(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.
"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."
"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."
"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..."
"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...