Eight days ago..
"For fucks sake Vlad don't..." Before she could even finish her sentence he yelled, "I'm down."
"I told you it was a trap! Goddamn it why did you warp away! Why!"
"Shalee...I'm sorry." She killed the comm connection with him, too annoyed to even speak.
Minutes later Zenton Karvash initiated comms with her. "Well, Vlad's ship was destroyed... but not for the reasons of why I was supposed to kill him. He attempted to kill a freighter that was working for Proper Villains, so... retribution had to be taken."
"Yes... of course," she replied with sarcasm. Could she trust him? It was too ironic that he had orders to kill Vlad in Arzad, and that is precisely what happened.
"If you... want too I could escort you to Avair and you could see for yourself what the Hand is trying to acomplish... I understand if you don't want too..."
"What would I find in Avair that I haven't found already?"
"I think you know."
"Invelious? You want to take me to Invelious? After everything he has put me through?"
"You've been looking for him, I figure you might want to hear what he has to say about why he's done this."
"Yeah. Fine. Take me to him."
"I hope you don't look down on me too much for this, I'm sorry for hiding my affiliation with them from you."
"It's just...all of these secrets. It's like finding out you're someone entirely different than I thought you were."
"I'm myself, I joined the hand when I was leaving DIA, it was an honor to be accepted amongst the elite few loyalists that are allowed in. I didn't know they had a darker side to them when I joined, if I did I might have choosen not to accept... and I certainly wouldn't have mentioned your name."
She hesitated for a moment. A part of her wanted to tell them all to fuck off, but another side of her had to know what all of this was about. Why all the secrecy, why the cloak and dagger games. And what exactly had Zenton gotten himself into. "When do we leave?"
"Whenever your ready."
Hours later, she entered into the inner sanctum of a small Amarrian church deep with an Avarian forest. She and Zenton had been lead to the center of the marbled chamber where she was summoned forward by a white robbed individual wearing a mask.
She neared him and hesitated, her gaze wide, her expression guarded. She did not trust anyone in the room save Zenton, and even that trust was wearing thin.
Suddenly the man motioned to Zenton, "Why is this fair creature here today Hand Karvash, is she chosen for the trials?"
Zenton nodded his head, "Yes."
"I'm not chosen for anything. I'm not doing anything. I only want answers. I want to speak to Invelious, to make certain he is alright."
"Answers," he chuckled, "I suppose this is natural. State your questions, for no answer can be given without a question first."
"I want to know everything. I want to know why? Why was I lead on a wild goosechase? To search for a man who was NOT kidnapped? I want to know what this organization is about and why I was brought here."
"What man do you speak of?"
"He was kidnapped, and tortured, beaten, and can be presumed dead at this point my dear."
She turned to look at Zenton, her expression an accusation, "What the fuck is going on here?"
"The forces of God work in mysterious ways, Zenton here can concur with that."
"Someone is lying, and someone needs to start telling me the truth. Now."
The masked man motioned to the wall behind her as a light suddenly illuminated a painting. A young female warrior in battle, holding a flag, soldiers rallied around her, angels keeping vigil overhead.
Shalee looked over her shoulder, giving an impatient glance to the painting. She noticed that it was done in the style of the one at Invelious's house, but that didn't mean anything to her. She turned to face Zenton, "I want answers. Tell me the truth, is he really dead?"
"I have told no lies." Zenton said.
Frustrated, she questioned the masked man again, "What do you want from me?"
"The truth can be the more destructive than a lie. You were a blood raider correct?" His tone was soft, deceptive.
Anger flushed her face as she looked to Zenton again, feeling betrayed. "That is none of your business."
"He told me nothing."
"Then how do you know?" she demanded.
"You live in a universe of billions, trillions, of people my child. That's a set of eyes for each person, and ears, your every move can be tracked."
"Why. Why me?"
"Besides my dear, God is everywhere...you, God...." He suddenly yelled, "God wills it!" His tone softened again, "You have served God in all pasts, you have bled, teared, died, you are a forever servant of God, once lost...but now found."
She jumped nervously as he yelled, feeling uneasy. Her gaze locked with his, staring at him, saying nothing.
A tear of blood ran from the pure white mask. "Your blood burns with so much passion, hate, and love. All this is a projection of your faith, your strength in our lord, and his strength that runs through you. But..." He started to whisper, "You are misguided." He leaned closer to her, his masked face an inch from hers.
She lifted her chin stubbornly, her gaze intent upon him, not pulling away despite her uneasiness. Fear rushed through her though stubborn pride kept her still. She would not retreat.
"Zenton, why are you a Emperor's Hand."
"To serve my Empire."
"Who's Empire brother?"
"I serve the Amarr Empire, through which I serve God."
He whispered to her, "Who do you serve Shalee Lianne?"
"I serve the Empire, I serve God."
"Oh? You do, do you?" He pulled away from her, "I know what God Zenton serves, but is it the same? Is Amarr's God the same? I think the god you are thinking of is not the right one my dear...you wanted answers correct?"
"I wanted to find out about Invelious..."
"The Slayer of the Dragon."
"What?" she asked, not following.
He ignored her question and turned to Zenton. "You may leave if you wish brother. She is safe."
Zenton glanced between the two, "I've no where to be."
His masksed face focused on Shalee once more. "He is the Slayer of the Dragon, Shalee, Saint George."
"I thought you said he was dead."
"He's been dead for...well.. since before the Eve Gate."
"...what? You're making no sense."
"I'm making perfect sense my child. Tell me, since you seek to find out about Invelious, what do you already know about him? I am of course, assuming you were already investigating him and his disappearance, otherwise you would not be standing here."
"I know very little. I know that he was the CEO of DIA. I know that he went missing recently, that he was kidnapped. That he is a collector of artifacts. That he has a house on Avair."
"Zenton, other than today, was she aware of the Emperor's Hands? I only ask because of your close relationship with her."
"I still have no answers," she said with a hint of frustration.
"Shalee. You now stand in a cross roads. One path will lead you to a self destructive life, inevtiable back into the hands of the twisted blood raiders, or possibly worse. And the other will lead you to the truth." He spread his hands, "I will say, the second option is not a easy path."
"Who are you to decide my future?"
"I am deciding nothing, I simply know the variables. It is you who is making the descision."
"What is all of this about? I'm tired of the games and the masks and the run around."
Zenton interjected, "No one can forsee the outcome of events that have not happened. You cannot know if she would fall."
"It is the most likely variable, as every child finds its old home, you are proof of that Zenton. But with you I know God is truly in your heart. With her I don't know that yet."
"Why do I have to prove anything to you?" She looked to Zenton, tired of it all. "I want to leave.
"Have you killed your brother yet Shalee."
She instantly paled. "How do you know..."
"Give me three days Shalee. Three days to free you." Invelious slid the mask from his face, looking at her intently, "Please."
"Inevelious...I should hate you for what you've done."
"I...needed to disappear off grid for a bit, leave my enemies wondering, hoping I was dead. Also, needed to clean out what was left of DIA, its initial phase was complete. ..support the war and find the Emperor's Hands."
"But why did you have to involve me? What have I done to you?"
"I needed to confirm who I truly think you are. The investigation was required in order to bring you here. Telling you any other way could have compromised my plans, spies are everywhere."
"Who do you think I am...?"
He sighed, "Operation Rebirth. This will only confuse the matter. Look. My DNA, as does Zenton's, or at least as far as we can tell predates the Eve gate."
"But how do you know that?"
"Before the Eve Gate, an experiment took place, in a sense, blasphemous to the religous community, and as always, science is the enemy of faith. The experiment, Operation Rebirth, was to take DNA of long past saints and clone them...."
"Clone them...? I-I don't understand."
"Science, at that time, was bent on disproving God's existence, what better way then to bring back one of his purest children, especially those held in the highest esteem of that time. The objective was to prove that under the scientific principles, they could condition them to not only reject the idea of God, but also prove that even those said to have the strongest connection to God, by the church, have no connection, thus proving that the existence of such a being is not possible. A little crazy, yes...but it seemed to work."
She stood there motionless, as if she was trying to wrap her mind around the idea of it all. "It seems impossible."
He shook his head, "I told you. At this moment, its too confusing to even explain. Shalee. You have displayed all the characteristics of what is required of a Emperor's Hand. You don't nescessarily need to know where your potential comes from, only know what is required of you in the present."
"You realize at this moment I know nothing of the Hand other than what little you have told me, and what your actions have displayed."
"We do what is needed, at any cost, to execute God's will, acting through the Emperor, and the Amarr Empire. It is a title bestowed to those who have proven themselves truly worthy, there is a saint, and then there is a Emperor's Hand. The difference is..you have to be dead to be a saint. We believe you belong here, among our ranks. But you need to believe it also. The tests will help you realize this."
"No. I want no part of this."
He seemed lost in thought.
"I can't spare three days away from the war. I'm pushing it to be here now. I wanted to make certain you were okay. Now that I have, thats all I need to know."
"The war is over."
"The war is not over by any means."
"Amarr will not win, a true darkness will be descending over Amarr soon."
"I don't recall Invelious ever being a defeatist. The war will be waged until the bitter end." Zenton said.
Invelious turned to Zenton, "The war wil be waged until the bitter end. Indeed it will be? What is that end Zenton?"
"And I will be there on the battlefield til the bitter end." She looked at both men stubbornly.
"Again. What is that end? How will it end?"
"Until there is no one willing to fight it will not end."
"This war will end, the fight will continue, it is that second war that we need to prepare for. This is why we need you Shalee, we will need leaders."
"I see. And why do you need three days to decide if I am worthy? Could you not have figured that out in the last month I've been chasing after you?"
"I spent that time learning as much about you as possible to confirm my belief."
She rolled her eyes, "So you've learned that I'm some clone of some ...some old saint from thousands of years ago? It's impossible."
"Opening a portal in empty space and jumping into it with a ship and reappearing light years away also seemed impossible at some point in time. I learned that you truly qualify to be a Hand."
"I am not staying, no. I need to go. I have obligations, I have people depending on me."
Invelious looked to Zenton, "Please escort her to where ever she needs to go." His gaze slid to Shalee one final time, "Vlad is an enemy, through and through. Avoid him at all costs please. And... I'm sorry Shalee for the misleading, but it was required to protect my motives from my enemies."
"What are you saying?" She already knew but wanted to hear him confess it, "That you had something to do with Vlad being shot earlier?"
He hesitated, as if trying to find the right words. "Yes, Shalee, I set it up so Vlad would get butchered like the piece of fucking shit that he is. AAA and him especially, will burn. He is a threat to our Empire, along with his AAA masters."
"He has saved my life. I owe him."
"How far are you willing to go to repay that debt? He saved your life, and in turn has taken so many faithful Amarrians. Irregardless of him saving your life, he is a enemy, you know this."
"I... know he is the enemy."
"Then there logically is no need to repay him for saving your life. Consider his reasoning for doing so, a selfish one, to be used against the empire."
"Please don't tell me what to think. I've had enough of it." She neared Zenton, "Take me out of here, I'm ready to go." She looked over her shoulder at Invelious just before stepping out the door, "And you. You stay away from me. I've had just about all I can handle of this. While you're off chasing ghosts and conspiracy theories, I am out there fighting the war on the warfront. Until you can find it in your oh-so-busy schedule of shadow games and whatever else nonsense that is going on here in your secret little parties to join me out there, then no. Don't bother me with this again. I've got a real war to fight."