Location: Finanar X – Moon 15 – Minmatar Mining Corporation Mineral Reserve
Sahriah stood restlessly by the window in the private lounge, on the station orbiting Finanar X. It was as close to the warzone as she could get without entering low or null security space, space she’d avoided for years with good reason.
The gas giant rotated slowly beneath her, its violent storms and racing winds appearing serene from a distance. Her mind was fixed on the last mail she had received, from a man who was once her closest friend, and the only person in the universe she truly trusted.
I managed to smuggle myself 12 jumps, through the S2N Blockade in Uemon, and have arrived in the Finanar system. Please forward me your location.-OutJ.Tordanis
Awaiting his arrival with tension, her fingers played with the thin black gloves she wore, an outlet for her nervous energy. She had not seen him in over a year, and it was well before that, that they had truly lost contact.
The lounge was simple; it was on a Minmatar station after all. A small sitting area fitted with couches and a table, gave way to a slanted window-side designed to provide a generous view of the planet below.
Sahriah turned her head upon hearing the door slide open. A tall Caldari stood in the doorway, his body a dark silhouette against the light from the corridor. She took a breath. It could only be one person.
He stepped into the room, wearing a dark-grey hooded robe, presumably to hide his identity while he travelled through the warzone. She suppressed the impulse to run over and hug him, instead stepping down from the viewing window in a controlled manner and walking slowly towards him.
"I'm glad you came." she said softly, unsure of how he was going to react.
Jacob keyed the door closed behind him, then turned and faced Sahriah, removing his hood and parting his robe. "It's been a long time" he said, as he inspected her. He could feel the intensity of the room, and for his sake attempted to diffuse it with some humour. "You look the exact same. I guess it pays to be immortal."
Sahriah offered a smile as she stopped a few feet away. He looked more stressed and tired then she remembered. "So do you" she lied, gesturing for him to join her as she stepped towards the couch. "How have you been?"
He performed one final scan of the room before removing the Ammarian robe entirely and draping it over a chair; he walked over and sat down on the sofa.
"Tired" he said, letting out a sigh of relief. "The Reach has been a cluster fuck-and-a-half between all the skirmishing. Forgive me for how long it took to get here." He paused for a moment before continuing. "In all honesty it wasn't the war that delayed me; it was my own courage - or lack thereof. I didn’t know what to say or how to approach you." He chuckled, once again attempting to diffuse his discomfort. "Hell, meeting up with a long-lost friend shouldn't be as difficult as warfare and imminent death"
Sahriah sat down near him leaving some space between them. She gazed at the small table in front of her for a moment, her guilt returning. "I'm sorry if I’ve made things...difficult...between us. I never meant for that."
He leaned over and placed his hand on her shoulder, interrupting her gaze. "We all have our own journey through the stars, Sahriah. Do not apologize; I just wasn't prepared for what came to pass, or for walking my path without you somewhere nearby." He paused, gazing through her and remembering pieces of the last two years. "It was a.... hard lesson, but I'm whole.” Jacob returned his focus to her eyes. "What prompted you to reach out to me after all this time? Why now?"
"I've been here. I've kept tabs on you since we parted ways. I noticed you joined [TRI] actually, around the same time that i was trying to get in contact with Garst." She took a breath, feeling she should clarify further. "I had received an inquiry for a contract on them. On doing my research I realised Garst was executor. I was trying to reach out to him, to inform him, for what little good it would do, but the more I researched, the more I realised he seems to have...changed. I was concerned and wanted to check up on you, make sure everything was ok."
He shrugged "I wouldn’t know, I do not talk to him much outside of written communication. I sank pretty deep into a hole for a while, but Garst reached out and offered me a position personally, as a fresh start. It has been quite wonderful for me. Garst is an executor of an alliance with many eyes upon it, what little spare time he has does not involve me outside of business." He pondered for a moment. "But I'm sure you didn’t bring me here to talk to me about Garst, or Triumvirate in general."
Sahriah gazed at him for a moment before lowering her head again and speaking softly "I've missed you Jacob. I had thought about contacting you before but...truthfully I didn't think you would want to see me. Things have happened recently, that..." she trailed off. "I'm not sure you're safe in No.Mercy."
He looked down for a moment, confused. "You ceased all communication after shutting me out years ago, and now you reach out to tell me I am unsafe? What happened when I told you that you were unsafe meddling in that damned cult?"
She winced as he emphasized cult, but let him continue. The memories were clearly painful for both of them.
"You left. And it turns out I needed you more than you needed me. What has got you so concerned about No.Mercy that trumps all of that?”
Standing up and walking over to the window, she tried to hold back tears. He stirred her emotions easier than anyone she knew. "That's not true...i didn't mean to leave you." She stumbled over her words, trying to make him understand. "I thought i was causing more pain by being around. I didn't want to hurt you anymore; you hated everything to do with me."
He stood up, immediately challenging her last remark. "I never hated you. Not once. I was always there. I hated the years of friendship being sidelined. I became a nuisance to your growth, I hated that. He became your everything, even at the cost of all we had built since the academy." He took a breath before launching another painful strike at her. “So it happens that I depended on you more than you depended on me, and that was a hell of an awakening. It changed me, more than you can realize. I've fought demons and moved on. I didn’t think I'd ever hear from you again."
His words cut at her and she wiped a single tear away before turning to him, her voice a whisper "I did need you. I could see it in your eyes Jacob, you hated what you thought i was becoming. You thought I was evil."
He swiftly interrupted her. “No. I thought He was evil, and I saw you getting lured in. At some point, my concerns for your safety, as well as my presence, were merely ignored. I knew you. I knew your pure heart, and your thirst for the hunt. I even attempted to understand where you were going. But the path you were on, or why you were on it, was something I couldn't get.” He stepped closer to her. “But I never hated you, never thought you were evil, and never once left your side through all of it.” He reached up and wiped away the additional tears that had started to flow down her face before pulling her into his arms. "What a ride, huh"
She fell into his chest and sobbed for a few moments, unable to bring herself to refute his words. "I'm sorry. I never meant for this..."
His arms tightened around her. "I'm sorry too. But all is forgiven, and everything is ok now. I've missed you" After a few moments he took her over to the couch. "Hell with everything else, are you all right?"
Wiping her tears away, she merely shook her head to his question. She was suddenly terrified of all that was happening. Six years ago she had almost destroyed their friendship, and now she was about to risk doing it again, all for Him, a man she still viewed as her mentor despite everything that had happened. Why couldn’t she shake the damn loyalty…the damn fondness that she had for him? A question she couldn’t answer, but one she hated herself for, more so with every passing second in Jacob’s presence.
He glanced over to the private lounge’s self-serve bar. "Would you like some water? Something stronger?"
"No thanks." She shook her head again, averting his gaze “I don’t really drink alcohol anymore.”
Noting her state, he grabbed her hands and her attention. "We're Okay. It may not be the same as before, but we will be fine. Now, tell me what danger I should be wary of from No.Mercy."
She recoiled slightly but left her hands in his, remaining quiet for a few moments, unsure of how to say it. "I told you I had been looking for Garst." She hesitated again. "I remembered someone from the militia that used to know him; I went to her to see if she could help me contact him." She lifted her head, gazing at his eyes. "Her name is Shalee...she" a lump caught in her throat and she stopped.
He cracked a half-smile, fully aware of Shalee, her husband, and his recent conversation with the woman in a [TRI] station lounge. "No surprises here. Shalee introduced herself to me the other day. I know all about her and her...husband."
Sahriah's eyes widened as she realized Shalee had already pieced her and Jacob together. "He...was there...at her manor, when i went."
Jacob snickered. "Well they are married, right? Were you truly surprised to find him there of all places? No matter, continue. How does this lead to danger from No.Mercy?"
Surprised and slightly angered by his attitude, she pulled her hands away. He clearly did not understand how conflicted she felt, but he had never understood that side of her, had he. "I didn't know Jacob. I hadn’t spoken to him in six years." She walked back to the window, her arms folded, and cut to the chase. "He wanted me to talk to you. He thinks Shalee's in danger...from Garst. He wants you to look out for her, to figure out if he’s right."
"I see" was all he could mutter. Suddenly this rendezvous wasn't fully about reconciliation or his own safety. It seemed it was just another order given from Lord Torpedo, for Sahriah to fulfill. Jacob stood and walked towards the bar, swallowing his pain. His hand moved towards the bourbon and paused there for a long three seconds before he reconsidered and grabbed a water jug instead.
"And why would Garst be a threat to Shalee?" he replied, pouring himself a glass and suppressing his inner rage.
She turned as she heard him get up, grinding her teeth as he mentioned her.
"I don't know, and I don't really care." Her voice softened slightly as she continued. "I don't want you getting caught up in whatever is going on over there. You need to stay away from them - all of them." She paused for a moment, realising her explanation was not enough. "You told me Tiger is dangerous, he is, and she is too."
He continued to face away from her, finishing the glass of water and setting it down on the counter. It made a loud noise as the crystalline carbonate hit the metal.
"The whole damn galaxy is dangerous, Sahriah. I left [UPAY], never to return, because of that danger, and I just found out a few weeks ago that a corp-mate is now married to that danger. It seems my past is fated to haunt me.” He put his hands on the bar, spread apart, and bowed his head while exhaling deeply. “Shalee seems nice, yet anyone married to him can’t be fully trusted. So far, I have not witnessed anything remotely like what I went through in [UPAY]. So far...Shalee has been nice to me, and Garst has not proven dangerous.” He raised his head, not letting go of the counter. "In order for me to do this objective for you, I need to know what danger Garst poses."
Sahriah waved her hand aside in protest, not caring that he wasn’t facing her. "No. Didn't you hear me? I don't want you involved in this." She stepped down off the raised viewing platform by the window, and strode towards him, putting her hand on his back. "You are not bound by what He wants. I just wanted you to know, and I want you to be safe.”
She looked down at the bar as they stood there for a moment in silence. She had promised Tiger her loyalty, and loyalty to a Caldari was everything, but she couldn’t put Jacob in danger again, like she had in the past. She couldn’t involve him in this.
Finally he shook his head, fully aware of the irony of the situation. "You know, Sahriah, there was a point in time where I would have done anything for you. Anything. And right now, I'm completely torn. Part of me still wants to be your everything, to help you out. But the hurt inside hates that he asked you to contact me for something else he needed of us.” He released the counter and faced her. "No, I'm far from bound to him. But what of you? Are you still bound to his service? Are you in any danger?"
There was another long silence as she repeated the question to herself. Jacob didn’t really know why she had left Tiger in the first place, but he didn’t question it. What he was really asking, was if she was still Sani Sabik, and if her status as Prathet still applied. It wasn’t a question she was able, or willing, to answer.
"I don't know." She said truthfully, rubbing her forehead as she felt a headache coming on. "He was different...I don't know how to explain it. He seemed more in control. I don't think Illana is there anymore." She turned, leaning her back against the bar, wanting to believe it was true. "When he pulled me aside, he told me he wasn’t Sani anymore. He seemed genuinely concerned about Shalee's well-being." She looked back at his eyes. "He didn’t order me to talk to you. He asked me if I was still loyal to him and then he asked me to speak to you." She sighed in frustration "I don't know what to think."
Her reply surprised and somewhat diffused his anger. Perhaps she did come for his well-being he thought silently. "Your loyalty to the Sani Sabik Torpedo was what shattered what we had. They are known for their silver tongues, how can you be certain that he is no longer practicing?"
Sahriah bit her gum. "I can't be. It's possible he no longer trusts me due to...the way I left. He may be trying to hide it for his own safety. But he married a loyalist. I don't see how that’s possible with his history. Perhaps that's why he asked me to speak to you, to see if I’m still on his side."
Jacob turned and poured himself another glass of water. "You're playing a dangerous game getting even remotely involved with him. But since this very well could be a test of your loyalty to him, this could actually work to an advantage…”
Her eyes snapped up to him. "Jacob..." she warned.
He took a sip of his new drink and started in an almost sarcastic tone. "Assume in a perfect utopian galaxy that Tiger is magically sane and that he truly is over his Sani Sabik practices. Then by helping you, all I am in danger of is, supposedly, Garst Tyrell, the CEO and Executor of Triumvirate. It would benefit me, for my safety, to understand this better."
He set his glass down, continuing in a more serious tone.
"But if he is still practicing, even in secret, and this is a test of your loyalty, then he may not like my refusal. My No.Mercy colleague gave me the impression that she hates the Sani Sabik. Should she, the loyalist wife, find him to still be practicing, well, he would certainly need more than a silver tongue to dig his way out of it." A smile played at his lips. "If I assist in this scenario, then I can still try to learn why Garst Tyrell, is such a danger, as well as unseat the great 'Lord' Torpedo from his lies. On the other hand, if he has genuinely given up his old life, then you earn the trust of your old Commander. Either way, you get closure.”
Sahriah looked at a loss for words. Did he think she was out to hurt Tiger? She considered him, realising he did not even know about the conversation Shalee and her had only days ago. "When you spoke to Shalee...what did she say?"
"Nothing concrete like 'to hell with them', but she became defensive and quizzed me when the subject was brought up. Like I said, I get the feeling she dislikes them, for whatever reason I do not know."
She eyed him cautiously. "Did she say anything about me?"
After pondering for a short moment he replied. "Not that I remember, she mostly used you to ask me questions about Tiger. She wanted to know what caused the rift between us, and she did ask if I loved you."
The million questions she had running through her mind disappeared in an instant with his last words. "What did you say..?" She replied, trying to make it sound directed at his first comment.
Jacob humbly replied. "The truth."
She stood there, looking at him with an unimpressed ‘really?’ expression.
He walked back and sat down on the couch, letting out a deep sigh. "I didn’t think I'd ever hear from you again, and it was well over two years since we fell apart. I told her how he caused our paths to break, and I told her that I both loved and hated the man she now calls husband."
Sahriah raised her eyebrow, slowing following him. He both loved and hated him? "I see." She sat down across from him, deep in thought. What game was Shalee playing? "So what are you going to do? What are we going to do?"
"What do you want out of all this? What is your closure?" He stood and began donning his Ammarian cloak, not waiting for her reply. "I think the first order of business is to see what Garst is up to. In the very least, it's better for me to understand what I am dealing with.”
She nodded; standing and silently thanking him for not making her answer the question.
"Please be careful. If you can engage Shalee, it may be useful to know how she even came to be with Tiger. I think she is suspicious of me Jacob. She seems, too friendly for someone who knows my past with him."
Jacob closed his eyes for a moment. "I am certain she is suspicious of a great many things. I would not assume she overlooks someone who was once a large part of her Husband's life. I'll need more information on Garst. I don’t know anything about the supposed danger to Shalee or myself in No.Mercy." He handed her a customized data pad. "If you know anything, please send it through this encrypted channel."
She nodded again, taking the data pad. "Jacob…do not tell her any of this. You know that right?"
He smirked. “Of course I won’t. Tell that bastard that I will look into any threats from High Command.”
He turned towards the door, preparing to leave, but immediately felt her arms wrap her arms around his chest. "Please be careful."
"You know me. I look like a damned fool in a robe, but I'm careful."
She managed a smile "Thank you."
He left her grasp, walking to the door and opening it with a loud screech. Turning back a final time, he looked at Sahriah with a smirk upon his face. "You never asked me details on that final question." Before she could reply, he pulled over his dark hood, and disappeared.