Location: Finarar X – Moon 15 – Minmatar Mining Corporation Mineral Reserve
A soft blue glow emanated from the private bar, illuminating the rust-coloured walls of the lounge. Well this didn’t take long Sahriah thought silently as she poured herself a drink. She had not planned on being back here so soon, yet Jacob had wanted more information on Shalee, and her recent chat with Vlad had revealed some interesting pieces of the puzzle that she thought he should be aware of.
Sahriah scanned through news articles on her neocom as she waited for him. Her nights had been spent researching a myriad of articles and reports on the Sleepers, Jove and anything else even remotely related to the Drifters. The autopsy report published by Dr. Anslo Tetua and Mizhir Starsurge had been particularly fascinating. The lack of vocal cords possessed by the Drifters seemed to indicate that they relied on telepathy through neural implants to communicate, much like modern Capsuleer technology, but the question remained, why remove the vocal cords altogether?
The door finally slid open and revealed Jacob Tordanis, dressed in full Caldari Navy blues and sporting the TRIUMVIRATE emblem, a stark contrast to his earlier robed appearance.
"Miss Bloodstone” he said with a nod.
"So formal Jacob” she stood, smiling as she looked him over. “How are you?"
"I hate robes, and if the bastards catch me, I want them to know I don’t give a damn.” He strode behind the bar, pouring himself a southern sweet tea. “I've been well, how have you been?"
"Alright I guess…sorry to drag you through the war again. I would communicate more through the FTL relays but I don't trust them." She took her seat again. "How is the fight going?"
"S2N is giving us a hard time, but we are managing. Garst seems on edge, but his will is unwavering and our fleets are deadly." He sat down next to her, taking a long sip of tea.
"I've been watching the reports from the area. The fighting looks pretty intense, doesn't really seem like anyone is winning right now."
He sighed. "The capital escalation... and destruction, has been warming up for both sides. Neither side is giving an inch, but sources tell us the Nulli Secunda is almost out of money. So we hold the line." He stretched his neck in slight discomfort, reaching behind and grasping at his biometric interface. "I actually had my first clone activation in over five years. I nearly forgot what that felt like, both during and the days after."
Sahriah nodded, remembering how long it had been since she had a clone activation herself and finishing the remainder of the liquid before placing the empty glass back on the bar. "Have you had a chance to speak to Shalee?"
"No, Shalee has been quite unavailable to me lately. Apparently her husband takes quite a lot of her time"
She had guessed as much. "I've not seen much of her either. I did speak to Vlad Cetes though. Do you know him at all?"
"Ahh, the strange cyborg fellow. I have seen him in several places in the TRIUMVIRATE stations, but I've not yet spoken with him."
"We had a very interesting chat. Among other things, he mentioned that he was contracted by Tigerfish to convince Shalee to marry him..." she trailed off, watching for his reaction.
He looked puzzled at her statement. "The robot is not very people-friendly, nor is he sociable. I can't imagine him being successful as a matchmaker, especially for Tiger." he shuddered at the thought. "I don’t think anyone would suffice as a matchmaker for him."
Sahriah shrugged. "Neither can I, but that's what he claims. He said that Tiger refused to pay him once the job was complete, I think that's part of the reason he left UPAY. He seems quite intent on destroying their marriage now." She paused for a moment, looking down at the bar. “He also mentioned that Revan...disowned Tiger as her Prathet."
Before Jacob could respond, the pressure door to the lounge slid open softly, revealing two dark figures silhouetted by the light of the corridor. The first scanned the room intently before turning and nodding to the other. Sahriah felt Jacob’s hand instinctively move to his sidearm in anticipation. Neither of them was expecting company.
As the figures moved forward into the light Sahriah relaxed, recognizing the women as Azaziel Rei and Dionee Rel, two Capsuleers she had met during her time in the Militia. She placed her hand on Jacobs as she turned to face them.
“Ms. Bloodstone.” The Khanid nodded to Sahriah before her gaze shifted to Jacob “Mr. Tordanis. It’s been a long time. I see you are flying with former Commodore Tyrell again.”
Sahriah reverted to her usual professional tone. “Ms. Rei, I see you found Dionee. I’ll assume you got my message then, I was not expecting you to…reply so soon.” They had a habit of turning up at inopportune times, and they always had an agenda.
Dionee brushed past Sahriah, giving her a warm smile. “It’s been a long time, both of you. How have you been?”
A faint glow of recognition flashed in Jacob’s eye. "Madam Rei” he raised his glass to Azaziel in acknowledgement "It certainly has been a while." He glanced at the Achura woman. "And who might this be?"
Dionee walked over to the bar, obtaining a glass of slightly blueish liquid before proceeding to a couch by the window. “I'm surprised you don't remember me Mr Tordanis, given that we flew together in the 43rd and later during your first time in No.Mercy. I helped Commodore Tyrell found that enterprise after all” she swirled her drink casually and gave him a playful smile. “Although now apparently you've become the enemy.”
He went rigid and quickly glanced at Sahriah. “What is this?”
“I’ve been working for them since we left No.Mercy Jacob.” she explained. “They both currently reside in the wormhole division of S2N.” Azaziel removed her coat, revealing the red star and silver moon of the Trans Secunda Corporation on her collar as Sahriah continued. “I’ve been in contact with Ms. Rei recently; apparently they tracked me down while I was on my way to you.” She flashed a purposeful look at Azaziel. “I didn’t know they were coming.”
“I prefer not to announce my movements through Anoikis.” Azaziel replied flatly.
Jacob immediately became anxious and, unsure of their motives, moved to a more strategically sound position behind the bar; fixing himself so he could see all three woman at once. “You're working with S2N?"
Sahriah could sense his distrust. “Relax Jacob. They’re not a threat. We've been working together for many years. I traveled with them into Anoikis after we left the Militia; it’s part of the reason I was gone for so long."
Azaziel levelled her gaze on him. “The petty squabbles of the K-Space organizations do not concern me unless they threaten the viability of the mission.” she cocked her head slightly to the side evaluating him before switching her gaze to Sahriah. "What does he know?"
"Nothing. We haven’t spoken much recently."
Jacob’s eyes followed. “What does she mean what do I know? Why do I feel like I've arrived at an alliance debriefing with my damned pants down?"
"Perhaps because you did." Dionee chimed in from the other side of the room.
“Wait a minute.” Sahriah interjected, glancing at the women suspiciously as her expression soured. "You knew I was meeting him? Is that what this is about?"
Dionee merely looked at her, holding a single finger to her lips as Azaziel poured herself a glass of wine and took over the conversation. “Jacob" she sat the glass down without drinking "Where do your loyalties lie?"
Visibly confused, he looked down at the Amarrian. "My first loyalty is to the State, second to none, after that, my current employer." Azaziel nodded slightly as he continued. "However, in the interest of old shared endeavours, I choose not to be Triumvirate in this room, as long as you chose not to give a damn about their war with S2N."
Dionee’s expression suddenly looked much more serious. "And what about friends, family, old corp mates? What about those you have yet to meet or those whose lives you change with passing of a thought?"
"Betrayal is not an option for me, whether in good standing or otherwise." he replied curtly.
Azaziel smiled "I think you misunderstand the emphasis of her question Jacob." She walked over to couch, joining Dionee. "Are you loyal to Humanity? Do you understand who and what you are?"
Jacob placed two fingers over his temple, beginning to feel a headache coming on as he attempted to understand the line of questioning. "Are you referring to the immortality of Capsuleers? Or is this something to do with the ongoing Drifter threat?"
Visibly irritated, Sahriah followed the group and sat down by Jacob. She knew where this was going, and she was not pleased. "You couldn't have asked me about this first?"
"I needed to know if your ‘other’ activities were a benefit or a hindrance ..."
Sahriah's face darkened, wondering just how much snooping they had been doing. “My 'other' activates are private, Ms. Rei."
Azaziel merely ignored her. “Every game has an objective. What is the objective of your game Jacob?"
He bowed his head slightly, looking off into the distance. "I have no desires for corporate or political leadership" he paused momentarily. “As Capsuleers, we have the ability to learn from fatal mistakes, unlike the billions of others. We have a responsibility to always be better than before, but not at the cost of being human. I suppose I never thought of having an objective, other than making a difference whenever I can and growing as a commander."
Azaziel shifted in her seat. "You are a reasoned and intelligent man Mr. Tordanis. Tell me what do you know of the Symbol of the Amarr?"
Jacob glanced up, looking sharply into the Khanid’s eyes. ”I'd place the Symbol of Amarr as something of a religious importance. Other than that, I'm not sure. Why do you ask?"
Sahriah's hand unconsciously moved to a necklace that remained hidden under her jacket. She fiddled with the chain anxiously as she listened, wondering how he would react to what he was about to hear.
"Let me explain ...” Azaziel reached into her pocket, pulling out a small pouch and pouring some salt onto the table. Slowly, she traced a number of shapes through the salt, before locking her eyes back on Jacob. "There are five symbols in the Amarr faith. You see the sequence of symbols is a metaphor. Most people understand the meaning of the Amarrian seal,” she pointed to the third symbol “as it relates to a life subservient to God and by extension the Emperor. But that is a very narrow view of one step, in what is in truth a grand sequence.
Think of it like this: Before our species was born; we were the circle; innocent and perfect; one with god. We descended unto the dust of the world helpless and lost. We live under the blessed tyranny of Gods dominion; our emperor; our parents.”
She glanced up at him to ensure he was following along, before moving her finger over the fourth and fifth symbols. “In our teenage years we rebel; we place our own authority over that of our parents; over our emperor; over our god. In our time we rise to success in our fashion; maturing into leaders; builders; tyrants.
Jacob cocked his head, his interest piqued, as Azaziel traced another shape to the end of the sequence, a circle with the triangle tip pointing up.
“But” she continued “there is a Sixth Symbol, one the Amarr tried to eradicate from knowledge, and it signifies transcendence. This ... is man becoming God."
"Capsuleers." Tordanis inferred.
Azaziel shook her head “We are in the fifth age, childhood’s end, a step on that path toward transcendence. You see the Jove gave us capsule technology. Have you ever wondered why?”
Jacob smirked "You believe they purposefully did so as some sort of conspiracy?”
Azaziel looked at him, her tone remaining deadly serious. “They gave it to us and then they watched us. Watched us grow in our abilities and atrocities. I believe they have been testing us, and pushing us. And I believe that it was done with a purpose.”
Sahriah watched his expression as he considered the comment, but his face was impossible to read.
"And did we fail that test?" he quizzed.
“Not yet. As I said, we are at childhood's end. The final test is yet to come, and I am convinced, based off the things I have seen, of two things. That the fate of humanity is at stake, and that we will be either the instrument of its destruction or its salvation."
Dionee perked up again "And that's why the questions of loyalty Jacob. Because in the coming months it may be important to know if you are still human."
"There are more complex wheels in motion then we understand." Sahriah added, hoping to take the edge off the conversation just a little. “We have a responsibility to seek answers so that we can advance.”
Jacob sat in silence for a moment before reaching into his pocket and pulling out his grandfather's pocket knife. Unfolding it, he gently placed the blade against the fabric of his left sleeve, slowly tearing the uniform away and revealing a number of scars on his upper arm.
He looked at Sahriah "Do you know what these are?"
She nodded, not needing to look to confirm what they were. “The marks signify crews lost under his command.” It was this particular aspect of being a Capsuleer that Jacob had struggled with more than any other; he was far too kind for world they lived in now. "His loyalty to humanity is not something you should question." She glared at both the women in turn. “I could have told you that.”
"Memories of the lost," Azaziel echoed, looking down at the table and continuing to ignore Sahriah’s comments. "It is the true burden of immortality. In the mind of the unbound, the lost become ghosts that can forever haunt us." She looked up at him with a softer expression "Once I was Major Azri Serralis of the Khanid Navy Special Forces, and she” Azaziel gestured to Dionee “was Ailee Ishimura.”
Azaziel rose and moved to the window looking out over the station traffic moving in and out of the docking ring in a silent dance of oblivious synchronicity. Her voice fell to a low, soft, almost ominous tone and Jacob’s skin tingled as the words fell ghostly from her lips echoing something far away, a memory that begged to be forgotten, but forever changed those it touched. “Let me tell you a story Jacob, about a mission into darkness.”
As her story unfolded Jacob felt his head swim. If even a fraction of what she was telling him was true, the implications would be...
He barely noticed as the glass slipped from his fingers; shattering on the steel decking below.