Passenger

“It’s been some time since your last appointment. We’ve both been quite busy, haven’t we,” came the calming voice from the woman across from her.

“It has, and we have. But I could have tried harder to be here. You have my apologies.”

The brow of the psychologist raised, and her head tilted. “There’s no apology needed, Avala-haani.” A pause. That quiet, awkward pause of a person who was picking apart the structure of words presented to them. “We both could have tried harder. Nevertheless,” Emiri Aneozomi began, “I have decided to withdraw the mandatory drug tests you were subjected to. All of them have come back negative thus far, and myself and the Executor have no reason to believe they ever will.”

Julianni nodded her head. She’d expected something like that to come up, and she’d certainly been prepared for it. Lately, reading these people was getting easier and easier. It made her wonder just why she even came to these appointments anymore. “Thank you. Is there anything else?”

Another loft of the doctor’s brow. “There is, if you’ve the time to spare…”

With the way Emiri trailed off, Julianni knew that there was more of a demand there than was spoken. After a small shift in her seat, she laid her hands calmly into her lap and looked towards the doctor, nodding. “I do.”

“Good.” That pause. Julianni’s eye twitched. That damn pause. Why wouldn’t the woman just say what was on her mind? “I’ve noticed a bit of a change in you. More…confidence, perhaps. I’m happy to see it.”

“Thank you again, Aneozomi-haani. I’ve been working towards that, and I’m glad to see it’s noticed,” she confirmed. It was true, of course. The target practice at her home, the beginnings of combat training with Aldrith- both had done wonders to boost her courage thus far.

“Mh, yes. However, I’m concerned. Have you spoke to anyone about what you’ve endured?”

Julianni thought about it. Had she, really? No. No, she hadn’t. Not at length, at least. “Briefly.”

“Don’t you think it’s time to? You’ve not even revealed to myself what’s going on in that head of yours. Not that I am offended, of course. But surely there must be someone you can be open with. You need to be.”

Names began to swim through the sea of Julianni’s increasingly darkened mind.

Zeke.

Luna.

Utari.

Ioannis.

Vince.

Hespyr.

As each name slowly waded through the murky sludge, so too did they sink to the blackened depths. For each person had their own life. Their own problems. Their own worries. Struggles. Heartache. Loss. She knew it, even if they didn’t show it. Who was she to drown them further?

“I am open with God,” was Julianni’s reply, a lie thick like the very dark sludge that was eating away at her mind.

Emiri sighed, then stood and made her way to her desk. “I hope one day that is true, Avala-haani, and that you find someone you are able to speak to without worry. You need to let it all go. I know it affects you, and I’m not the only one to notice.”

“If there are concerns with the quality of my work, I give my word I will try harder.”

“I’m sure you will, but that is not what I meant. Regardless, I have an appointment with someone else. I would like to see you again next month, if that works with your schedule. Otherwise, you know where to find me. I will be here,” the doctor said with a saddened smile.

This time, it was Julianni’s turn to pause. At the very least, she was beginning to wonder if maybe she really did need to let it out. But to whom?

Standing slowly, she bowed to Emiri, then gracefully glided to the door without another word. What else was there to say?

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The Ultimatum

((OOC: Thanks again to Sakala for okaying this RP to be adjusted and published!))

Time had become meaningless. No longer had she known what day it was, thanks to the continued “gift” of Drop Sakala had arranged for her. In a way, it was an escape. The physical distress she felt without it was growing increasingly unbearable: food and water had barely been provided, her body slowly eating away at itself and weakening. Julianni hated to admit it, but she was beginning to look forward to each time a rag with the substance was brought to her.

Even now, she felt the effects of her last dose weening. The swirls and twists of beautiful images grew dim, and the feeling of hunger was inching its way back. Her mind cleared bit by bit, reality setting in to press a weight of hopelessness upon her that could almost take her breath away.

She had failed God, and this was her punishment.

It was increasingly obvious that the very action she took of leaving the Degario family had been her test. What kind of person would leave the service of their Holder? She had effectively betrayed them, and in turn, God. Sakala was right: she was a traitor. The more she thought about it, the more she knew that she deserved every bit of suffering taking place.

The Wrath of God is Immense. His Justice is Swift and Decisive. His Tolerance is Limited.

The sound of the lock clicking brought her out of her thoughts, and she weakly pushed herself to sit up against the wall. Her blindfold and bindings still remained, but she could still hear, and the extra steps that came with whomever was present was not normal.

“Morning. You look like a ball of sunshine today Julianni.”

This was no an ordinary visit. “Sakala,” she said with a hint of concern laced in her voice.

“That would be me,” he replied. His steps came to a stop into the center of the room as he spoke. “Ready for another day of excitement? I have something new for you today.”

It was difficult, but she pressed herself as straight as she could against the wall. “Whatever you have planned, it won’t change anything,” she croaked out.

“No, you are right. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun before you expire. Though that would be a shame with all your new wealth of…experiences.” There was a small pause before he spoke again. “Hungry?”

Her bound hands clenched behind her. “I won’t fall for your tricks. No more of those rags. No…no more.”

As enticing as Drop had been, it was only further pushing aside the suffering that God had apparently planned for her. If she were to be true to Him, then she needed to face His Justice head on.

“No rags this time. Like I said, something new before I ship you off to your old pious friend,” Sakala answered. More shuffling of feet was heard, Julianni’s head sluggishly moving towards the noise. “You have a friend Julianni. It would seem you’re not alone after all.”

It took a few moments for her to realize who he could possibly mean. Memories were slowly becoming a garbled mess of reality and what she’d experienced with the drug. Finally, the memory of the other guard who was captured with her crawled into the forefront of her mind. “…Inu-haan?”

The sound of Sakala chuckling overtook the room. “Yes. Though he can’t reply, he looks like he’s swimming in his own head right now.”

Julianni shook her head, furrowing her brows under the blindfold. When she spoke again, her voice teetered on the edge of pleading, though anger began to seep from her tone as well. “Why are you doing this? He was one of your own, Sakala. Just leave him be.”

To know that this poor man was at Sakala’s mercy was infuriating. He trained them. Lived with them. Stood by them as brothers in arms. Her jaw clenched tightly the more she thought about it.

She could hear the shuffling of leathers again, one from the direction of the center in the room, and the other heading towards her. With some rough jerks, her hands were untied from behind her, then bound instead in front of her. Soon after, she felt her blindfold being tugged off, followed by the sight of blinding light. Though it was dark in the cell, it was still all she could to focus for some time.

Sakala was crouched down onto a knee in front of the Internal Watch guard, Miran Inu. His head canted. “Hear that, Inu? We’re friends.” He gave the man a friendly tap, causing Inu to lose balance and fall over. A Guri guard was off to the side, likely the one that had rebound her hands and taken off her blindfold. His arms were folded, a threatening and gruff demeanor.

When she finally was able to focus on the figures in the room, she saw Sakala turn, unholstering a sidearm. Her heart skipped a beat briefly when she saw the weapon. In a strange turn of events, the man slid it across the floor towards her.

“You have a few options here Jules.. can I call you Jules?” He didn’t wait for an answer. “The obvious choice that will come to your mind is to shoot me. Unwise, but revenge is often sweet to forfeit logic. Though you’d only cause me a temporary death…your friends…theirs would be much more final.”

The more she thought about this course of action, the more she felt she should have expected it. She knew there was no point in killing Sakala; God would deal with him when the time was right. “I have no interest in killing you,” she said calmly. Perhaps too calmly.

“You can ignore the weapon,” he continued, “Go on to live a merry life with that religious nut. But your friends would likely bear a fate worse then death. Or, you can rise to the occasion and listen to what I have to offer.”

He smiled, clasping his hands behind his back as he looked at Julianni. “Kill your friend Inu. I’ll let you go and everyone else. Just like that, no strings attached. No living out what horrors others have in store for you.”

She almost appeared disgusted as she looked straight at Sakala, a rare instance making eye contact.”If you think for a second that I can’t read through your words, then you don’t know me very well. You plan to kill them regardless. That is what you mean by ‘letting go’, isn’t it?”

His head shook. “You’re wrong. I’m a man of my word. I’ll release all of them, even throw in a shuttle to send you on your way.”

Julianni knew that there was something else there. Something wasn’t adding up, and anyone who trusted this man had either ended up dead, or worse. Nevertheless, if he was being truthful, the others could be released from whatever hardships they were enduring.

Perhaps there was even a selfish element to her thought process. Deep down, she dreaded the idea of being back under Dominius’ hold. She swallowed hard, glancing to Inu, then back to Sakala. “You’re asking me to kill an innocent man.”

“You’re Caldari are you not? Think of the greater good,” he replied with a smirk.

Was she really? Her gaze turned away from him, her eyes lowering. She didn’t even know what to say to that.

“You haven’t much time. His highness will be here soon enough. I cannot tell if Inu’s fate seems worse, Blood Raiders do all sorts of things before they bleed you,” Sakala nonchalantly said.

Looking up again, worry took over her expression. “What do you mean, Blood Raiders?”

“I cater to all corners of the cluster. This prospective buyer is just that.” There was a small shrug. “Granted this all could have been avoided if you tried to convince I-RED to accept my offer.”

She looked back at Inu as she weighed the options. It made little sense that Sakala would ask her to kill him, really. In the event Julianni did die, she wouldn’t remember doing it. Finally, the dawn of realization hit her and the part that didn’t add up finally did. “He knows something, doesn’t he,” she said more as a statement than a question.

It made sense. Everything was set up so perfectly for the missions to fail. Sakala had an inside man. Or, perhaps, many of them.

“I don’t like people who double cross me.” He tilted his head down, his gaze conveying anger.

“Is that why you’re going after I-RED?” She glanced up briefly. “They couldn’t give you what you wanted, right?” A small pause, then she pushed again. “What was it, Sakala?”

He answered smoothly, not even skipping a beat. “The only interest I have in I-RED is their ISK. Granted, while there are a few of my ex-co workers who I have a grudge against, in the end this is just business as usual.”

Looking to the gun, her head shook while she spoke. “I don’t trust you. For all I know, you have explosives set in a shuttle for us. Or you’ve already killed the others. Or poisoned them. If this is just…business, then you have nothing to gain from this deal except for this man not being able to double cross you further.”

“I wouldn’t be doing this if I had nothing to gain from it, Jules.”

“Others will talk. You won’t get away with this.”

His reply was just as fluid, another shrug complimenting it. “Let them talk. I’ve always wanted to be famous.”

Whatever the situation was or his reasoning, Julianni knew that some part of this was a bluff. Even more so, she knew that this was a situation that she may be able to turn around. Perhaps not immediately, but in time. She may not have been good at combat, nor one who enjoyed the idea of flying with the intent of kill, but she did have one specialty that she’d learned for many years.

Her eyes squeezed shut. “I won’t do it,” she said barely above a whisper. “I won’t play your games, and I won’t do what you want. Unlike your lackeys here, I am not a tool for you to use.” She opened her eyes again, watching Inu in his drug-induced haze. At least when he was killed, he’d be somewhat out of it.

“What will you do when they all realize how expendable they are to you?” she said weakly, beginning her own games.

Sakala glanced to the other Guri in the room then back to Julianni. “They’ve seen what happens when they act out of line.” He moved up to the sidearm and bent down to pick it up. While taking a knee he locked his gaze with Julianni. “Maybe I’ll show some mercy and ensure Inu here gets a proper death since you’re to weak to do it yourself.”

Her eyes locked right back with Sakala, though she struggled to hold it. Regardless of the confidence she felt about turning the tables, he was still an extremely intimidating man. As she spoke, the shakiness of her voice steadied itself, letting the words flow through as smoothly as she possibly could. “I’m not the one who’s weak. You are. And one day, your lackeys will see through that. When that day comes, Sakala, I will pray for you. Because I doubt they will show you mercy.”

The man holstered the sidearm and stood. “You think honor and respect keep people in line?” He moved to loom over the hazed Inu. “You’re wrong.” Moving down he placed his knee to pin Inu’s chest. “Money helps, but fear?” His hands grasped around Inu’s throat and squeezed tightly, continuing to speak. “Fear is what reigns over all else in this twisted world Julianni. Something we both understand all to well.”

Regardless of what Inu may have done to help Sakala, he was still a life, and a life given by God was a precious thing. Even more so since he’d not been a capsuleer. She attempted to stand, hobbing at first, then dropping down to a crawl on her knees as quickly as she could muster. She at least had to try.

Slowly, the other Guri in the room stood in front of Julianni to block her way. Her eyes moved to Sakala, viewing him watch Inu make his last throes. All Julianni could do now was continue her own weaving.

Looking to the Guri in front of her, she whispered. “Fear can be overcome. And when it is, that is when you prosper the most.”

He smirked, giving pause for a brief moment before kicking the woman down. She coughed out, dropping fully to the ground to curl into a ball. Though it was brief, perhaps, she knew that the pause the Guri had was enough to let the seed of doubt be planted. All that needed to happen now was for it to be watered by Sakala’s own actions.

It was worth every bit of pain.

Sakala stood, wiping his hands on Inu’s shirt. “Get her ready for transit. It’s time to get our payment my friend.” He turned for the door. “Even immortals like us cannot overcome our deepest fears. For we all come to fear ourselves.” He walked out without looking back to the woman now being lifted over the other Guri’s shoulder.

What little bit of struggling she could manage was of course useless, but she fought back nevertheless. Perhaps it was simply instinct. Though, in the deep recesses of her mind, she feared coming face to face with Dominius. Sakala was right again. Glancing back towards the room, her eyes locked onto the dead body of Inu.

She began to mouth a small prayer, then stopped herself. Who was she, of all people, to pray for the dead man? She’d been the cause for it. Even with whatever sins he’d committed, she was the factor that lead to his death. Sakala may have been the tool, but in her mind, Julianni could have stopped it. Was her attempt to turn the tables on Sakala worth Inu and the others’ lives?

Sakala’s voice echoed down the corridor, bringing words that almost made her envy Inu’s position.

“Give her the Crash this time. Careful of the dosage though, she’s weak. Just give her a nice taste,”

 

In The Web

A warm sensation across Julianni’s skin caused her to stir. It was a pleasant feeling, her body feeling as though it was slowly heating from some unknown coldness that had crept over her. As she opened her eyes, she found herself laying on the ground in the garden of the Degario manor. Confusion beset her as her dark eyes danced across the familiar and comforting scenery. It didn’t feel right, but it didn’t necessarily leave her with a fearful or bad feeling.

She slowly stood, brushing off small bits of grass that had found their way onto her plain clothing and into her hair. A small frown crossed her lips; Lord Degario would be most displeased if he’d learned she’d been napping in the garden. It took a bit of time, but she finally managed to clean herself of debris. Her attention turned towards the sun, letting its beams warm her face. That’s what the sensation was, she thought, and her frown turned into a small smile. Taking in a breath, she noted the strong smell of lavender. But this time, the combination of other flowers coupled with the scent of fresh air overpowered whatever bad memories had been trying to find their way into her mind.

Julianni didn’t let herself get too distracted, however, and soon she moved quickly towards the garden’s labyrinth to exit. She knew the paths well. The dead ends, the twists and turns, and the circles to be made never had phased her. The place was within her memory like a song close to a musician’s heart. Each corner she rounded, she knew she should be getting closer to her destination. However, in the back of her mind, it felt as if she would never reach it.

Time continued for what felt like an eternity. Exhaustion began to overwhelm her, and she felt her feet dragging along in their futile journey. Finally, when it seemed that she would outright collapse, she turned that last corner to the exit. The moment she did, instead of relief, the previous feeling of something not being right developed itself into an outright dread. Her eyes soon confirmed this fact as she looked upon not the Degario manor, but instead a corridor in a station.

The smell of the garden warped itself into one of a sort of metallic origin coupled with dirt and filth that an unclean station would have. Her surroundings had now melded entirely into the place, the comfort of the garden now left far behind. The dread slowly seeped into her very bones, and she knew she had to run. Though it was quite clearly a dream, she couldn’t stop herself from that primal instinct of survival.

All feeling of exhaustion left her as she began to flee down the hall. Like with the labyrinth of the garden, her destination felt unreachable. The hall only stretched and spun, the view of the bridge of a ship barely made out. She could see the other personnel, too. Toroko, Mikar, and the rest of the Internal Watch all were surrounding something. There was no way she could see just what it was, but she knew she had to warn them. They were in danger. It was a trap.

She cried out as loud as she could, but no sound would escape from her lips. Arms waving in the air, she continued running as fast as she possibly could, but it was no use. To her horror, she watched as a brilliant flash erupted from the group’s center, their bodies bursting into an assortment of pieces that could never be placed back together. Julianni screamed out in remorse, her voice now finding its way to carry on the nightmare’s wind.

It echoed softly at first, then began to build its way up to pierce her ears and bring about a pain at the front of her face. Though she covered her ears, it was as if it was instilled into her mind with no escape. A warm trickle of blood began to find its way out of her ears, eyes, and soon enough, her nose. The woman dropped to the ground as a darkness slowly began to envelop her vision, a mixture of blood and tears blurring what little bit she could see. As her surroundings grew darker, a familiar laugh dug its way into her skull and remained there until the nightmare ceased to be, bringing Julianni to consciousness again.

The darkness was still there. Unfortunately, so was the pain, and she groaned out softly from the discomfort of her shattered nose. It could have been a dream, she thought. However, everything felt so much coherent. Real. Memories of what had happened began to find their way back into Julianni’s mind and she grimaced in the darkness of what she guessed to be a blindfold. She tried moving her hands to no avail, seeming to find that they were tightly bound.

Everything finally made sense, and she knew that this scenario was no nightmare. Julianni silently cursed to herself her thoughts now floating towards the others that had been there. Had Toroko and Mikar made it out? And the other Internal Watch members? The mission had been a trap, just as expected. Despite their best efforts to combat it and be prepared, they were still taken by surprise. And now, she could hear that familiar laugh off in the distance elsewhere within…wherever she was. She clenched her teeth, shaking her head.

It was the laugh of Sakala, and now he had the upper hand.