Sunday, 23 May 2010

Memories of the Father

Carmilla D'Morenta sat at the table on the balcony of Kim's Estate overlooking a pristine forest nestled between the five mile wide canyon walls. Kim Leander's Estate, perched on the side of these walls was for all intents and purposes, quite well hidden. Only a few knew of it's location, and fewer still knew who lived there. Kim walked over in her austere grey uniform and placed the breakfast tray infront of them. Carmilla looked up from her datatablet and took the cup of coffee she offered.
"Mmm thanks Kim."
"Can't start the day without one myself.... Have you made your choice?"
Carmilla sighed and looked into her friends eyes, then looked away again.
"Would that it were so easy to make."
"It is... follow your heart...."
She looks whistfully out over the canyon. It was an easy thing to say, and indeed it was an easy thing to do. Choose. Carmilla had been.... greedy? Arrogant? Spoilt? Definately hurtful. William, Ithiria and Mizhara. All had proclaimed their love, and she had said it back... just not always when they could hear it. And now people were whispering in Williams ear, as they had whispered in hers weeks ago. Not worth it... can do better. Well they were right. A decision had to be made. Had been made. She knew it what it would be... so did everyone else, probably before she did.

There was just one name on her lips. In her heart. In her mind.....

"Kim... tell me about my father again."
The Doctor unbuttoned her tunic and fell into the seat opposite and started to talk, while the free woman opposite her, listened.
"I was already old when I met your father for the first time. This was... ooh.... thirty, thirty five years ago.... back then I looked somewhat different to what I do now...."

The asteroid base was fairly large, larger than was usual for covert Angel Cartel. That being said, on the day when I arrived at 'Gallente Fair' as it was known, it was to be brought into a world I knew existed, but had kept away from. It couldn't be called a hub, as it was in a dead end system in the arse end of space, but it had all the usual trouble makers there. Gurista warlords with their hackers and whores, Serpentis drug barons, Blood Raiders with their prayers and greedy eyes. The Thukkers were there as well, and the ubiquitos Angel Cartels in all their glory. I had seen a Mordus but just fleetingly, all black leather and chrome, strange and exotic. But then here, everything was strange and exotic to me. The smells in the air spoke of a hundred worlds, a thousand different things, just a few I could recognise from my position. Blood, sweat, fear. The rest would come later, but I wouldn't be in a position to enjoy anything.

We had been captured three weeks before, some enterprising pirate wannabe had simply captured a cruise ship which he had bribed the captain to take an alternative course, this jump instead of that one. It ended up in lowsec, the ship was taken and all two thousand passengers were delivered rather brutally into captivity. I say brutally as when we docked at Gallente Fair, only three hundred were alive. The rumour whispered around the small group I was chained to, they had been delivered over to the Blooders. Strange that no one saw them then, in any way shape or form. Hints and rumours, but no definate sightings. I am pretty sure that no one else noticed that those who hinted such things as Blooders were not actually people who were part of the cruise ship. When you are such as I you notice new faces. It worked though. The Pirate however died at Gallente Fair, killed by a striking young man who met him at the docking gate and recieved us.

He was furious. Three hundred from two thousand. He looked over the list of those who survived, almost all the women and children had perished. Not through Blood Raiders, as it turned out, they just didn't bring enough food or water for everyone. When he had had enough of the Pirates attitude he calmly pulled out his pistol and shot him in the head. The Pirates second, just took over, accepted the right amount of money for the three hundred and left it at that. We were all marched to a hangerbay, a cold dark and dingy place, but much to all our surprise, this young man brought us all food and water and medical attention.

I could see then the conflict within him. This was no slaver, no peddler of flesh. This was someone who cared. He went personally to every person who survived and unchained them. Oh there was no way to escape, there were guards on the balconies, but it felt better than being shackled in filth. When he got to me I grasped his hand and looked in his eyes.
"Thank you, my son, I will ever remember your charity, no matter how long I have left to live."
He looked at me and smiled, a smile I see in your face every day, because it was your father, his name was on his coveralls. Munroe Isaac Ballentyne. He held my hand and looked at me for some time, I can't say I saw his eyes soften as I looked seventy back then, but there was a sadness.
"Some things we do are a necessary evil. But at least you shall live out your days in some sort of peace. I hope you can cook...."
He walked away to a guard who looked at me and nodded and took me away, heavy handed and rough though several corridors and levels until we came to an area of the station I recognised as being almost totally Serpentis. He muttered a few words in their lingua franca and a heavily tattooed woman took me to a kitchen where dozens of other women were slaving over stoves and making food. I looked at her, she looked at me and then left. For better or worse, I was still alive.
Munroe came by later that night. I was exhausted, so much food had been cooked, so much had been cleaned, and cooked and cleaned, I could barely stand. But at least we were well cared for, as we had all the food we could eat. Taking me away back to his quarters he opened a side door which went into a spare room, not much larger than a cupboard, but with room to lie down on the bunk cut from the wall.
"You will stay here. One of the others will come and take you back to the kitchen in the morning, and then bring you back here when your shift ends."
He placed a bracelet around my wrist which had a Serpentis sigil enscribed, and the name underneath, property of Munroe Ballentyne.
"It's just a formilty..... it will keep you alive, and if you get into trouble, they know who to contact. Just don't get into trouble."
I looked at him, wondering what drove this man. Why had he plucked me out from the crowd and saved me, if I was being saved at all. He must have known what was going through my mind as he just held my hand.
"You don't deserve what would have happened to you. Plus, you remind me of someone I used to know, I couldnt' save her, but I can at least save you. It won't be the life of freedom you would have had, but it's the best you will get. The alternative.... "
He paled when he thought of it, he actually paled. I knew then what the fate of the others was, and knew then how conflicted he was inside. They actually were destined for the Blood Raiders and their rituals.

Back then, Munroe was a young man, barely twenty but he was a powerhouse. Built like an ox, and with a mouth on him that would cause a gutter whore to blush. That he was connected was apparaent, but to who I never found out for years. He could and would argue down armed men from a state of blood fury to something he could work with. There was not one particular faction he wouldn't work with, except the Blood Raiders. He let his friend sort those out, a queer young man by the name of Gallicia, yes I see you know that name. But back then, he was always in Munroe's shadow, a whisperer and a facilitator behind the scenes.

Naturally there were those who laughed when they found out that Munroe, rather than taking the most beautiful of the slaves he had, as was his right I found out, had taken me. It often didn't take more than a look, or in extreme cases a swift punch to quieten them down, and for those who bore me ill will, I cooked for them. I can't say I was proud of what I did, but after a fashion it was survival... and the poisons were delayed so no one knew it was me. Except for Munroe. Somehow.
"Kim, you can't keep poisoning those who treat you ill. I've told you before, tell me and I'll sort them out."
So I did, I stopped poisoning them and told your father instead, and he sorted it all out. I think your father was fonder of me than any of his slaves. And yes, he had slaves, at that time he had plenty, but he kept them elsewhere, with Gallicia as it turns out. And that would be his downfall. One day, after we'd been at Gallente Fair for about seven long years we were summoned back to Serpentis Prime.

Gallicia had planned well, using all the cunning and guile of a predator. Using Munroes slaves he had gleaned his secrets and used them against him. The uproar that day threatened to spill over into violence when Munroes supporters found out that Gallicia intended to charge him with treason, deception, and theft. He was dragged from his bed in the early hours, beaten and taken before a tribunal. Evidence was displayed, including me, statements read for hour after hour. All that time Gallicia looked on, while Munroe, in chains stood proud. Oh you should have seen him. Even with all he'd gone through, standing there naked as they hadn't allowed him to dress, he was defiant, proud, and wore his chains with more pride than any man has a right to. When the the last of the evidence had been read he still just stood there. But there wasn't a person on that jury, or in that court who hadn't watched this young man stand there and not be cowed. Even Gallicia looked uncertain.

He spoke then, as was his right, and gave the most eloquent speech I have ever heard anyone say, and when it had all sunk in, he simply laughed. He laughed!
"I have given the Serpentis loyalty for all my life. I learned all I knew from my father, as he did from his. And one day I will pass on what I know to my son. You throw this evidence at me? Yes, I have lied, cheated, stolen, murdered and worse. My soul is damned to the everlasting fires of creation. But, no matter what happenes today, if you believe my brother Gallicia in his wild claims, I will still be proud to be Serpentis!"
And then he started to sing. There are few songs that everyone knows, but the corporate song of the Serpentis every child sings as soon as they know how. And his voice was powerful, it rang out through the tribunal and one by one, then by two and eventually everyone was singing. The windows rattled and grown men cried, such was the passion of that day. He was set free, but the damage had been done. Gallicia was seen to have the edge, someone who would use his closest friend to get ahead. And they appreciated that and gave him the position Munroe had. But there was no.... animosity.

It was also after that day that he realised I was more than just his servent, for it's what I was in reality. I treated his wounds after his beating and told him to see a doctor to get them sorted. He scoffed and ignored and was taken into the medbay a few days later when the problem got severe and needed to be sorted out. I was dragged to the medbay to explain how I knew what was wrong with him and I told him, I was a Doctor. He'd never asked, in all the years we were together, and I had never put it forward. But it was out now. They tested me and such and found out I knew more than their Doctor did. That day I was taken out of the kitchens, for which some people never forgave him, and into the Medbay. I was in heaven. Finally I had the ability to work again on what I loved. It was however, to be the end for me and Munroe. After a fashion, he gave me my freedom, liquidiated his holdings and gave me all the isk I needed for my research into nano-technology and my side project of an immortality serum.

It was then I realised. Finally, he had taken enough notice of me as a person to find out who I was. And I think it shocked him. You see, you father, even to the day he died had two sides to him. Some say he was indecisive, others that he was weak, but no man I've known since ever showed as much compassion as he did with one hand, despite condemning with the other. But he valued life, and I didn't, only mine... and his.

You see, what no one knew back then was why I was on that cruise ship. Everyone assumed I was simply on a cruise. In reality I was being taken back to court by a bounty hunter in what he assumed was the most out of the way fashion he knew. Was just his bad luck that the ship was taken. But I digress...

Munroe realised that I was a much larger monster than he could ever be. There are few people in the universe who have the distinction of being accused of Genocide. Even fewer who have been accused of genocide on my scale. Of course these days no one remembers the wholesale deaths of an entire star system, it's been hushed up and after a while repopulated. But one thing I will remember to the day I die, if I ever let myself die, is the picture he showed me from the archives he found, from before I escaped from prison. Me, sitting in my cell, quite mad apparently, holding the severed head of my cellmate in my lap and laughing.

Over the years I perfected both the Nanites, which I gave to the Serpentis, and my immortality serum... well sort of. As you can see... I no longer look seventy, infact I could get away with being descriped as mid thirties. But the soul and my mind... have taken a terrible toll. In the years between then and when I left and returned to Empire I looked after your father as best I could. I was there when your brother was born, and I was taken to your plantation when you were due to be born. I never understood why your father was there, but he had an understanding with the Holder. I brought you, Angelina and Victoria into the world, and your Father and Mother loved you all. That your mother was a slave and your father a slaver, never made any difference to me, because I saw the love between them. And I was saddened when I heard of your mothers death and have cursed Gallica ever since.

I've said this before, and I'll say it again Carmilla. You are your fathers daughter. You have his passion, his conflicted nature and you are his successor, even though you are not the eldest. And I know that you killed him when you escaped Gallicia, but I know for a fact, he was proud of you ever day of his life, just as he was for Victor, Angelina and Victoria. And I am glad you worked things out with Victor. Gallicia twisted his mind, but I think between us, and Ithiria, we have untwisted it.

Carmilla sat back in her chair, her face streaked with tears and Kim walked around and held her, comforting her. Aaah Carmilla, she thought, some things I cannot tell you, I will not tell you. Better you believe your mother was a slave who loved your father so. In truth she did, and there was much she did for him. Munroe was a good man, a good father..... and a good husband to me. Carmilla, my daughter, you will never know who I really am, nor will your sisters, nor your brother. For I promised your father, and I keep my promises. But that doesn't stop me loving you.

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