Everything was spinning.
Colors bled away until nothing was left but a swirl of black and white shadowy figures moving in perfect rhythm with one another.
She could hear soft music, as if someone had opened a music box across the far side of the room. She felt a hand against hers, another at her waist. "Dance," he commanded softly.
Her gaze met his as he pulled her to him, leading her to the center of the room. Around them, other couples swayed, elegantly floating across a ballroom floor. Chandeliers sparkled overhead, their crystals reflecting shards of light across the room, giving off a fairytale atmosphere.
"Vincent?" she asked with confusion as she felt him moving closer to her. "What's going on? Where are we?"
He merely smiled to her, saying nothing as he twirled her around.
She looked to the others as they swirled around her, Aldrith with Morwen, Raxip with Hitome.
The Knighthood with VETO, the Knights in white, VETO in black.
She opened her mouth to call out to Aldrith though her words faded into the music. He danced, oblivious to her, moving closer to Morwen. She could hear Morwen's beguiling laughter echoing around them.
"Dance," Vincent commanded again, trying to capture her attention away from the others.
"No...no somethings not right...you shouldn't be here, we shouldn't be here..."
The music grew louder, an eerie off key melody, a broken music box. She could feel her heart racing, thudding against her chest.
She broke out into a cold sweat as she tried to pull away from him. "Let me go..." she whimpered as she struggled, trying to free herself from his grasp.
"Stop fucking moving!" he yelled at her, yanking her by her hair as she stumbled to the ground.
Suddenly Raxip was in front of her, knife drawn, slashing through the air towards her exposed throat as he smiled sadistically.
Raxip's face bled into Galt Yasters and the ballroom faded to reality.
Sounds of the jungle, screams of guards dying, and explosions around the camp jolted her out of her shell shocked hallucinations.
"Hello Commander." said Kuan Yida, an officer of the Tribal Liberation Force, as he squatted above her. He smiled calmly at her as he sheathed his blade.
Gasping for breath, she stared at him as if trying to discern if he were real or not, then to the slain bodies around her. Severed heads spurted warm blood across the mud, some of it splattering against her bare arms.
She started to shake uncontrollably as she snaked her arms around his shoulders, burying her head against his neck, sobbing, "Are you really here?" she questioned, doubting her own sanity.
"Is this over? Can we go...oh god, Lora! I think they killed her," she sobbed, her voice muffled against his skin.
"She's okay. My men are leading her off now." He trailed a hand across the back of her head to soothe her as he gave a glance around, accessing the situation.
He bunched his fingers in her hair and tipped her head back, looking her in the eye. Her face was beyond pale with dark smudges beneath her glassy eyes. She looked exhausted and drugged. "Dammit," he muttered under his breath as he unhooked a medkit from his belt and found something that would counter what she'd been given. He broke a small vial and dribbled the liquid between her lips, "You have to drink this."
She nodded obediently and swallowed the foul tasting liquid as he hoisted her up and slung her across his shoulders. He carried her off into the shadows of a nearby building to wait for the antidote to kick in.
"What are you doing?" she asked groggily as she felt his hands around her waist.
"Arming you." He latched a shield-belt around her waist complete with stim nanites, a laser pistol, a pair of knives, and a few plasma grenades.
Several minutes passed as he traded intel over comms with the rest of his team.
After he finished, he knelt in front of her, his dark gaze questioning her, "Are you feeling better?"
She gave a quick nod as he tugged her to her feet. "Alright. Let's move out," he said as he moved to the corner of the building and pointed. "This area has been cleared, all hostages are heading to transports that'a way. The BT's still have a heavy presence there." He pointed in the opposite direction. "We need a major distraction to give them enough time to evacuate the rest."
Shalee nodded, "Alright." Her expression uncertain.
He side glanced, noting the doubt. "You've trained for this Commodore. You can do this." He gave her a quick smile. "On my mark."
The next few moments became a blur of explosions, fire, and blood. The pair of them methodically worked their way through the camp, tossing grenades into buildings and vehicles while taking down sentry guards in the process.
She paused to catch her breath, her back to Kuan as he conferred with his team over comms again. The stench of blood made her nauseated, her sleeves were drenched, hands and face sticky red. She wiped the blood-wet blade against her pants, mentally bracing herself for the next round.
"They need a few more minutes," he said as he took stock of what they had left. "How many grenades do you have left?"
"None..." she answered grimly.
"Alright. It's fine. We got this, okay? You trust me, right?" he said, turning to face another group of BT's that had neared them holding machetes and other crude weapons.
"With my life," she said wryly, "which, I might add, is probably going to be over soon."
"Just a few more minutes and it will all be over. You did inject the implant Nabole gave you?"
"Yup..." she said, having no idea what the implant did, only that he had sent it to her through the Vherokior spy.
"Perfect," he said as he lifted his blade. "Easy....easy..." he coaxed, staring at two Brutors as they arrogantly broke free of the group, charging them.
"Now!" In a fluid motion swift motion, twin blades arced through the air, slicing into the two Brutor's throats. Her boot slammed into her attacker's abdomen as his head rolled off of his shoulders. She kicked the body to the side and found her footing, ready for the next attack.
An eerie quiet settled over the blood traitors for a few seconds as they watched the severed heads roll across the muddy ground. As they came to a halt, a war cry erupted from behind them.
Another group was closing in on them, trapping them.
She pivoted around, her back to Kuan, blade raised, "Any bright ideas, Commander?"
"Yeah," he said a bit smugly, "Fight."
They slashed their way through the oncoming wave of bodies. Hands, heads, and arms fell around them as they fought with superior reflexes.
"I don't know how much longer I can do this!" she screamed as she ducked beneath a silver blade that swung towards her head, her knife slamming into the matar's gut. She yanked the blade up and out as he fell back.
Light flashed as tractor beams illuminated the thick dark smoke that covered the sky. Over comms, Kuan was given the good news. "They all have made it," he called out in an exhausted voice. "The rorqual is ready to jump."
"What about us?" she yelled out as she severed another head. Blood squirted, drenching her face, clotting her lashes. She blinked, unable to see clearly.
He didn't bother to answer her as he denoted an anti-matter grenade, one used for deep core moon mining. Everything exploded, the camps now leveled to nothing but a smoking crater.
She came to consciousness quickly as she felt hands pulling her from the cloning vat. Ambiotic fluid slid down her skin as she was wrapped with a towel.
Blinking open her eyes, she looked warily at the Vherokior pod tech.
"Who are you? Where is Jonathan?"
"I'm Lao." He smiled to her. "Jonathan?" he asked as he lead her over to the privacy showers.
"My chief pod tech..."
"I work for Commander Yida," he explained as she stepped into the stall. "You are aboard the Red Locus. We are just about to jump out of Eytjangard, I do believe."
"Get cleaned up, Commander Yida is waiting for you on the bridge. "I'm sure he will explain everything."
Later that night she wrote in her journal:
Sometimes I question the purpose of this 'war', though I could never really admit it to anyone, not anyone I fly with anyhow. They have to believe that I believe.
I don't fight for what this Empire is, but what it can be. What it will be. I don't fight for slavery, but for God. In my heart I have to believe that God did not mean for humanity to succumb to such twisted evil, not in his name.
The Amarr are wrong and I believe the Empress knows this and that she will lead us out of this darkness. She is the one true beacon of hope in this chaotic madness.
It's not that I think all Amarr are evil. They are merely misguided, desperately clinging to the teachings of their pasts. Good men can do bad things without even realizing it.
And 'bad' men can do good things too.
Eytjangard taught me that much.
People like Admiral Newelle will have me think that people like Commander Yida are worthless, but had not Kuan saved me, I would still be there, I think. Trapped. Tortured. Sold, perhaps.
Captain Fierch would have me believe that men like SilenceIKillYou are wholly evil, but he risked his carrier to free thousands of refugees.
I cannot believe that any soul is inherently good or evil. I believe that we are the sum of many things, that we capable of both, but never truly one or the other. It's all a matter of perspective, anyhow.
On Eytjangard, I learned that good people like Lora can be brutally destroyed despite their good intentions. I learned that men can betray their own people for a simple sum of ISK.
But I also learned that some people, like Kuan, can and will go above the call of duty and the bounds of friendship, to do the right thing.
That is something I will never forget.
(( Kuan Yida's blog, Eytjangard Blues part 5, from his perspective))