The Hollow Sound of Forgiveness I

Tuomuta IX

Reginald stared mindlessly at a peeling painting opposite to him. He imagined that at one time it had been an imposing portrait of some relatively important Holder on the planet, bedecked in the golden finery and pearl ornaments that were perennial to the ruling class. For the flicker of a moment, it made him self-conscious of his own attire: the flight suit that lacked insignia, a lapel bereft of the colored ribbons and decorations of past campaigns, and a generic neocom rather than an alliance-access one.

To be a pilot without an alliance was akin to being adrift in an incomprehensible sea of intrigue: to hear without context, to see without chronology, to know without completion. It was to be aware while helpless, like a diver at the mercy in a cloud of sharks. And yet into that most volatile of vortexes, she had reached out to him.

Katerina.

It was a short yet secure message, scarcely longer than a Scope News Network ticker tape broadcast. It mentioned very little about her specifically, only that matters required attending. However, the message included the coordinates of their son. His son. A baby boy Reginald had held twice.

“Lord Reginald?”

Reginald blinked away the glassiness from his eyes before looking up at the speaker. She was a mature woman dressed in the simple habit of an Amarrian sister. Tuomuta, located on the edge of the active Amarr-Minmatar warzone, was no stranger to refugees requiring medical assistance. Furthermore, the stream was so constant and so voluminous that it was easy to slip into it without being noticed. Without an alliance’s security to turn to, care and tact were required in much greater quantities.

“How is he?” Reginald stood up, then immediately faltered.

The sister started and placed her hands on his shoulder and arm, “Please, my lord, sit. You’ve not been attended to.”

Reginald tried to jerk his arm away, staring at the woman intense annoyance, “How is my son?”

The sister didn’t back down, “Sit. My lord.”

Reginald bit back a scathing remark, then returned to his chair. His leg throbbed with pain, but he tried not to focus on it. His nails dug into his palms as he grit his teeth, expecting an answer.

Once he was seated, the sister relented, “He’ll be fine, my lord. Just a few minor scratches.”

Reginald breathed a sigh of relief, “When can I see him?”

“Once you’ve been examined.”

He shook his head, “There’s no time. I have to be on my way. Besides, this body is just a clone.”

“My lord, it’s obvious to me that you care little for you own physical well-being, but for your son’s sake, rest! Even empyreans have limits when it comes to mental fatigue.”

In truth, he hadn’t slept much. Why would someone like him even deserve rest? He hated who he was. The failure of a husband and a father, with nothing to show for his efforts for the last year. He was an alcoholic and his main conversational companion had been the ghostly apparition of a holo-projection known as “Red.” No alliance. Few friends.

“I just want him to be safe.”

“He will be, my lord. Especially if you rest. Now, is there anyone we can contact, anyone you’d like us to reach out to?”

A long moment passed.

“There’s an officer in the militia, a captain in the Praetoria…”