed into the cockpit and commed her, waiting for her to pickup as he started to pace.

Seconds later, Shalee replied with a weary tone, "What."

"WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU! I told you specifically to wait in your apartment. Nothing complicated, nothing difficult, and now I have to ask some two-bit minmatar doorman where you are.

"...did he tell you?"

He continued to rage, obviously not hearing her. "Only to find that 'The Misses left two hours ago'. TWO HOURS ago."

"Did you really think I'd be there?"

"Yes?" His tone was cuttingly sarcastic, "Why wouldn't a friend, a lover wait for me to arrive so she could be with me? I'd have to be pretty damn crazy to believe that."

"Lover? Since when are we lovers Garst?"

"I told you I loved you."

"I don't trust you."

"How could you say such a thing?" He glanced around to make sure none of the crew was watching.

"Because of the things you've done. Davlos told me that you were attacking the Amarr militia! With the aide of the TLF! You're an enemy now Garst. How can I trust you when you've lost you way?"

"Who the hell is this Davlos to say what I did or didnt do?! I never attacked any Amarr and I'll be damned if you can provide the proof that I did. I'm not Militia anymore, I'm something beyond that. What do I care about petty Empire politics?"

"If you cared about me you would care!"

"I do care about you, goddammit! I said I cared about you!" He took a moment to reign in his temper, then mumbled, "What the hell kind of question is that... it's like talking to a wall sometimes."

"Yes it is so why do you bother."

"You must have the ears of a cat, woman." He leaned his hands against the console, "So lets cut to the chase. Where are you now?"

"I wont tell you."

"Do I need to hire an agent to stalk you?"

"You're doing a good enough job of that yourself."

"It's not hard to call your known voicecomms number. Now stop playing hard to get, if you didnt want to talk to me you wouldnt have picked up."

"Habit, really. And a desperate hope that you're going to be the man I once knew."

"Why do you refuse to believe that I'm not?"

"Your actions say that you're not."

"What actions."

"We've been over this. Attacking Amarrian ships. Leaving the Empire."

"And that means you cant love me as a person?"

"I'm not having this conversation anymore." She clicked the comm off.

***

She had decided to walk the few blocks from the hangar to the Pax Praetoria. It was a warm night out and she needed the time alone to clear her head. It had been a grueling, long day. It started with an early patrol of two overlapping shifts. A fleet of two Captains, an Admiral and a scattering of Novices had her on the edge of her seat.

They just gotten the call over voice comms that Admiral Konstantinov and Novice Escobar had just been shot down by a rupture. Both she and Captain Laerise were just a few jumps out. She had confidence in taking down a rupture with two slicers, they had done it before. But once they got into the complex, there were two other ships plus the rupture waiting for them, with five other coming in on their tail. Flying with Laerise made her too nervous. With her display flashing eight reds, she told the Captain she was warping out despite orders to stay.

No doubt she'd be called out for insubordination later and humiliated. Laerise had a way of making her doubt everything about herself, of making her feel worse than the lowest slave in the Empire. Probably because she pretty much said that she was the last time she'd run into the Captain off duty.

After her short lived patrol, she made it back to Amarr and spent her down time catching up on her recruitment work. She'd put together a proposal for the rest of the staff for a meeting they had scheduled later, then met up with a new recruit for an interview.

She then made it out onto the battlefield for a short round of patrols. PIE had a lot of recruits out and about and she sent an invitation over the Corp channel for them to meet her at the Paradiso for a drink afterwards.

Once at the Paradiso, she realized it was a mistake. The recruits were entirely too eager to reinforce the self-righteous pompus Amarrian attitude that PIE is infamous for. They started bossing around the bartending staff as if they were slaves and making lavish demands. It embarassed Shalee. The bar owner, Eido, was a particular friend of hers and she had hoped that she'd be able to spend more down time there with her corp mates but after what happened she thought it was for the best to just keep the two worlds seperate, as before.

She broke away from them and went for a dance with Eido, which won her a few disapproving looks from Captain Mitara. Eventually the Captain pulled her off the dance floor, reminding her they had a Recruitment meeting. Which of course was her not-so-subtle way of telling her to stay away from the Caldari. Moments later she was being pulled into Mitara's office for a proper ass chewing on decorum.

Sullen, she joined the recruitment meeting with Senior Guardian Condor, Captain Mitara and Admiral Ruah. The four of them went over her proposal and a hundred other things.

She left the meeting exhausted and decided to stay at the Pax Praetoria for the night instead of making the trek back down to the war front. The lounge, a place for loyalists, owned by Raphael Saint, had an apartment in the back that she and Saint sometimes stayed at. It was quiet, private, and would offer her the sanctuary she desperately needed after the bad day she'd just had.

She had no idea it was about to get much, much worse...


***

He pulled Shalee into the alley as she passed in front, stifling her screams with a hand clamped over her mouth and the other arm wrapped around her waist. He lifted her off the ground and jogged back into the alley, around a corner and into a nook.

He slamed her against the wall as he whispered, "I've been looking all for you girl, do you know how much trouble you've put me through? If you promise not to scream I'll let you speak. Nod yes if you agree."

Instinctively, she bit his hand as he slammed her against the wall, for the moment having no idea who it was until she heard his voice. She widened her eyes as she nodded.

"Remember, no screaming." His eyes were cold but uncertain. He took his hand from her mouth and frowned at the blood.

She trembled, "How did you find me?"

"Thats for me to know and you to pray I don't have to do again. You've really let me on a chase."

"I...I told you I wouldn't be there."

"When are you going to learn you can't tell me no." He grabbed her chin with his bloodied hand and clamped her mouth shut.

"The time for talking is over, now you are going to listen."

She gave a quick nod of her head, eyes bright with terror.

He wiped his bloody hand across her mouth, leaving her lips bloodied and his hand clean again for the second. "I really do care about you, you know... but I'm starting to think that you dont know after all all this chasing, all this back and forth. It's ridiculous and im tired of it." He ran his hand down the side of her waist gently, brushing her hips before bringing his hand back up to her gently touch her cheek. "You've had youre fun, the games over. Where are you staying now? You're coming with me, we can go get your things."

She darted her tongue out and drug it across her lower lip, smearing his blood. "Don't do this Garst. This isn't you." She shook her head, pleading. "This isn't who you are."

"When you ran away with my best friend, did you know who I was then!"

"I never meant to hurt you...it was never about you..."Rage consumed him and before he realized it, his hands were around her throat, choaking her. "I hope im not hurting you". He held it for a few seconds then loosened his hold. "Bullshit. BULL-shit. What happened to us, to you? You came to me in your hour of need, I told you I loved you and you were so overtaken with emotion that you didnt contact me for days after. Now I go off to the front, slave my ass off against the TLF and I come home, to find a proverbial "dear john" letter."

"Smiling at me, "welcoming" me home. Welcome Home Garst, by the way im now engaged to your best friend. Bullshit baby girl, he ran out on you and now it's time we start over and correct that bastards mistake."He brushed his hands down her sides and grabbed her by the hips as he pressed her against the wall, "Kiss me."

"No."

"Did you really think I was asking?"

He grabbed her wrists and pressed them against the wall as his mouth clamped over hers. He bit into her bottom lip, causing her to bleed. The blood excited him. She struggled as his mouth worked down the side of her throat, teeth grazing along her skin harshly. His hands were suddenly everywhere.

She screamed, "I'm not doing this. Im NOT doing this!"

"Oh. Yes. You. Are." He gave a glance around to make certain no one was watching before he continued. His hands were tugging at her thighs now, pushing up her dress. His mouth was on her neck, his body pressed into hers, trapping her.

Rage washed away her fear as she started to wail at him. "No, stop." Her hands were against his shoulders, shoving him away with every bit of strength she could muster. Finally she had proceeded to push him off and stumbled to the side.

She stared at him with terror as she started to back away, making her way towards the exit.

"You....look dreadful darling, I hate to see such an expression on your face. You're right, this alley is no place for love making, come, take my hand, I've got an apartment up the hill, we wont be bothered." Eerily calm, he outstretched a hand to her.

"No, Garst, no! What is wrong with you! Why are you doing this! Why?" She kept walking backwards, edging towards the exit, ignoring his outstretched hands.

He stood there silent, staring at her.

She finally made it to the exit and disappeared into the crowd, never looking back.He drug his finger across his lower lip, tasting her blood still, whispering to himself, "I'll get you yet, my pet..."

Ever so calmly he walked out of the alley, ignoring the eyes of the passerbys.

Entry Sixty One: Curious Calls

(posted on PIE forums Jan 12th)

Patroling out in the back systems of Amarr, Shalee had offered her assistance to the Imperial Navy in one of the military complexes. It was an easy enough task, just patrol around the base for a set amount of time in case a minmatar should happen upon it. With local empty and the intel channels quiet, it wasn't very likely she was to see reds. She sighed as she warped to the accel gate, wishing to see a little action. Lately she had gotten a bit restless with patrols, though she knew they were absolutely necessary for the war effort. PIE's patrols literally made the difference if a system was captured by the Minmatar or not.

But that didn't change the fact patrols were a bit dull when flying solo in the backwater systems.

So when a transmission came in from a random source, she couldn't help but welcome the conversation....

"Have a moment?" Ashar KorAzor's face flickered to view on her screen.

"I do," she replied curiously as she started to run a background check on the stranger. Employment history showed very little, though she was set with negative standings to PIE. Her curosity piqued a little more.

"I wonder if you might tell me if I'm coming up with any standings, positive or negative, on your display."

"Uh yeah, actually. You're orange to me."

"Lallara Zhuul sure knew how to hold a grudge."

Shalee quirked a brow at the mention of Lallara, a once famous Admiral of PIE, long before her time. A few months back, Lallara visited the PIE Public channel and caused a lot of drama with her views on the Empress. Shalee had tried to step in and shut her up when the senior officers failed to do so. She had gotten an ass chewing for it by Captain Laerise, but in the end Lallara's access was blocked to their neocomm channel.

"So, does Praetorian doctrine allow you to speak at length to capsuleers at such conditions?"

"The Praeotrian doctrine prefers that I not speak with you, no." Like that was going to stop Shalee from asking, "So what happened?"

"Oh, many things. Mostly, according to her, I was right." Ashar, paused. "Well, I don't seek to get you in trouble with your commanders if they'll get hot and bothered over your speaking to me, captain. Would be troubling."

"It's lieutenant. But I don't mind, I don't think I'm likely to get in to much trouble. So, what happened?"

"Captain applies fine, I think, if you have to get stuck in a pod. Not a lot of the pilots I find of interest who fly Praetorian colors are still active. I'd rather not be responsible for misfortunes on your part, so I say again, are you sure you'd like to continue?"

Shalee checked the countdown timer, she still had a long while to patrol around the Navy complex, "Nothing could please me more, to be perfectly honest. By all means, continue."

"What happened between me and Admiral Zhuul, retired, is that I expressed certain values she did not share concerning the Empire's stance on traditions, and various other liberalities, and questioned the integrity of her values. She didn't like that. Then, Jamyl Sarum became Empress, and she quit the Praetorians, voicing concerns I had raised in her presence. I doubt she'll ever forgive me." Ashar shrugged, "It's the life of a capsuleer in Imperial politics, or as close as we get to them. Feeling sated now?"

Shalee grinned, "Indeed." Any gossip about Lallara was satisfying. "However, to be honest, I don't know her very well. But what I do know, I don't care for."

"So, mind telling me why you're keen to displease your commanders?"

"I am not eager to displease them."

"I've had an eye on you for a few days now. Pulling feeds and so on. You speak to foreigners without losing your hold on tradition. This is significantly more integrity coupled with the sort of progressiveness that the Empire values. As such, I'm not eager to put you in a position to displease them. Not a lot of pilots around of your sort. They're in short supply."

Shalee frowned, suspicious, "You've been watching me?"

"Lieutenant, I am a telecomm magnate and like yourself, a recruiter. I am quite good at it. You're a capsuleer in a prominent paramilitary. It is my role to watch, and yours, to be seen. Expect it. More malevolent individuals than I will undertake such things, and worse."

"I see." Local spiked suddenly. Shalee forgot the conversation as she concentrated on the flow of reds into her complex. It was a quick skirmish with no losses on either side. "Well, since nothing of substance has been said, you should probably get away safe and sound if questioned about this. Especially if you direct me to the Praetorian public comms now, so you can say that you did so when asked about standings. Do direct me, yes, Lieutenant? And thank you for answering my question."

"Sorry, I was in combat. You have my attention now. Yes, I can direct you to the public comms."

"Oh, I'm just keeping you out of trouble. I know where they are. This is so you can say you did."

"I'm not worried so much about trouble. My superiors seem to think I attract it," she grinned smuggly.

"Mm. Well, know that I am publicly reviled for using the privlidges that, while mine by right, are generally understood to be vestigal: interacting with suspicious foreign powers, conducting business with such, and so forth. That and my political views make me significantly troubling."

"Political views? Care to elaborate?"

"...If Laerise is an arch-conservative, I am nearly an an arch-liberal. If Ardor was an extremist in his traditionalism, I am an extremist in my progressiveism. The Praetorians usually cleave to the center, which is set by whoever sits on the throne. I...don't. It's of concern to the likes of them, and it is why I have low standing with them."

"I'm really nothing like Laerise."Ashar smiled slightly. "Nobody's anything like Laerise. She lives on a wholly constructed reality, carefully built up by wiser backers."

"She is...unique. But." Shalee shruged. "She is my commander and I will show her the resepct due to her rank."

"As you should. Nothing built around a military structure goes anywhere good when there's a breakdown in the command chain."

"I agree."

"And whatever Laerise's familial problems may be, her adoptive daughter seems to be breaking clear of them, so there is hope."

"Adoptive daughter? Sorry I am not much aware of Laerise's personal life."

"Daughter in law, albeit adoptive. Not wholly relevant to her command experience. Evidence of anyone's chance for redemption. Look, Lieutenant, I'm going to stop making trouble for you, now. If you'd like to make some for yourself, I won't prevent further contact, but best it were undertaken at my arbor, or somesuch. Less...problematic on the reports. You'll find the GalNet data on it instructuve."

"Your arbor?" Somewhere in the back of her mind she could hear Captain Mitara's voice warning her to drop it, that she was set to orange for a reason. "Yes, captain. It's in Amarr. Just tell the next pilot up the chain that you took respite on the Theology Council Station over Zorast."

"Will do." This time her subconscious became a chorus of Captain's voices, both Mitara and Laerise telling her not to step anywhere near Ashar. She mentally shushed them.

"It's also VR accessible, I suppose. Well, do take care, Lieutenant. May God preserve you."

"Wait. VR accessible?"

"Mm? Yeah, but I wouldn't recommend it. You're familiar with virtual reality projection systems?"

She laughed, "Oh. Right. Yes, of course. But I rarely use them, I prefer face to face."

"My order's arbor is...let us say coordinated with a projected virtual reality environment. The technology in question is oddly simple, but I didn't get the expensive bits, so there's only limited things you can do to affect it from VR. In other words, you're right to prefer to be there in person."

"It sounds interesting."

"Well, by virtue of ships and gates, it's perfectly reachable for you, I imagine."

"Though I'm not certain why I should go there when we are having a perfectly fine conversation here."

"Madam captain Lianne, I'm pointedly ignoring your rank to indicate that I am not engaging you in conversation over the comms as a Praetorian because people have ways of finding out. Aside from that, I asked you about standings. This has been answered, and as such I'll cease taking up your time unless you, y'know, have more questions. My previous contacts within the Praetorians typically met with demotion and so forth because of getting found out, one way or another. I'd prefer not to inflict that on someone I've just met properly. But, if you've more to say - by all means, I'll stay and listen."

Shalee hesitated for a moment, "No I really have nothing to say. More or less just curious, but mostly all of that was before my time, so there's really nothing I need to know. I suppose."

"Oh, they do tell you that. And then a dead woman is enthroned and a war started and seven hundred million slaves freed and all the rest." Ashar grinned provokingly, "Come by for tea, then." She killed the connection.

***

Shalee was in her Choonka apartment, her bed covered with luggage, closet door open as she padded back and forth, packing up a few days worth of clothing. A camera drone followed her, buzzing above her head, recording as she busily packed.

"The other day I'm in the Basilica and run into one of our new recruits, Ollin. We were chatting when Davlos happend by. I introduced him to Ollin, and the next moment I'm getting pulled away by Captain Laerise."

"She scolded me for talking to him and for introducing him to the new Ensign, all because of his past. I tried to explain that Davlos was joining the militia, thus he was perfectly acceptable to talk to. I mean, if the Empress allows it, what can Laerise say?"

"Laerise pointed out that he wasn't in the militia yet." Shalee frowned. "She had a point."

"So after that asschewing, I couldn't help but be in a mood with Dav. Later on that night he tried to comm me but I told him not to bother, that I was tired of him making me out to be a fool. I had told so many people, my Captains, that he was joining the militia but he had not. I told him I couldn't talk with him any longer until he joined." She tucked a uniform shirt into the bag, "He got snippy, then ended the conversation."

"Not twenty four hours later he is flying DIA colors."

She checked the time, realizing she had half an hour to escape her apartment. She drug her bags to the front door, then went back to her bedroom. Catching a glimpse of herself in the mirror, she frowned. She was sick to death of seeing herself in her PIE flight uniform. She'd practically lived in the thing. With a few minutes left, she quickly changed out of the flightsuit and slid into a simple white linen dress that tied across her shoulders. She pulled her hair up, then glanced to the clock again a bit nervously.

Fifteen minutes left. Enough time for a smoke and drink before she had to leave. She wandered off into the living room, poured a drink and lit up a cigarette as she mentally replayed the conversation with Garst from earlier....

She'd just walked into the apartment when the internal comm unit opened up with a transmission from him.

"Shalee darling it's been a week since I've last talked to you. It's been hard for me to keep my mind off you, I heard the war is going badly and I was scared that you might have been hurt. I had to contact you, I couldn't wait any longer for you to get back to me..."

The silence was thick as she debated on answering him or not.

"I am fine."

"Thank God! It does me good to hear that, and see you again Shalee, even if its only over the damned comm network."

"And if I wasn't fine? Then what? What would you have done hmmm?"

"I would have moved the stars in the sky to get to you again of course, what kind of question is that?"

She shrugged, "I don't know."

"Well never mind the what ifs. What matters is that you are alright, and thank God that you are. Are you ready to come with me? I miss you so badly."

"You know I cannot...will not, leave PIE. Not now."

He looked crestfallen and turned away from her slightly before looking back into the screen as he composed himself. "You need a break. The war isn't going anywhere, but we are. You'll understand when you are with me. Come with me, if it isn't everything I promise it to be, I will take you home myself."

"Come with you where, exactly? And to what avail?"

"Does it matter where we go? As long as you are with me."

She was silent for a moment as she thought about her conversation with Mitara recently. Perhaps there was still a way to reach Garst, to lead him back to salvation. "Garst...do you believe in God still?"

"I would not be standing before you in one peice, what I am, if I didnt. I believe in him, and more importantly, I know he believes in me."

"Very well. Will you do something for me...?"

"Anything your heart desires."

"Will you meet me tonight? At the St Alms...."

"Is that where you want me to pick you up? I'll bring my transport immediately, I've prepared a room for you."

She shook her head, "No Garst. I'm not coming with you. I wanted to pray with you....for you."

"What good would that do? I don't need prayer, I need you."

She sighed."What's gotten into you!"

"Me?! What about you!"

"I don't know what you're talking about, I'm still the same Garst who bought you your first Slicer, saved you when those Minmatar subhuman dogs had you in their gunsights, held your head and let you cry into my shoulder that night at the waterfall." He kept his piercing gaze locked on her, "I'm me. And thats all."

The transmission drone followed her around the apartment. She stopped at the minibar to pour a drink. "No, you're different now. You're still trying to hold on to that man...maybe I am too." Her brows furrowed. "Maybe thats the problem. Maybe it's time we both let go of something that's passed.

"He growled into the screen and made to grab her before realizing that she was just a hologram. His grip relaxed, "NO! I will not let you go. Get your things, I'll be in the Choonka system in an hour, I will be at your apartment a few after that."

"No."

"The clock is ticking, four hours. Get packing. Go."

She took a long sip of her drink as she glanced at him, "I said no. What are you going to do, beat down the door?"

"No. I have goons for that. Is that whats it's going to come down to?"Her gaze drifted to the door, "You wouldn't."

"Don't try me."A moment of hesitation flickered across her face. She rationalized that it was Garst. He wouldn't hurt her, not really. "I'm not afraid of you or your goons."

"In three hours and fifty minutes we'll see if you arent packed. You are coming with me one way or another, I know you want me but I'm tired of these mind games."

"You're being ridiculous. First off, I wont even be here in 'three hours and fifty minutes'. Secondly, what, your goons going to chase me down in my slicer? Really Garst."

"Of course you will be, you want to come with me. You will sit there for hours," he challenged. "Tell yourself you wont come, cant come."

"I wont!" She looked at him matter of factly, "I wont be here."

"And when I knock on your door, you will open it, suitcase in hand. Where will you be?"

"I wont tell you."His face twisted with controlled rage, then softened, looking as if he were on the verge of depression.

She remained silent as she poured another drink. Thinking. Wondering if he would ever be the man she once knew, the one she trusted.

"Three hours, thirty minutes Shalee. I'll be there. You better damn well be there too. It's for your own good, I can't wait to feel you in my arms darling. I'll see you soon."

"What? No. Like I said, I'm not going to be here, so you might as well get over these delusions." Before he could answer she killed the connection with a string of curses. Damn him.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Entry Sixty: Captains & Demons

(Posted on PIE forums Jan 9th)

Shadows fell across the floor of the Amarrian Basilica, chased away by the occassional sliver of light from the moon as dark storm clouds parted. A soft humid breeze flowed through the open arena where Shalee knelt in front of the Empress's statue, lost in thought.

The place was eerily quiet save for the crackling of fire from braziers scattered about the premise.

Footsteps marred the silence causing Shalee to glance over her shoulder.

"Captain."

"Lieutenant." Mitara Newelle paused in the entrance as the breeze flowed against her, then took a seat at a nearby pew. "I hope I didn't disturb you?"

Shalee sat silent for a moment, "No..." She hesitated, "May I ask you something?"

Mitara raised a brow, "Hmm? I suppose so, yes."

"Do you believe in demons?"

Mitara cocked her head, looking a bit surprised, "Well... I don't know. Not from the stories we've heard as children, no, but the darkest, vile evil, yes. An odd question, Lieutenant."

Shalee turned around to face Mitara, legs drawn up to her chest, chin against her knees. "Do you think..." She stumbled, trying to find the words to express what she was thinking, "do you think it's possible that evil is...well.." A look of frustration flashed across her face, "What is evil exactly?"

Mitara crossed her legs, resting her hands on her knee, "Now that is a good question. I would have to say evil is something that deceives us into falling away from God."

"If God is all that is good, then what is evil? Who is responsible for it's purpose? I mean,...is evil a sentinent being? Does it have thought? Will?"

"The Scriptures speak of The Deceiver. Whether this is an entity opposed to God, or something else I really don't know." Mitara smirked, "Deep theology is not my strength, Lieutenant."

Shalee brushed a wayward strand of silky red hair from her face as another gust of wind blew through the open room. "Well...the reason I ask. I...I just want to know what makes good men fall? Is it fault of their own or some outside force working against them?"

Mitara frowned a bit. "Ultimately it is their own weakness. To succumb to such forces."

"But..Garst and Zenton...they were such great men, I don't understand how they have ended up where they are now. Are they merely weak then? And what part do I play in that, do I allow them to continue to destroy their lives, their salvation? Or do I try to show them the ere of their ways?"

Mitara's frown deepend at the mention of their names. " Perhaps evil is another of God's many tests."

"Captain...you know they were once good men. Godly men."

"Were they really? Look how quickly they have fallen." Mitara sat back pondering a moment. "However...maybe that's how it works for some, the greater their resolve to serve Him, the greater the influence of 'evil'."

Shalee's brows furrowed, her expression troubled. She'd been there for some time, praying, trying to find a reason, to understand.

"You are troubled that you played some part?" Mitara asked.

"Yes, of course," she admitted.

"I felt the same way with Koronakesh. That I had somehow failed, or driven him further down his path of sin."

"Truely?"

"I came to realize that no matter what I could have done, the outcome would still be the same. We may delay it for a time, but the choice will always lie within that person in the end."

Shalee glanced at the garden as the memory of her telling Garst she didn't believe in God flashed through her mind. He had hit her, brought her to her knees for 'sin'. "Do you think maybe that it is a test from God for you? That you should have tried harder to stop him? To save him?"

"Yes," she nodded slowly. "I'm not saying we should not try... but... simply that we cannot blame ourselves."

"PIE doesn't allow us to try."

"Once they are gone, yes."

"PIE deems these fallen as unworthy...they fail to recognize that there is hope still...isn't there? Isn't there always some kind of hope?" Shalee stared at Mitara, hoping that she would say yes.

"I like to believe there is always hope." She looked to Shalee curiously,"Who troubles you more, Lieutenant, Mr Tyrell or Mr Karvash?"

Shalee stood up and started to pace, "Well...Mr Karvash is still in the militia, he is still serving the Empress." She shrugs, "So...Garst. And Zenton." She hesitated, "Don't you understand? I told them there was no God. I planted that seed."

Mitara stared at Shalee, trying to come to grips with what she said. "Yet you come here and pray...why?" She shook her head with disbelief, "I don't think you truely believe that, Lieutenant, otherwise you would not be with us any longer."

"Oh...I do believe. I was angry...I was furious. Lost. But I believe. Now, anyhow."

"Ah..."

"This was a while ago."

Mitara sat silent for a moment, then said, "If they were so quick to disbelieve the Truth, they were already falling away."

Shalee shook her head, disagreeing. "Everything is my fault. Zenton? I made him believe he loved me more than he loved God. He said those words...and after you lose that, then it's just a downward spiral. I pushed him down that path, because of my anger."

Mitara smirked, "Men are weak, Lieutenant, and short sighted. They trust more in what the can see and touch than what they can feel."

"So you don't think it is my fault? You don't think I set them on this course?"

"The course was already there I believe. Though, through some of your actions you may have hastened their journey. No fault of your own, mind you."

Shalee's comm started beeping, letting her know that she had a patrol shift very soon. "One more thing before I go..."

"Yes?"

"If it were Aldrith, and tomorrow he quit PIE and joined Veto or some other pirate corp...how far would you go to save him? Or...would you just let him go?"

Mitara 's eyes narrowed, "If Aldrith were to do something so rash and foolish, I would be the first to have his corpse. He'd be betraying more than the Empire, more than God. He'd be betraying 'us'."

Shalee fell silent for a moment. "I see...so just like that, you'd forget what he was, who you thought him to be? And believe this new version of him? You wouldn't try to fight for what he once was?"

Mitara sucked in her cheeks and her nostrils flared, "No. That kind of betrayal would be unforgiveable" Mitara exhaled deeply and shook her head as if trying to rid herself of the thought.

"I'm sorry... I didn't mean to anger you or imply that he would. I was just wondering, if our roles were reversed, would you be here now, grasping at straws as to why? Wondering if it could possibly be some outside force, some deceiver of men to lead them down this path of sin."

"Deciever of men or exposer of the unfaithful. I guess that would depend. You've mended your ways, for the most part, Lieutenant. I see no malice in you."

Shalee nodded, "Thank you for the conversation, Captain." She hesitated, her mouth open as if she were to say something else, then merely smiled as she headed for the exit.


***

An hour later she was walking the corridor of her Imperial Slicer with a recording drone following her. There had been a problem with overheating and while she waited for repairs, she paced and recorded for her private journal.

"I was hoping to get finished with patrols early tonight but it looks like that isn't happening anytime soon, " she sighed to herself. "I was supposed to meet Davlos, he wanted to take me dancing, or something."

"I don't know when I'll have time for that now." She came to a stop somewhere near the cargo bay and perched on a crate of modules.

"I'm not even positive I should go....but then again, how can I not? He needs a friend right now, with all of that messy ordeal involving his 'wife'. She left him, though I tell him he is fortunate. Evanda Char, sebiestor, Electus Matari, now Minmatar militia. Better off without the likes of her."

She shrugged, "Anyhow they hadn't really spent much time together lately from what I gathered, but still. I can understand how he feels...just, lost. Thats how I felt when Raphael left me, just completely broken. He needs a friend, and I'll be that friend for him if I can. I've convinced him he needs a new purpose, something to inspire passion, something to live for."

Clunking the heel of her boot against the crate, she sighed, "But I never meant for that to be me!"

"He's convinced himself that he loves me now, but I tried to reason with him. I think he just needs something to occupy his time and mind with. So I've convinced him to join the Amarrian militia."

She smiled wickedly, "What better place to focus his restless energy than onto the minmatar. Perfect really. He has the skills and experience to offer a lot to the militia. And since Evanda now flies for the minmatar...he can exact revenge."

"I've never met her but she's hurt my friend, so that was enough reason for me to abandon my patrol the other night and chase after her. Almost had her on a mission gate, she got away, and then I chased her for seven or eight systems before she went off the grid. Granted I had no illusion of taking her down alone, but Garst had been around that night so I assumed he'd come play 'knight in shining armor' again.

The voice of her crew chief boomed over the ship intercomm, announcing that TES Beguiler was ready for action.

She jumped down off of the crate and hurried off to her pod, eager to get back into the fight, hoping that she'd run into Evanda again...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Entry Fifty Nine: Without mercy

(posted on PIE forums Jan 7th)

The young lieutenant sat on the edge of her seat, elbows pressed against her knees, chin against her balled up fists, watching the recorded holographic replay of the previous nights skirmish with a dramiel. She and Lieutenant Shutaq had been on patrols when she was griefed by a local scum pirate inside a minor complex.

She sighed as she watched her slicer's stats on the bottom of the projection easing into the red. Shields took a hit, fast. Her armor started to bleed red despite running her armor rep.

It was nerve wracking to face him alone, he had chased her into the complex and while she waited for Aldrith she tried to hold him there without getting a one way ticket to the cloning vat.

It was easy to see her mistakes now. She had been exhausted, on the end of the patrol shift and she had lost most of her aggression from earlier. Coming down off the stims, her reflexes were slow. She made a few mistakes, thankfully none that got her or Aldrith killed.

But still, that would have been a nice kill. They almost had it. Though, to be fair she almost lost her slicer as well.

She chalked it up to experience and knew what better to do next time.

Anyhow, she'd gotten a dramiel kill earlier in her patrol, though not alone.

She loaded the footage of that kill. Stars faded into long streams of light as she came out of warp, slowly pulling themselves back into a scattering of pale points of light around the accel gate. As she landed she noticed the dramiel there, waiting. Battle ensued, then out of no where Garst landed and took up her fight. With his help, the dramiel went down.

She clicked off the feed and started to thumb through her recruitment paperwork, her thoughts on Garst.

It had been a strange night. She and Ensign Sabot started out the patrol shift together, he scanned the Bleaks, she got Devoid, while Ensign Stavenhorst rallied with a militia gang. Not many pilots had logged in for duty yet, though she didn't mind. Sometimes she liked flying solo.

Somewhere along the way she noticed Garst in her local system but it was easy enough to ignore him.

Afterwards, every few systems she'd run across his path again, crossing at star gates, landing at the same stations. It was as if he knew where she'd be, though really he'd been in PIE long enough to know her usual route and habits. So it wasn't that much of a coincidence of him finding her when she'd engaged a dramiel on her own.

He had helped her down him with ease, then flew away without a word.Again they crossed paths when she was attempting to take a major complex on her own and ran into some trouble.

Again, he helped her down the war target then warped off without a word.

Eventually he broke the silence somewhere in Oyonata over local comms when no one was in system.

Abandoning her recruitment work, she loaded up the video play of her conversation with Garst and pressed play.

Garst's familiar face flashed onto the screen...

***

"Hello M'Lady."

"Pirate."

"Do you need a dashing knight in shining armor to defend you?"

She was silent.

"Do you bite your thumb maam? I am no pirate."

"I was teasing." After all, he'd saved her ass a few times already and there was no need for hostility on her part.

"If you will excuse me miss-oh-so-young-and-pretty. I've got something to kill."

He left system and sought her out in a private comm-channel.

"Consider yourself lucky it wasn't you." He smirked, hoping that she saw the lie upon his face.

"You would kill me...?" She paled.

"You would try me?" He answered, frustrated.

She frowned. "You've changed."

"The world has gotten harder. So have I."

"I don't like this side of you."

"Maybe I'm tired of trying to get you to like me."

She fell silent again.

He looked off screen as he entered in some data into the No Mercy system. "Another kill for for my logs." He smiled, "It's been a good hunt tonight."

"Anyone I know?" she asked, hoping not.He smiled, "The way you get around I dont know who you know anymore. Maybe. Probably."

"Amarr?"

"Not .... tonight."

She frowned deeply as her heart raced. "What do you mean....what have you done?"

"Dead men tell no tales."

"Tell me what you've done."

"Why should I?"

"Why not?"

"I dont even know what you think of me, so why would I have to justify myself? You're in PIE." He spit off screen, "So I'll assume the worst."

Silence.

" ... So that's what you think."

"You were in PIE too. It's how we met. How can you think so little of it now?"

"The ONLY good thing that came out of that bastard organization was that it showed me how NOT to run a corporation... and you. You really were a lucky find. It's a shame you threw away what I would have given you. Everything. I would have given you everything."

She shook her head. "I don't believe you. You left, Garst. You walked away from PIE, the Empire, me. You didn't even tell me you were going."

"The Empire and PIE have no place for men of ambition anymore. The frontier, that my dear, is where great men will make their mark and carve the next empire. Where the weak perish and only the strong survive. Yes Shalee, that is what I crave. Not the slow death of a complacent empire but the chance to make my mark or die trying on the edge."

"So go," she said dismissively. "No one is standing in your way. Go conquer it all for all I care."

"So that's it? Goodbye and good luck? Don't let the door hit you on the way out?"

"What else do you want me to say? You are leaving regardless."

"Then convince me to stay."

"You wont. There's nothing I can say to make you stay, I can't compete with your quest for glory, for your need to conquer."

"Maybe."

"Maybe? You know I'm right. I never could compete."

He was silent.

She stared at the holographic screen, challenging him. "Fine. Stay. I want you to stay."

"Why? So you can have something for and your friends to hate. A puppet to point to and say 'Don't end up like that, oh ye faithful?' I don't want to stay. I want you to come with me."

"Come with you? Abandon the Empire? For what? To what avail?"

"Because I want you to come. Because I want to open your eyes and show you wonders you've only dreamed of, temptations you've denied for so long. There are no rules on the frontier. Only survival and victory."

"And this is what you desire?"

"I desire you. I always have. Must you be be so willfully blind? It hurts me."

"You desire me like a thing, a toy of some sort."

"A toy? Is that to imply that if I open up the back of your shirt I'll find a string to pull, and you'll say things like, "Shall we play a game?" or perhaps give a little judo chop in the air?"

"Something like that."

"You've never taken me seriously."

"No you've never taken me seriously," she retorted sarcastically.

"I don't know anything about pulling your strings but you sure like pushing my buttons. I took you from the brink. You were in tears, so close to leaving everything and since then everything has been downhill." He paused. "Ignoring, belittled, betrayed. These words spring to mind."

"I don't know why you feel like that."

"You wouldn't. You never could and it breaks my heart."

"I don't believe that."

"That my heart is broken? Case in point. You never take me seriously."

Her voice rose. "But you're leaving anyhow. If you cared so fucking much you wouldn't be walking away now would you?"

"This is going nowhere. Start over with me. Please, if you love me at all, come with me."

"No, no. You can't say that. If you loved me, then you'd stay and defend the Empire with me."

"I can't say that? I can't make demands but you can?"

"Why are your demands any more important than mine?"

"My love isn't tied to demands. I'm set on my course, I want to convince you that it's the right one, and that it would be better for both of us."

"And what of Raphael?"

"What of him? I haven't seen him in ages, it feels like years. So what of him?"

"You know I am engaged to him, your friend. Is that how you treat your friends?"

"And when was the last time you saw your dearly nearly betrothed, who engages you and runs off never to be seen again? My dear he's forgotten about you already, he's no doubt in the arms of some gallente whore light years away," he said cruely. "But I cannot forget about you, no matter how hard I've tried. So here I am."

"...why would you say he is with a gallente whore? Why are you doing this to me, Garst...why?"

"It's time you forgot about him like he's forgotten about you. Come away with me, let me love you like you should be." He gave her a charming smile. "Say the word and my men will be over tonight to pick you up and bring you to me."

"I'm not some prize to be claimed Garst."

"Of course not! It was destiny that brought us together, why are you fighting God's will?"

"God's will? You don't even care about God! You're abandoning him! You're leaving the Empire!" She scoffed.

A look of frustration crossed his face briefly as he was caught in his slip of the tongue, "Shalee I'm not the best with words in matters like these...maybe that's why I've never been able to express what I want to say in a way that could make you recognize the sincerity of what I'm telling you..."

"Garst, do you know something you're not telling me? About Raphael."

"You suspect something worse?" He paused, "You do. You know im right."

"Are you?"

"I fear the worst. What kind of man would leave the one he loves for so long by choice? It's ridiculous."

"He wouldn't do that to me." Her voice softened.

"Wouldn't he?"She shook her head, "He wouldn't..." She tried to protest, but didn't sound very convincing.

"He left you. I never did. I've been here, day in and day out, no matter whether or not you've noticed me."

"But with your own agenda. At least when he is here is fighting beside me."

"My love is unconditional, no matter where my work takes me."

"Leave me alone...I need time to think."

"I love you, what is there to think about it? We'll speak soon, I can't wait to see you again in the flesh.... " He killed the connection before she could respond.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Entry Fifty Eight: Disbelief

(Posted on PIE forums Jan 6th)

Church bells chimed, marking the evening hour. A summer breeze flowed across the rooftop of the St Alms Catherdal where Shalee was stretched out, wearing her PIE flight suit, using her jacket as a pillow.

She stared up at the never ending sky, pale blue with a hint of purple, dotted with a scattering of clouds. The sunlight illuminated them with a firey outline and in that moment it was easy to imagine them as she had when she was a child, a magical place in the sky that hid fairytale castles and flying dragons and secret kingdoms.

"Not all stories have a happy ending, Micah. Commander Michael Priboj was supposed to come home. He was supposed to live. He was supposed to resume his duties with PIE and with the cathedral. He was supposed to train me as his apprentice. He wasn't supposed to die."

The Imperial Agent looked at her, "He isn't really dead."

"Might as well be. He did die. Just because he was 'resurrected' doesn't mean that is really him now. Did you even see the holo? He doesn't even look like himself."

Micah shrugged, "I did see it. And yes, think about it, he is preaching 'God's word' to the Jovians. It is what he would have wanted, so in a way, it is his happy ending?"

It was her turn to shrug.

"If you say. But I still can't help but feel as if I failed him. If I could have rescued him..."

"You tried your best."

"And it wasn't good enough. He died on that god-forsakened planet because I couldn't get to him." A crease etched between her brows as a look of worry washed across her face. "Do you think he knows I tried?"

He nodded, "Yes, I do. Absolutely."

She fell silent for a moment, lost in thought."What's on your mind now?"

"Hmm? Oh, I don't know. Just thinking about things. The other night..."

"What happened?"

"Nothing much, really. I stopped by the Pax, Raphael and I had plans to meet there for a nightcap before bed, you know we have an apartment in the back?"

He nodded, and she continued. "Well, Mitara and Laerise were there. Mitara flagged me over, so I went, trying to be sociable when all I really wanted to do was go to bed. Laerise was wretched, as always. Called me some names. Insinuated that I was a whore."

Micah frowned, "She doesn't care for Raphael?"

"I don't know...I don't think it has anything to do with him. She saw me talking to Zenton once at the Basilica, saw me leave with him and I guess she just assumes I ended up in bed with him. Which I did not." She flushed with annoyance. "It's tiresome, you know? Seventy five percent of the miltia is male, not like I can avoid talking to men. But before I went over to talk to them, the Captain's brother, Kaleb came over. He was his usual friendly self. Maybe she thinks I am sleeping with him too."

Shalee rolled her head to the side to look at Micah as he asked, "And what of Raphael?"

"Well...we made up...I moved back into our apartment in Choonka. But I don't know. It is hard for me to trust him or believe him sometimes." She shrugged, "I told him I wasn't going to be with a pirate or anyone who wasn't fighting this war with me. If he was sincere, he'd put in his application for PIE. So, he did."

"But then this whole Michael thing came up..." She looked intently at Micah, "And I've asked him to go find Michael."

"So you have sent him on a fool's errand?"

"No. I cannot accept that Michael is some god damned Jovian cyborg now. That isn't Michael." Distress marred her face, "Michael was so kind...you don't understand. He once gave his arm to spare a slave. His compassion had no limits. Michael wouldn't just abandon the Empire, PIE....me." She nodded, firmly believing something was horribly wrong, that it was all some kind of government conspiracy and he was still out there. "He wouldn't give it all up just for a handful of implants. I know him better than that."

The Imperial agent sighed. "Shalee..."

"Micah please. Even if you can turn a blind eye, I cannot. He was a mentor, a friend. I can't let this go until I know for certain what has happened...so will you help? I told Raphael you would. You're really our only hope at this point. Please Micah."

He stared at her for a very long moment, saying nothing.

"Please?"

"Fine."

She sat up and threw her arms around his shoulders, hugging him. "Thank you."

"I'll do what I can. No promises. But only on the condition that you let Raphael handle it, keep your nose out of it. Promise me Shalee."

She nodded, "Yes, of course. Anyhow I don't think I could get away now if I wanted to. The war..." A feeling of dread washed over her.

"It's not going so well?"

"No. Our Caldari allies basically stirred the hornet's nest and left us with an impossible amount of systems to cover. We were so spread out. We've lost all that we gained plus systems that were originally ours. And on top of that, so many are leaving the militia now. No Mercy..."

"Garst Tyrell's corporation, right?"

"Yeah. I mean...even if he and I weren't really speaking, at least his pilots were out there distracting the blobs while we were getting our work done. And now with the militia short 75 of his pilots, plus DIA has suffered losses with Zenton, Xaerik and Swatyy leaving." She sighed. "It seems dire, but I have to believe that we can overcome such impossible odds."

He smirked as he quoted, "Only through many hardships is a man stripped to his very foundations and in such a state, devoid of distractions is his soul free to soar and in this he is closest to God."

Friday, January 8, 2010

Entry Fifty Seven: Your presence still lingers..

(Originally posted on PIE forums Dec 21st)


A soft humid breeze flowed through the open window of the cabin. The curtains rippled, dancing ghostlike along the wind, flowing into the room. Moonlight spilled across the wooden floor.

Shalee lay across the bed, half dressed, staring at the ceiling. Her cheeks were flushed from fever, hair a tangled mess, makeup smeared.

She avoided sleep, fought it off by the steady flow of stims. It had been two days since she had left the Basilica.

It had been one day since Raphael had found her....and left her.

Thunder rolled across the sky. The rain started to fall. Dark clouds lit occassionaly with the flash of lightning.

She was only vaguely aware of any of it.

The rain slanted through the open window, pooling on the floor. She rolled her head to the side as she heard the crashing sound of the door banging open and merely stared beyond it, watching the raging storm outside.

Occassionaly she would jerk, gasp for breath as a sob caught in the back of her throat. Hours bled away unnoticed.

The storm faded and all was silent for a while. The rain slowed to a steady mist.

The room was eerily quiet, marred only by the sound of her labored breath.

Sometime later the storm picked up it's furious pace and sent winds crashing against the tiny cabin. Rain gushed in sheets. The curtains were soaked. Water trickled across the floor.

Music started to play, a haunting melody from another era. The volume intensified until Shalee finally took notice of it. She sat up on the bed and glanced around for the source. It grew louder until she finally pulled herself off of the bed.

And then all was quiet except for the rumble of thunder.

Exhausted, broken, she pulled her fingers through her hair as she looked around the cabin, thinking she was losing her mind.

Her eyes burned, head pounded. Her body ached from lack of sleep but the stims wouldn't allow it.

A shadow at the door caught her attention. The silhoutte of a girl. She stepped towards her.

"Hello?"

No response.

"Who are you?"

The girl turned and ran out into the storm."Wait! Don't go!" Shalee dashed through the door into the storm, chasing after her.

Her heart raced as she ran along the muddy path, drenched with rain, barely able to see two feet in front of her. "Stop! Wait! You shouldn't be out here!"

Treelimbs and branches from overgrown bushes pulled at Shalee's skin, scraping it. Rocks dug into her bare feet yet she barely noticed. She continued to run, trying to catch up with her.

Finally the girl turned around and locked her gaze on Shalee. Lightning flashed overhead, illuminating the pair long enough for her to make out the familiar face. The girl Shalee had seen for months now in her dreams.

"Who are you! What do you want from me!"

The girl opened her mouth as if to speak.

The lightning faded and everything was dark again. Shalee desperately sscrambled towards where she'd seen the girl.

Her feet went out from under her as she slid down a muddy bank. Screaming, she frantically frailed her arms about trying to grab at anything to stop from falling.

"Shalee!" a familiar voice yelled back in response just before she went unconscious.

***

Pain coursed through her body as she blinked her eyes open. She rolled her head to the side, wincing as she tried to sit up.

"Careful now. You've had a bad fall."

"Am I dead?" she asked with some confusion. How else could she be looking at him. He was supposed to be dead.

He chuckled, "No."

"But you are...?"His brow arched, "Hmm? Oh, right. The Cathedral. That was just one of many deaths. Woke up good as new after that in the Amarrian Cloning Facility."

"Oh...right. Of course." It never occured to her that the Imperial Agents would be clones as well. Clones were usually looked down on as something unnatural, impure.

"Why did you let me believe you were dead? Why haven't I seen you until now?"

She stared an accusation at Micah, the 'priest' from St Alms Cathedral, an Imperial Agent who had been sent to stop her investigating the disappearance of Commander Michael Priboj. A few months back he had been shot by one of his comrades after he tried to give her the location of Michael.

She thought he had died.

"What are you doing here?"

"What are you doing here?" He countered.

"I...I just had to get away."

"It's not like you to walk away from the warfront. What happened?"

She shifted on the bed, trying to get comfortable. "I.." Her thoughts flashed back to her fight with Mitara. "I went to the Basilica, ran into the Captain. I was wanting to tell her about Zenton leaving DIA and how I thought maybe he might try to cause trouble for Raphael. She was suprised, told me that Raphael wasn't any of PIE's concern at the moment, that he was decommissioned. I got so mad at her...I mean, I knew it wasn't her fault, that she was just the messenger of bad news. But I took it out on her. I was just so exhausted and out of it. I started yelling at her, she tried to calm me down but I'd have none of it. She then threatened to demote me down to Ensign, I ripped off my Lieutenant bars and threw them at her. It was horrible really."

Micah nodded sympathetically, "I can imagine. But that doesn't explain how you got here or what you're still doing here. Or why I found you unconscious."

"I left the Basilica after that and just flew around some. I wanted off the warfront and away from Empire space. I just needed time to think, to figure out what to do."

"So..." she shrugged lightly, "I ended up here. It seemed remote enough that I wasn't likely to run into anyone I knew." A look of misery washed across her face, "But Raphael found me. He returned from his mission and tracked me here."

"But he is not here now...?"

She answered in a quiet voice, "No."

"What happened?"

"I don't know. We started talking, he didn't even know about his decommission either, he came straight for me before checking in at the Headquarters. I asked him what we should do but he got sidetracked."

"Sidetracked? By what?"

"I told him I had been staying at Zenton's. He didn't really give me a chance to explain."

"Why were you there?"

"I didn't want to be alone. Raphael left and...everything was wrong. I started to...see things. Hallucinate, I guess. It happened when I was alone, so I left. I went to the Basilica. Zenton was there, saw that I was a complete wreck. He took me to his place, but nothing happened. He was a good friend to me, told me to stay there as long as I needed to. He left for zero zero the next day, but the place was so busy with DIA coming and going, I was never really alone."

"Did you tell Raphael that?"

"No, he didn't give me a chance to. He took off his PIE uniform and told me to return it...he started to leave and I asked him if he was coming back. He told told me that if 'he took too long Zenton would surely let me stay at his place'." She sniffled, "And he never came back."

"How long have you waited?"

"I don't know," she shrugged. "Seems like forever."

"Hardly, you've been off the grid for about three days."

"What? Are you following me?"

"Technically, no. I've been keeping an informal eye on your whereabouts. Nothing out of the ordinary til lately. When you left the warzone I got a little suspicious. After a couple of days, I tracked you down." He gave her a look of concern. "So why did I find you running around out in the middle of a storm?"

"I ...saw someone. A girl, about ten or twelve." She glanced to the door. "I don't know who she is but I keep seeing her..." She shook her head, "But she is not real. It's just...I'm hallucinating."

"You're seeing ghosts?"

"Ghosts aren't real."

"What makes you so certain?"

"I...I don't know."

"There are many cultures out there who believe in such things. Personally I wont rule out the possability. So tell me, what have you seen?"

"She's young and...and I see her when I'm really tired. Sometimes I have nightmares about her. At first the dreams were just bits and pieces of... her life. But then they started to get darker...she was terrified of something."

"Of what?"

"I don't know. It's like...I'm trying to put a puzzle together but I don't have all of the pieces."

"Maybe she is trying to tell you something. Maybe she wants you to figure it out."

She stared at him for a moment. "I don't know."

"Open yourself up to the possability and see what happens. Stop running from your ghosts. Face them. You can't go on like this, you have to sleep. You have to take care of yourself."

She nodded, "I know."

***

They talked for a few more hours before she decided to head back to the warfront.

She had planned to check in at the Amarr Headquarters to make certain Captain Newelle had not made good on her threat of demotion, catch a few hours of sleep, then head out to the warfront, rested and ready to go.

As soon as she was in pod and logged into they system, -Warning, Saidusairos is Vunerable- flashed across her screen.

She gave an exhausted sigh as she set course for the Bleaks. A few moments later Lt. Condor Amarr announced over comms the system had fallen.

-Warning, Saidusairos is lost-

Guilt consumed her.

An entire system lost, stolen while their attention was on the North. While she had been lost herself, off of the warfront for days.

She couldn't help but to take it personal.

With the distraction of war, she pushed all thoughts of Raphael, Zenton, Micah, and ghosts from her mind. War made it easy to lose herself, to numb her thoughts. She fleeted up and started her patrol, pushing the need for sleep to the side.

What could one more day hurt?