Jacke rounded the corner of the 'trophy' room of Shalee's hangar and froze in mid step.
The little holographic girl had come back.
After so many days of waiting for her return, he started to think that maybe he had imagined or dreamed her up while sleeping.
Dutifully he had waited, hoping she would send someone to take him to her, to her 'big house in the snow'. But after a few days his hope had started to wane and even believing in her had become a chore. She wasn't even real anyhow. A ghost, probably. Only a ghost would want to play with dead bodies.
But a small part of him still held on desperately to the idea that she would come back and somehow fix everything. Help him find a home. His dad.
"Jacke!" she sniffled as she started towards him, crying.
He looked her over curiously, wanting to console her but uncertain how. Not like he could hug her or touch her. "Why are you crying? What's wrong? Where have you been?"
"I couldn't come! She wouldn't go to sleep! She kept taking the stims to stay awake and fight the war and she stayed awake the whole time." She sniffled again as tears dripped down her cheeks. "And then something bad has happened and I need your help."
The young Brutor sat down, propping his back against the wall and patted the floor beside him, motioning for her to sit with him, "Slow down." He looked to her as she knelt down beside him on her knees, facing him. "Who wouldn't go to sleep? Your mother?"
"No. Shalee. She kept staying awake so I couldn't come. But now she is asleep...but that is bad. Very, very bad."
He nodded as if he had a clue, trying to figure it out as she was talking, "Go on."
"She wanted to speak to Verone. She went to The Last Gate but he wasn't there. She was really really tired and was drinking while she waited for him. And Vincent Pryce was there."
"Who is that?"
"Only one of the most scarey pirates in all of New Eden. He is in Veto too, with Verone. They are friends. And Vincet is friends with her too but last night ...."
Jacke nodded, waiting for her to continue.
"Last night, Vincent told her that his new girlfriend would let him sleep with whoever he wanted, then said he wanted to sleep with her. She thought he was joking." She sniffled, "And then she had to go but she was so tired and Vincent told her to stay at the club, in the VIP guest quarters. And she said okay, but then he took her to his apartment instead and now she is in his bed.."
"Asleep? Is she alone with him?" he asked, caught up in her story.
"She is asleep and alone, he isn't there but if he returns it could be bad. Cause she had been drinking and if Eran finds out he will be so mad. Eran doesn't like Vincent or Verone. He hates them."
"Who is Eran?"
"Eran Mintor. He is a Brutor like you, and Shalee's boyfriend. He wants to marry her. He gave her a ring yesterday and asked her to marry him but they had a big fight but then they made up."
"So what do you want me to do about it?"
"You have to go there and wake her up. Before Vincent comes back...he might try to kiss her. He did before."
Jacke sighed heavily, "Go where? How can I even get there?" he asked, not wanting to disappoint her but what she was asking of him seemed impossible.
The holographic little girl stared at him unblinking. "Sinq Laison. You have to go to Goinard IV. The pirates have a club there and Vincent's apartment is in the back, behind the blast doors."
He looked at her incrediously, "Um..."
"It wont be hard. I will tell you how to get the isk. You take it and buy an interbus ticket. Once you get there, use the special codes I give you to get into the apartment. Wake her up...but don't tell her who you really are or who I am. She will get mad."
An hour later following the little girl's advice, Jacke made his way into the front of Veto's club. He waited by the door as he called Shalee's comm repeatedly.
He stared at the girl while he kept dialing the comm.
A part of him wanted to stay in Huola, in the safety of the space station that he had adopted as his new home. He knew his way around, was familiar with the people who came and went, even if they never took notice of him.
He knew the best places to sleep, knew which air vents lead to the best places to sleep and the easiest places to steal food. He had everything he needed to survive.
But some instinctive part of him wanted more. He craved the most basic of human needs. Love, affection, and the desire that someone actually care about him...and he found that in this unreal little girl. Whoever she was, wherever she lived, she seemed to care for him, for whatever reason.
And that was enough. He would follow her anywhere if he could, even into the den of the most infamous pirates in all of New Eden.
"Remember, you can't tell her about me. And tell her she has to go." Red whispered just before disappearing.
When she finally answered, he sighed with relief.
Jacke made up some lie about how Verone wanted her to come outside. He quickly turned the comm off before she could respond, and waited. At least she was awake.
Moments later a groggy Shalee stepped beyond the doors."Miss Lianne," Jacke stuttered, "Y-you have to get out of here."
Shalee blinked, as if trying to clear her vision. "Who are you?"
She stretched with a languid yawn, "You're a little young to be here." Groggily she ran her hands across her face, "You said Verone asked me to come out here? Did he say why?"
"Uh..yeah." Jacke glanced to the bed, where he had last seen Red, "He said I should escort you back home...to your house in the snow, on Amarr Prime."
She glanced sideways, looking at him from the corner of her eye, "He wants me to leave and take you with me?"
"Did he say why?"Jacke nodded again, "To study with the little girl there."
"Little girl? Oh. Right. Anette Inhonores, Seriphyn's little girl. She has been staying with us since the Sansha attacks."
"He said it would be a better enviroment there than here." Shalee gave a glance around the exterior of the Gate. "Yeah okay, get your things and we can leave." She was too exhausted and intoxicated to even really question the situation.
Jacke followed her as she started to walk off, "He said he would send them later."
"By the way, you haven't told me your name."
"Jacke." He tensed, remembering Red had asked him not to give his real name though he didn't know why. "Jacke Incarnate." he said, using the first surname that came to mind.
A few hours later, Jacke trudged his way through the snow in front of the Keep. He pulled his new cloak tight around his shoulders as he leaned against the wall just beyond the door, hoping that Red would find him somehow.
A pretty blonde Gallente stepped outside, pausing to look at him. "Hello there, don't think I've seen you here before."
He looked at her, "I've only just arrived a few hours ago."
"Oh? Well then, welcome. I'm Brystal Blue. I live here with the Knighthood." She smiled warmly.
"Incarnate? Are you related to Omnicide?"
"Not really." He blushed, wishing he hadn't used such a well known name.
"Are you a friend of Anette's?" she asked, wondering if they had sent a playmate for the little gallente girl who had been living with them these past weeks.
"No...actually...I am a friend of Reds....do you know her?" Every servant he had questioned about the holographic girl had ignored his questioning.
She stared at him, her brows raised with curiosity, "Yes, actually I do. How do you know her?"
He sighed with relief. Finally. "I met her in Huola. Well, not her, but her hologram. I guess she was playing with the holo-interface. She said she lives here...wanted me to come here....but I wasn't to tell Shalee about her."
Brystal's expression etched with worry, "Oh dear." She led him over to a covered bench and sat down, motioning for him to join her. She studied his youthful face. Strong Brutor features, dark eyes. In a lot of ways he resembled a very young Eran.
"There are some things you should know about your little friend." Brystal said, wondering how she was going to explain such a bizarre situation to a child. "You see, Red...well. You've only seen her in holograms, yes?"
"The little girl isn't real."
He quirked a brow, "Then she is a ghost. I knew it."
She shook her head, "Non, not exactly. Red is..." she swayed her hand, "How do you say..." she stumbled over the words, trying to find the right way to explain it to him. "She is Shalee."
"What? But Shalee is a grown up..."
"Yes but, when you see Red, you only see a part of Shalee. The part of her when she was very little, before all of her troubles, I think."
"How does that even work?"
"Well...we don't know, exactly. But you will only see her when Shalee is asleep. It's as if..." she swayed her hand again, "as if a part of her mind works it way through to the outside world. To her, I think it is like dreaming. But in her dreams she is a very young child. And instead of dreaming in here." She taps her fingertip to her temple, "Her implants have somehow allowed her to dream outside. She can go anywhere that is virtual, she just connects with her implants. Once she subconsciously learned how to do that, she started to access the holodrones. She goes any place with holo access."
"But why is it a secret? It seems like no one wants to talk about it."
Brystal sighed softly, "Oh, everyone has their own reasons for keeping it a secret, I suppose. Most don't want to tell her because since this has been happening, it's allowed her to talk about things with them that she wouldn't normally do when awake."
"And she doesn't even know she is doing this? It's a secret they keep from her too?"
She nodded. "I guess people are afraid of what she might do if she finds out."
The boy sighed, "So what should I do? Should I go?"
"Non. She brought you here for a reason, I suggest you stick around to find out why."