((OOC: Many thanks to Tyrukko Sakala for permission to use our RP for this blog!))
A few days had gone by, Julianni had suspected, since the trap had been sprung. There had been little given to her in way of food and water, and her bed had been the hard, metal flooring that encompassed the empty cell. While it was an uncomfortable setting, she knew she could endure. There were worse things, after all.
Her blindfold had since been tightened, ensuring her inability to see. However, her hearing made up for it, and she was beginning to grow accustomed to the darkness and silence of the cell. Each time someone had come to enter it, she’d been acutely aware, snapping out of her broken sleep. This time was no different.
Julianni’s mind flickered into alertness, focusing towards the steps that echoed in the barren room. They were different than the others, these ones with more purpose. Perhaps even professional in a sense, if footsteps could be described as such. Regardless of who it was, she had already made the decision previously to try to lay a trap of her own. Letting her body relax, she slowed her breathing to be as barely noticeable as possible, hoping that maybe whomever it was would think she was dead.
There was a new sound that she couldn’t quite figure out at first. A metal scrape, a small adjustment, then what she thought to be a settling of leather clothing, perhaps. Then, silence. Her mind processed the noises carefully, finally coming to the conclusion that whomever had entered had likely brought a chair and sat down. Though the silence rang true, the hairs on the back of her neck led her to believe that they were still present. The next thing she heard confirmed her conclusion.
“Good morning,” Sakala’s voice echoed in the chamber, followed by another settling of leather fabrics. “Sleep well?”
She kept silent and still, almost even ceasing her breathing in hopes he’d be foolish enough to step over and check on her.
Julianni’s hearing picked up on the man biting into some sort of crisp bit of food. An apple, she was guessing. The thought of a fresh apple was certainly enticing, but she continued to keep quiet and motionless.
There was the tiniest of thuds, then she felt something small bump into her side. “Be a shame to let it go to waste,” he stated. “Sure as hell tastes better then that paste they’ve been feeding you.”
She was beginning to believe he’d called her bluff. And really, what would she even have done if he’d believed her and got within reach? Strangle him? She’d already killed one man, and the thought of that alone was eating away at her. Not to mention, Sakala was far too cunning. It was no wonder he wasn’t biting the bait she’d set.
On top of it all, he was right. What little bit she’d been fed thus far had hardly been appealing in the slightest. In fact, she had even questioned just what it had been and its nutritional value. At least this could possibly give her a bit more energy and hopefully hydration. Cautiously, she reached out to where she felt the food hitting her side, her cloth-bound hands patting the ground in a pitiful attempt to find it.
“A little to the left.”
She could hear the amusement in his voice, and almost see the smirk on his lips in her mind. It was infuriating, but again, there was little she could do. With his instruction, she adjusted her search and managed to bump her hand into it. As she brought it closer to her face, she could smell its scent, confirming that it was indeed an apple. It was turned carefully in her bound hands until she knew there was a place he hadn’t bit into, and finally she took a small, cautious bite.
“I wouldn’t do anything to it that will harm you. The point is to keep you alive after all.”
“I gathered as much,” she answered softly. “Otherwise there would be no blindfold.” She continued eating the fruit, still careful, but her hunger was getting the better of her. He remained, of course, and she knew that this was no simple matter of him giving her better food.
She spoke up again, keeping as much of a neutral tone as she could; anger would do little here. “So what is it you’re after, Sakala? Money? Revenge? A traitor like you would have a good reason, I hope.”
Julianni heard him chuckle as he answered. “Traitor. Don’t wound me by placing me with those types. In reality I’m just an ambitious businessman. I mean if I’m a traitor, aren’t you? You did abandon your people and faith to live with money grubbing Caldari.”
Already, he had hit a sore spot. She knew this was going to be a difficult talk. He knew her details, and she didn’t know his. There was no way to get the upper hand in this scenario from her side, and so she decided to get what information she could. Setting the apple to the side, she pushed herself up to sit on the floor and face where he was speaking from.
Without answering his question, she instead posed one right back. “You were a part of the Internal Watch. Why leave? Of all places, why turn to the Guristas?”
“The Guristas gave me what I desired. Something I realized the Caldari could not.”
While it may have been a rather concealed answer, it was enough to give her room to work with in her mind and, when she made it out, to investigate. Before she could think more into it or pose another question, he spoke again.
“You want to get out of this cell and back to your friends?”
The question took her by surprise and of course made her incredibly suspicious. “I have a sincere doubt of your sincerity in that question. After all, you’re an ambitious businessman,” she said.
His answer was abrupt and demanding. “Answer the question.”
She hesitated, unsure of just what exactly he was playing at. “I do. But I think you already know that, just as I know that it won’t be so easy.” And it was true. Why would he have arranged such a thing so elaborately only to end it so quickly? Money? It was a gamble.
“For you, no. Probably not.” The sound of leathers were heard again. She couldn’t quite tell what he was doing, but the sound stopped and he went still again. “But if you work with me, we can make it easy.”
Beneath her blindfold, her brows furrowed in disbelief. To think that he’d even suggest such a thing made her incredulous. “You’re asking me to work with you. You have given us so many twists and turns and killed so many of our people in I-RED. Do you really believe I’d have any reason to trust you in that? And why would you even want to help? Those very people you trained are the very people you’ve killed. Your own men that were under you at one point, Captain Hikan included.”
Sakala replied cooly, not skipping a beat. “Because I enjoy it when business moves smoothly. Besides, you only have two choices. Want to know whats behind door number one?”
The fact he’d had no reaction sickened her. The idea that he’d trained those people, then turned around and killed them or gave the order to was…infuriating to say the least. Her response was just as cool as his was, bordering on the edges of disgust. “I’m listening.”
“Are you? You clearly don’t want to work with me, which has me thinking you’re not listening. That will change once you know that a certain Amarr fellow is willing to pay a moderate amount of ISK for your ransom.”
His words were like a brick to the face, her stomach sank and fear crept its way up her spine. It couldn’t be, she thought. Silence rang clear in the room and her mind began it’s usual workings. Maybe it was Lord Ibrahim? After all, she knew that his name had come up a few times. But it didn’t add up. There would be no reason.
“Willing to work with me now? Or have I misread something and you really wish to go back to such a wonderful example of an Amarrian Noble?” The more he spoke, the more the dread set in and she knew exactly who he was speaking of. There could be no mistake.
Her voice was faded completely from its neutral demeanor and instead replaced with one of trepidation. “How did he know?”
The man shifted again, his leathers creaking. “Well, things like this happen when certain people gain access to personnel files.”
“You told him?”
“Don’t act surprised. I mean he is the easiest mark for such an exchange. Other avenues can be made easier and more profitable though,” Sakala answered her.
The idea of going back into such a situation with Dominius was horrifying. She’d spoke with him on her birthday and he didn’t outwardly act as if he had any intention of anything, but she knew deep down that he had no good intentions in mind. Julianni swallowed hard and lowered her head, finally speaking up again in a quiet, defeated tone. “What do you have in mind, Sakala? You have my full attention.”
“See I knew you were a smart girl,” he began. “I want you to ask Ishukone-Raata to pay for your ransom. Plead if you must. Them paying a few billion ISK, is worth more than the alternative, no?”
“They won’t, and I wouldn’t expect them to. We do not give in to pirate demands. You should know that better than anyone.” She knew she was right, as they’d seen such situations before. It was perhaps seen as a harsh thing, but to give in to people like this most certainly would tear the organization apart. If not immediately, in due time. All Sakala had to do would be to go public about getting money from them.
“If you don’t want to even try I won’t force you. But that means off to the loving arms of the noble brat.” His leathers creaked again, this time his feet beginning to shuffle; the man was standing.
“A few billion ISK to someone such as yourself, or even one single ISK: it doesn’t matter,” she said as she continued, her head following the noise of his steps. It was as if they were getting closer. “I-RED will not fund you and your activities. Why not ask whomever your employer is if you’re that desperate? And don’t think I don’t know you’re not acting alone. If it were ransom money you were after, you would have done this without sifting through shareholder information. I’ve seen what all you went through. Judging by how basic and ‘smooth’ you like to make things, I find it hard to believe you would have weaved this web all on your own.”
Even if she’d hit the mark, it didn’t seem to stop him. As he got closer, she felt her body tense and what little confidence she had start to dwindle.
“Like I said, you’re a smart girl. So I’ll give you some time to think over what options you have. Now…hold out your hand. Straight out. Palm up.”
It was a strange request, to be sure, but she complied. She actually believed he was going to give her a proper drink of water.In fact, she was praying for it. “Why even give the option?”
Much to her dismay, he instead grabbed the knots of her bindings tightly and began to tie a wet rag against the inside of her arm. “Like you, I’m a smart man.” After the rag was affixed against her skin, he stepped back. “Something to help you pass the time,” he explained cryptically as he moved away from her.
“Are you a religious man, Sakala?”
She heard what she assumed was the chair be dragged briefly across the floor and a brief pause from the man. “Winds, God, Ancestors…they mean nothing to me.” Without another word, the man exited and the sound of the door latching reached Julianni’s ears.
Her head slowly shook and she muttered softly to herself as she laid back against the cold ground. “Face the enemy as a solid wall, for Faith is your armor. And through it, the enemy will find no breach. Wrap your arms around the enemy, for Faith is your fire. And with it, burn away his evil.” She shook her arm a bit, confused and concerned as to why the rag had been tied there. There was little she could do to remove it.
It was only when the vivid hallucinations and voices kicked in that the purpose of the rag was revealed. At first, she’d almost thought she’d missed someone coming into the room, or perhaps she was even dreaming. Had she fallen asleep and her blindfold been removed? The twists and shapes of colours made her feel ill, and her thoughts felt just as fluid and erratic as the images she was seeing. What was once a silent room was now filled with whispers and acute, almost overpowering echoes of the finest of sounds.
Nothing else mattered at the time. In fact, Julianni wasn’t even able to piece together anything that had been happening anyway. The strange combination of fear, adrenaline, and confusion melded into her very being. At times it was horrifying. But other times, the ones she hated to admit to herself, it was…invigorating. She felt more alive than she’d ever felt before.
It was in this dark, silent room with senses deprived that Julianni had her first experience with Drop. Only time would tell if it would be her only.