Parry and Riposte II

Ezekiel Nayot scratched his nose as he turned a corner into Naomi’s apartments, the servants parting before him as if he were an angry bull. The order to pull the kameiras away had shocked the cabal to its core. Soemhow, information was reaching Reginald and his new wife Katerina, despite every attempt made to put them in a communications blackout during their honeymoon. Work needed to be done to shore up the remnants of loyalists while DENT licked its wounds on the fringes of the Holding. The job shouldn’t have been as difficult as it was–most of DENT’s safehouses had been compromised during de’Crux’s tenure and the cabal was more than capable of neutralizing political threats stemming from the lesser nobility. The challenge arose from their leader–Naomi Sakakibara.

He knocked on the open door to Naomi’s quarters, only to be greeted with a languid, “It’s open.” He shuddered as he stepped inside, to see the noblewoman he served with absolute dedication removed to a state of despair. She was staring out of one of the open windows, its drapes fluttering with an afternoon breeze.

“We have a problem,” He started, noting that she didn’t even bother to turn around to look at him.

There were, in fact, many problems, but the biggest was the one sitting in front of him. She was becoming lax, careless, and dare he he even think it, depressed. If she had been any other person, at any other time, he would not have cared for her in the slightest. But to see one come so far, to have victory within their grasp, only to pause on the cusp of triumph, was more than enough to evoke a sense of rage. It was all a waste–the dozens that had been killed, their preparations, the fact that the Holding was simply ripe for the taking. And yet she paused.

“She’s gone,” Naomi murmured, her small frame sitting with the poise of a noblewoman but with none of the conviction.

“Yes,” He replied, somewhat annoyed that she didn’t even care to listen to his previous concern.

“I miss her.”

“We know.”

He was beginning to lose his patience. This was the danger of relationships, of falling in love. It was the demise of the brilliant, the death of those with the potential to change history, the doom of even the strongest willed. Love was a disease. Like a cancer it spread throughout every cell until each waking moment was dedicated to the worship of another person. It killed ambition. It ended drive. And it whittled at even the sharpest minds.

Love was fatal.

“Do you think I’ll ever see her again?”

Tightening his hands into fists, he whisked over to in front of her. His teeth clenched, he released one hand and brought it hard against Naomi’s cheek. The resounding sound of flesh striking flesh echoed through Naomi’s bedchamber. Naomi’s face turned into a kaleidoscope of emotion and in the twists and contortions, he searched for the woman he had followed for so long. At first there was surprise, then the tears of pain, then frustration, then anger, then finally outrage.

She rose from her seat and barked at him, “What do you think you’re doing?”

He stood his ground, looking down at her imperiously, “Waking you up.”

It took a moment for his words to reflect properly in Naomi’s gray eyes, her short black hair made slightly unkempt by his action. She looked around the room, as if awakening from a dream, the realization of placing her entire operation in jeopardy.

She took a deep breath, spending only a few moments to rub the side of her cheek before nodding, “Thank you.”

Doctor Nayot’s lips smirked into a smile, “My pleasure.”

“What did you want to tell me?”

Nayot pulled out his neocom. After entering a series of passwords to get through the encryptions, he showed Naomi a message.

“We intercepted this manifest this morning.”

Naomi peered at the blue screen, her eyes widening at the realization.

“How long do we have?”

“Two days at best.”

She bit her lip, her eyes ablaze with the cunning he had come to known her for. He could only pray that her mind hadn’t been softened by her infatuation with de’Crux, their public displays of affection doing little to solidify Naomi’s grasp on the Holding. She needed to return to her old self.

Lord Reginald was coming home.

Parry and Riposte I

Information bleeding into their honeymoon had been little more than a cacophony of disparate voices vying for attention, and piecing it all together was overwhelming his neocom. Dozens of messages from lesser nobles from his Holding, dispatches from DENT, personal requests from members of the staff–all swirled together into a pool of words. Yet, they were all united with a single demand: Action.

He glanced over to the sleeping form of Katerina, clad in a silken nightgown. She slept with a peaceful expression, tempting Reginald to join her in the tranquility. Turning his mind back to the matter at hand, he wondered at the proper solution. A full DENT empowerment supported by the local Imperial regiment would surely be enough to brush aside de’Crux’s cadre of kameiras. But no, he would not choose bloodshed, especially in a conflict that was garnering much public attention. Sighing heavily, he returned to his neocom, scrolling for the personal information of Lunarisse Aspenstar of the Societas Imperialis Sceptri Coronaeque. He would simply go over de’Crux’s head.

He walked into an adjoining room, closing the door so as to not disturb Katerina. Though they were bound by holy matrimony, he was wary to have her entangled in family affairs to soon, though her solution to have Ashessa appointed as an overseer of sorts had embroiled her in the internal dispute, with or without her knowledge. All the same, ignorance is bliss.

He settled onto a chair, then, trying to clear the perturbed expression from his face, opened the communications link. It took only a moment before Lunarisse Aspenstar responded. She was an example to all Amarr despite lacking a noble heritage, so much so that she had been named the Amarrian Capsuleer of the Year for YC 116. She commanded respect that few people would come close to possessing a tenth of in their lifetimes, and it was directly to her he would make his appeal. Her image flickered to life–a woman of golden hair and noble demeanor.

“Lady Aspenstar, I have recently been informed that Alexa de’Crux and a unit of kameira have occupied my estate in Myyhera. Did you authorize her relocation, because I certainly didn’t request it.”

Lunarisse blinked, “I have not authorized her to occupy an Estate in Myyhera.  SFRIM does have offices in that system so it is on her usual route for her security rounds.” She added, “What do you mean by ‘occupy’?”

He responded carefully, lest the wider Empire begin to focus its attention on his Holding, “She went on about some sort of investigation she was conducting and that she needed more time. However, her presence is militarizing my family’s grounds. I’ve been informed that armed kameira patrol the grounds and the hallways of my manor, with an armed guard present outside of my sister’s private chambers.””

“She would need your consent of course, or the consent of one authorized to do so in your absence,” Lunarisse stated, “Who would need to provide such authority?”

He answered truthfully, “”She indicated that she was acting on the personal request of my Steward–my sister Naomi.”

“Would that be sufficient?” She queried.

He ignored the question, pressing on, “However, as the staff is becoming increasingly nervous, I would like to override her request and make one to you that Miss de’Crux’s services are no longer required and that she pull her forces off of my Holding.”

She nodded, “I assume your sister’s Stewardship does not override your authority? I am not privy to your familiy’s powers of attorney and such….”

“Absolutely not,” He felt himself becoming defensive, “I will certainly need to speak to her regarding proper protocols. But needless to say, a militarized presence of that magnitude is ridiculous, as my family’s private security forces are more than sufficient.”

Lunarisse looked displeased, “I will ask Miss de’Crux to withdraw.”

“Excellent, thank you very much for your cooperation, Lady Aspenstar.”

“Have a good evening, Sir.”

“I should also inform you that I will be conducting my own investigation as to why she deployed to my estate in the first place…” He trailed off, realizing his faux pas.

“You already know that. Your sister asked her to. Although I think you and your sister need to talk.”

His expression darkened, as if upset that an outsider would presume to dictate something as intimate as how he treated his family. He smiled a court-pressed smile, “I assure you, my lady, that all necessary steps are being taken.”

He recovered, smiling brightly, “At any rate, thank you very much for your time. Additionally, Lady Sakakibara and I wish to congratulate you for obtaining the Amarrian Capsuleer of the Year Award. We could think of no better candidate, myself included.”

“Thank you,” She responded softly, “Have a good night, sir.”

“Likewise,” He smiled as he terminated the transmission, his smile fading as quickly as the soft glow of the screen.

Removing de’Crux would allow DENT to restrain any of Naomi’s excesses, though he was still unsure as to what those excesses were. He quieted a fear at the back of his mind as he returned to his newly-wed wife, slipping beneath the covers. As he placed an arm protectively around her, he shook off the feeling.

As he closed his eyes, joining his beloved in slumber, a voice said softly from the recesses of his thoughts, “You’ve been gone for too long.”