Angelina stood at the window looking into the TBR hanger, holding a glass of fiery liquor by her side. She watched as a scarred and battered transport pulled into the bay, the garish Gistii camoflague patterns shimmering slightly under the shields pulse. With a grace almost unbecoming of a minmatar transport the vessel docked and powered down as cargo drones began to unload. Canisters of ammunition stamped with the Caldari Navy, crates of modules, sinister looking weaponry on racks, and technicians holding crates of blueprints. She watched as the crew left the ship and began an exterior inspection while the pilot, in an obvious hurry made her way to the elevators.
A waiter came over and Angelina turned to him as she placed a photograp in a frame on the table, an old photo of a pilot in the old style Guristas flight suit standing with his arms around three children, young girls. Two with dark hair, one blonde.
"Bring three bottles of Gistii wine and a three glasses. And make sure it's chilled and a good vintage."
The waiter nodded and vanished. She looked on as an Apocalypse docked on one of the upper bays. At last, she thought, we're all here. The doors to Section 8 opened as Carmilla D'morenta walked in, her boots clicking on the floor and her coat tails flapping. She hugged her close then looked at her smiling.
"Carmilla, I'm glad you came."
"Wouldn't miss it for the world. Is Vic coming?"
"She just docked."
"The three of us together again. How is she?"
"Just the same....."
The three sisters sat around the table looking out over the TBR docking bay. The bottles of wine were empty and the spirits were high. Angelina looked over her sisters, how things had changed from the old days. How things had changed from when they had escaped. This was an old ritual, but one that they kept going each year. One that hadn't changed in all those years that they had made their way out of captivity. She was aware that there were other people in the bar, that others would hear. But that was the price they all paid, that other would know and hear and maybe understand. She drained her glass and stood up.
"I tell now our story. The story of three Ballentynes bound together by blood and hate. Carmilla, once a slave of the Amarr only to be kidnapped by the Serpentis. Victoria, a slave of the Amarr and a Minmatar Patriot til her recapture. And myself, Angelina. Escaped slavery of the Amarr only to be bound by the Caldari. All three of us rescued one after the other by the hand of our father. All three of us bound by blood and hate against the Amarr."
The waiter came in and placed a large goblet on the table and filled it with wine before departing. Angelina pulled a knife from her belt and cut her hand, squeezing it so blood dripped into the goblet.
"Long did I toil on the Amarr agri-colony. In the fields, in the warehouses, where drugged and abused beyond endurance. Force to live like an animal while the Amarr lived off of our blood and sweat. I watched one day as an entire village was killed for allowing a slave to escape. Watched the smile on the faces of those who died as they were free from their bondage. Then did I know that I would escape and bring peace to my people. To Minmatar I was born, but Caldari I know is in my blood. Aboard a freighter bound for Caldari I stowed away, bribing a docker and a cargo hauler with my body and shame I made my way to Caldari space. It would be years before I would know what happened.
In Caldari space I found a slavery more abhorant than the Amarr whips. The code of the Megacorporation and the slavery without chains, work for a pittance and obey. All the neon of the inner worlds could not hide the decay, the poverty. Oh mans inhumanity to man. For years I toiled, no more free than in Amarr space, but free enough to plot and scheme. In a back alley lab I had my blood removed and my dependency on drugs taken, only to be blackmailed into a life of debauchery by executives. I swore that I would return and pay my debt to them in blood, and I did. Then one day, while I worked in an armaments factory a man came to me and told me of my father. That he had been killed helping my sister to escape from the Serpentis. He told me that conditions had been made in his will, and now they were to be honoured he said, but not revealed until the time was right. He gave me a ship, and a credit jack and took me beyond the Caldari State and left me in Gallentey space, where the people are free and ask few questions. He told me to wait and I would be contacted. And so I waited until Victoria contacted me. In the name of the Father, I offer this blessing."
She sat down and wrapped a kerchief over her wound while Victoria stood up and cut her hand, holding it over the wine.
"Woe upon woe did I feel as a favoured slave of the Amarr. Daily did I wish I was dead for the bestial adorations of those who called themselves Master. The lucky ones died on that planet and I was one of them for when my sister Angelina left us I knew not what to do for they took Carmilla from me to another planet. Alone, surrounded by slaves who just wanted to work and live I found myself unable to work and punished to the point where I did the unthinkable... for a slave. I struck back. And kept striking. Before the troops were brought in I had killed twenty of the Masters and fifteen slaves. Men, women, children. I cursed them all for weaklings and told them to fight against the false god worshippers. Many did not, only the Sebiestor, my sisters in heritage and blood fought with me and we died well. All were to be executed, and indeed we were standing on that day I will always remember on the podium when the ships came.
A ragtag pirate strike force, bold men and women of our blood and others bound to the Angels and Guristas who swept out of the sky like avenging hawks, chasing away the Amarr. They said they were taking us back to our homeland. I still remember as we were waiting on the landing platforms when the ship landed, a gargantuan ship, a mammoth. How it landed I'll never know for I remember thinking the pilot must be mad to try it. And when I saw the pilot I knew then that I would fly this ship as I saw in his eyes the eyes of myself and my sisters, as I looked upon our father. We were all taken back to our lands, back to Heimatar where many of us had never seen and saw our first night under a friendly sky. There I waited til one day I heard that he had died, rescuing my sister from the Serpentis. One of his men came to me, one who I remember had rescued me and he told me I had been taken care of, that all three of us had been placed under protection. He gave me a ship and money and a mission in life. And he told me where Angelina was, how she had been in Caldari space all these years and had only just been freed. In the name of the Father, I offer this blessing."
Victoria sat down and Carmilla took up the blade and drew it over her palm, letting the blood drip into the wine.
"Much have I suffered, when I was taken away from all I knew and my family. First when Angelina escaped, then when I was taken to a planet away from Victoria. Dare I say it work on the agricultural land was nothing but joy compared to the mines and refineries. Day turned to week, to month to year. I laboured away, starved and beaten, abused and denied death. Forced to watch those who tried to escape killed and maimed while always I was let live, no matter how bad I behaved. Then one day the ships came and I thought hope upon hope that the Minmatar had come to save us as some said they would. How wrong we were. The Serpentis came instead.
The Slave pits of the Serpentis are where I learned the true meaning of fear. Where a slave would be killed out of hand for spilling a drink, or thrown out of an airlock alive for failing to please. But I surived because I had hate. I watched as the women in our cell were reduced from proud women to subservient wrecks. No beatings cowed me, and only when they started to kill the other slaves did they force me to obey. If I broke a rule someone died, if I failed at a task someone died. But the Serpentis were nothing if not inventive. If I spilled a drink someone was drowned and bets were taken on how long it took. If I dared to stand up to them they were whipped to death or fed to their vile pets, often alive. The only thing that kept me alive is that I could dance. I always loved to dance, and the Dance of the Serpentis is a loathsome dance. Four poisonous snakes are placed in a square and the dancer must keep dancing to stop the snakes attacking. I lost count of the number of people I saw die like that, writhing in agony as the venom tore them apart.
Then one day a trader came to Serpentis Prime and watched me dance and made a deal with them. If I could dance and outdance four others he would buy me, they agreed. There was something in his eyes I recognised, that stirred my blood and I danced while my four closest friends here died. I do not remember much else, only being carried by this trader to his ship, a mammoth class ship that took me away from the lawless space. But sensing only a path to more slavery I fought the captain when he came into my cabin and struck him a mortal blow. Only then did I realise as he lay dying in my arms that the man who had rescued me was my father. He looked on with pride as he died, saying that he had bred strong daughters who would do mighty deeds. His crew looked on and though I had killed their captain and my father they did not take it hard, for they were pirates and such was their way. They risked a lot to put me in a safe port and gave me a ship and money and the location of my sisters Angelina and Victoria, who he had saved as he saved me. I turned around and fled and changed my name, in shame and horror at what I had done and only when Angelina tracked me down did I find happiness once again."
She squeezed her hand tight, the tears running down her face.
"In the name of the father I offer this blessing."
One by one they picked up the goblet and drank, one by one they pledged their devotion, their unity, their love and above all their lives to their new cause, as their father had done so many years ago.
"In the name of the Father," Carmilla cheered.
"I offer this blessing," Victoria shouted.
"A family in the service of the Guristas!" said Angelina.