Static drowned out most of the transmission. She could faintly make out the plea of the Curator, someone who she had contacted in regards to finding Invelious.
"My time is brief...I hope this message reaches you. Bring an escort to Arzad. Safe spot up at 4:38, ..await further instructions." She gave a sigh of relief, replaying the message again. Did this mean Invelious was alive? That the Curator had information to lead her to him?
Moments later her screen flashed with Zenton's picture, showing him in his quarters in Ashged. "We need to talk."
She glanced up at the screen. "Hi..." Her expression grew worried from his tone. "Yeah okay. What's up?"
"Not on here meet me in Asghed."
"Alright. Be there soon." She killed the connection and set course for Asghed. Half an hour later she stepped into his quarters.
"What's wrong? Why the urgency to come here?"
He stood and walked to her, "I'm sorry to have bothered you in such a manor. But I must talk to you."
"It's fine. Zenton what's wrong? You're making me nervous."
He took a deep breath, "Vlad Cetes a friend of yours yes?"
"Yes...why?" Since when did he care who her other friends were, he was a pirate after all. How could he judge anyone else?
"I've been ordered to kill him. Tomorrow in Arzad...while you are supposed to be meeting a curator."
"What? You've been ordered to kill Vlad? When? Why? By who?"
"I've probably told you far to much by mentioning what I have..." He drummed his fingers across the desk "I was supposed to kill him and make it look as if you set it up."
"But Zenton..." She paled. "You need to tell me what is going on. Please."
"When I was accepted as a member of the Emperor's Hand I put fourth your name as a possible candidate."
"The Emperor's Hand is a secret organization of loyal Amarrians. Who are willing to do whatever it takes to ensure the continuation of the Empire."
She lifted her brows. "What? Seriously? And you're a part of of it?"
"Yes I am."
"You are loyal to Amarr? Still?"
"My pirate status is but a cover."
"I see. I had no idea...why haven't you told me before?"
"It was a secret... I took the vows when I was serving under Invelious. That is what this whole thing is about... I'm to kill Vlad to prevent him from influencing you."
"Invelious." She shivered. "Influencing me? I don't understand."
"He is an enemy of the empire."
"So they want to kill him? Just for talking to me?"
"It's the prelude more to judge your reaction. Would you choose your friend, or the Empire?"
"I-I don't even understand. How do they even know about my connection to him?" Fear pitted in her stomach. She was being watched? Just how much could they know? Were all of her secrets known to this organization?
"I don't exactly know how myself, I just know what I was told...I was given my orders."
"They want to set me up? For murder? What have I done to deserve this..."
"It's a test in their eyes. To judge your loyalty."
"I have NO loyalty to those who wish to frame me for murder." She locked her gaze on Zenton, suddenly seeing him in a new light. Who was he? How could he be a part of something so devious?
He frowned lightly, "I see. He shouldn't be punished for his crimes I assume...?"
"Vlad? I'm not his judge and jury, Zenton. The man has saved my life, I owe him."
He chuckled, "Perhaps I should thank him."
"I'm sorry Zenton, but I can't be a part of the murder of Vlad...he has done nothing to me at all, and he has saved me, so I...I can't be a part of this. And I don't see how you can be a part of this either."
"The man did try to kill me." He swayed his hand dismissively, "But... that aside, I didn't bring you here to ask for your help in killing him."
"Then why did you bring me here?"
"I wanted to apologize for mentioning your name, I didn't know Invelious's organization would resort to this."
"Oh. I see. They were watching me because you told them about me... The organization belongs to Invelious? Do you know where he is?"
" ... I can't say."
She gasped, "You know where he is, don't you...have you been in contact with him?"
"He was the one that gave me the order."
She cupped her hand to her mouth, feeling sick to her stomach. "Are you serious? He is alive and okay? And all of this time I've been searching for him? He's playing a god-damned game with me!"
"I didn't know anything until just a few hours ago... I believed as you did he was... missing."
"So what did he say exactly? Will you tell me everything?"
"Aside from telling me the conversation had never happened, I was told that I was supposed to be the one who escorted you to Avair, instead it was Vlad. Then I was ordered to kill Vlad as you searched for the curator. If you accepted his fate... I was to take you to Avair, to the Hand's Chamber."
"And what is supposed to happen tomorrow? I received a comm-call, a transmission telling me to be in Arzad tomorrow. With an escort."
"It is assumed you will ask Vlad to be your escort. If you asked me I was to be busy. There is no curator in Arzad."
"But...who is going to be there when I arrive?"
"No one as far as I know."
"When were you supposed to kill Vlad?"
"When you arrive at the spot of the Curator."
"So what happens now?"
He sighed, "I don't know... they kill me for telling you this?"
She started to panic. "Zenton. Oh god. I don't know what to do? I don't want you to get hurt either."
"Oh I was just being dramatic, I doubt Invelious would send agents after me." He hesitated, "I hope anyway."
"What are you going to do? Are you going to kill Vlad?" she asked.
"No... I won't betray you like that."
"Why not?" She started to pace the room, "How powerful is this organization anyhow?"
"I don't know."
"Are you unafraid?"
"I would be lying... there are few people more determined than this group...so yes, I'm worried."
"So if you don't do as they say, then they are going to hunt you too?"
"I don't know what will happen... but I won't be attacking anyone in Arzad tomorrow. And I'll keep them away from you, I promise."
"No," she said firmly. "I don't want you anymore involved."
"You can't help that. I got you involved, not the other way around."
"Well this is where it ends. You stay away from me, at least til tomorrow. I'll show up in Arzad, I'll deal with it."
"No! I won't have you putting yourself at risk. Not because of me."
"This has nothing to do with you anymore."
"How does it not?"
"Because you wont be there."
"If I don't show up... they will know."
"Then you must think of something else. Anyhow, Vlad and I can capture this curator on our own if you don't intervene. I'll demand he take me to Invelious."
"I don't think there is a curator. I think it's all been a setup from the start to see if you would be a proper member of the Hand."
"And have I failed?"
"I don't know. I'm sorry I mentioned you Shalee, I didn't know it would come down to something like this."
She fell silent for a moment, arms crossed in front of her. "I can't believe that all this time I've been so worried about him, I've been having nightmares about him...and he's been okay? He's been using me this whole time? He has used me and, you Zenton. You are a part of a secret organization? You've been loyal to the Empire this whole time and you've never told me? You let me believe the lies..I have to go." She strode to the door, "And tomorrow, don't be there, don't be in Arzad. I mean it."
"Zenton no. I don't even know who to trust anymore."
She yanked open the door, "Don't follow me." The door slammed on her way out.
"As you wish..."