March 6th, 112
Xaerik kicked his feet up onto the table in one of the booths in the back while reaching into his jacket, producing a pipe and lighter. He began to pack the pipe as he noticed the red-headed Ni Kunni at the bar.
"Give the lady a drink. On us," he instructed the dreadlocke'd bartender.
Shalee waited for her glass of wine then made her way over to his booth.
"Mind if I join you?"
"Not at all," he said as he motioned across from him, taking a long pull of the pipe.
She slid into a seat opposite of him. "I wanted to thank you."
He broke into a chuckle, "For what? Turning your boy into a pirate?"
"For not killing me earlier."
He furrowed his brow for a moment, "Not killing you? You and I both know I could never do that."
She shrugged lightly, "I don't know. For a moment when I saw you on the overview, red and flashing. Well. I mean, I hoped you wouldn't but I couldn't know for certain. You really have no loyalty to me."
He tilted his head in a pause, "To you... no. But my loyalty to Zenton is unquestionable and whether you realize it or not... that grants you immunity." He smiled and tapped out the pipe onto the floor.
She sipped on her drink. "Why? Zenton and I are just friends, I barely even see him anymore. He would rather spend his time with you." She shrugged again, though it was obvious that she was bothered by it.
He kicked his feet off of the table and leaned in towards Shalee, "Your world is one he is not welcome in, where he is chained by rules and obligations to causes he doesn't believe in. If he was capable of changing the minds of those he's wronged as well as his own in order to retake his place with you in the stars he would in a heartbeat. Not a day passes without his braying in my ear about returning to faction space to," he put his fingers up in air quotes, "'liberate the locals'. We both know that means he wants to look for you."
She sat silent for a long moment, thinking. "Do you really believe that? And why does he tell you that he doesn't believe in my cause but when he is with me, he says differently. That he has regrets. That he wants to come back to the Empire."
Xaerik motioned for someone to bring him a drink, "Regret is a funny thing. He truly may want to come back to the Empire but that doesn't mean he can. Part of him will always be an Amarrian Loyalist, my dear... but the path he walks now is not something he can go back from."
"Is it because of you? What kind of hold do you have over him? Why does he stay?"
He sipped his drink quietly, "I don't keep him here. All I offer is a place where he can be his own man. Win or lose, everything is done by his hand not that of a God or Empress. I offer freedom."
A frown tugged at her mouth. "He doesn't even believe in God anymore?" She suddenly felt cold, thinking that it was her fault. Her thoughts drifted back to a time when she told him she didnt believe in God. She planted that seed...and now she was paying the price for it.
He finished off the drink in one gulp and laughed, "You Amarrians are all the same. How do you even know your God is the true god? Isn't there a plethora of religions abound in New Eden... why are they wrong and you right? The only thing I believe in is my self and my brothers." He sighed, "I apologize, I shouldn't attack your beliefs... they are your own to have."
"The man I once knew believed. He gave everything for God, for Empire. I don't understand how he has fallen so far from that, from what he used to believe, what he used to be."
"Fallen? Or seen the light? I fought for the same Empire, for the same God... or do you not remember?"
"Many people fight for the Empire without meaning it. Like the Hell Jumpers, they just wanted easy combat. But Zenton was different, it meant something to him. Yes I know you fought for the Empire....but I didn't really know you then, I don't know what was in your heart, what mattered to you. But I knew him."
"Have you ever asked him? Why he flies with me? Why he left the Empire?"
"Two weeks ago he was in my office asking to join my corporation, saying he regretted leaving the Empire, that he regretted the things he has done. Do you think if I ask him he will give me an honest answer? Hell, he probably doesn't even know himself."
He chuckled and leaned back into the padding of the booth. "True enough. I will not profess to know what lies in the heart of Mr. Karvash. I do know I trust him and that is enough for me."
"So why did you leave? What happened to make you step away from the Empire?"
He tapped his chin with his index finger, "I embraced the nature of my people in the crudest of senses. I was born and bred to fight for your God and your Empire. I was Kameiras. It's an odd thing to realize you were created out of need for more warriors then out of love. I don't even know if I have parents." He frowned, "Same could be said for countless others of my kind born into utility under the Empire."
"Parents are over rated." Thinking of her own Father.
"I wouldn't know. I just know that I wanted a life of freedom where my mistakes and my merits are my own and not owed to some God or cause I was born into."
"I think I can understand that." She pulled herself up out of the booth, "I should be going, got to get back out there...maybe I'll see you again."
He stood up to meet her and extended a hand, "I hope so."
She glanced to his offered hand and then lifted her gaze, meeting his as she slipped her fingers onto his. "Thank you again, for all of the times you've saved me."
He gave a firm shake, "You know our comm channel, anytime you need it."
She smiled as she shook his hand just as firmly, "Yup. I do. And if you see Zenton tell him..." She hesitated. "Actually. Tell him nothing. Good night Xaerik."
"You're playing a dangerous game little girl."
Shalee slanted her gaze to Kathetel, frowning. "Don't call me that."
Kathetel folded his arms across his chest as he leaned lazily against the wall just beside her apartment door.
"So you went to the Capsized & Cadavers and had a little chat with Xaerik, CEO of Proper Villians. Looking for Zenton, I presume? Always running to Zenton when you're in trouble, I've noticed."
"It's none of your business what I do."
"Ah ah ah. And that is precisely where you are wrong. You belong to us, remember?"
"I belong to no one," she said in a strained, tired voice. "Look, what do you want from me? I've done as you've asked. I met with Eran again."
He ignored her question as he lit up a cigarette, "We know that the pirates protect you. Why? Is it because of Karvash?"
She said nothing.
"He once fought valiantly for the Empire. I believe he could be persuaded to once again...with the right motivation."
"No. I will not be used in any more of your twisted plans. Not against Zenton...no." She shook her head.
"Do you not care about his salvation?"
"Of course I do, but I cannot be the one to bring him to it."
"You could, you know."
"No. Not like that."
"The end justifies the means," he countered.
"Not always. And anyhow..he is happy where he is. I would not change that. I would not ask him to leave to fight a war he doesn't believe in. If he wanted to be there, he would be. Bottom line. I have no control over what Zenton does...never have."
"We need your cooperation in this matter. There's a lack of morale among the militia. Pilots are growing restless, dishearted as we lose system after system."
"And you think Zenton is the answer?"
"He could be, yes. A part of it anyhow. When he fights for Amarr he is relentless. He could lead us to many victories on the battlefield, you know. It would be an inspiration."
"At what cost? You'd have me toy with his affections?"
"Would it be a lie...?"
She hesitated. How did she feel about Zenton? She cared. Of course she cared. Did she still love him? Was it love?
She had never stopped, not really. Her feelings for Zenton were overshadowed by Raphael, but they were not gone, not completely.
He smiled as realization flashed across her face. "All you have to do is convince him to return...and you'll be one step closer to finding the answers you seek."