Region: Etherium Reach
Location: Stratios-class cruiser ‘Raza’
The camera drones rotated, fixating on the vast red and orange nebula of the Kalevala Expanse. The enormous clouds of interstellar dust and ionized gases had been twisted, by so many unseen forces, into a breathtaking display, hanging like a painting in the sky. Despite seeing it almost every day now, Sahriah still found it mesmerizing. It said something to her, that even the most chaotic of things could form one of the most brilliant and awe inspiring scenes known to humanity, and she wondered how many an artist had looked into those stars and tried to recreate its beauty, only to have failed at every attempt.
Sahriah’s mind wandered as she performed another routine system scan. She was vaguely aware of the others on her ship, scurrying around performing diagnostics or maintenance that was barely worthy of her attention. Despite the periodic reports from her crew, it was largely easy to forget that she wasn’t alone out here. In fact it was much easier to pretend she was. She had been in Triumvirate for almost two months now, running various recon and combat operations, once again under the command of Garst Tyrell, a ruthlessly efficient Amarrian she had met during her time in the Amarr militia. The move to null-security space had been jarring. Even though she had joined an alliance five times the size of her previous one, Sahriah had gone from managing hundreds of pilots and clients a day, to barely needing to speak to a few dozen. Ironically, even amidst the war raging in this region, life was simpler and more peaceful here than it had ever been in high-sec.
Most of her acquaintances happened to reside under Garst’s command now too, a reality that she disliked, but could do little about. She had always done her best to keep business separate from personal life, which helped when one forwent any normal semblance of a personal life to begin with, but it was becoming apparent that the universe disagreed with this course of action, and was attempting to correct it for her. As always, she did her best to thwart its plans and rarely left the confines of her quarters while docked in station, but she sensed conflict was likely inevitable. Nevertheless, if anyone noticed that she had joined TRI, they weren’t saying anything, and at least that made it easier for now.
Her executive officer managed to break her reverie as his voice flooded into her head via the ships communication link.
“Captain, we’ve received new orders. Tyrell wants several constellations of moons in the Insmother region scouted.”
Sahriah smiled inside her pod. It hadn’t taken very long to clear out the first five constellations of Red Alliance moons and even though it was a tedious job, the progress it represented lifted her spirits. “Very well Tyler, I’ll see to it, thank you.”
There was a brief silence while the comm link remained open.
“Was there something else?”
His voice seemed unusually hesitant. “Captain, I know you asked not to be reminded, but the Minmatar has been in the isolation cell for over a month now…”
“I am aware.” Sahriah felt her mood instantly sour.
“Have you decided on a course of action?” he continued.
What the hell are we still doing with him is what he really meant. Tyler was a very competent XO and someone whom Sahriah had personally hand-picked for his attention to detail. While he understood that he would not always privy to all her plans, he had also noted that keeping a prisoner in complete isolation for over a month, with strict no-contact orders, was abnormal, especially for Sahriah who was generally decisive in her actions. It was obvious he was becoming concerned with the situation and the pause before her reply did not help to instill confidence.
“Have him brought to my quarters at 02:00.”
“Your quarter’s captain?”
“I don’t normally need to ask twice with you Tyler.”
“02:00, yes sir.” She sighed as she felt the comm link go dead, realizing her muscles had tightened, and consciously forcing herself to relax.
The Sebiestor Ludik had been a constant affliction on her mind from the moment she had ‘liberated’ him from his holding cell at Cerra manor and relocated him into the holding cell of her ship. His disappearance from Shalee’s property had gone relatively unnoticed despite Sahriah’s certainty that Lord Sakakibara suspected her involvement. Luckily the assassination of Empress Jamyl, and the recent Blood Raider incursions into the warzone had the Amarr fairly preoccupied. That or Reginald may have just assumed Sahriah had him dealt with him her way by now.
In truth she was struggling with the fact that she hadn’t just executed him already. It wasn’t necessarily because he had killed a lot of people; she was guilty of that crime every day she undocked. Rather it was how he had done it. They were not quick deaths, and she still retained vivid images of children, slaughtered and carved up, left to starve, rot or worse inside of their own homes. She had seen death and gore before, but out of all the memories, these were the ones that returned to her while she slept. He surely deserved something much more painful than a quick death, but at the very least, death was what she should have given him without a second thought.
What bothered her more, wasn’t the memories, it was the question of what should be done with him. An internal dilemma had plagued her with inaction. Despite his crimes, Sahriah couldn’t help but recognize the man’s talent, not just for violence, but for manipulation. Her need for justice, or more accurately vengeance, was being overshadowed by the fact that she realized his potential. Ludik’s talent was one she could utilize, but at what cost? Slaughtering children used to be an unforgivable transgression in her eyes and the fact that she was even considering not killing him both angered and disgusted her.
Sahriah frowned as she willed her ship to life again, aligning it towards the next stargate and accelerating the Stratios to warp speed as she refocused her camera drones back towards the nebula in hopes of a distraction from her thoughts.
The Kalevala Expanse was home to The Ginnungagap, a black hole that was rumored to be the closest of its kind to civilized space. She searched its center for some sign of the anomaly, as the drones magnified the images, but all she saw was the clouds of dust being slowly sucked into its center. As she watched this snapshot of the past, she realized that it suddenly appeared differently to her. It was no longer a declaration of the beauty or complexity of the universe, but rather a desperate thing, slowly being sucked into an invisible vacuum from which there was no escape. The inevitable fate of this beautiful phenomenon sparked a certain familiarity within her and the notion of it chilled her to the bone.
Her clone recoiled in the amber liquid of the capsule as the Raza landed on the Q7-FZ8 stargate, forcing herself to refocus. She had a job to perform, and the questioning of morals would have to come at another time.