Waiting was its own torment, and Dewn Va’nel seethed with impatience. His office was extravagant and ornamented with gold. The second level loft was lined with book shelves, filled with volumes and curiosities from all over the empire. He spared no expense in his pursuits.
The large desk that dominated the room was coverered in electronic displays, archaic writing implements, papers, and a historical piece discovered during a recent archeological trip. The tall, domed ceiling was gilded and several artists illustrated past historical events in the open panels available. None of it was enough.
All of the plush couches and chairs in the room were empty save one. A tall, dark haired Amarrian sat comfortably, wearing his military style uniform. His highly polished boots reflected the light from the crackling fire in the hearth, and he took a sip from the glass of Mili’s finest wines. “I don’t normally indulge in such a beverage,” he said. “But, today I admit it is worth my attention.”
“I couldn’t agree more, Captain,” Dewn said, pacing next to the sitting area. The Va’nel’s second oldest sibling wore the finest of fabrics, a layered combination of blacks and gold complete with a long, shining cloak. His blond hair was cropped short, and a thick mustache stretched out below his long nose. There was no peace in his face, only tension and eyes darting around the room.
“I assure you there was nothing more to be done during the battle. Our fleet was completely overwhelmed by the enemy. When I ejected from Seltaria’s Abaddon, the ship was finished.” He reached back and gently touched the socket on his neck that marked all capsuleers, a slight habit in difficult conversations. Shifting his weight, he uncrossed his legs. Staring at his glass, he gently swirled the red liquid inside.
“Was there anyway she might have escaped along with the crew?” Dewn stopped pacing and gazed at the capsuleer, searching his countenance for answers.
“Speculation isn’t going to help the situation, my lord. Patience is key here, we will find out soon enough.” His piercing gray eyes looked up at Dewn from the glass. A cold, hardness regarded the man. No answers would be found.
The silence of the room was suddenly shattered by a chime from Dewn’s desk. Sighing slightly with relief he drained his own wine glass placing it aside, walked over, and tapped a control allowing the communication channel to be opened. Standing perfectly still, he faced the giant screen on the wall opposite his work area. Dewn cleared his throat, and his face fell into an emotionless mask.
The words Encrypted Comm Connecting flashed on the screen for a couple of seconds. Then the high definition signal appeared. An ugly, scarred, brutish man stared across space filling the entire frame. His shaved head and cartel tattoos added to his revolting appearance. He smiled revealing his metal plated teeth.
“Greetings, Lord Va’nel. It is my great pleasure to inform you, that we have received delivery of the special, highly profitable package from our mutual associates. They have once again proven their mercenary talents are as valuable as ever.”
Dewn nodded once in reply to the information. “Hello Cepta, I was beginning to think something went wrong,” he said. “I expected an update three hours ago.”
The capsuleer placed his wine glass on the table and stood from the couch. Straightening his uniform tunic, he walked over and stood a little way behind Dewn, his tall image clearly in view of the comm camera transmitting Va’nel’s image across the cluster. The Minmatar shifted his attention for a moment and scowled. After a second or two, he nodded to the Amarrian in recognition. The capsuleer remained rigid with a stone face.
Returning his attention to Dewn, Cepta continued. “The detailed loss and operational expense reports have been transmitted. As agreed, we expect compensation in addition to the final payment set forth in our contract within twenty-four hours.”
“While a little higher than expected, I will send payment. You will get your ISK as long as you fulfill the final term of our agreement,” Dewn said. His slightly narrowed eyes and menacing tone made his positiom clear.
“As agreed,” Cepta responded. The Minmatar stepped back and walked away from the video feed source. Behind him a filthy looking, low illuminated room with a smattering of old furnishings and crates opened up as he receded. A number of men stood in the shadows, their faces mostly obscured by the darkness. Yet, the vid light reflected from their dark eyes as they looked on.
Cepta walked over and kicked someone laying on the ground, illiciting a heavy exhale of breath and painful groan. Cepta laughed and reached down. He grabbed an arm and lifted the person up. He was significantly larger. Dragging the person forward, once he reached the vid light, he pulled a black hood from her head.
Seltaria’s battered face came into full focus. Her once pristine blond hair was in shambles, and while she could be recognized, the swelling and blood made it nearly impossible. Her one eye that was not completely swollen shut looked hazy and barely focused on her surroundings. Her filthy robes appeared tattered and ripped.
“Look here, precious,” Cepta said, grabbing her face by her jaw. “Your brother wants to see you for confirmation. Tell you something.”
For a moment, Seltaria’s eye rolled about, but at Cepta’s words she looked at the screen in front of her taking in the two staring back. A quick expression of recognition and familiarity surfaced through the fog. A shudder passed over her, a sob filtering through bruised lips. Tears filled her eyes and dripped onto her cheeks. “Help me,” she croaked with a dry rasp. Tremendous depths of desperation and anguish filled the word.
For a moment, Dewn looked down and away from the image of his sister on the screen. A tremor touched his clasped hands behind his back. Taking a deep breath he looked back up at her. “No,” he said. “I worked long and hard to get you out of the way. To be rid of you, and your incessant achievements. Always telling me how much of a disappointment I was to father and mother. Now I will be the one who makes them smile, and I will be the inheriter of everything. I will rise with your fall. No longer will I be eclipsed.”
Betrayal completely gutted Seltaria, like someone stabbed a knife into her pelvis and split her up the center to her ribcage. She almost lost her footing, but Cepta easily supported her weight. She cried out in utter despair, wretched and lost. The salt of her tears stung her facial wounds, and she trembled all over. A couple of burly thugs came and grabbed the weeping woman, laughing as they dragged her away.
The image refocused on Cepta as he stepped forward once more. He was about to say something else, a final reminder about payment when he looked beyond Va’nel seeing something he did not expect. A wail erupted from the balconey behind Dewn and the capsuleer. The screen went dark for a few seconds with the words Signal Terminated displayed. Then the reflection in the black mirror revealed the source of the outcry.
Slowly turning, blood draining from his face, Dewn looked up at a woman and her attendants. The horror, grief, and rage in the woman’s features shifted and twisted into one another with absolute, drastic delineation.
Swallowing heavily, Dewn meekly spoke a single word. “Mother?”