Shalee sat stretched out on a padded bench in the library of the Keep, scribbling in her new journal.
Outside the weather was unchanging. The evening sky was covered with a blanket of low hanging snow clouds.
Despite the dreary freezing weather outside, the library was warm due to twin fireplaces roaring on either side of the room.
Most of the books were still unpacked and lay scattered about in shipping crates. Shalee found the room inviting regardless of it's disarray.
I have a raging hangover.
I hadn't meant to drink quite so much, but after a while common sense goes out the window and having another drink seems like a good idea. I remember going to the Gate after patrols.
I was a bit upset, nothing major but...
I missed Eran.
He was off in null sec. He was leading his new alliance and would be gone for most of the day.
Perhaps days, depending on how well the op went.
So after a short patrol flying under Predator Elite with the militia, I took the rest of the night off and went over to the Last Gate. By the time I arrived I had one too many. And of course that didn't stop me. I kept drinking, chatting it up with some woman who seemed rather intriguing. I vaguely remember telling her that we would be the bestest of friends. You know, the usual droning on of an intoxicated person.
Turns out my new friend Ruby is a Sansha.
A goddamned Sansha.
Since the Sansha abductions began, our corporation has tirelessly fought against them, traveling all over the starmap to stand with allies and enemies alike to stop them. Sometimes we were successful, other times not. They managed to abduct millions.
Among those numbers, Seriphyn's wife and child.
So it's more than personal.
But in my drunken state of mind, I just let it go without protest. Talked to her anyhow.
And then I came home to the Keep and told everybody about it. Esna, Hitome, Aldrith, Riso, and Morwen, I think. I just remember being so out of it, jabbering on about this and that, telling them about Ruby.
Not too long after that, Eran came home to the Keep and I remember telling him the same thing. And I remember he was so very angry.
"Are you crazy? You fucking get mad at me for pretending to be a Sansha and..."
I was devastated. I just...I hate to see him angry. Hate to disappoint him in anyway. But he had every right to be angry. I can't blame him for it, especially after I had him arrested when I mistakingly thought he was a Sansha loyalist.
It was a mistake, really. I had went through his comms, wrongly so, and found some correspondence between Eran and one of the Sansha's who were leading the attacks. Also there were letters between Eran and Ashar.
I assumed the worst. I still feel horrible about not trusting him when it mattered most. Come to find out, he wasn't betraying anyone but the Sansha. He was trying to infiltrate them. Aldrith knew of it. So did Ashar. They thought it best to keep me out of it so I wouldn't worry.
Her thoughts drifted back to that day several weeks ago...
Shalee entered into the main hall and paused by the door wearing a look of shock.
"What is wrong?" Vlad Cetes asked, glancing up from his chair by the fire.
She barely noticed him, her blue gaze scanned the room searching the faces. "Aldrith. I need Aldrith."
Vlad made his way over to her, "Lianne, Shutaq is not here."
Charles Raine joined Vlad, "Are you all right? You look faint.."
On the opposite side of the room, the entrance door was pushed open as Eran Mintor stepped inside. A flurry of snowflakes followed him in. He quickly closed it and dusted off the snow from his cloak before slipping it off and handing it over to a servant.
Shalee stood there, feeling as if she couldn't breathe. As if all the oxygen had suddenly been drained from the room. "I just..." She grabbed hold of the door.
Eran started over to the fire and paused as noticed the trio by the door. He made his way to Shalee, placing an arm on her shoulder, "What's wrong?"
Charles glanced between the two of them, "She looks faint. Commodore, perhaps you should sit..?" he slid a chair over in her direction.
Eran held her by the arms and slowly guided her towards the chair. He looked to the other two for explination before stooping down beside Shalee, "Tell us whats wrong..."
"I need Aldrith!" She said frantically as she shook her hands, motioning for him to back away. "No, dont."
Vlad had disappeared and returned a few moments later from the medical bay with a breathing mask. "Breathe," he instructed as he held it to her mouth. "It's oxygen." His voice was suprising soothing, "Shutaq is not here, what do you need?"
Charle's expression turned grim as he look between Shalee and Eran again, "What's going on, Shalee? Take slow, deep breaths.."
"Shalee...." Eran whispered a few feet from her, confused.
She cupped her hand across the mask, holding it to her mouth, inhaling deeply, trying to calm herself. Shalee looked to Charles, her gaze locked on his. She lowered the mask and inhaled a shakey breath, "Charles, call for the guards."
Eran looked confused and lost. Helplessly he took a few more steps towards her with his arms outreached, "...will you sit down and talk with me? What happened in the past half hour that's frightened you so..." His gaze shifted to Charles, "What happened?"
Charles looked to Eran but said nothing, instead he shouted out, "GUARDS! All of you!"
Eran frowned again and turned to Shalee, "And who are you calling the guards on?"
Esna Pitoojee entered in just as the guards went running. He studied them curiously as he slipped off his heavy outerwear robe, "What in the...?"
"Shalee...will you talk with me?" Eran looked desperately at her, "Please?"
She shook her head, "No!" She scrambled to her feet, "I can't believe I fell for you, I can't believe I loved you, oh god." She paced as she waited for the guards. "How could betray me like this? Why? Because I loved you? Were you laughing the whole goddamned time! Whats wrong with you, Eran?"
Eran dropped his mouth open, unsure what to say. He looked at her helplessly. "Betray you? What did I do...."
Esna blinked, "What, the... " He started over to the group, his face a mix of confusion and concern.
As the Kamerians gathered around her, she pointed to Eran, "Handcuff that man."
Eran watched in disbelief as the guards surrounded him. He crossed his arms and grumbled to himself. "You can try...." He said to one of the Kamerians who stepped closer. He looked to Shalee again, "Fuck, I can't believe you're calling the guards on me. Why didn't you just tell me to stay away...."
Esna Pitoojee stepped closer, the look of worry growing deeper "What is happening here?"
"This man is a traitor." She looked at Esna, her face pale with grief, " A goddamned spy, a Sansha loyalists!"
Eran growled as another guard approcahed. He threw his arm in the air as they reached for it and he pushed the guard back into the others. Eventually the guards pile ontop him as he tried to fight them off but failed under the sheer numbers.
"Is there evidence?" Esna asked, frowning.
Charles gritted his teeth, looking to Eran. "Sansha?!"
"Letters. And Ashar is one too!" she shouted, furious.
"What?!" Eran exclaimed.
"Let us see it then," Vlad tried to reason.
"You don't know the half of it!" Eran yelled out as he was dragged away from the main hall.
"They are plotting together. I've read everything!"
"No! That's not true!" Eran yelled out just as the doors were closing.
Esna Pitoojee glanced to Charles, "I'd recommend we all withhold judgement until evidence is reviewed... Especially on a matter as serious as this."
Shalee Lianne read in an hysterical voice from her comm where she had forwarded the mails from his comm to hers, "Tell me oh Master Kuvakei, may I prove my value before The Great Sansha Nation? I crave The Promised Land! These capsuleers are organizing against you! I can stop them, if you tell me. I can mis-lead; or do you need my body most?"
Esna shook his head "Individual excerpts are useless... is this all the evidence you have?"
"I have all the letters back and forth, Esna."
"Perhaps there is more to it, like Eran said.." Charles rubbed his temples. "Perhaps he was trying to infiltrate them?"
"And why wouldn't he tell me that!"
Esna nodded, "If at all possible, I'd like to see all of them. Then I'll see about contacting everyone else involved."
"Perhaps he wished to protect you, Shalee. I know I would." Charles said.
She went quiet and stood very still as realization slid across her face. Any of them could be a Sansha loyalist and she not know it.
Esna recognized the sudden doubt upon her face and nodded, "I'll open my comms to you if you show me the information you do have. I have no reason to fear anything you might see."
"You should sit. Calm yourself. Breathe deeply." Charles guides her over to a chair again.
"...but Ashar too. Oh god. I don't know who to trust anymore.....I don't know what to do."