Consciousness came slowly, a trickling of awareness that broke through the black smothering fog within her mind. A sliver of red light caught her attention and desperately she clung to it, focused on it as she forced herself to mentally fight her way out of the dark.
With awareness came pain, so much goddamned pain that it was tempting to let herself fall back into the sea of darkness once more, to pass out and eventually die.
Sheer determination kept her eyes half parted.
Seconds turned into minutes as she hung there, forcing herself to stay focused on nothing but the red pulsing light, forcing her terror down into something more manageable. Her pounding heart slowed as she fought her way through the panic, the terror.
Breathe, just breathe.
She gathered her courage and forced her eyes open all the way, darting them from side to side. The room was long, cold, and filled with several bodies suspended from the ceiling like her, their wrists bound together above their heads, ankles shackled to the floor. All were clothed in the remnants of their pod suits, a thin material that capsuleers wore while piloting spacecraft. Most of them were unconscious, drugged so that they would offer no resistance when it was time to bleed them.
Her stomach lurched at the thought. Bleeding. She was about to be hooked up to some ungodly device and slowly drained of her blood until nothing remained but a dry corpse. She would die a slow agonizing death aboard this Blood Raider vessel, her blood a sacrifice to the disgusting 'religious' zealots who raided the Bleaklands, ghoulish twisted individuals who wore white animalistic masks and long robes. They preyed upon starships in search of the prized 'red', blood of the cloned.
She whimpered as she heard steps across the metal grating floor. They were coming. One stopped in front of her. He wore the white mask of the Raiders, tho parts of him were visible beyond it. His glossy dark eyes, thin lips. He was taller than her. His white robes were already stained with blood. She looked at the floor.
"Commodore Lianne, a pleasure to have you here." His tone was practically jovial.
"Are you really in a position to take such an attitude?" he laughed as he grabbed her by the chin, squeezing her face. "Look at me when I talk to you."
She lifted her blue gaze to his masked face and spit. She never was one to follow the rules and what did it matter now? She knew she was hours away from death regardless of her behavior.
"Fiesty. I bet your blood is spicy," he said as his split-tongue darted between the mouth-hole of his mask and licked at her cheek. "Maybe I'll have a little taste now hmmm?" He pricked her chin then suckled the droplets of blood away.
She struggled to no avail. With her wrists bound above her head and her ankles cuffed to the floor below, there was little she could do. "What's your name?" she whispered.
"Faliin Oreen," he replied as he pulled back, his dark eyes glistened beneath the mask, "Why do you want to know?" He sounded a bit startled, as if no one had ever asked him before. His masked head tilted, his eerie gaze bore down on her.
"Because I want to know who I'm coming for, Faliin Oreen. I want to know the name of the man I'm going to kill."
His body shook with laughter. "You're not going to remember this. You're a capusleer. Your last memory will be from the time you were taken from your pod. You wont remember how you were captured or how you died."
"How did you do it anyhow? How did you manage to abduct this many capsuleers at once?"
He smiled beneath the mask showing off blood-stained teeth. "You really want to know?" he asked, considering telling her. And why not?, he thought. She was marked for death and even as she awakes in a new clone tucked far away in Empire space, she wouldn't have these memories.
None of them would.
"A couple of hours ago, we were there, cloaked, watching, knowing that one of your numerous battles were about to go down. You militia 'soldiers' are so predictable. And so we waited until the thick of the battle was over and as you lost your ships one by one, we simply stole your pods right out of the sky."
"Impossible. There is no way you could have taken this many capsuleers alive." Sure, they could have collected corpses after the battle but how did they manage to collect intact pods? How did so many not warp out?
"Jovian mechanics. A nice little mod that deploys a pulse of neutralizing energy within a 20KM radius. It shut down your pod's ability to warp- all of your pods." He swept his hand around motioning to the others. "It shuts everything down completely, matter of fact, so that you couldn't even send a distress signal. It was like you exploded but left behind no corpse. Whoever comes looking for your wrecks will assume you all died in the explosions. And somewhere in New Eden, another version of you is waking up in a clone vat, the last memory she will have is dying in a battle in the Bleaklands."
"Your anger makes it that much more delicious." He pierced her skin with a metallic rod, "Scream for me. I want your blood to boil." Blood oozed around the open wound as he injected it deeper, thrusting it harshly beneath her skin. His serpent tongue wiggled around the rod, licking away any blood that escaped.
She bit down on her lip so hard it bled, but she would not give him the satisfaction of screaming.
Pain radiated in hot, nauseating waves. She felt sick. The contents of her stomach spewed across his blood-splattered robes. "Fucking bitch." He backhanded her, stinging her face though the pain was brief compared to the draining device protruding into her arm. He shoved the rod ruthlessly and she could see it bubble beneath her skin.
"You'll scream before it's over," he promised as he added a second device to her other arm. "I'll be back for you." They retreated, leaving her alone in the room with the other half-dead corpses. She could hear the doors sealing air tight, followed by the sounds of overhead vents pulling back, allowing the air to be perfumed by some sort of toxin, she presumed. She tried to hold her breath but knew it was pointless.
Tears rolled silently down her cheeks, her head dropped to the side, pressed against her upheld arm. She could feel her life fading away and she tried to fight it. "I don't want to die I don't want to die," she whispered to herself over and over. "I don't want to die like this," she said mindlessly.
"What the fuck..." someone screamed as his eyes shot open, his face twisted with terror. He jerked at the chains above his head, "What's going on, what's happening?"
Shalee rolled her head slightly to see who was screaming. "You're dead."
"The hell I am! Where the fuck are we?!" he demanded.
"How the fuck did that happen? I was just fighting and then suddenly I couldn't warp out..." his voice quieted as he noticed the tubes wrapped around his arms, his blood dripping slowly out into a container beside him.
"Like I said, we are already dead."
He peered at her through the semi-darkness as he coughed, "Shalee?"
"Yeah. Scorp?" she whispered, feeling light-headed. She recognized Scorpion Venom though she'd never seen him out of pod. He was a new inty pilot in the Amarr militia. She'd been in countless fleets with him by this point and knew that if anyone should have gotten off field, it should have been. Fucking Bloodraiders. Godamned Jovians.
"Yeah. Where are...I mean. How? How did we even get here?"
"They came in as we exploded and had some goddamned Jovian device to suspend our pods, we couldn't warp out. The pods must have sent a signal back to the meds saying we are dead- I think we are already resurrected and no one even knows we are here."
"Fuck. So we are going to die right?" He jerked at the chains again.
"What are they going to do with us?"
"Bleed us. They will drain every drop of blood from our bodies until we are completely dry." She sniffled as a few more tears streaked her cheeks. "It's all they care about. Clone blood."
He nudged his head at the tubes inserted into his arms, trying to push them out. He tensed, the movement causing blood to pour out beyond the tube, streaking his arm with dark red liquid.
"Might as well stop that, you're just going to make them come back," she whispered. "The worst part is over, all we have to do now is die."
Emotions flooded his face as his dark eyes filled with unshed tears. "So this is how we die?"
"We die all the time, don't we?"
"Yeah but not like this, not like some goddamned cocktail ingredient," he said weakly.
"It wont be long now," she whispered as her eyes closed, her lashes fluttering against her cheeks as she tried to fight to keep them open, to stay alert. "Talk to me, tell me something. Keep talking." she pleaded. "I don't want to die alone."
She sniffled, waiting for him to speak, to say anything. "Scorp?" It took every bit of her strength to glance in his direction, "Please..." But he was already dead.
"You're not alone." Another voice said nearby, one that she did not recognize. She forced herself to turn in the chains, her body swung to face him. He was tall, dark blonde hair, and had the bluest eyes she'd ever seen. They almost glowed. She stared blankly at him.
"I don't know you."
She blinked several times, fighting back the inevitable, "I don't," she protested. "What's your name?"
"I'll tell you when we are out of this place."
"How? You wont remember this. We wont remember any of it...it will be like it never happened." Through the vents they could hear the sounds of several people screaming at once.
"I'll remember, okay? I'll remember and I will tell you."
More screams added to the hellish sounds, "Oh god, they are torturing them." She closed her eyes for a brief moment, "God let me die before they come back."
"Look at me."
She blinked her eyes open and stared at him, "The worst is over," He said. "Take deep breaths, deep as you can. It will pull in more of the poison into your system. Breathe with me." He gulped in as much air as he could. "Do it!" he said as he exhaled.
Barely nodding, she whispered, "Okay." She forced the strange, fragrant air into her lungs.
"Breathe," he said again, once more swallowing as much air as he could, "Breathe." She focused on nothing but the sound of his voice, breathing deeply upon his commands.
The air seemed to get lighter, the sounds of the screaming faded, or maybe she just couldn't hear it anymore. The red light seemed to grow, filling her vision. Everything was a blur.
She forced herself to look at him one final time. His eyes were bright, as if lit by something within. An eye piece? No. She must be hallucinating, she thought. Something was wrong with his eyes, they weren't human, and something silver, the color of bright metal, was dripping down his cheeks from the corners of his eyes. It crawled down his face and fell to the floor, reshaping into a pool of silver before dripping through the grated floor.
She couldn't muster the strength to ask him about it. She inhaled her final breath and exhaled, dying to the sound of his last command, "Just let go..."