Late March 112
She blinked open her eyes as if by command and focused on Kathetel. "What...where am I?"
"Aboard the Airella, on your way back to Arzad."
She was silent for a moment, trying to put the pieces together. Her memories were distorted and out of place, like a dream."I...don't remember how I got here. How long have I been here?"
"A few hours."
"How did you find me?"
"You know how. A better question would be why."
She stared at him unblinking, saying nothing.
"The Empire has a lot invested in you, and needless to say we are not amused by what you've done."
She squeezed her eyes shut as if she could block out the memory. "Hadrien..."
"I...I didn't mean to."
"Intention is irrelevant now. It's over. You killed him, and we've cleaned up the mess." The corners of his mouth curved into a smirk, "And what a mess you made..."
"He was going to kill Soren, I had no choice."
"No, I gather you did not. But the bloodbath afterwards, I could have probably done without that." He tsked her, "Some old habits die hard eh?"
"Go to hell."
He tsked again. "Now now, no need to bite the hand that feeds you. Your secret room has been cleaned, everything disposed, security feeds erased and replaced. It's like it never happened. You can continue on with your assignments."
"I'm done. I can't do this anymore, I am leaving the war. I'm leaving everything."
He frowned suddenly, "That's not an option."
"I can't do this anymore."
Kathetel sat down on the edge of her bed. He hesitated, his mouth opening, saying nothing for a few seconds.
"Look. You don't have anywhere to run to. You can't go back to your old life, your Father made sure of that. Your other two brothers have all but disappeared. The mercenaries who took you in before have dissipated into other corporations. Where will you go? To Vlad Cetes? A man who wants to turn you into a soulless piece of metal like himself? He will not protect you, Shalee. He wants something from you, we've yet to figure it out, but theres a reason he is following you so closely. Who else do you have? Garst Tyrell? He would crush you for denying him so long. Think you can run to your pirate friends? It's just a matter of days before Xaerik's corporation falls apart. Vincent Pyrce is off the grid, you wont even be able to find him. Face it Shalee. You have no one to turn to, no where to run away to."
She glanced away, saying nothing.
"This is where you belong."
A robed man stepped through the door as it opened. He nodded his head at Kathetel and motioned him over.
She could barely make out what they were whispering about before they stepped out into the corridor.
Kathetel's voice suddenly rose, "Not like this. This will undo everything, all the progress we've made with her."
She strained to hear what the other man was saying in response but couldn't quite make it out.
"Arzad fell?" Kathetel sounded frustrated.
Moments later they returned.
Kathetel folded his arms across his chest, his jaw tensed.
Shalee looked to Kathetel as the other man neared the bed.
"What's going on..." Fear slid down her spine.
Kathetel shook his head as a look of sympathy flashed across his face.
"Tell me, please? What's..."
Before she could finish asking, the stranger spoke. "Shalee Lianne, you are under arrest for the murder of Hadrien Lianne. You will be sentenced to death."
At least it was an escape, she thought grimly.
He frowned as he looked at her as if expecting some sort of hysterics. He tried again, "You know this means suspicion will be cast upon the Knights of the Merciful Crown. They will be dragged through the mud. The public "trial" will be an endless parade of people you've known since becoming a capsuleer. Would you destroy them all?"
"What would you have me do...?"
"Get Eran Mintor to defect. Now. We can't lose any more sovereignty."
"And if I do this, you drop the charges?"
He nodded. "It's as if it never happened."
"I guess I don't have a choice."
His thin lips stretched into a smile as he looked to Kathetel, "Get rid of the clones, make her watch.
"Kathetel glared at him, "It's not necessary. Not like this, you already have her compliance."
"Exactly. We no longer have a need for them. Dispose of them. That's an order."
He activted a holovid, showing the cell where Raphael Saint was being held all these months. Another clone of him had been activated and sent back to Amarr, never knowing what really had happened on his quest to find Commander Michael Priboj.
As the robed man exited the room, Kathetel whispered to her. "Close your eyes."
But she couldn't. She couldn't pull her gaze away from the holo, couldn't catch her breath as two armed guards entered into Raphael's cell and shot him between the eyes.
She heard Kathetel speak her name just before she passed out.
She was dreaming. Her seven year old self was running through the corridor of the house they had lived in. Her tiny feet padded against the marbled floor, barely making any sound as she ran into her room.
She looked around, confused. Everything was different. All of her toys, gone. Bed stripped down. Dusty white drop cloths covered what was left of the furniture.
She ran to her parents room, desperately screaming for her mother but it was different too.
Cobwebs hung from the crystal chandlier. Dust covered the mantle, the tables.
She crawled onto the canopy bed and curled up where her mother should have been. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she absently stared at the balcony doors.
Hours later, she sat at the back of a public shuttle on it's way to Arzad. She was exhausted, pale, and numb. She'd been given a sedative, cleaned up and dressed into her militia uniform.
Just like that, they sent her back into the world with one objective. Convince General Eran Mintor of the Minmatar Militia to defect to Amarr.
She rubbed her temples as her head pounded. She needed sleep, needed to just disappear and hide away from the world but knew it was impossible.
Her comm blinked with an incoming message. She glanced down to the screen...
...I'm sure you've heard the news already, but if not....I'm sorry to tell you that Arzad has been lost by the Amarr today.
Please forgive me. I know you saw this coming, but I hope it doesn't draw us apart. It's hard for me to celebrate this victory knowing you can't share it with me. Please be alright.