Relativity I

Love. A pathetic emotion held together by the bleeding heartstrings of poets and novelists, of artists and actors, of those of no consequence. To fall in love was to sound one’s own death knell, to extinguish ambition, and to blunt a sharpened mind. And he could see the longing eating away at her. And now? Lord Reginald would be returning soon and with him would come the strength of the regular army. Without the kameiras and with DENT still operational, they would have no chance. And where was Naomi?

Crying over her super-soldier lover.

Ezekiel had wasted precious hours in his bid to get the kameiras back to the Holding, hours that could have been spent forcing untitled family members into supporting the cabal. With Naomi essentially defunct, the situation called for his leadership. He had sworn to make her the Holder of the Sakakibara Family once and for all, from there to take revenge on Lady Eliana for branding her as a “whore’s spawn.” He could not let all of their hard work be in vain.

And that is why he was dressed in black, wearing a nondescript mask, approaching Naomi’s private bedchambers. That was why he had had his subordinates sabotage the weapon Naomi kept with her. That was why he had cleared Naomi’s floor of staff and secured the entrances to prevent any interruptions. That was why some things could not be left to chance. They were at a precipice–it would be either death or victory.

He neared the doorway, prepared entirely for the delicate act he had to perform. He had a surgeon’s touch–careful, calculated, steady. He inched himself towards the door, placing his hand on the handle. Only a few more minutes until he could enter unnoticed. Just a little longer.

That was when his boot tapped against the door. He froze. A childish error for a person with no motor skills–a simple mistake, but one that could prove costly. The seconds ticked by.

He heard Naomi’s voice, “… Apologies. I was just… startled.”

He let out a sigh of relief, closing his eyes in gratitude to the Almighty. He heard Alexa’s voice in response, “Are you armed?”

“It feels foreign to me,” He could hear her drag the weapon across a wooden surface, probably a desk, so that she could show the device to Alexa.

“I know, my love. It will help you, though.”

Of course it wouldn’t. But neither of them knew that. Only he knew that. The ones who had planted it had suffered accidents and were no longer with the living.

“I was so scared in the parlor,” Naomi referred to how she dispatched Ashessa, “It must’ve been the adrenaline rather than me.”

“I hate feeling that I’ve been ordered to leave you defenseless.”

He continued to wait. The subject of their conversation was irrelevant, but as long as they were talking, time was on his side.

“The family’s official security has been bolstered, but how many of them are DENT operatives, I know not.”

“He,” Alexa referred to Lord Reginald, “Should know better than to disregard such an obvious breach of security.”

At any minute now, Naomi would be losing consciousness due to a substance slipped into her tea, designed to ease her into a gentle slumber. To Alexa, Naomi would simply be falling asleep.

“Still, my brother knows best doesn’t he?” Naomi responded with some sarcasm. Ezekiel almost cursed–her mental capacity should have been overwhelmed with a sense of exhaustion.

“Of course he does. I’m just bitter,” There was a pause, then, “Have you been eating well?”

Naomi giggled at the ridiculous question, “There are some meals I’ve skipped. The private security have insisted on replacing my cook.”

Ezekiel grit his teeth. So there was no substance. All of the preparation had been for nothing. Naomi wouldn’t be falling asleep any time soon. He backed away from the door slightly, already beginning to plot his next move.

“Well, they are at least cautious.”

“Sleep, on the other hand…” Naomi trailed off.

Ezekiel returned to his position. Of course. There was no reason to cause Naomi to drop into an artificial slumber. She was terrified of DENT operatives that did not exist in the staff. She was sleepless. Restless. Constantly awake simply because she was frightened. Perhaps the situation could be salvaged. He placed his hand back on the door handle and waited.

“I wish I could be there,” Alexa sighed.

“I wish that, too.”

Love again.

“Has Lord Sakakibara returned yet?”

“Not yet. Nor has Lady Sakakibara.”

“I see. Are they well?”

“We haven’t been in regular contact,” Naomi replied, “I would assume they have been enjoying themselves on their honeymoon.”

Ezekiel smirked. Even exhausted and terrified, Naomi could still find ways to insult her older brother and his new wife.

“I’m sorry… I’m… so tired.”

Ezekiel pricked his ears. It was almost time.

“Go and rest, my love. I will be here.”

Finally, a good suggestion.

“I can’t… it’s… scary to sleep.”

“I know, but you will not be in any fit state to defend yourself if you fall over from exhaustion.”

“You’re right…” Naomi’s voice began to drag, “I…”

Perfect. He waited a few minutes to hear the sound of the feed disconnecting before he slipped into the room and took a position behind Naomi.

He tapped into his comms link and said succinctly, “Begin.”

Naomi’s neocom was accessed from a remote terminal controlled by cabal members, who immediately began re-dialing Alexa de’Crux’s private line. With the proper voice distortions, proxies, and encryption in place, Ezekiel took on his new favorite persona: L.

“Miss de’Crux,” He said as the neocom link was re-established.

Alexa sat up, “L, I presume?”

“We haven’t spoken in a while.”

“What do you want?”

“I want you to know that Miss Sakakibara is being looked after quite well in your absence.”

It had to begin with taunts. He aimed to infuriate her. To cause her emotions to run wild and back to the Holding. He didn’t need her so much as he needed her kameiras. There was still time to complete the assault on the DENT fortress. He would have to act quickly once they arrived as well as convince Naomi to find a way to restrain her lover cede overall command to their combat specialists.

“If you hurt her…”

He cut her off with a laugh, “She’ll hurt herself before we do. The pistol she has will misfire as soon as she pulls the trigger.”

“You bastard.”

“And in case that doesn’t work,” He said matter-of-factly, though it didn’t truly matter with voice distortion software, “We have myriad other accidents planned for her.”

“When I find you, it won’t be an ‘accident’ that kills you.”

He continued, as if he were ignoring her, “My personal favorite involves her at the bottom of the lake. How tragic that she would take her own life in such a manner.”

Alexa growled, “This is game that you do not want to play.”

“Her life is in our hands, Miss de’Crux. And now that we control her, we’ve safely guaranteed Lord Sakakibara his title.”

He could see it in her eyes. The rage. The anger. The hatred. And then it happened–she glanced off camera. Absolutely tremendous. She would be making a return.

“What… do you want?” Alexa asked.

Ezekiel smiled–he’d go after the next precious thing to Alexa after Naomi, “We’ve taken many casualties as a result of your kameiras, Miss de’Crux.”

“A shame we keep missing each other, isn’t it?”

“Blood for blood. Flesh for flesh.”

“Come here, I’ll take all of both,” She disappeared off camera again, then reappeared–this time with a rifle slung over her shoulder and with a go-bag packed with enough ammunition for a small army.

“We want a line of your kameiras. On their knees. Blindfolded. We’ll send you the coordinates. One for each casualty.”

“Why don’t you show yourself, and see how well they kneel to scum like you?”

“And then we can put this entire thing behind us and you can forget about Miss Sakakibara, like the good slave-soldier you are.”

“I have a counter-off, L,” She growled, “You come here, and I rip your head off and shove it up your ass.”

He laughed.

“How cute. You think I’m joking.”

Yes. She was seething. Now, for the coup de grace. She had only seen a blackened screen that concealed what was happening in the room. He gave the order to lift it, revealing him standing behind Naomi–wearing dark colors and a nondescript mask. Alexa froze immediately.

“We have access to her at any time,” He walked towards Naomi’s, brushing a lock from her forehead to accentuate his point, “We could strip her naked. Humiliate her. Torture her. Do you want that, Miss de’Crux?”

“That’s not the question you should be asking.”

“A line of your kameiras. One for each casualty.” He sent her coordinates to a field near the Sakakibara estate, “You will blindfold each one of them yourself, then force them to their knees.”

“You know I can’t give that order.”

“How unfortunate,” He produced a syringe from an inside pocket, holding it menacingly near Naomi.

“Wait!”

“I’m very impatient, Miss de’Crux,” Ezekiel said truthfully, “What do you have to say?”

“L. I can’t ask my men to surrender. It would be against every code we follow. Is there anything else I can exchange?”

He thought on his feet, a new scenario forming quickly, “Two shuttles will be made available to you. The first one will have the men you will pick. The second will be for your observation. The first shuttle will be disintegrated upon entry.”

It was melodramatic, but perhaps just enough to push Alexa over the edge.

“So that’s how we’re going to play this. Hardball.”

“We’ll save some of the ashes for you,” He added, referring to a closely-guarded secret among kameiras.

“Before you commit to this, you want to consider something. All of the people that put Naomi in danger–all of the moles, and spies, and secret infiltrators… What happened to them, when they made me angry?” Alexa asked before terminating the transmission.

All he could do was keep himself from bursting out into maniacal laugh. This was too perfect. Her delivery had sent shivers up and down his spine. She was coming back to the Holding and she would drench it in blood.

There was hope yet for Naomi Sakakibara’s cause.

Parry and Riposte III

L nursed a bloody scratch on his upper arm. He had been careless in the face of de’Crux’s damnable kameiras in a rearguard action as the last DENT listening post within thirty miles of the Sakakibara estate was overrun. DENT operatives were trained in subterfuge, in operating as a secret police force and intelligence wing to bolster local military and police units–not as frontline combatants. They had been a poor match for kameiras throughout de’Crux’s stay in Myyhera, the body count climbing increasingly high as they were hunted down with prejudice at Naomi’s behest.

He leaned against the stone wall of a tunnel, adjusting the bandages on his upper arm as they were slowly unraveling. He fumbled at them with frustrated grunts, the dim light of the underground chamber contributing little to any hope of success. He was growing tired of running from the kameiras, though his hands were essentially tied. As long as Lord Reginald was on honeymoon, the military could not move against the Lady Steward of the Sakakibara Family, even as loyalists cowered before her in their own mansions with private security staff. It was a messy state of affairs, especially in that it was an arena that L was unfamiliar: Open warfare.

Another DENT agent emerged from the darkness, offering her dexterity to L’s bandages. He glanced over to her–he knew her as Alianne, a severe-looking women whose hair was tied into a tight bun behind her head. She fluently spoke the major languages of New Eden and had conversational expertise in a number of lesser dialogues. Her record was essentially spotless. Perhaps, if one didn’t consider the debacle in Sharhelund, where she had resigned her commission directly to Lord Reginald himself. Fortunately, L had seen her skills for what they were worth, offering her an administrative position in DENT.

There were few of her caliber left in the organization.

“They’ve cleared the last of the decoy houses in the city,” She mumbled as she reset L’s bandages, “This fortress will be next.”

L nodded, glancing at the make-shift lighting strung along the ceiling of the tunnel they occupied. Watch Point Fortress was constructed millenia before at the mouth of the renamed Imperial Bay. The remnants of a stone fortress sat on an island in the middle of the harbor, upon which the reconquering Amarr had placed a strategic installation. Now in disuse by the military, it had become a DENT stronghold, its furthest from the Sakakibara estate and, at least in L’s mind, the hardest one for the kameiras to find.

He shook his head as he spat a curse, “How many do we have here?”

Alianne finished the bandaging, “Three dozen. We’ll have twice that if the teams left in the Holding reach here without getting intercepted.”

L thrust his fist against the ancient stone wall, cursing again. Protocols and safeguards were being neutralized faster than he could process. Seventy-two men at the most remained out of the entire DENT network, not including informants and other assets useless in combat.

He mutters beneath his breath, “We’ll have to make a stand, here.”

Alianna nearly gasped, her demeanor flickering, “It’ll be a massacre.”

“We have the tunnels…”

“Which we have barely mapped out.”

“The passageways are narrow…”

“They’ll be mass graves.”

L turned to look at Alianna. This was the first time he had seen her so fearful. Her breathing seemed shallow, as if she expected L would strike her for contesting his thoughts. If he was honest with himself, the thought had flashed through his mind briefly. But he understood why she was afraid. This was the first time DENT had ever faced utter destruction.

He took a deep breath, straightening himself and allowing his long, dark coat fluttering around his shins, “What do you propose?”

Alianne shook her head, “Surrender.”

L spat back, “I’m not going to grovel before that whores’ spawn.”

Alianne sighed, “We’re outgunned and with Naomi’s cabal backing them, we’re outnumbered. We need a mobilization to regain control of the Holding.”

“… And Lord Reginald in doing God knows what in Messoya,” L finished, biting his lip angrily.

He wished that he didn’t show so much emotion before his subordinates, but the times were desperate. Multiple supply depots had been destroyed, checkpoints overrun, listening posts and guard stations gone dark.

He looked back towards Alianne, “How much time until they arrive?”

“Our projections put them at T minus two hours before the assault on the installation begins,” Alianne responded parsimoniously.

L nodded, suddenly becoming pensive. He refused to back down, but he knew that morale was dangerously low.

“All right,” L said, making it sound like he was relenting, “I’ll make the broadcast from the control room.”

Alianne breathed a sigh of relief, “Thank you, sir.”

Their journey to the control room was largely quiet. The pair passed by nervous DENT operatives, most of whom were untrained to fight against professional soldiers, let alone multi-billion ISK super-soldiers. He couldn’t bear to look at them, the wounded survivors from perimeter stations and checkpoints–the shattered remains of a once-proud network.

The control room was tense. After a few silent salutes, the operatives managing the communications frequencies looked over to L, wondering what message he had for them out of the impossible choice: Surrender or suicide?

He walked over to a microphone, but just as he was about to give justifications for why they should throw their lives away, his neocom blinked.

He glanced down at the curt message:

“Broadcasting On All Military and Police Channels. Code Green Authorized, Authentication: Ultra. Initiate Archangel Protocol. – R” 

He spun around, thrusting the neocom into Alianne’s hands, “Verify the algorithm.”

After a few tense moments, she finally breathed a response, “Legitimate.”

L grabbed the microphone, the sudden motion causing feedback to echo through the last DENT stronghold, “The coup ends today.”