(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..."
"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.
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."