(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.
"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."
"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."
"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?