Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Memories and a glass of Wine

The two of them sat drinking in a leafy taverna, several bottles of wine had already been produced and drunk. The empty plates from their meal had been left to one side, and more bottles were placed on the table. The taller of the two pointed to a tattoo on the inside of older woman's arm. AD 23216.

"What is that? AD 23216?"
The older woman sat back with a bottle and swigged from it.
"Aaaah, my dear. That.... is a date to be remembered. The date the slaves fought back and took something precious from me. Slaves and their lackies, those traitors who fought with them, the collaborators. When the slaves ran riot, and killed those who were dear to me. But this my dear, was a long time ago and my memories are not what they were. Surely you don't wish to know what I did during the war...."
But the taller woman insisted.
"I need to know."
She sighed and nodded.....
"It all began....."

23216 - 4th day of the Month of Sorrow

The Agressor Squadron fell back in disarray, it's golden ships coming underfire from a numerically superior, if technologically inferior Wing of Minmatar ships. Ships looking more like a flying scrap heap and solar generator than the fast battlewagons they seemed to be. Powerful artillery and even more powerful autocannons tore into the squadron before it even knew what was happening. Ships exploded, three Amarr for ever one Minmatar. Drones screamed silently, missiles tore across the void. All across the communications nets, military and commerical the news was the same. The Minmatar were rebelling!

Skill and cunning had brought Marika Jobias to command the Agressor Squadron but more than skill was required today. One by one all of the ships in the squadron were destroyed until only the three Omen class cruisers in her flight remained. The few remaining interceptors were pinning them down, but Marika's ship was free. Her wingmen knew it and reversed course, plunging into the ships following them, scattering them. She didn't see them die, but their sacrifice would not be in vain. Overpowering the engines she warped to a marshalling point.

As she arrived her sensors noticed the carnage. The fleet that was here had been caught unawares, as her squadron had. Jumping to the main planet she saw the Amarr freighters, transports and industrials fleeing the planet. Into the jaws of the Minmatar slaves in their junker ships. The slaughter lasted for hours. They had planned their rebellion well, and even if it moved no further, they had still killed many innocents, much blood had been spilt. To retake the planets in this system would take a long time. In her pod she combed lists of passengers on ships she knew to have been destroyed, pulled lists of casualties, of known dead. Eventually she found the names she was looking for. In her pod she screamed.

It was said, that day, that the Minmatar danced over the dead in the streets and wild parties ensued. It was also said, by fewer people that a scream was heard that day, across all the communication channels. A scream that they said heralded the doom of the system. The young jeered and said doom had come, to the Amarr. The old simply nodded and waited. You cannot escape the cry of the banshee, they said, you can only wait for death.

23216 - 22nd day of the Month of Sorrow

Marika waited in the halls of the Naval Administration building, her high necked uniform jacket a pristine black with a pastel blue sash of the Agressor Squadron. Other officers waited outside with her, but only she was pacing like a caged beast. Nearly three weeks had passed and little had happened. Whole swathes of space had rebelled. There was no talk of falling back, it was a full blown retreat. Marika herself had helped, rescuing civilians, hunting down the wolf packs that had broken through the front lines as they were pushed back. Her name became known on both sides for her ferocity and brutality. The reports of rumored atrocities were just that, rumours. She never left anyone alive to prove it, they whispered.

"Marika Jobias, Commander of the Agressor Squadron. "
The major domo called out her name and title and beckoned her to the double doors. She was in and through before those who were waiting before her could be insulted. A few moments later she stood in a spotlight before an assembly of Amarr Elders and high ranking Naval Officers. A salute and at attention she looked straight ahead.
"Marika, we have much to thank you for. Your conduct has been most... praiseworthy. The reports we have talk of your heroism and dedication, you are an example for us all."
"I thank you for those words, noble sires."
"Are we right to believe that you want to take a fleet and retake the system you were posted to?"
"I do."
"Why should we?"
"Because I can take it back. I know it inside out, I can get in undetected with a fleet and by then we'll already have locked down the stargates......"
She breathed deeply, wondering when he would speak up. Admiral Jodana, her superior who she had fought with as hard off the field as she had with the Minmatar on the field.
"I am not at liberty to discuss the plan."
There were raised voices, oathes, condemnations.
"You dare say that here? We are among the most...."
"The most bugged and followed members of the Empire. If I told you what I had planned the slaves would know about it within ten days. I mean no disrespect, but we underestimated them once before, and we should not do so again. Security needs to be tightened."
"We have demoted people for saying less than you have."
"Then do it. I will fight just a bravely under someone elses command. But only I can take the system...."
Admiral Jodana turned to the other members.
"I appologise for this outburst, it is unspeakable that she should talk to us this way. Naturally I'll have her broken and reassigned to a garbage scow."
One of the elders laughed a dry and ancient laugh.
"If you did I dare say even in a garbage scow she would still manage to rack up an impressive amount of kills in our name. No Admiral, we will not break this upstart, for at the moment she is one of the few who are actually feared by the slaves. You however, are not."
The swore and stood, hand on his sword. He was aware of a movement at the corner of his eye and saw Marika, pistol drawn pointed at him.
"You dare point a weapon at me?"
"You dare draw your sword on a member of the council?"
She kept the pistol pointed, even though she heard the sound of the armed guards behind her, waited expecting the shot to come, or the blow to knock her down. It never came.
"Marika, please holster your weapon and come with me," The elder wheezed as he stood, helped by one of the other members, "We must discuss your new Wing, a squadron will not do for such a skilled member of our Navy... and one so devoted to this assembly. But please, hand your weapons over to the soliders behind you, behind these doors, you only have to worry about how much rope we give you."

Admiral Jodana stormed out of the assembly room and towards his private quarters, slamming the doors and punching his intercom.
"Send for my slave. Now!"
He removed his jacket and threw it on the table and undid his shirt. Pacing up and down he grabbed a short handled whip from wall and flexed it in his hand. The door to his office opened and two guards brought in a female Minmatar slave.
"Usual place," he said without looking, and poured a glass from a decanter and drank from it as he walked to the slave. His guards leaving.
"So my little slave. I have some anger I need to work out."
The slave, her naked back to him hung her head and waited to see just how angry he was. She had been pretty once, but the Admiral had put paid to that one day with his fists. With each crack he said a name. Marika. Marika. Marika!

Marika walked with three of the elders, their faces hidden behind their cowled hoods down a dark corridor. Although she couldn't see them she knew the hidden alcoves here had guards in them, ready at a moments notice to protect the elders. That she was not armed, was no reason not to be careful.
"I'm afraid the Admiral is just a little jealous of you Marika-san. He has taken several of your victories as his own, but we know the truth."
"So do the troops. They look to me for leadership even above their own officers."
"We know. It has to stop. That is why we are giving you your wing. But after you take the system, you will stand down and resign your commission."
She walked on with them in silence.
"I take it from your silence that you agree?"
"Yes, I agree. I am not after glory, only after a strong Empire. I have spilt blood for you, I will spill more."
One of the elders hissed.
"Don't worry, I'm not one of those," she smiled," My faith is in my ability as a war leader. But... I have a condition for my acceptance, for my standing down."

23216 - 7th day of the Month of Rememberance

Someone had warned the slaves. But in the end, it had not mattered. From the few surviving pilots they found out, evenatually, that they knew where the Agressor Wing was going to end up, the system name, times, and major targets. Ships were drawn from surrounding constellations to have a formidable fleet waiting. As Marika had known they would. So she attacked elsewhere.

The first in uproar of her actions had been Admiral Jodana. Treason, betrayal and other words were shouted from him. But in public, because yet again, she had brought a victory. A major shipyard and distribution centre had been destroyed along with it's attendant facilities and fleet. Even with the ships drawn away it was three to one, and still they succeeded. Hundreds of thousands of freed slaves were once more under the lock and key of the Amarr. Prisoners taken from the rebelled slaves were paraded through the streets on Amarr Prime, footage of the Agressor Wing in combat were shown on most 3dTV channels. But still, as requested Marika stood down and resigned her commission.

As expected Jordana was quick to take responsibility for her actions, and he was placed in command of the wing. But when he went to take command of the wing it was unbeknown to him, a new Agressor Wing, made up from veterans from a hundred different units. Marika and the real Agressor Wing had vanished.

The older woman sat back and drank some more wine, as her young colleague listened intently.
"Two months later the Agressor Wing under Jordana was destroyed utterly. He was captured and paraded as we had paraded prisoners. Wreckage of his ship was put on display at one of their training bases to remind them of the glory that awaited them in space. And it did the trick. Recruitment for the Minmatar reached epic levels, everyone wanted to fly and fight and reclaim their birthright. They paraded Jordana on planet after planet.... and eventually they came to one planet in particular....."

23216 - 13th day of the Month of Suplication

The wormhole blazed to life, as the Agressor Wing under Commander Jobias began to leave the space they had called home for the past two months. Already their logisitical people were taking down the station they had errected for the purpose. Now all that remained was vengence. With the war raging on several fronts, most systems had only a token fleet, the Minmatar throwing everything they had into taking more and more space, freeing more of their race from the tyranny of the Amarr.

The system was ill prepared to take on a squadron, let alone a wing. Let alone a wing led by the infamous Marika Jobias. In an unprecedented attack her wing destroyed one of the two jump gates into the system, destroying the patrols that came close. Any ship that approached was destroyed regardless, before it had chance to broadcast what was happening. The wing split into two, half blockading the last remaining jump gate, the rest, lead by Marika hunted down and destroyed the remaining military in the system. When she was happy that she had destroyed everything of a military nature, she lit the cyno and the rest of the fleet jumped in, then brought the troop transports out of their wormhole lair.

The older woman sat up at the table and looked at the younger woman with her.
"What we did removed a portion of the Amarr Navy capital fleet from the front line, carriers and dreadnoughts. We only had forty of them, but at that time even the assembly were up in arms. But, the deal had been made. They wanted a victory. I told them I could deliver."
She smiled a wicked smile,"I just didn't say what I would deliver."
"We held that system for two weeks. Our defences on the gate were impenetrable. Any ship trying to get in or out was destroyed. While our dreadnoughts went from planet to planet, moon to moon and destroyed every target of military value. Of course, as I was in command... I told them was was a military target. We boiled lakes dry, set fire to forests, levelled cities and towns. Planet after planet was turned into a charnel house. And in every one I was there, on the surface with my little army, all hand picked survivors of the original attack, all with a blood debt to me. And We made them pay. And we recorded it all for posterity."

23216 - 26th day of the Month of Suplication

Marika watched as the city in the distance burned. Several dreadnoughts in orbit were systematically destroying it, fires raged out of control, the screams of the people as they tried to escape the city were drifting to them. Around the city a laser barricade had been setup, beyond it the troops were firing at random into the crowds of refugees. It was a slaughter. Occasionally they would bring her a survivor from the military, Minmatar, usually Brutor. If they were in a jovial mood that day they would throw them in a ring and one of her men would take them apart, or as had happened on several occasions, the Minmatar won. Sometimes she would let them go, other times she would fight them herself. Othertimes, she would crucify them, or impale them, or give them to the troops.

Later that night one of her commanders pleaded with her to stop the bloodshed. To stop the killings. As she watched another Brutor champion being impaled to the cheers of her troops she agreed.
"We have shown these people enough, they know now never to rebel. They would not dare."
"Marika, you have sown the seeds of our destruction. When word of this leaks out, we will all be hunted down and killed in retribution. What we have done here, is more than simple retribution. I thought we were doing the right thing. But after I reclaimed my family home and burned it down to get rid of the stink of slaves, I realised we had done too much. This is just what they did to us... and it's too much Marika. We have to stop before we loose our souls. We didn't come here for Genocide."
She sighed and smiled and patted her commander on the shoulder.
"I did. Gather your troops. We are leaving and never coming back."
Taking out a communicator she issued the general retreat of all forces back to space. Moments later the black specs of drop ships appeared and landed. She walked over to the dying Minmater who had been impaled. And took a picture.

In space she convened a meeting of the captains of the carriers and had cargo shuttles take over payloads that had been brought aboard the command carrier in secret. One for each planet and moon that held a population. The carriers dispersed and hours later the fleet was ready. The commander approached her.
"What just happened? Where did the carriers go?"
"Orbital satellite drops around every planet and moon. A device of my own creating. Once the timer is started it will fire a warhead into the atmosphere and it will keep doing that until it is empty, whereupon it will drop into the sky itself and explode."
"But, just a handfull of warheads will do no lasting damage. Are they nuclear?"
"No. Biological."
The Commander turned white. Marika smiled.
"I see you understand me. I told you Commander, I came here for Genocide. The death of every single man, woman and child in this system. The Minmatar will pay for killing my family, pay with the deaths of everyone. Why do you think we recorded everything? Because we are going to broadcast this wide to everyone within a thousand parsecs. We are going to let the slaves know what happens when they rebel. Genocide."
She laughed, and as the Commander ran from the bridge her laugh was loud in his ears.

The woman sighed and shook the empty bottle, placing it down but not reaching for a new one.
"Of course, no one found out about it. The commander as it turns out was sent by the Assembly to keep an eye on me. And the victory they had recieved was bittersweet. We had retaken the system, but only at the cost of untold billions of lives. When we returned at Amarr Prime, I was under no illusions of what was going to happen to me. And I was right. Arrested, imprisoned and made to dissapear. All footage destroyed, all ship AI memories wiped, navigational beacons, any trace that the Amarr Empire had been in the system over those two weeks removed and destroyed. The name of the system removed from the database. As clean an incision in time as ever could be made was done. With one exception. The Minmatar. They knew everything, but they kept quiet."
She paid the bill and the two women walked down the street arm in arm.
"They assumed that if it was done once, it would be done again. So when there was an unofficial truce, it was unofficially covered up, the price was my head. But by then, I'd been spirited away. That, you see, was my price for doing it all. And I had them over a barrel. I told them, I'll give you your victory, but I want immunity for my actions."
"And they gave it you?"
"What else could they do. They'd have had to destroy the entire wing and the support fleet to keep it quiet. As it was, I just ordered everyone not to talk about it and I moved to Gallente space, which we'd just made contact with. I became a doctor, and experimented with proto-nanites and my search for the elixir of youth."
"And you changed your name....."
"And my looks, and everything. But still people found out and hunted me down. That is why all those years ago I was on a cruise ship, a bounty hunter had caught me, tracked me down and was taking me back. The rest, as they say... is history. I met your father and completed my research..... and together we lived. Until you killed him"
"Mother, if I'd have known he was my father I would have found a way to get him out, you know that."
Dr Kim Leannder looked at her daughter.
"Carmilla, I know that. I have never blamed you for his death. Now please, I have an appointment to take care of, which is why I'm here in this city. I'll meet you at the docking bay in three hours."
Mother and daughter embraced and went their seperate ways. Kim went to a nondescript door and opened it with a keycode and walked in, running her finger over the name on the door plate. She look at the man within and smiled and ran and leapt into his arms. The door closed automatically leaving the setting sun to shine over the name plate. Munroe Ballentyne, MD

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