Tuesday, October 24, 2017
Station lights dimmed inside of the Chaven Imperial Gardens as a lone man wearing an Imperial Navy Commander's uniform took a seat beside Shalee Lianne Cerra, keeping the hood of his cloak pulled low to cover his face. "Hello, Cadet Cerra."
Shalee sideglanced as someone took a seat beside her. Though his face was obscured, of course, she recognized the voice—deep and robotic sounding. Her voice was flat and without emotion. "Vlad."
"The time for that is not here, not now. We must speak somewhere private."
She gave a glance around the expansive, empty garden, "We are alone."
Vlad consulted a pop-up chart, showing an all-clear electronic signature scan. "Very well."
"How did you find me?" she asked as she turned to face him.
"The Academy Directory. Really, did allowing that full name to be published sound like a good idea? Anyone with half decent tracking skills can and will find you."
"You're assuming that anyone out there is looking for me. But I am curious... why were you searching for me?"
"Because one Shalee Lianne disappears from No Mercy and then returns in Shadow Cartel. And one Shalee Lianne Cerra is an academy student. Along with the disappearances of Kenzi Lianne and Tigerfish Torpedo. Something is ill afoot and we intend to find out."
Shalee stared at him, her thoughts a whirl. She had assumed that she was safe in high-sec, far from the grasp of anyone who might seek her out or harm her. "Why do you even care?"
"Because it is our job to investigate possible threats," he answered in that deep monotone voice of his.
"Threats to who?" she asked as she turned away from him, her gaze unfocused on the viewport in front of her.
"Our charge. Until we can verify who you truly are, that is all that can be said."
Shalee slashed her eyes to the right, looking directly at him. "You have my daughter?"
"We can neither confirm nor deny."
"You don't have to. You just did. I don't know who else your charge would be that would concern me. Where is she?"
"In a safe place. There are factors that are far beyond just one person at play here."
"I don't care about your factors. I want to see my daughter, dammit! She belongs to me, not you."
"She belongs to Garst Tyrell equally, who has entrusted her care to us."
Shalee inhaled a deep breath, trying to stay calm and relaxed despite every fiber of her being wanting to scream at the machine sitting beside her. He had no idea how she felt, being apart from her own daughter for so long. "Fine. Ask your employer to give me back my child. He shouldn't care now... he is busy with his ever-lasting wars, from what I hear. He doesn't have time to be a real father to her."
"No. Because right now, we have no idea what you really are."
"What do you think I am?" Her brow rose.
"We do not know, and that is why you cannot have access. For all the proof that is out, you could be another Kenzi."
"You have no right to keep her from me."
"Once everything is verified, visitation can be arranged." Vlad withdrew a syringe seemingly out of thin air. "Fortunately for you, there should be a way to tell.
"And how do you propose to verify..." her voice trailed off as she noticed the syringe.
"Sleeping sedative should put you under with no ill effects. Strange things happened when Shalee Lianne slept. We propose to test it."
"Absolutely not!" She stood and put distance between them. "Why would you drug me?"
"Because we need you to sleep."
She threaded her fingers through her auburn hair, sighing. "Here? No. I am not falling asleep in a public area. I think I know what you're trying to do, but I won't reveal that part of me here, out in the open. You're asking for me to trust you. I have no reason to think that you wouldn't harm me."
"Do you want to see your daughter?"
"More than anything. But, I am not making myself that vulnerable to you. Not without someone else present, at least."
"Only one person knows I am here. Reginald."
"No. Possible involvement."
Shalee searched her memory, trying to remember who she could trust. The hazy image of an Imperial Templar came into focus. "Thal." Thal had always been there for her when she resided on Huola.
"Possible. Although he may behave irrationally."
Her brow quirked at the mention of Thal behaving irrationally. "I trust the Templar... I can contact him. He will help me. I know he will."
"Have you studied tunnel communications yet?" He asked as he glanced around. "Do you have access to the fluid router training capsules?"
"Would you be willing to connect to a highly encrypted channel and then be sedated by medical personnel here?"
Shalee hesitated for a long moment, then nodded. "Only if you swear that I will see my daughter after we are finished."
"Once you are cleared, you may see her."
She shook her head. "I still don't feel comfortable doing this alone. I need Thal to be here."
"Very well. If that is what you wish."
"What I wish is to see my daughter," she said stubbornly.
"What matters is keeping her alive," he countered.
Shalee nodded, giving a sigh of resignation. Though she wasn't happy about it, she knew that it was in Vlad's best interest to keep Gia safe. "I agree."
"I will be in touch soon. There are more than enough enemies that want her dead for propaganda or spite," he warned.
"So I hear, not that Garst believes it, I'm sure. He thinks he can keep her safe with half of New Eden breathing down his neck? Our daughter will be safest with me, here, in Empire space."
"A cadet? Keep her safe? Considering the.. track record that various Holdings in the Empire have on keeping her safe, we highly doubt it."
Shalee tilted her head to the side, "I don't care what you doubt. I want my daughter. She needs me. Once I hear from Thal, I will be in touch."
"Very well. Do bear in mind, this is not the only angle we are investigating. Although we will not mention your existence here."
"Thank you," she said, just before he left.
A chill of unease snaked down her spine as she watched him disappear beyond the garden doors. Her life had been entangled with Vlad's since she had first become a capsuleer. Of course, he would find her. Of course, he would still be in service to Garst Tyrell. Of course, he would have access to her daughter. It seemed that fate would never unravel their destiny, that someway, somehow, he would always be a force within her life.
She activated her neo-comm and sent a message to Thal.
From: Shalee Lianne Cerra
To: Templar Thal Vadam,
I desperately need your help. Please, tell no one of this letter, not even me, if you should see me face to face. I know that it makes little sense, but I am reluctant to explain it over communications.
Can you meet with me?
From: Templar Thal Vadam
To: Shalee Lianne Cerra,
Shalee receives a short reply of only four words, but words she might find familiar.
"As My Lady wishes."
(The above post is an edited roleplay with Vlad Cetes, the letters are from Thal Vadam)