Reginald stared down at his neocom, half-expecting against all hope that there would actually be a reply. He should’ve known better. Aside from the fact he was essentially estranged from his ex-wife Katerina, there was also the little inconvenient fact that she was deployed in the far north, waging war against the Imperium. Even if she had loved him and missed him desperately, she would’ve been precluded from acquiescing to his request. All the same, she could have found time to respond.
He sighed heavily as he swiped his finger across the neocom screen, shutting off the device. He set the miniature communications array onto the seat next to him as he stared at the ceiling, trying to make sense of the mire of impossibilities, with which God had saw fit to inundate him. He clenched his fist for a moment, hoping to draw the dull emptiness inside of him away with the sensation of fingernails digging into skin; the sharp pain was only momentary, hardly enough for his thoughts to be broken–thoughts he wished he would stop concentrating upon.
It had been scarcely a week since he had received a message from his mother, Eliana. It had been curt, if cordial. Buried underneath the traditional circumlocutions that were painted across messages between Amarrian nobility, lay the simple sentence:
“Lady Rebecca’s parents have been found.”
Of course it had been impossible for Reginald to believe. His half-sister, Naomi, had seen to their demises personally. Yet, perhaps she had failed to have been as thorough as she had claimed. Rebecca’s parents had disappeared in Saikamon nearly a year prior, tasked with overseeing the complex of reaction towers that had been providing a steady stream of income for Reginald’s former corporation, Heart of Pyerite. But those towers had been far from secure–likely due to his half-sister eroding the secure infrastructure that had been placed not only by DENT operatives but also by the Sakakibara family.
That was how a number of upstart slaves had overpowered the security personnel even in Reginald’s presence.
But though the story around the towers had been shrouded in half-truths and redacted files, the bodies of Rebecca’s parents had never been recovered. Most had assumed it was because they had been jettisoned through an airlock into the vacuum of the lowsec system.
According to the report that Eliana had included with the message, however, the true story was far more harrowing. Orion and his wife, Avara had managed to elude Naomi’s strike teams before the power throughout their starbase was shut off completely. Although Naomi’s teams had managed to infiltrate and neutralize most of the starbase’s defenses, they were unable to disengage the starbase’s emergency beacon. A passing Sisters of Eve transport answered the distress signal, which Orion and Avara managed to board right under the noses of Naomi’s guards. Their journey had not been an easy one, especially since the transport had passed through the warzone instead of entering the safety of Imperial high security space. Their sojourn through the Bleak Lands, Devoid, Heimatar, and Metropolis was one filled with overcrowded passenger areas, poor living conditions, and a general inability to contact the family for fear of Naomi’s shadows closing in upon them. Instead, they took on the mantle of humanitarian aid workers, providing what relief they could to the civilian victims of the great battles and campaigns of YC116.
When the vessel docked in Saikamon at the end of its yearly circuit, they were greeted by members of Eliana’s personal bodyguard. There, they were informed that while Naomi’s organization had been extensive, it had been dismantled by a combination of efforts by Imperial authorities, DENT operatives, and the efforts of Lord Reginald Sakakibara. Overjoyed, they were welcomed back to Myyhera by Eliana herself.
That, however, had done little to comfort Reginald.
Their shuttle had been hovering around Myyhera IV, awaiting clearance to make an approach. His niece, Rebecca, was fast asleep. Space travel was always hard on children–their still-developing skeletons responded poorly to zero-gravity environments. Even with artificial gravity, Reginald was still overprotective of her. He still thought of her as his own daughter, his ward that he had taken in by Katerina’s request. Although the soon-to-be six year-old would never know it, she reminded him of everything that could have and should have been.
He gently brushed away several strands of hair that had fallen across her face. It had been Katerina who had offered the little girl permanent sanctuary. And they had been a family, hadn’t they? Katerina had joined Rebecca on her riding lessons, he had taught her fencing and art, the three of them had gone on excursions. They had shared laughter and a future of bright possibilities despite the tragedies that had bedecked them all.
And he had ruined it all. How fitting it was for God to take her away.
There was a beep, the captain’s voice resonated over the PA system, and the shuttle began its descent.
“That’s far enough, my lord,” The guard said as he raised a palm up to the height of Reginald’s chest.
Reginald stopped abruptly, then looked down at the ground. Drawn across the landing pad was a thick red line. It seemed fresh, as if it had been painted with him in mind. Though there were no signs to indicate anything, he knew what it symbolized. His side of the line was the interstellar zone governed by CONCORD and other intergovernmental entities that provided the laws and regulations to capsuleers and other spacefaring parties. The other side of the line was the Amarr Empire, specifically, his home Holding in Myyhera IV–the Holding that Katerina, during her brief regency, had decreed he was exiled from.
He held Rebecca’s hand tightly as he waited on his side of the line. There was little more he could do except stand as Rebecca’s guardian, while the little girl looked up at him and continually asked him questions as to what was going on. He clutched a teddy bear with her free arm to her chest–a gift bestowed upon her by Literia Khammael. She never left home without it. After all, it was her favorite good luck charm. Reginald smiled at his niece’s innocence, brushing his thumb against the back of her hand reassuringly.
Two lines of guards flanked a carpet, which terminated in a gaggle of nobles, Holding media professionals, and a much smaller number of wealthy commoners. Rebecca regarded them carefully, recognizing many, though she was still uncertain as to why she had been brought to the landing pad. That was when the crowd parted to reveal Orion and Avara, dressed in the colors of a branch family of the Sakakibara noble line. But they could have wore potato sacks–Rebecca let go of her teddy bear and bolted towards them the moment she recognized their faces.
Reginald scarcely had enough time to say good-bye when Rebecca let go of his hand without an afterthought, rushed across the carpet, and leaped into her parents’ waiting arms. Tears streamed down all of their faces–the heartfelt reunion set against a backdrop of politely applauding nobility and camera drones. He was speechless. Well, that wasn’t entirely true. He had prepared a speech. He had thought of all of the words he had wanted to tell her, all of the wisdom he had wished to impart, and most of all, his words of love. But what good were words against a father’s embrace? A mother’s kiss?
Reginald felt his lip quiver at the sight of the reunited family. It was the opposite image of his own marriage in myriad ways. Their marriage had been strengthened by trial and tribulation; his had disintegrated. They were now a full family again; his was shattered. They were together; he was alone.
Wrapped in each others’ arms, the three family members began to walk back down the landing pad, turning their backs to the Holder still governed by CONCORD laws. The media and the nobility filed after them, no doubt to some sort of reception that would have put most commoner celebrations to shame. In the end, he was left to stand on the deserted landing pad with the guard who originally kept him from crossing the red line.
“That’s it?” Reginald felt himself ask stupidly. He looked down to the teddy bear that Rebecca had dropped, stooping down to retrieve it.
“It would seem that way, my lord.”
Reginald almost glared at the guard, but he tempered himself, knowing that he had brought the snide comment upon himself for speaking out loud. But anger did little to quell the rising tide of emptiness and loneliness with which he was so familiar. As he dusted off the teddy bear, forgotten by the little girl he had helped to raise for almost a year, his mind began to superimpose images upon the happy family at the end of the carpet. He imagined himself with Katerina and his son Oberyn, each successive step heavier and more exhausting than the last.
Once he was on the shuttle, he collapsed into his seat and reached for his neocom.
He was tired of the feeling. Of the loneliness. Of the emptiness. Of the pain.
He jotted out a short note to the person with whom he had ruined his marriage:
“My Dearest Lady Lianne,
I wish to take up the offer of the clone in Egghelende.
Your humble servant,
He let the neocom drop to the floor once the message was sent. The screen cracked once it hit the floor. It, like many other things in Regnald’s life, entered into his broken existence. But why did any of that matter now? All he could feel was the shiver of engulfing sadness as the shuttle roared out of the atmosphere and into space.