Angelina sat at Esna's desk in the safehouse reading the mail that was on the screen. The room was dark except for the screen which bathed her and the area around her in luminous green light. Tears streaked her face as she read the words again. And again. And again.
Thoughts ran through her mind that had no place being there. She was a slave, bound to serve. Bound to obey. For her there was only obedience, loyalty and servitude.
"But that's wrong," Bethany's voice was loud in the room, she hadn't heard her approach.
"Bethany, what's wrong?"
"This is all wrong. You shouldn't be here.... like this."
Her voice was as childish as it always was, young and full of vibrancy. But not tinged with a dark edge. Something flittered across her mind, banished as soon as it appeared. She wracked her mind trying to think of it.
"Look at my jacket... look at who you were. Look at who you are!"
Angelina looked down at her. She was wearing her Gurista's jacket. The jacket she wore for over a year while she tore up the space lanes and perpetuated violence, bloodshed and murder on a scale that had entire empires after her blood.
"Angelina, you must wake up....."
Awake, but awake what... why was that so important. She left the screen up and walked over to the safe, Esna's safe and opened it. Personal papers, trial transcripts, the list of her crimes. Data crystals and memn-wafers.
"Angelina, you must wake up... there are things that now have to be done. Awake..."
Bethany was now an insistant whine in her ears, her voice drilling deep into her psyche filling her ears with the attention seeking sounds of youth.
But she was right. She shouldn't be here... she should be out there. Strapped into the flight seat of one of her frigates, or wrapped in the primal warmth of the pod, direction rolled tungsten hulls in space..... out in the depths of space... the crisp darkness of the void.
She cried out. Something was there, an memory hammering on the doors of her mind, down the dark corridor of sheltered memories, doors locked, barred, wide open, burning, filled with memories, pain, anger, resentment, light and dark, anger, anger at the universe, so easy to see now why she could burn it down when all it takes is the fury of madness!
Awake, Dark Fury
The words seared their way across her mind, far away she could hear Bethany's crying, her own laughter as the memory hammering on the doors freed itself. Awake, Dark Fury! Yes, now she was awake. Her memory free from the confines the court had placed upon it, confines that not even Esna knew about. The sealed memories cascaded in a dark waterfall as the walls broke under the rush of fury. Awake, Dark Fury! In the corner, Bethany cowered as Angelina stood up, Angelina Ballentyne, Guristas Pirate, Heretic, Murderer, Mass Murderer... the Butcher of Sibot screamed a primal scream of defiance.
"I... am back!"
She changed quickly into a flight suit and took her leather jacket from Bethany and the two of them made their way to the landing pads. The guards raised their hand. Although they were used to seeing her, they had instructions she was not to leave the safe house. Both her hands flew up, the pistols in her hands spitting death at the two guards. Alarms sounded as they ran to the shuttle and laser fire filled the air as more guards appeared. She pushed Bethany in and started up the engines then fired back at the guards, running towards them, teeth bared in a vicious grin.
The shuttle departed the safe house and she headed deeper into null-space, heading in a rough line towards the Great Wildlands. The safest place was where they would not think to look for her. Hours passed as they flew through systems and jumped, dodging gate camps, spending precious moments flying through abandoned bubbles until eventually the navigational system flashed up... they were about to enter an Amarr low-sec system.
"This is still not right, Angelina. You need backup. You cannot escape alone."
"Very true Bethany. That is why we are coming here. I have some old friends who owe me a favour."
She looked over at her young companion. The time they had spent to gether were catching up, Bethany looked older now, more serious. Her perpetual smile was gone now, replaced by a scowl.
The system of Youl in the Amarr Empire is one that is well used, an area for training and popular with people wishing to become more favoured with the Amarr Navy, amongst others. Even so few were ready for the warnings that flashed up on their nav-screen and pod-displays.
Enemy of the Empire Spotted. Angelina Ballentyne. Warning.
As her shuttle flew past them, they had but a moment to look before the ship was gone, headed into an asteroid belt. By the time the local police forces had arrived they found a small mining outpost on one of the larger asteroids had been massacred to a man. The shuttle was in the docking bay, and several of the automated ore transports were missing.
"You have to help me. I saved your life remember, you owe me Gallicia!"
She slammed her fist on the table. They were in one of the undercity bars, a haven for non-capsuleers and low lives in general. Bethany was blending in, her attitude now she was away from Esna and his pandering was a sight to behold. Angelina turned her head back to the man sitting before her, Gallicia Tavrook. A diehard Serpentis slaver, the man who had debased her sister for six years, terrorised her for longer looked at her with hate in his eyes. Part of his face was covered by a chrome mask, a memento of the Carmilla's ex lover, William. He was the last person she wanted to talk to, but so many had turned their backs on her when she was enslaved. Gallicia however, owed her. And she was here to take payment.
"Hey, I don't owe you that much. Last I remember you were a slave, and you are still wearing the collar and cuffs."
"That was before. I've changed somewhat."
"Not from what I've heard. You used to be a bad ass woman. Now you bend over for holders and smile when they feed you shit."
He was quick, he deflected the first two hits but the third hit home, knocking his head back into the wall. Stunned he was helpless as she vaulted the table and pushed him up against the wall. His hand went to a knife which was knocked aside and kicked into the darkness. The other denizens looking on with humour in the dim lighting.
"You know what I need Gallicia. I have the isk. Can you do it?"
"You want to kill yourself fine. Pay up front."
She pulled out one of Esna's credsticks and funnelled isk into the slavers datatablet. It would be traced, but by then the datatablet would be in someone elses hands and the isk long since laundered.
"Maybe you are the same mad woman I remember. Be at the elevator in the green sector by the recycling in one our."
"We'll be there."
He looked at her funnily for a moment.
"You Gurista's crack me up. One hour."
She smiled and pulled Bethany away from a table of card players.
"Come on Beth. We have an hour to spare.... time to show you how bad this girl can be."
Over at the bar were two men, swarthy rogues by any other name. Certainly enough for them, and after a few muttered words Angelina, the two rogues and Bethany walked into one of the back rooms and it was quite obvious to the denizens what was going on there.
An hour later Angelina and Bethany waited at the elevator designated. With a change of clothes they looks like sisters now. Much of her innocence had gone, though there was still a little remaining.
"He will betray you, you will be forced to run again."
"Of course he will, he's Gallicia. But I need this more than I need him dead."
"You may live to regret that...."
"Maybe... but I'll be alive."
She nudged Bethany and pointed. Gallicia and two guards was approaching and stopped at the elevator.
"You ready for this?"
She tossed him the credstick and the final payment. He caught it, handed it to a guards and opened the elevator with a hidden passkey.
"Next stop, pod bay."
As they rode the elevator up into the levels usually reserved for capsuleers, towards the docking bays and pod control. For what seemed like an eternity the elevator rumbled upwards.
"He will betray you," she whispered.
"Shut up Bethany."
He looked up at her, caught her eye and smiled. The doors opened onto a wide level, the scents of the viscous pod lubricant were present, as well as the sounds of sirens, and the movements of the pods from the embarkation area to the docking bays. For all the sound, there were few people here, most in a control room overlooking everything.
"First we take out the control room. Gallicia, can you knock out the sensors and warning systems?"
"I can, but it's limited in time. Once they find my probes and knock them out they will know where you are and what you are doing."
"It's time enough."
"He will betray you. Beware the face of the enemy."
He looked over at her.
"You feeling allright? You up for this?"
"Yes," she lied.
Kicking in the door to the control room she ran in guns blazing. Technicians and operators died in a hail of bullets, the windows blew out and the howling wind from the docking bays swept in. She stripped naked, and hefted her guns. Gallicia licked his lips and she pointed her pistol at him.
"Save it Gallicia!"
Clicking several relays she activated the pod routines and heard Gallicia gasp.
"You lost the secondary and tertiary ports."
"Yes, Esna had them removed so I couldn't escape."
"This is suicide. You will die, you can't pod up without them!"
She smiled a dark forbidding smile as she flicked more relays and input some commands onto a console.
"I can, if I override the safetys. I wont' be able to do much more than fly, but I don't need to be able to do more than that. I'm escaping, not fighting."
"The scars have healed, you'll be punching into flesh...."
"I don't have the luxury of arguing with you Slaver. I have to do this and I'm going to do this. If I die... I die...."
"When you die that's it. Look, it's pulled up your clones... there are none."
"That cant' be helped. I'll get more clones when I get back to Guristas space. Bethany.... come on...."
She ran to the podding room and went with Bethany to the controls and started to access the controls. Bethany laughed, her laugh sounding like her own and she laughed to. The madness of this all was intense. She could die, and might. She had to evade capture first and that would be the difficult but.
"Bethany, go and wait with Gallicia. It's time this bitch returned to the pod."
She walked into the centre of the room and turned around. Bethany was gone.
"Gallicia.. is Bethany there?"
"For the love of all that is unholy... who the hell is Bethany?"
From the hidden darkness of the ceiling a cluster of jacks descended and began to interface with her. Primary... interfaced. Secondary jack pushed in, her flesh resisting the probing metal until it split under hte pressure. She screamed as the metal probe invaded her body. The tertiary jack probed her back, pushing at her spine. She moved just enough, just quickly enough as the jack pierced her back, missing her spine and smashing a rib. Blood poured down her back from the two missing ports, her screams loud and terrible. The remaining jacks fit themselves into ports that were there.
Tubes placed themselves strategically for sustaining the body. Parts of her mind faded and blacked as the smaller neural jacks interfaced with her cranial ports. As the last one interfaced there was just darkness. Around her large quarters of pod came together, merging and sealing with a hiss of air. Automatic systems connected tubes with the pod and began filling up with liquid. And blood.
Cocooned inside the pod, Angelina awoke to the alien sensation of being a pod. Static slammed into her and in the pod she screamed. The pod liquid was becoming tainted with her blood. In the control room the board was flashing warnings and alerts, all of which were nullified as the safetys were deactivated. Still, Gallicia was worried. Her vital signs were wavering, he had to get her to a ship quickly. In her state a warship would kill her, the secondary and tertiary jacks being needed for combat. With what she had, she could just fly a ship. If she was lucky. There was a 50/50 chance of her dying in the pod. He selected a ship, one he knew she could fly and imput the commands. As he watched the pod begin it's journey he looked around.
"Who the hell was Bethany he wondered."
He pulled a datatablet out of his pocket and linked it up to the console and began to download a set of data into the pod, uplift codes and backdoors.
When the pod interfaced with the ship Angelina's senses came alive. Mostly. She looked out from the hull of the sigil. The sensorium flashed up as the ships powercores and engines pulsed into life. Static filled several screens. The expected lists of targets didn't appear, only a dull throb somewhere near the aft quarter of the ship. Windows opened, each one with it's own handshake signal, weapons systems - negative, diagnostics - negative, drone bay- negative. Concentrating she begain to interrogate the ship.
AI Interface - Good Afternoon Trader Araski.
Command IDent - Prorator - Quaffe Corporation - Araski's Wraith
Command IDent - Override Alpha One - IDent change....
Command IDent - Prorator - Errorerrorerrorerror - Error error
Command Confirm - Execute
Command IDent - Prorator - Quaffe Gurista Corporation - Error Code 342
-Warning Protocol Gamma Twelve - Danger - Pod habitat unsafe
-Warning - Pilot life signs 76% and dropping
Diagnostic Control - timestamp activated - node13 to node44 access denied
Diagnostic Control - timestamp activated - node44 NEGATIVE.... IVE... IVE
Command Diag Reboot
Command Diag Reboot
- Gurista Protocol Override Beta Beta intrustion detected
- Protocol denied.... denied... denied...
-Warning - Pilot life signs 74% and dropping
-Warning - Command Codes Overwritten - Danger
-Warning - Pilot life signs 72% and dropping
The sensorium shimmered and took on a slight red tinge. A diagnostic window opened, showing Angelina in the pod. Warnings flashed across the screen, more urgent.
-Warning Protocol Gamma Twelve - Danger - Pod habitat unsafe
-Warning - Pilot life signs 70% and dropping
-Pod ejection in ten.. nine...
Pod Eject Override - Theta Four - 00001
Command IDent - Overwrite Protocol Bank
Command IDent - System Bios Flash PRIORITY
For a brief moment navigational systems, repair systems, command and control all died. Then with a low whine the entire system rebooted and reloaded. New protocls began to be initiated. While the handshake initiated each window was red, then as they were accepted and control handed over to the pod they changed to green. Most of the windows however were red, with access to modules, parts of the ship, abilities nullified.
"Angelina to Gallicia, are you receiving?"
"I'm here. You have to get out of here quickly. Your life form readings are low, you are dying. You have maybe seven hours to get to wherever you are going."
"Is Bethany there?"
"Angelina. Who is Bethany? There is no one here? There has just been us the whole time youv'e been here! I'm used to your mad sister, but you.... you are infuriating!"
"Don't be stupid, she was with me."
"Angelina, you came here alone. There is no Bethany!"
Angelina access the stations systems, setting off alarms that rang the entire station and burrowed into the camera recordings for the time of her stay on the station. Every single one, even the ones down below... she was alone. She could see herself talking off to one side time and time again, places she remembered Bethany standing. Saw herself alone with the guys at the bar, saw their expressions as she talked to no one as they took her out back. Saw herself and Gallicia at the table, in the elevator... in the pod bay.
Was she going mad? Was this another of Gallicia's ploys?
No... realisation slowly dawned on her. Bethany, was in her mind. She needed someone and Bethany appeared. Bethany, the lively child who had an answer for everything. She had become Bethany as she was enslaved to Esna. She had followed him as Bethany would have, with childlike grace and devotion to an adult. A child, she had been. But the memory blocks the court had placed on her had broken, because someone knew they would be placed there and had inserted breaker switch. One that required a code be said.
Awake, Dark Fury
Yes, that was her, the name of her battlecruiser, the first one she had used to start piracy. Dark Fury. And she had been hidden away, buried away in memory blocks and reprogramming. And it had all broken, cascaded and Bethany was no longer needed as she regained who she was. Angelina, pirate, terrorist, murderer, not Angelina the slave.
The Prorator went to half power and lurched out of the docking bay, heading for the main passages and the way out of the station. Message handshakes from the traffic controlls were ignored, hails from the authorities blocked. She accelerated, ramming smaller ships and nudging aside larger vessels. The sensorium felt the probes of tracking devices, locking signals and ignored them. It's ion drive pushing the transport faster and faster.
In the pod Angelina swung the ship into a tight turn, bouncing literally off of a providence class frighter and headed towards the entrance to the docking bays. She could see in the distance that the protective iris was slowly cycling shut.
-Microwarp Drive - ten second burst - Mark
The prorator lurched, howling through the rapidly clearing channel. Ships in teh way were being smashed aside.
- Shield status 85%
Patrol crafts were attempting to lock the vessel, but the maneauvers being performed put too many other ships in their way, locking was becoming risky. She felt around the ship and tested the capabilities she could use.
-Shield status 74%
-Warning Protocol Gamma Twelve - Danger - Pod habitat unsafe
-Warning - Pilot life signs 68% and dropping
Navigation - Starchart update - Destination lock - Yvangier
Angelina Ballentyne - Enemies of the Empire are not permitted free travel
Deactivate your Engines and prepare to be boarded
Navigation - course laid in - gate located
Navigation - Docking speed exceeded
From her pod Angelina looked around her as she left the station. A small fleet has assembled to try and lock her down, but none of them were expecting her to come out with microwarp drives on full. The transport cannoned past the blockade and into the space beyond. As they turned their ships and began to lock, the ship entered warp.
In her pod Angelina mused. She was dying, but in doing so, she realised she was now alive. Free for as long as she could stay ahead of Esna and those he would send after her.
First... a doctor. Then return to null space...