Region: The Forge
Security Level: 0.2
Location: Perkone Factory Caldari State
She woke up in a cold sweat, her heart racing as blood pumped furiously through her veins. She realized it was just a dream as she blinked her eyes open. The horrific images began to fade, but the emotions lingered. Cold, oppressive fear slithered down her spine and she felt as if she were smothering. She gasped and tried to force her breathing to steady, telling herself that it was nothing more than a nightmare.
Sliding her hand through her blonde strands, she sat up and pulled her knees to her chest. The black silk sheet did little to warm her chilled skin. Teeth chattering, she turned her gaze to her captain's quarters. The room was unfamiliar and for a moment she had forgotten where she was. The realization came quickly as the corporation's logo flashed along one of the screens on the far side of the wall. She was in Uemon, in a cheap rented apartment on the space station that her new corp currently based out of.
Trimuverate. No Mercy. Garst Tyrell.
Fragmented memories rushed through her mind at once, filling her thoughts with flickering scenes from many years ago. The memories played like a bad melodramatic holo-reel, distorted shards of their past twisting and turning, as if being viewed through a kaleidoscope.
Once, he had been her superior in PIE, but also her friend. A mentor, who bought her her first slicer and taught her to fly a harbinger. Her hero, when he captured the star system Kamela.
And then he changed. Everything changed. She became afraid of him as he turned his back on her beloved Empire. His lust for blood out-shadowed her naivety and her idealistic imperial dreams. She played by the book, followed the rules and upheld the law.
He made his own rules, own laws, and forced those he fought to submit to his terms. He was a glorious and ruthless leader. A true conqueror of men, of space, of fame.
"You can't just take what you want." she had said to him once.
"Recent history says otherwise, and frankly, I'm beginning to like it."
His arrogance infuriated her. His ruthlessness terrified her. When he left their old corporation, he took some of Amarr's best pilots with him, nearly crippling her militia. She had never forgiven him.
She slid out of bed, wrapped up in her sheet and settled down onto the sofa to mindlessly watch the news reports roll across the screen. Incursions. Sovereignty changes. Concord. Though she tried to focus, her thoughts drifted, haunted by years old memories. One of their last conversations played through her mind.
"The ONLY good thing that came out of that bastard organization was that it showed me how NOT to run a corporation... and you. You really were a lucky find. It's a shame you threw away what I would have given you. Everything. I would have given you everything."
She shook her head. "I don't believe you. You left, Garst. You walked away from PIE, the Empire, me. You didn't even tell me you were going."
"The Empire and PIE have no place for men of ambition anymore. The frontier, that my dear, is where great men will make their mark and carve the next empire. Where the weak perish and only the strong survive. Yes Shalee, that is what I crave. Not the slow death of a complacent empire but the chance to make my mark or die trying on the edge."
"So go," she said dismissively. "No one is standing in your way. Go conquer it all for all I care."
"So that's it? Goodbye and good luck? Don't let the door hit you on the way out?" he said.
"What else do you want me to say? You are leaving regardless," she argued.
"Then convince me to stay," he said.
"You wont. There's nothing I can say to make you stay. I can't compete with your quest for glory, for your need to conquer."
"Maybe? You know I'm right. I never could compete."
He was silent.
She stared at the holographic screen, challenging him. "Fine. Stay. I want you to stay."
"Why? So you can have something for you and your friends to hate. A puppet to point to and say 'Don't end up like that, oh ye faithful?' I don't want to stay. I want you to come with me."
"Come with you? Abandon the Empire? For what? To what avail?"
"Because I want you to come. Because I want to open your eyes and show you wonders you've only dreamed of, temptations you've denied for so long. There are no rules on the frontier. Only survival and victory."
"And this is what you desire?"
"I desire you. I always have."
It had been over five years since since he had uttered those words to her. Five years of her serving faithfully, dutifully, in the Amarr Militia, rising to the rank of Divine Commodore. She lead her own corporation, and then alliance, which became a dominant force in the Bleak Lands and surrounding systems.
He never looked back.
Five years, and she gave it all up in an instant to search for a illusive Sani Sabi sect that had infiltrated Triumvirate as they had her own corporation. At least that is where the intel was leading her.
Impulsively, she applied to his corporation, and without a word, was accepted.
Just like that. He hadn't contacted her or cared that she was there. No doubt, if he even remembered her at all, she'd be just another gun to him. Another soldier to fight his war. Raphael had told her, "I don't think he's given you a second thought, honestly."
And that was probably for the best...
[ 12 hours earlier ]
Shalee blinked open her eyes as the liquid drained from her pod. The murky, amber fluid flushed into the metal grating as the pod opened. The automatic clone-jack wires unplugged and coiled into the pod itself. As the mouthpiece fell from her mouth, she looked at Raphael who was standing there, arms folded, staring at her. She took a step forward onto the metal grating, dripping water. "I knew we would run into each other but I didn't know it would be so soon."
Raphael frowned at her, his voice a mixture of anger and confusion. "What are you doing here?"
She threaded her fingers through her soaked hair and squeezed the excess water out. "Joining your corporation. That's what."
"Why are you here?"
Shalee stared at him for a moment, "Why are you here?" she asked as she laid her hands on her hips loosely.
"Answer my goddamn question! You have no business here. Go back to Huola."
She lifted her chin, her blue eyes blazing with a sudden rush of anger. She knew she was going to have to face him and explain, but she didn't know it would be so soon. "But I do. And it is *my* business."
"Why can't you just fuckin' leave me alone? You made your goddamn choice, go fucking live with it. Let me be!"
Her thin brows furrowed, "And so did you." She kept her hands on her hips, chin raised imperiously, meeting his glare with one of her own, "So move it. You're in my way."
He threw his hands into the air. "What the hell does that mean?"
"It means you're blocking my way and I want to go take a shower. That is what it means. Now move. You have no right to be in my personal hangar." She shoved at him with one hand.
Raphael grabbed her by the wrist, "We don't need you here, go back to Tiger."
She jerked her arm, trying to pull away from him, "And yet I was accepted into your corporation, so someone needs me." She frowned at him, "Why don't you go back to Sara."
Raphael twisted his face in incomprehension. "Who the hell is Sara?"
"Jerk," she stared at him, hot anger flashing in her eyes, "So you've already broken off your engagement?"
"What the hell are you talking about!?"
"The woman you came here to marry?"
He looked at her, mute, unable to make any sense of her.
"Sara Morgaine? Red headed Khanid...." she explained.
"I don't know what you're talking about and I think you're just trying to weasel your way past me with this bullshit."
"Whatever," she said sarcastically, convinced he was lying. "Can you let me pass?"
"Why are you here?" he asked again.
"It's none of your business. Contrary to your belief, New Eden doesn't revolve around you. Nor do I. Now please, let me pass."
He practically threw her wrist back to her. "Do what you're here for and then get out and never bother me again."
She scoffed, "How am I bothering you! You're here in my chambers."
"You've come all the way out here to the other side of the cluster, and just happen to join the same corp I've been in for half a year!"
She rubbed at her wrist, "No. I'm here for a reason. I'm looking for someone inside of Triumvirate."
"What, need a second suitor again?" he said derisively.
She rolled her eyes, "You're an ass."
"Yeah, you're so much better."
"I wont be in your way. You'll hardly know I'm here."
"I can only hope."
She frowned deeply. "This is the first time we have talked in months and all you want to do is yell at me. Typical."
"You marry Tiger while I'm away. Marry him! The man who cheated on you! Who lied to you about it! Got someone else pregnant! Then you run up here and act like we're going to be the best of friends?"
She dropped her gaze as she huffed out a breath. Emotions overwhelmed her at once. "First off. I heard you were seeing someone else and that it was serious. Secondly.. I was a wreck and needed someone and you weren't there."
"Heard from who? Because I can guarantee you it was a lie. And a wreck over what? And why didn't you contact me? You know I'd have come, but what, because I wasn't living at the Terrace you felt I was "not there?"
She tilted her head, her blue eyes lingering upon his face. A part of her wanted to tell him everything right in that moment, but he was so angry and hurtful, she couldn't bring herself to say the words. "It doesn't matter."
Raphael looked at her plainly, his face a mask of anger and disappointment. "Well I don't know how you ever expect me to understand anything when you never tell me anything at all."
She blinked as tears started to pool in her eyes. They glistened beneath the light of the hangar as they dripped down her cheeks. "There's so much you don't know...and wouldn't understand."
"So you don't even try to tell me. I understand. Why waste your time, right?"
She shivered as the artificially cool air blew against her pod-suit. "You'll only hate me more. Don't you think it is hard enough facing you now? Knowing you hate me?"
"I don't know what you expected me to do after what you've done to me. Was I supposed to be happy that you "finally found someone?" Tell me why you're expecting any sympathy at all."
"I'm not expecting anything from you," she said softly.
He stood there saying nothing, while looking at her, his face stern.
"Can I at least take a shower first?" she pleaded.
"I already said you could go," he said slightly dismissively.
She nodded and brushed past him, heading into her captain's quarters and made her way into the bathroom for a long, hot shower. A while later she exited her shower, having changed into some baggy cargo pants and a tee with a Concord star across the front.
Raphael had moved himself to the couch and she joined him on the opposite side. "Do you want a drink?" she asked as she threaded her fingers through her damp hair.
He shook his head. "No," he said shortly.
"Alright. You want an explanation." She bunched her hand up in her wet hair. "A long time ago, after us the first time. Right at the beginning of Eran. I met up with Zenton, I was upset. He calmed me down and one thing happened after another...and I ended up pregnant."
He raised his brows in disbelief and said with a hint of sarcasm, "One thing lead to another."
"We weren't even a couple- he was a pirate, then. And that is when things weren't safe for me, not that they ever are." She frowned at his sarcasm. "You know. Never mind this. You can leave. I don't owe you anything."
"I'm not talking about you 'betraying' me with this, mistake? Just how you simply smooth over it so blase' like."
She frowned, "We weren't together at the time." She pulled her feet up onto the sofa and rested her chin against her knees as she drew her legs to her chest.
"I know that. I just said that I'm not holding it against you. But pregnant?"
She nodded, "I wasn't with anyone. So I wasn't protected. It just happened. But I never told him. I never told anyone because those times were so dangerous. I didn't want a child to be used against us. And so I clone jumped out and had her adopted out in secret. I tried to forget about her, all these years, I tried to pretend she didn't exist. But she was always there, in the back of my mind. And Red picked up on it and Red found her." She glanced away, staring at the big screen across the room, though she paid no attention to what was flashing across it in bright red letters. "The Aposi, a Sani Sabik sect, was watching, in the background. And they found her. My daughter. And they killed her."
"They were watching what?"
She chewed her bottom lip. 'They were watching me. Red. I didn't know. They waited, and waited all this time, to really hurt me."
"So they found her through Red? The little wraith that I wanted to get rid of because I was afraid of information leaking out? And why would this 'Aposi' want to hurt you?"
She shook her head softly. "Who knows? A part of me thinks it was to settle an old score between them and my Father. But he is dead, so. I don't know. That is the point. I am blind in all of this. But I do know that they are everywhere. In the shadows. Hiding. But I will find them. And I will kill them."
"What does that have to do with you being here?"
"I'm following a lead, that someone in Tri is Aposi."
"Why didn't you ask Tiger? He's a blooder, I'm sure he's got connections."
"He was never a blooder. And not all Sani Sabik are connected."
"He was Revan's right hand man. You're going to tell me he wasn't a blooder?"
"Yes. That is exactly what I am going to tell you. They aren't the same thing."
He frowned and crossed his arms. "Fine. So you're here looking for blooders."
"Ones who killed my daughter," she said.
"You think that the ones who killed your daughter are in TRI."
She shook her head, "I don't know. But maybe. That is why I am here, to find out." She exhaled a soft breath. "I just hope it isn't Garst." Her eyes flicked to his, searching his face as she asked, "He can't be...can he?"
"I don't think he's given you a second thought, honestly. Why didn't you send anyone else to come out here and do this?"
"Because I don't trust anyone else to do it. And if I find them, I want to be the one to kill them."
Raphael continued to frown, arms crossed over his chest, "Well how about I look into it and you can go back to Huola where it's safer."
"I told you. I have to be here, cause if I find them, I have to be the one to kill them. With my own hands."
"Well I can call you if I find them."
"Why are you so keen on getting rid of me?"
"Because honestly, I don't want to be around you. "Never get married," you told me. Then the next thing I know I'm hearing from other people that you and Tiger and now husband and wife. It really doesn't make me want to see you, either in person or in space."
"I'm sorry, but I heard that you were seeing someone. From other people. And it just happened. But you can't deny me my justice. You can't, Raphael. They killed my daughter."
"Yeah, I'm sure it "just happened." I'm sure "one thing led to another" and you just ended up married." He stood up, "You know, if you thought I was seeing someone else, you should have confronted me. God knows you've done it enough in the past, it's not like you don't have any practice."
She dropped her head, burying it against her knees. Her hair fell around her face and legs in a silky curtain.
"Best of luck with your hunt," he said as he headed towards the exit. He opened the door, but before leaving he turned back around one more. "Oh, and of course congratulations on your nuptials," he said sarcastically before leaving.