Victory Denied

He couldn’t remember how he had returned to his quarters at Cerra Manor. He slumped against the door, staring into his sparse apartments. He ran his gaze over his spartan belongings–a practice fencing outfit sitting as a suit of armor may have stood at Mercy’s Keep, a family blade perched precariously next to it within the glass case, a tea set for visitors, a sofa and cushioned seats for entertaining guests, and a writing desk that faced the sea. He let his eyes fall onto his writing desk. He sat down on the chair, looking out through the open balcony doors to the night sky. He started penning a letter to Katerina.

“Dearest Kat,

Huola is liberated…”

He stared at the last few words, then crumpled up the page and threw it to a wall. He knocked the rest of his papers onto the floor, pencils and pens rolling across them with their metallic and wooden scrapes. He looked down at the mess. He could hear voices, slowly bubbling out of the depths of memory. He crouched over the fallen papers and started to draw.

I would go and call dear Regi here a Raider, I do believe he was sacrificing humans earlier..am I wrong?

The image in his mind was simple–a triumphant 24th Imperial Crusade fleet over the Infrastructure Hub in Huola. The combined firepower had been awe-inspiring. He started outlining a Navy Issue Apocalypse. After he completed the battleship, he started drawing the Infrastructure Hub, stealth bomber wings pummeling it with an endless stream of torpedoes. He added in the fighters provided by long-range carrier support. When he finished his handiwork, he was surprised to see a Fenrir-class freighter warping into the fray. Yes, that’s how he remembered it.

Smuggling isn’t my thing Luna, Regi’s just trying to hide his sympathies for the Sabik, sacrifice is up our street after all. 

But no, it had not stayed intact. He set upon it with erasers and cracked the freighter in half, Crusader forces carrying out execution and decommission orders. The freighter was carrying Republic Fleet hulls–weapons of war used in the occupation of Huola. Their masters and pilots–Freedom Fighters–were also present, already having been sentenced to die. But there has also been slaves.

You can’t deny how good you felt Reginald, the pump of adrenaline as you gave their lives in His glory.

He tried to ignore the freighter for a moment, turning to a fresh section of the strewn papers, drawing more scenes on the edges of the overlapping pile of sheets. He tried to draw the jubilant victors of Huola–the Crusaders, as he envisioned how they would look on the bridges of their ships, of the Golden Fleet victorious. Though, the faces he drew were not exactly joyful. There was only one word that could describe their expressions. Bloodlust.

I don’t follow servents… or did Regi kill your family on that freighter, you’re so tense. 

The horror that unfolded in the aftermath of the freighter’s destruction, as realization swept through the fleet. No. Horror wasn’t the right word to characterize most of the Crusade’s response. Indifference? Joy? They had celebrated. They hadn’t cared that slaves were aboard that freighter. There had been a few that had gone to the wreck to save who and what they could. He had been among them, sifting through debris and trying to attend to the scorched faces of the survivors, the cries of children, the last few gasps of the elderly. A sea of charred flesh, agony, and crushed limbs. He drew it all beneath the fleet at the Infrastructure Hub, a crowd of living corpses emerging from the freighter. The darkness of the Fenrir’s hulk housing throngs of survivors as they were escorted onto Imperial vessels. Screams of pain and anguish–they were getting louder.

Accept what you are Regi, the Sabik will toast to your name tonight.

It was his corporation that was responsible for clearing the paperwork. His corporation was the one that had received approval for the execution of Freedom Fighters, of enemies of God and the Empire. His corporation had decided that a mass execution would send a message to the Republic that their rebellion, their uprising was finally over.

But he couldn’t dwell on that! He reached for additional pencils and tried to draw the future of the Crusade. He drew the Golden Fleet warping towards the North, to finally take the rest of the warzone and end an endless war. He drew an Armageddon–sleek, golden, vindictive, escorted by a number of Imperial Navy Slicers. But the screaming would not cease.

My Father was a Holder yes. His Father before him, and so on. My Father was also, in private, a ‘prince’ among the Sani Sabik.

He had reached for colored pencils at some point, finishing his touches on the future of the Crusade. He finally raised himself off of the ground to check his handiwork. He dropped his writing utensils as he took in the sight. It sat before him, writhing amid the fleet and pulsating with heresy. The Armageddon had become a Bhaalgorn. And yet, the screaming had become quieter. He returned to the Bhaalgorn with an eraser, slowly erasing out the red blotches. But as the Bhaalgorn slowly became an Armageddon once more, the screams returned with a vengeance.

“I’m surprised no one wanted this room.”

“It used to belong to someone.” 

He gripped his head as he started mixing Cruors into the mix of Imperial Navy Vessels. Each one zooming into the North, towards Minmatar space, towards fresh victims. But where the Bhaalgorn seemed to have mitigated the screams entirely, the Cruors were only slight reprieves. He wanted the voices to go away, entirely. He added in a wing of Ashimmus–the stuff of legendary nightmares throughout the Empire and beyond. But it seemed like the voices were telling him something.

There wasn’t quite enough red.

“It did? Does this room come with a story?” 

“Yeah, I guess. It belonged to my Father, when he was younger. I guess it took me a while to clean his stuff out.” 

He took out all of his red colored pencils. Shades of brick, maroon, crimson, among other rufescent hues. He shaded the color directly onto each of the Blood Raider hulls, even going so far as to add the reds to the 24th Imperial Crusade’s ships. After all, didn’t all capsuleers have blood on their hands? He was both the observer and the performer as the Golden Fleet he had started with transformed into a fleet of Red, some ships caught in metamorphosis between the two colors–one Armageddon caught between maintaining its Imperial roots and giving in entirely to the marvel of becoming a Bhaalgorn.

It wasn’t enough. Not enough red, the voices were telling him. He tried drawing the stars above Huola–corpses falling out of the grim sky, a shower of victims’ blood to coat the triumphant at the Infrastructure Hub. But nothing was quite red enough.

“Does this room bother you?” 

“No. With his things gone, it doesn’t feel the same. And as you move your things in, and decorate the walls with your drawings, then the energy will really change.”

Clink.

He turned his attention to the source of the sound. Of course. It had fallen out of place. A family saber. One that he had practiced with as a child. He clambered over to it and pulled it out of the case, leaving his fencing outfit unarmed. He rolled back a sleeve, then placed the cutting edge directly against his bare skin. He hoped that it wasn’t dull. The voices were deafening.

He needed the red.

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