Chrysalis

“-dn’t you agree?”

Julianni snapped out of…where-ever she had been and focused on the room. Her appointment, that was right. She glanced back to Doctor Aneozomi and her head gave a nod. “Oh, yes. Frankly, it went much smoother than I thought. I wish you would have been able to attend.”

Emiri smiled, even going as far as to chuckle. “Oh, those kinds of get-togethers aren’t my thing, Avala-haani. While I understand its meaning, I am certain both the presence of the Executor, the I-RED baseliner personnel, and yourself was more than enough to show our gratitude towards our allies.”

“Of course. But I still think it would have been nice to see you there,” Julianni countered. “Nevertheless, there is always next time.”

“So there is. I’ll keep your thoughts in mind. Now…let’s move on. You are in a relationship now, correct?”

Julianni’s dip of the head confirmed and she sheepishly smiled. “I am. It’s been well so far. I believe it’s that…what do they call it, the ‘honey-moon stage’?” Her nervous chuckle escaped her lips faster than she could stop it.

Doctor Aneozomi gave a simple nod. “That’s what they call it, yes. Do you believe he’s good for you?”

“I’m…” A pause. “Pardon?”

“Is he good for you? Is he aware of what you’ve gone through? Both in the distant and recent past?”

Julianni furrowed her brows. “Er…he’s…aware of many things, yes. Forgive me, Doctor, but…is this necessary?”

The doctor raised a brow, a neutral expression replacing whatever smile she’d worn before. “It is, yes. If you’ve kept things from him, then it will only become a problem later down the road. And I don’t think I need to mention the issues it would have with your work productivity.”

This was something Julianni could never get used to with the Caldari. She understood it, most certainly, but no matter how many times it came up in a topic, it always felt like a low-blow to her. Was work really so important? Or was Faith?

When she spoke, she did so carefully, glancing off to the side. “He is aware of my past, yes. I’ve told him of Dominius, though not in full detail. I’ve also made mention of the…ah…the drug use.”

“And how did that go?”

How did it go? Julianni thought back to the interactions and she nodded. “It went well.”

This session, the doctor’s brow was becoming perpetually raised. “Well? That’s…such a simple word for those issues, Avala-haani.”

She was right, really. Julianni wouldn’t dare tell the doctor about the seemingly lack of concern that was exhibited regarding the drug-use. “It is, and it is the truth,” she said with sincerity.

Doctor Aneozomi frowned softly and her eyes went blank as she used her implants. “Utari Onzo, correct?”

“That’s correct.”

“I see,” came the doctor’s response.

An uncomfortable silence began, the kind where one is most assuredly looking through dirty laundry all the while standing beside someone watching. Julianni’s legs crossed and her shoulders sank somewhat.

“Were you aware of his record of carrying illegal substances?”

Well, she couldn’t very well lie, could she? A small wince came from her and she cleared her throat. “Later, yes.”

“Later?”

“With respect, Doctor, I didn’t go through his record to decide if I was attracted to him or not,” she replied softly. “Only after it was mentioned.”

The discomforting silence began again. This time, it lasted longer, leaving Julianni sitting there in it for at least fifteen minutes. Her palms began to sweat, and the fidgeting with her hands she usually did increased ten-fold.

What would happen?

“The Executor is not concerned with the lack of professionalism here regarding the fact he is a shareholder?”

Now Julianni was beginning to get frustrated. “Respectfully, I believe that is something to discuss with the Executor, if you believe there is a problem.”

“Very well,” the doctor replied. “Before you go, I’d also like you to make a trip to Medical for your testing. It’s been some time since the last one, anyway.”

At this point, Julianni stood in a gracefully swift action and bowed. “As you wish, Aneozomi-haani. I will report there at once.” The woman couldn’t tell if she was grateful for this end of the appointment, or disturbed that she couldn’t come up with good answers to Emiri’s legitimate questions. She turned on her heel and began to leave, heels barely making a noise.

“Also, Julianni?”

She stopped, then turned and glanced off to the side towards the doctor. Julianni could only imagine what would be said next.

“You should find someone willing to support you and guide you. Not potentially lead you down a darker path. Not only will your workload thank you, but I think you’ll find that you yourself will, as well.”

The look on Emiri’s face was not a stern one now, but instead showed of concern. It gave Julianni a small pause in her breath and she turned her head.

A smile then began to creep up onto her lips as she answered softly.

“I already have.”

 

01001100 01110101 01110010 01101011

A roll of the neck. Quiet cracking of fingers. Silence ringing in the air. A breath in of the jasmine incense.

He was ready.

The screen flashed once to its black colour, touch-keys of the holo-desk lighting up to their light cyan tints. Slowly, now. He knew he must be careful. If so much as a small mistake was made, everything could be given away. That would certainly displease the unmistakably arrogant and aggressive Lord. No, there was no room for mistakes here.

His fingers went to work, eyes dancing across the screen with quick movements to help him navigate his way through the dark depths of numbers and letters. Security was increased. Strange, but not unheard of. No matter, he’d do the usual masked key. It was a typical move, really, using the organization’s key instead of a code-name. For all they knew, an employee was being naughty. It would be easy, provided he didn’t trigger an alert, which he knew he’d be able avoid.

After all, his life depended on it.

And there it was, the backdoor access password. The man sat for a second or so, awaiting his program to kick in. When it did, the numbers and letters now flashing through the empty bar in quick succession, he smiled. This was too easy.

A few hours went by as the password took time to be compiled. And what did he do? He sat and watched, arms folded. There was no rest, no eating, nothing. This was his sole purpose right now, and fulfill it, he would. When the beep sounded that the password had been found and accepted, his smile grew to a smirk, then faded. He didn’t have much time.

With the eyes of a hawk, he scanned through various mails. Financials…shareholders…none of this was interesting to him. But the diplomacy and the personal ones? Those…were gold. He glanced to the time. Five minutes before a trigger. That was more than enough.

The man opened one with a title “PRICE OFFER ACCEPTED”. Interesting, he thought. And oh, what it was. This…was better than expected. “A new home for the traitor”, he murmured to himself quietly. “Pity. It looks nice.” Eyes to the time. Two minutes. One more mail.

This one he chose next was in a line of a sender that appeared to come up often. His brow raised at the name, perhaps somewhat familiar to him in some way. Or at least, barely heard of. “Ibrahim Tash-Murkon…hm.”

The mail pulled up.

And the alert began as a small flash.

He immediately aborted the program, pulling the plug. Good luck tracing that, if it was even seen. How long did it flicker? Not even a full second? What a waste. He could have read longer.

But what he had was more than enough. What’s more, he now had an in elsewhere. But the icing on the cake? He still had I-RED’s passcode. And what fun he would have with that, later.

Standing from his seat, he moved towards the doorway to relay the information he’d found to Lord Degario. Tonight, Khaihraz would eat well.

 


 

 

Julianni rubbed at her eyes, glancing to the flowers at her desk. Again, she’d received them, and again, they’d disturbed her just as much. But the letter that came with it, written by hand, was not what she expected.

Miss Avala,

I hope you will forgive me for my transgressions against you. I will comply with your request and hope that, in time, you will see things through my eyes.

May God shine His Light on your path.

Regards and with regret,

Lord Degario

More sweet words, she thought, and possibly little to no sincerity. But still, if it was indeed sincere, then the gesture wasn’t as dark as she’d thought. An apology was one step he’d not taken before, at least not to this point.

It was a stress, perhaps, but not as much as she’d believed.

Her gaze moved back to her screen at a small flicker of light to the corner of the holo-display. Was that a security alert? But just as quickly as it appeared, it was gone. The perceptive woman frowned, then shook her head. She’d not slept much the past few days due to the now successful Gala, so she likely had been seeing things. After all, the Internal Watch would ensure to alert her if there was a problem, wouldn’t they?

Metamorphosis

It was a beautiful day, as most of the days at Julianni’s home had been. The heat had evenly applied itself to the oasis, and the wind did its job at cooling off the woman when the temperatures became too much. Now mid-afternoon, she could hardly wait any longer.

For hours, she had stayed within her garden, watching as the chrysalis of each butterfly twisted and turned. One had even cracked, but the beautiful beings had yet to grace Julianni with their full, stunningly vibrant appearance. She was as patient as she could be, sipping lightly at the mug of coffee in her hands. A small smile crept it’s way onto her lips as a thought crossed her mind.

These hours she had watched had also given way to moments of reflection. How far she had come. Once a toy to a power-driven lordling, now a director in a respected organization. At one time wondering just where it was she was supposed to call home, now sitting on her own property, with all the acreage and privacy she could ever want. As she observed the butterflies undergoing their metamorphosis, she couldn’t help but pair it to her own. Even now, with a relationship having appeared over the horizon, she was still undergoing a transformation into something that she prayed was as beautiful as the wings of the creatures before her.

Her patience paid off, that smile only further growing as one of the butterflies pushed its way out of its safe haven. For many moments that followed, one by one, the insects she so cherished appeared before her very eyes. Vivid yellows and black contrasting markings of these desert butterflies were revealed to Julianni and she let out a sigh of awe. The wings twitched. Shook. Fluttered. She knew the process, as she’d seen it before. And each time, it grew more remarkable.

Soon, it would be time to do what it was she always wanted to the moment she laid eyes on them. But for now, they needed to gain their strength, and she had some cleaning to do. For a few more minutes, she sat and watched as the butterflies slowly bat their wings to dry, then she pushed off of the bench to attend to her day’s work.

 


 

The storage room wasn’t as much of a mess as she’d believed. It was just disorganized. If there was one thing she enjoyed doing, it was putting things together. Like a puzzle, each item would have a place, and would fit best with its surrounding pieces. The paintings would be filed away together, the sculptures organized by years and set to one side, the rare fabrics would be sealed away for the most safe of storing. She was doing inventory, really. And she didn’t mind it.

The passing of the original owner of this home was unfortunate, to be sure. But such was the cycle. The art and fabrics that had been left behind by the merchant was…a bit much for the woman. Extravagant, lavish- it didn’t suit her. By placing them in the storage area, at least she was keeping the man’s memory alive instead of just being rid of them. And one day? She felt she’d even pull together an exhibit, perhaps. A charity, maybe. Her mind danced with positive ideas as she moved things one by one to their respective areas.

But it was moving that one statue, that one small carving of a desert snake that proved to shake those thoughts.

The grind of stone gave the woman pause, as did the fact the small statue wouldn’t leave the pedestal it was resting on. Her attention was caught off to the side at movement; no one was here but her, she thought. But her concern was somewhat washed away at the Eastern most wall sliding inward.

Her brow raised, and of course, curiosity got the best of her. Who wouldn’t it have? With a cautious step, she began to proceed to the dark opening of what must have been another room.

No sound came from within, save for the distant eerie whistle of wind. The woman took a deep breath, as if taking a plunge into deep waters, then stepped inside fully, her hand searching for a light switch. It took her a bit of time, but she finally found it, and flipped it to the “on” position. Her dark brown eyes adjusted to the bright, uncomfortable light quickly.

Surrounding her was an assortment of containers. Suitcases, bags, and even filing cabinets were dotted around what she assumed was a panic room of sorts. Surprisingly, each one was empty. Why had this been cleared out, but the art had not? It was strange, to be sure. Even after double checking the various containers, she couldn’t find a single thing. Her head shook side to side, confused. It was at this point she decided that a call to the realtor was wise.

Julianni turned to leave, only to be stopped by the sound of metal rolling across the floor under her feet. Her brow raised and she immediately looked to see just what it was she’d kicked. It seemed the room wasn’t so empty after all. But her raised brow soon fell, as did the rest of her face.

She could see the writing slowly appear. Each and every letter appeared one by one, from the back to the front. It was like it was happening in slow motion.

But she already knew what it said.

She knew the moment she’d seen the first two letters.

As the vial of Drop came to a stop a few inches in front of her, she found herself face to face with one of the most difficult decisions of her life. What was to become of her own metamorphosis? Would her wings be as vibrant as the butterflies she so loved? Would they become colourless and broken? What could it hurt?

Moments seemed like minutes, minutes seemed like hours. She swallowed hard, knowing full well the decision had already been made the moment she saw the label.

And then:

She picked up the vial.

So It Begins

Dominius,

First of all, know that I am sending this out of respect for the real Lord of that Holding. Your father and his father before him, and so on and so forth, built the very foundation on which you stand, both in physical form and reputation. I give you this message in hopes that you listen and make the right decision.

I will not be responding to you, and I will be placing you on my black list of communications after this message is sent. Your continued correspondence is not simply to keep in touch, nor is it an effort to strengthen relations with I-RED as you have claimed. It is harassment.

This is the day that I remove you from my life completely. You do not control me anymore, Dominius. I am no longer within your grip, and haven’t been for years.

In the event that you have a sincere desire for diplomatic communications, you will speak with no one but our Executor, who has been made aware of my decision. No one else.

I know what you are, Dominius. Do not push me.

“That disrespectful wench. That mutt has no right to speak to me that way. I made her. If it weren’t for me, she wouldn’t be in the position she’s in.”

His hands were clenched tight into fists, sitting in that comfortable leather chair adorned with gold. Dominius felt his anger building the more he talked about it, face reddened and eyes flickering with violence.

“I should have killed her when I had the chance.”

His screen at the desk in front of him gave a small flash, his conversation partner waving a hand.

“Calm yourself.” A pause from the hooded figure, then a small sigh. “She knows?”

“That’s what she says,” Dominius snapped, annoyed that the man even had to ask after reading the letter.

“And this concerns you? These…passive threats of an old slave?”

Rage swelled further, leaving the Holder with veins protruding from his neck. “You think it shouldn’t? Her words have much more weight than they did when she was at my Holding.”

“Then perhaps you shouldn’t have made her the way she was,” the man snapped back. His anger was much more patient. Eerily calm, even. Practiced.

In a way, Dominius was almost afraid of it. But then again, he knew that he was in control. No one else.

Silence rang between the two, and the current Lord Degario began to grow impatient. Just what was the holding the old man up? Was he not concerned? The man’s clenched hands tightened further, threatening to draw blood.

“This has an easy solution.”

Dominius’ eye twitched. “Does it, now?” The sarcasm was dripping in his voice, thick enough that he hoped it drowned the old man.

All it took was more silence and Dominius knew he struck a nerve. Good, he thought. But the silence prolonged and he soon realized that he was facing punishment for his behaviour. Another eye-twitch, then a frustrated breath was pushed out from him. “I await your wisdom,” he relented.

“You need to learn about her now. Find out what details you can. But not yourself, of course. You have that servant, don’t you? What’s it’s name…Khaihraz?”

“That is correct.”

“Send him. Really, my boy, in all the years we’ve spoken to each other, I thought you were smarter than this.”

Of course he was smart. He knew it, and this old man knew it. But this had apparently just slipped his mind. He was busy, after all. That must have been what it was. His head raised, chin as well in a confident pose. “Perhaps I’ll do that. He’s not been out for that kind of duty in some time, anyway. It’s time he gets some practice.”

“Good. Now, next time you have a problem like this, don’t pester me for an answer when you already have it right in front of your nose, boy.”

And just like that, the feed was cut. Dominius scowled, grinding his teeth. How dare he. Once his anger subsided enough to allow him to speak, he called out to the dark-skinned man who sulked in the corner nearby.

“You heard what was said. See to it you don’t disappoint me.”

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,”

 

Go Ask Alice

((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.

“Hungry?”

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.

 

The Plunge

The holo-display flickered to life, a various assortment of windows spreading bit by bit into a crescent pattern for full view. To the left was the typical numerical hell of notifications, stocks, and charts. The right display seemed to be reserved for communications: channels, a secure and controlled video feed, and section for quick access to mails. To the center display was what seemed an area of general workflow, easily adjusted and customized efficiently for what subject needed handled at the time. At this moment, an old mail was pinned to the corner, along with a war history report from CONCORD and Sanxing’s corporation symbol. What was most prominent, however, was highlighted text from a news story.

There have been a number of groups and individuals in the Federation who have called for the prompt resignation of Executor Hinkelmann, and the reinstatement of former Executor John Revenent as well as the rest of former I-RED leadership, including former Vice-Executor Korbin Lavius.

Julianni read, then reread the text over and over. Briefly, she glanced to the right at her mail notification flickering, letting out a small sigh. Her hand reached up to rub at her brow, closing her eyes for a brief moment. At least, it certainly felt like a brief moment, but the next thing she knew, her eyes opened again to find that some ten minutes had passed. Ten minutes wasted.

She stood, tiredly making her way to her tea set and placing her hand to the pot. Cold. Another small sigh escaped her lips and she shook her head. Though it would be another small waste of time, she knew she needed the tea to keep herself awake, and so she began to head out of her office, placing on as much of an alert and normal expression as she could muster.

The moment she opened her office door, she was met with two guards who immediately brought themselves to attention. Her brow raised. They were still here? Nevertheless, she offered a bow of her head and slowly began making her way down the hall to the lounge. As soon as she began to move, one of the guards began to as well, trailing right behind her. She paused, glancing over her shoulder.

“I’m just going to get some hot water,” she said, lifting up the pot of tea as if to show proof of her intention.

The Internal Watch member replied quickly and sternly. “Orders, ma’am.”

“I…er…I know there are orders for security. But…” She stopped herself short, simply shaking her head again. “Nevermind. I apologize.”

It was strange, really. One would think it would make someone feel safe to have such a security detail. However, to Julianni, it felt almost oppressive, especially since it had only increased over the last week. She didn’t believe for one second that I-RED’s enemies would act out against her. While she may have been a director and oversaw a number of things, there was a great deal more that she wasn’t privy to behind closed doors. She’d be useless for significant information.

The only other person that could act out was, as far as she knew, a significant distance away and she was sure he’d never be so foolish as to try anything again. He was smarter than that. No, if he had anything planned…

“Avala-haani?”

Her attention was brought back to focus and she realized her arrival at the lounge. The bartender looked at her with a raised brow, his hands held out for the pot of tea.

“Kalkiihanzu,” she answered, handing him the tea pot and then bowing deeply. “I was lost in my thoughts.”

“I noticed. Maybe you should get some rest. I can prepare some Onitseru Blue instead of your Matigu Green. I think it would do you some good.”

“Oh, no, please. It’s quite alright. I have a few more things to take care of. But I sincerely appreciate the offer,” she replied with a comforting smile.

The bartender smiled back, turning to refill the pot with hot water. “Very well. When you’re ready for rest, just let me know if you’re interested in the Onitseru.” After refilling the pot, he slipped it back across the counter. His eyes moved to the Internal Watch member, offering a dip of his head, but then looked back at Julianni with a small brow raised.

She offered no explanation, instead bowing and taking up the pot. “I’ll certainly do that. Rikaato.” Without another word, she quickly moved to head back to her office, guard in tow.

When she arrived again, the Internal Watch member took his position back up outside her office, ensuring the door was shut behind her. Each time she entered the office, the smell of lavender caused such conflicting emotions. Even though they had since been discarded, the scent wouldn’t disperse. While the memory of the flowers themselves had been a good one, it was now ruined with the affiliation to Dominius. Her stomach twisted, a familiar nausea creeping its way up. Doing what she could to shake it off, Julianni took a deep breath, setting the pot back into it’s place to let the tea steep properly.

Finding herself back at her desk, she took note of a new video request to the right, appearing to be from yet another Internal Watch member. Once accepting the request, the feed connected, showing the guard bowing. “Saisieni, Avala-haani. I’ve been asked to contact you in regards to Isoke-haani’s husband we have in holding. He is demanding to see someone about his wife’s disappearance.”

Julianni nodded, keeping her expression calm. “Very well. Let him know I’ll come down to holding by the day’s end.”

“Yes ma’am,” came the soldier’s reply along with an immediate disconnect.

Once the feed was cut, Julianni’s hand reached to rub at her face lightly, only to be interrupted by another video feed request. She’d initially expected it to be more business, but the name and the CONCORD portrait of Dominius Degario made her sink into her chair. The notification continued to blink until she stood and simply walked away from her desk, heading to her office door again.

The Internal Watch members straightened to attention as they’d done before, and her original escort then turned, ready to follow. She said nothing, and giving no protest; there would be no use. Hall after hall, elevator after elevator, she and the guard traveled through until they found themselves in front of the door to the small chapel.

Much to Julianni’s relief, the guard took up post outside the door without a word, but gave her a small nod. She mustered up as much of a smile as she could in thanks to him, then stepped inside. It was empty, as it generally was around this hour. As the look of relief washed across her face, she moved into a closed off, private prayer room to the side, shutting the door behind her.

It was a comforting place, to be sure, and probably one of the very few places she could take solace in. It was lit by candles, the soft light of flames flickering shadows across a miniature statue devoted to God. Perhaps too simple for those with expensive tastes, but it was all she needed. Slowly, she lowered herself to her knees, linking her fingers and lowering her forehead onto them. Her prayers began softly, reciting as she’d done so many times. For many minutes this went on until finally, they were completed.

Opening her eyes, she looked up to the statue and listened. One would think that a moment of peace and quiet would be cherished. In a life full of duties and busy days, a chance to simply relax and let the mind rest would of course be treasured.

To Julianni, the silence was deafening. It was a moment for her mind to pick apart each and every moment that had happened as of late. But the worst part of all, was the fact that those memories she’d once pushed away were now like a wound reopened, flowing freely with the raw emotions she’d felt from it all. No longer were her prayers in such private rooms a place of comfort. They were now a reminder of what she had to do in the past. Her head lowered and she placed her hands over her face, breaking down into tears.