They sat at a small table near the windows in a planetside restaurant in Egghelende. Rain gushed outside, drenching the sidewalk, pooling in the streets. She watched as a couple dashed across the street and slid into a hovercar, splattering water as it eased into the traffic.
After the waiter left their table, she turned her gaze to Scatha. "So now are you going to explain what's going on?"
He nodded as he leaned back in his chair. "If you think you are ready to hear the truth, sure."
"Stop being so mysterious, I'm stronger than I look," she said.
"I have no doubt about that, but goddamn Shalee, this is a total mindfuck, I'm not sure you want to know."
"It can't be anymore of a mindfuck than finding out you are a guy. An assassin, to boot," she said.
"That's nothing. People are rarely what they seem, you should know that. Hell, even you aren't what you seem, right Miss Cerra?"
"So you know who my family is, so what," she said defensively.
"I know that you ran away from them. I know that your Father was a Holder and was disgraced for not releasing part of his slave force after Empress Jamyl decreed that all slaves to the 9th generation should be freed. I know that you have ...rather, had, three half brothers. Two who are presumed dead. I also know that your Father was very high in the ranks of the Sani Sabik culture...."
She sat there in silence, listening to the rain pelt against the window. "All of that is in the past, I don't know what it has to do with who I am now. I live and die for the Empire, I am a loyal and obedient citizen." Her chin jutted up stubbornly, "I am nothing like my family. It is why I dropped his name."
"I'm not accusing you of anything."
"Then why do I feel like I'm on trial?"
"I'm no Inquisitor. I'm merely a friend, if you will."
"A friend of who?"
"You, of course," he said.
"Obviously not, since I only just found out who you really are. Which brings me to the question, why are you here?"
"In a round about way, I was hired to infiltrate your corp."
"Someone you don't know."
"To investigate the Bleaklands. There's been a lot of strange activity popping up, things happening that cannot be explained. Something to do with the Bloodraiders, it was thought, so I was sent out to have a look around. Joining militia was the perfect ruse."
"Yes but why my corp? You could have joined any militia corp or even the 24th itself."
"Because of you, Shalee." He lit up a cigarette. "Surely it makes sense to start with the obvious. You have ties to the Sani Sabik both with your family and your fiance, Tigerfish Torpedo."
"I'm no Blooder, how could you even accuse me of that..."
"Hey calm down I'm not accusing you of anything. I had to start with the obvious leads. I know what you are."
"Not all Sani Sabik have ties to Blood Raiders," she said.
He nodded, "I know. But all Blood Raiders have ties to the Sani Sabik. They are a fractured cult of the Sani Sabik. And I think that's where they do their recruiting. So of course I was going to start within the ranks of I.LAW. To find out more about you and him."
"So now you know about me. What about him?"
He exhaled a ring of smoke, "He's not what you want him to be."
Dark brows furrowed. "What do you mean by that?"
He regarded her for a moment, "I didn't bring you here to talk about your fiance. I brought you here to show you this." He slid a datapad across the table.
She picked it up and slid her finger over 'play + internal audio' which meant that her implants would absorb the sound and she would hear it within her mind. The patrons of the restaurant would be oblivious.
The video started like her glitched memory. The battle of Kamela roared over comms. The sky was bright with explosions. Pieces of shredded metal littered the battlefield. An explosion lit the vid screen and then everything was dark.
Seconds ticked by then the darkness was pierced with a blinding light. The pod was being pulled from the battle, absorbed into the belly of some ship. The capsule was split open, pod fluid splashed across the floor. Neon red lights cast an eerie glow across Sani-Sabik masked men.
Scatha struggled against his attackers. Boots pounded against the metal grating as another kidnapper neared him.
She hit pause on the recording, feeling as if her heart were about to beat its way out of her chest. Fear coiled in the pit of her stomach. "How is this possible? You shouldn't be able to have any video feed once you left the pod. You were disconnected from it."
He nodded his head towards the datapad, "Keep watching and then I will explain."
She hit 'resume'.
The camera jerked out of focus, no doubt where Scatha was hit in the back of the head. The screen went dark though there was still audio. She could hear far away screaming.
Suddenly he opened his eyes and the video came into focus once more.
"Oh my god..." she gasped, choking on a sudden sob that caught in her throat. "What the hell is this?"
The camera panned around a Blood Raider torture chamber. There were several people suspended from the ceiling, their bodies drained, sliced open, carved with ritual symbols to the point of being unrecognizable.
It went dark again with audio; scuffling noises, people pleading, screaming.
He blinked his eyes open. A couple of new bodies hung nearby.
She started to tremble as she realized who he was looking at.
"Oh god.." she stammered, completely caught off guard, "How is this possible..."
She watched in horror as a masked Raider impaled her arms with metallic rods. He taunted and teased her, then left.
From the audio she could hear her conversation with Scorpion Venom.
"Scorpion was there?"
And then she heard his voice. He was talking to her, commanding her to breathe...breathe to die.
Her head slumped forward and then his must have as well.
The video blurred then blinked off.
She swiped away tears as she stared blankly at the datapad. "How is this real? How did this happen..."
"I promised I would tell you."
"Do you even know how long these pod clone abductions have been going on?"
He shook his head, "Not really, but we don't think too long."
"And how did you even record it?"
He tapped his fingertip to the corner of his eye. "I have my own technology, it doesn't require being wired up to the capsule. It's always recording."
She stared at his eye, "Even so, wouldn't they have found it? Blocked any transmissions going off ship?"
He tugged at the corner of his eye and a silver stream of liquid dripped down his cheek. It fell to the table and congeled into a solid shape. "Nanites." She watched as it reformed into something with wings and flew upwards above their heads. "It's programmed to find it's way home."
It swirled around then landed at the side of his eye, changing into a silver liquid form. He pulled back his skin and allowed it to seep in through the corner, then blinked several times.
Wincing, she looked away. "If they perfected the perfect crime, then why send those Raiders to my apartment. There's something about this that doesn't make sense. Is there something else that you haven't told me?"
"Faliin Oreen, the one who took you, has a taste for you now. He sent those thugs I'm sure. I bet you really pissed him off when you died, he didn't have a chance to imprint you onto another clone."
She felt sick. "What does that mean?"
"All Raiders prefer clone blood."
She nodded, having heard tales of vessels found in space with dry corpses, drained by Raiders. The Raiders were notorious for their gruesome sadistic blood rituals, especially in the Bleaklands.
He continued, "And sometimes they will become attached to a particular taste of someone and they will do anything to keep that person alive, so that they can continuously feed off of them."
She winced again.
"You had the audacity to die before he could imprint your clone onto a new clone, so that he could keep you in the blood farms."
"And so he's going to try to capture me again?" she asked, her voice filled with dread.
He nodded, "I imagine so."
"Well that's fucked up."
Scatha flicked the tip of his cigarette against the ashtray. "We have his name. We can track him down. Remember, he doesn't know we know."
Hours later the pair entered into a seedy bar somewhere deep within the Gallente Federation. The walls pulsed a dim green light to the beat of a strange mix of music. The dancefloor was a mash of barely clothed bodies gyrating upon one another.
Shalee swept her gaze across the sea of people, "I don't think he is here."
"He's not going to be on the dancefloor," he chuckled. "C'mon," he reached behind him and grabbed her by the hand, pulling her through the crush of people towards the back of the club.
Scorpion Venom sat with his back to the bar, a girl on each side hanging onto his massive arms. He smirked as he pulled a cigar from his lips, "Didn't figure I'd find you in a place like this," he said to Shalee. His shiney black eyes focused on Scatha. "Gonna introduce me to your friend?"
He looked to Shalee for confirmation. She nodded. He grinned even wider, "No shit?"
"Nope," said Scatha as he stuck his hand out to shake Scorpion's. "Look. We need your help."
"What can I do for you?"
"Doing what you do best. We need to capture someone and with your considerable skills, you're our best chance at it." Scorp was one of the better known inty pilots in the militia, if not the best. He smirked again, "Say when."
He looked to the girl on his left then to his right, "Now now? Not like half an hour from now?" He grabbed the blonde's ass, "I mean, come on. What's so important that can't wait a little so I can get a little."
Scatha gave Shalee a look, to which she shrugged. "Fine. Half an hour then we roll out."
Shalee watched the trio head for the stairwell. "So."
"So," Scatha said as he nodded his head towards the dancefloor. "Wanna dance?"
"For half an hour?"
He cracked a grin, "He'll be back in ten."
"I'm telling him you said that."