Saturday, September 16, 2017
Lose Myself In Reverie
Solar System: Chaven
Security Level: 1.0
Location: Imperial Academy Space Station
Voices echoed in the back of her mind as old memories hovered on the edge of her subconscience, fighting for dominance. It was always this way after a session with Dr. Witwer—a brilliant scientist specializing in clone memory retrieval. He had helped her years before, putting the pieces back together after a Blood Raider had kidnapped her for a blood farm.
This time was different. This time her memories had lain dormant in an illegal base clone in the deep recesses of null-sec while an imposter hijacked her body and had assumed her life. Kept in a drugged comatose state, her memories began to erode as the days bled into months.
More than a year had passed when she had awoken in a clone retrieved by her most entrusted employee, Elisen. Elisen explained that she had known something was wrong when the Imposter left the No.Mercy corporation and abandoned her daughter in null-sec.
The Imposter had fooled most everyone, but Elisen knew better. The Imposter underestimated the love Shalee had for her daughter—she simply wouldn't have left Gia with her father, Garst Tyrell. She certainly wouldn't have left null-sec to return to her Holding in the Bleak Lands without her child.
Shalee had never concerned herself with Imperial Court, and would never put the Empire above her child. She had left her life in the militia and the Empire behind to fight in Tyrell's wars, a heavy price to pay to keep her child safe—not that Garst would allow their child to leave his protection.
It was inconceivable that Shalee would just walk away and pretend that Gia didn't exist.
There were other clues. Shalee's husband, Tigerfish Torpedo, had also dropped out of the public eye. Elisen had tried to contact him to no avail. She even tried to gain an audience with the Imposter but she had refused a meeting. Too many things simply didn't add up.
Elisen wouldn't let it go. Though she was a scientist by heart, she stepped out of her comfort zone and joined the Amarrian Militia in an attempt to get closer to those Shalee had flown with in the past. It was breadcrumbs, but it was all she had. For months, she stayed on the fringes of the Militia, quietly observing those who might unknowingly offer any information on the real Shalee's whereabouts.
Elisen's break happened a little over a month ago, when Red woke her up screaming, frantically projecting into her bedroom in the middle of the night. Red was the subconscious manifestation of Shalee when she slept. She projected her avatar as a child with long red ringlet curls. The child was able to manifest in any virtual realm and usually used holoprojectors to reach people in reality. It was a part of Shalee that was clever and inquisitive, though very young—that innocent part of herself that lived before her mother died, before she had learned that her father and brothers were Sani Sabik. Red was Shalee's way of dreaming in reality, and when she awoke, she never remembered what Red had been up to. It was almost as Red was becoming her own entity.
Red had been trapped in Shalee's comatose mind until one quick moment where a mind-scan had been completed and a distracted clone technician had let the connection linger a moment too long. It was enough time for Red to break free from her virtual prison and broadcast out into the universe. She first tried Tiger despite not trusting the former Sani Sabik. She knew that he would save Shalee, but she was unable to reach him. Every portal from the past that she'd ever used to virtually spy upon him was blocked. She then tried Elisen, projecting into the woman's bedroom, shouting off the location where Shalee was being kept hidden away in a generic clone.
The rest was easy. Retrieving Shalee from an illegal cloning facility had been much easier than she would have thought possible. The next part was easier still—having Shalee's subconscious transferred to a legal clone that had been stored in high-security space under her full name, Shalee Lianne Cerra. No one but Elisen had been privy to that one piece of information. The backup had been kept separate from her other medical and jump clones. After someone had tried to sabotage her memories in the past, Shalee had taken extra precautions.
It paid off.
"You're daydreaming again," Elisen said as she flicked her blue eyes to Shalee.
Shalee gave a sheepish smile, "Sorry. This happens every time after I see him."
"I know. But, Dr. Witwer is amazing. He will have you back to normal in no time at all."
"Yes, but until then it's... frustrating. I remember so much but everything is out of order. Fragmented. The memory erosion has really done a number."
"At least you haven't forgotten what is important," Elisen said knowingly.
A warm smile stretched across Shalee's mouth. "Gia."
"I have news..." Elisen locked her gaze with Shalee.
"Lord Sakakibara has joined Shadow Cartel."
Shalee furrowed her brows, "Why would he do such a thing?"
"Apparently, the Cartel is on deployment... to null-sec."
A shiver slithered a path down Shalee's spine. "Close to No.Mercy?"
"Yes. In fact, they have allied for Tyrell's war. I believe they are being paid. I think they are stationed in Detorid."
"That is wonderful. Perhaps Regi can get close enough to find out where they are keeping Gia."
"Perhaps. Though, do you really trust him?"
Shalee nodded. "I do. I don't have a choice, really. Reginald was once very important to me, and I to him. We have a deep history and I can't imagine that he would betray me. He knows me. He knows that I would be there for him if he needed me... and that is why I believe he will help me."
Elisen gave a curt nod. It wasn't her place to say otherwise.
"Were you able to access her mail?" Shalee asked, referring to the Imposter.
"Unfortunately not. However, I was able to retrieve some older messages. They still had your old encryption. I don't know how useful they will be. I have the last ones from Garst..."
Shalee searched her memory, trying to remember the last things he'd said to her. "Send them."
Elisen nodded. "Of course."
"I assume you have read them?" Shalee asked.
"It was long ago, but... Shalee. It is too easy to connect the dots."
"What do you mean?" she asked.
"Those letters are terribly damning. He straight up tells you that he will not allow Gia to leave him. He threatens you. The logical assumption is that he is the one responsible for everything. He could have been the one to orchestrate it all. Have 'you' replaced and sent back to Huola. Keep Gia in null-sec with him. And keep the real you locked up under lock and key in that clone. He could have even taken care of Tiger. He still hasn't been found. It makes perfect sense..."
Shalee chewed her bottom lip, her pale face lit with exhaustion and worry. "I... I don't know. We had come to an understanding. Things were fine between us. It is hard for me to conceive of the idea that Garst would go out of his way to orchestrate something so underhanded. He loves Gia... I don't think he would harm me because he knows that harming me would crush her. And anyhow, he is always so very busy with his wars, I can't imagine he would even bother."
Elisen shrugged lightly. "Perhaps. But, I don't trust him."
"Not many people do. But, then again, you don't trust anyone," Shalee said matter-of-factly.
Elisen sighed. "Read the mails. Once I have more information, I will be in contact. I am following up on a lead, though it might take me a while."
"Oh? With who?"
Shalee gasped. "Oh! Is he still in No.Mercy?"
"Yes. Right where you left him. If anyone can help, it will be him." Elisen grinned.
"And maybe he knows where they are keeping Gia."
"Precisely what I was thinking." Elisen stood and smoothed her hands down the front of her jacket, straightening it. "Take care."
"I shall try."
After Elisen left, Shalee accessed her communications and read the forwarded transmissions that Elisen was able to retrieve from her old mail system.
I never thought you'd stick with No.Mercy for so long. I was reviewing the personnel dossiers and yours flagged for special attention as you are nearing your one-year retention mark. I've been giving it a lot of thought. You have to understand I normally don't discuss these things with the pilot in question... but we have a history. And out of respect for that history and what you have accomplished with us, despite your mistakes raising Gia, I have decided to retain you in my corp.
I like to think I can separate profession from my personal life, and normally I can, but you continue to vex me by being the exception that makes me question my adherence to the rule and my pride along with it. I confide this to you to specifically underscore the great expectations I continue to have for you, to the point that I'm willing to suffer a hit to my pride and suppress my longing for what we used to share while keeping you close. Outside of the few occasions I can let myself drink and lose myself in reverie, I know that you won't be getting back together with me, at least not in a way that I could accept....
But this decision is the (mostly) logical result of critical analysis of your performance with us. To be blunt we have better pilot aces and super capital commanders but you have developed your own niche, equally unique and important in your own way. You are one of the forces in my corp that encourages the other pilots to commit emotionally, to turn the corp from a military enterprise into a family of sorts. The net result is that they are more loyal to me, more willing to die when I need them to to, jump in a new clone and die again. You help to show them the big picture is more than just anyone fight, your presence encourages them to take the long view. It's a rare talent, and I am keen to nurture talent in my pilots.
It would be foolish to squander you as a corporate asset because of my own frustrations with you, and so I am renewing your contract. I'm currently 4 wine glasses and 3 revisions in, but out of my misguided longing for you, I find it impossible to not send this mail to you explaining how I came to this decision.
Naturally, I expect you to keep this mail confidential between or I will terminate your clone and all corporate contracts. Then I will terminate you.
But it won't come to that because you are so adept at keeping secrets, and in some measure I trust you. God help me.
Once again your failure of imagination disgusts me. Try for one moment to overcome your biological instincts to coddle this child and think rationally. Gia is not a military target. No one is after her, certainly not the Reds. If you stop being selfish for one moment you would realize she is only in danger as a target of opportunity in the wrong place at the wrong time. The local pirates that are trying to strangle our supply lines back to Empire space would kill her simply because they wanted to strip the hull of its precious metals and she would be a minor inconvenience slowing them down. You know she is safe planetside, out of sight, out of mind. And there she will remain, stable in her quality of life, while we strangle the Reds. The further we push our enemies away from our home, the more white space we create... which means these phantom fleets you fear so much who would travel all the way across the galaxy just to murder our daughter will have a longer gauntlet to run to get to her.
The Imperials couldn't even protect their empress, so what happens when the Sansha or Drifters show up and burn everything?
So the answer is a resounding no, no, a thousand times no and don't ever question my judgment like this again. It's unbecoming of an officer in my fleet and I'm running out of patience with you. Gia will stay safe in SAH and when she is old enough, she will join us on my flagship and I will spend each of my lives striving to be worthy of preparing her for her destiny. She is awaited.
Do try to control your emotions--you're better than this.
Shalee furrowed her brows. The mails were over a year old. But damn... she could see Elisen's point.
I will terminate you.