"What? VETO out here?" Predator said over comms as the fleet were warping into an Amarrian Military Complex in Sosan.
Moments earlier intel had come in about a possible small Minmatar fleet roaming through the backwater systems.
"VETO...? Fuck," she muttered under her breath as she eased out of warp along side her squad.
Drake, Hurricane, Ferox, and Harbinger flashed on her overview. All VETO.
Primaries were called and targets were locked. One by one the militia cleared the field.
"Goddamned pirates," she muttered under her breath again, after the battle had subsided and wrecks were being looted.
The main fleet broke away from Commodore Invelious's boys as they stayed behind to guard the plex.
Later, after the patrol had ended she had went home to Amarr Prime for the first time in days. She'd been avoiding the Keep, Eran, and Aldrith who would no doubt give her a disapproving look, if not lecture, over a few unwise kills involving EvE Uni in the belts of Amammake.
Not like it was her fault for following FC's orders. Anyhow, neut's should be careful about playing baiting games in the glory belt. That's just asking for a fight. At least that's how she tried to justify it.
It was a messy situation. Someone had given the orders to go GCC, though it had not been Pred. Enough of her fleet flashed as criminals around her that she had no choice but to engage as well. Not like she'd ever leave a fleet mate in battle, despite the circumstances.
As she tiptoed through the Great Hall of the Keep, she glanced around to find the place empty. It was a quiet night, most everyone was probably already asleep.
She made her way upstairs to her 'turret', a part of the Keep that towered above the main building. She had fallen in love with it instantly when the Knighthood had first moved in and had claimed the space as her own. Eventually Eran had moved in with her, though at the moment he was gone. Probably still out in null sec.
With a sigh, she stripped off her militia uniform and left it on the floor by the old styled canopied bed. She filled the tub, an ancient thing with clawed feet that sat on a dias near the fireplace and slid into the hot sudsy water with a glass of wine.
In the dim light, she could barely make out the snowflakes that fell beyond the windows that wrapped around the upper part of the turret.
One glass of wine followed another though it did little to calm the adrenaline that coursed through her veins still. She stared absently at the fireplace as she replayed the battles over and over in her mind. She could still hear Pokechan333 teasing her, calling her Princess. She'd unofficially adopted it as her call sign a few nights ago while they were roaming through Minmatar space.
Musing on the VETO battle again, she remotely activated a drone and replayed the footage right there above her tub. She stared up, watching the holographic images from the very beginning of their warp in. It was spectacular to watch from this angle, to be aware of everyone else outside of the rush it all. During those heated moments she could only think of the primaries and focus on what she had to do.
She couldn't imagine the skill it must take to be a logistics pilot. Her blue gaze drifted to Paladin Crusader Zoarial's scimitar as it repped her harbinger.
As the final explosion lit above her, the communications holo-drone chimed with an incoming transmission.
The camera adjusted as the holo of Invelious appeared. He cleared his throat, "How goes it tonight Miss Lianne?"
"Good evening Invelious." She made certain the camera drone focused on her face only. "Oh, just winding down. How are you?"
"Parked myself in the Transtellar in Aset. The minnies have been pushing on my watch over Aset the past couple of mornings. I need to secure the area and assess the level of their strength in the coming hours. I have a wonderful fit I want to share with you, perhaps it may provide a longer life space for your next slicer..." he smiled. "It's good for probing out the Minmatar complexs also. COP EMP. With aurora you get over 50km range. Check the kill records for the night, this vessel and its crew has served me well."
"Thank you, I'll be certain to try it out." She took a long drink from the glass, her hand covered with bubbles.
Invel quickly downed a shot and poured another while asking, "What plans does KotMC have two nights from now? I only ask because I will be launching a fleet, hoping for as much Confido support as possible during our timezone."
"The usual really. But if you want me there I'll be certain to be there," she smiled.
"You and your corp, whom ever can help."
"I'll be sure to pass the word along."
"Wonderful." He did the shot and poured another.
"Alright..." She watched as he did yet another shot, wondering what was bothering him so. "I will do everything I can to be there, of course."
"Thank you..." He hesitated, "Ummm..."
"We butchered a bunch of Veto vessels today ... I'm hoping this wont affect your negotiations with Verone..."
She rolled her eyes. "Negotiations? There are no negotiations with Verone. He is a pirate, VETO can burn for all I care." How the hell did he know?!
His eyes widen as another drink rolled down this throat.
"Anyhow, I have to go, talk to you tomorrow?" She never gave him a chance to respond as she killed the connection.
God dammit! How in New Eden did Invelious know she approached Verone about standings. He promised he'd dropped the intel on her, but apparently not. Obviously she was still under his surveillance. But why?
She closed her eyes and held her breath as she slid beneath the water, her thoughts drifting.
And what the hell were VETO doing in their war zone anyhow? Had Verone sent them there purposely? Was it some kind of message to her?
A frown tugged at the corners of her mouth as she came back up, gasping for breath. She couldn't quite shake it off, the feeling of betrayal from both Invelious and Verone.
The conversation she had with Ethan just days ago ran through her mind. How could she have misjudged him so?
"I think we got off to somewhat of a negative, if not humerous start, don't you?"
She looked at him for a moment then nodded, "Doesn't really change anything if we 'start over'. You're still a pirate who makes his fortune off of stealing from others and I'm still an Amarrian who flies with the miltia."
Verone smirked, "Oh, I'm not suggesting that sweetie. Not at all. Merely making an obervation."
Her nose wrinkled as he smirked. "Don't call me sweetie."
He chuckled quietly, glancing down to her, "You know, you're a lot like the young lady you just argued with, in the respect that you pre-judge people before you speak with them, before you even know them. And before you're even aware of everything they actually do. We're not too different you and I. Sure, we share some polar opposite political views, but we're working toward the same thing."
She settled down onto the bench beside him, "I don't think I've pre-judged you. You admitted that it was 'just business'." She dropped her hands into her lap, curling her fingers around one another. "But tell me, how are we not different?"
He lifted a hand and tugged an apple from the tree above them, "You judge me, and you claim that all I do is destroy, kill, maim, murder. Yet, you're unaware of our corporate history... what we do, why we were founded."
"So tell me."
Smiling, he said, "It's an old word.... 'Veto'. It predated even some of the modern uses of language in the cluster. Do you know what it means, in its raw definition?"
"I dont think so."
"An emphatic prohibition, a stand against that which one does not believe in. The Excercise of the right to disagree, and prohibit an action. In short, it's literal meaning is "I forbid". We were formed four and a half years ago, as an anti CONCORD Assembly corporation, when our founding members got sick and tired of the DED and CONCORD turning a blind eye to the mistreatment and abuse of those Matari held under the boot of the Empire. We started out very small, ten capsuleers and a few hundred thousand support staff. Nothing really, in the grand scheme of things. We've grown over time, and as such, our need for resources has done so also. I've always hated slavery, Shalee... and if you take a walk through any of our corporate facilities, you'll see that almost 80 percent of our workforce, crew, station side staff, are former slaves. People liberated, who now earn a good salary, have a roof over their head, and the ability to learn new skills and better themselves without the fear of being beaten for seeking too much knowledge. They enjoy the finest medical care, and health care in the cluster, and have all the facilitiles they ever need. The best part of all? If they want to leave, they're free to do so. The truth is, they rarely do. We've been pulling slaves from the Empire for almost five years now, that's where our similarities come into play. I despise the slave trade, it boils my blood. It makes me want to tear those apart who fund and run it."
She nodded her head, listening. "All of that is very noble." She hesitated, "I hate slave trade too, you know I do."
"Yeah, I know you do." He smiled to her, "The fact of the matter is that it's too widespread to attack head on, even for a corporation with our wealth behind it." He held up the apple to her, "When you look at this apple what do you see?"
He chuckled, "You know what I see? Skin... the surface. I know what's beneath, because I've eaten an apple before, but I see skin right now." He bit into it, smiling as he chewed and swallowed, "The thinnest skin in the cluster, rough, hard, glossy on the outside. That's all people see, but beneath, there's so much more. That's what we do, Shalee. The front that people see, is just that... our way of raising funds, putting together the equipment, the ships, the manpower needed to pull as many matari as we can from inside the Empire's borders."
"I see...but don't you attack the Matari as well?"
"We attack anyone, Shalee, that's just the way it is. Our rules are simple... it stays in space. The ships we attack are crewed by people who accept the risks of being in space." He sighed deeply, "So, that's what we do."
"So why wouldn't you help me?"
"I can help you... with the passage of slaves. I can do more than assist you. I have hundreds of contacts in the Republic, and in various republic loyal capsuleer organisations, to whom I ferry slaves to be released. I even have a number inside federal borders, although I'm watched far more closely by the FIO, given my history with the Navy."
"And why would you help me now? After all I've said to you. Knowing who I fly for..."
He rested his forehead in his huge hand, "Because I don't care about Shutaq. He's dead to me. He used to be a friend, I trusted him. That's why I can't give standings. But, I can help. I can help you... and those you work with under Shutaq, and keep these people safe... help give them hope."
"Aldrith doesn't know what I do. Only a select few are actually involved."
He nodded to her with a soft smile, "I know... Shalee."
She frowned, "You know too much, dammit."
"...and if I'd been given the chance to explain, before you exploded when we first spoke... I would have told you... and tried to help. As it was... what you said, it just angered me. And that's why I gave you the response you didn't want to hear." He sighed, "But you came back. I sent the gun, you responded. I mailed, you responded. I took seat away from you at the bar, you responded. All a test that tells me you're committed, despite how much you despise me."
"You think I despise you?"
He smirked a little, "Probably, the media paints me as a psychopathic ogre... and people accuse me of burning children alive." He nodded the apple on the ground, "Just like that.... just like you... like everyone... I have a skin. An exterior that I use to my advantage."
"You and the media. I'm beginning to think you're obsessed with it. And yes. I do despise you. I despise the fact that for all of your noble deeds, you still take from people. I despise the fact that you have hordes of people falling at your feet as if you're some kind of God to New Eden because you are simply doing the right thing involving the Sansha. And I despise..."
He nodded, with a smile, "Every isk I take... I give back to those who need it, eventually."
"Don't. Don't paint yourself as some modern day fairy tale hero, stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. I'm over those foolish romantic ideals."
He smirked as he shook his head, "I'm not doing that at all...I know that what I do is wrong... we try to keep casualties to a minimum. God damn, we try hard."
"And for the love of God stop smirking at me. It raises my blood pressure."