Z was ushering Bella – who was busy eating her cream pies – through one of the large, modernistic and no doubt ergonomically sound corridors of the conference center. The others had all gone to their prearranged functions, no doubt hammering out trade deals and generally doing what he paid them to do. Though Gerad Aromath had already flirted and exchanged numbers with a brunette analyst from the Tonda corporation. Boy that was quick, as long as it didn’t affect business or maybe it could help negotiations.
“C’mon we’re going to be late”, said Z as he hurried down what were no doubt state-of-the-art floor tiles (he was starting get a bit peeved by the blatant displays of wealth and power, of course he’d been to better places, even owning a few himself *cough* *cough*).
“Why are you… so anxious to go some… lectures,” her response was punctuated by frequent pauses as she ate more cream pie “you’re like the… warlord or dictator of an entire… system, I want to sit down and eat”.
Z sighed, “Firstly I’m the military commander-in-chief, the civil decisions are left to the board and planetary authorities. Secondly its important to make a good impression to our hosts and get noticed by all the other delegations, since we’re in a strategically important area who knows what offers might come up from TEC, Advent or Vasari empires?” Z was starting to get nervous discussing this as people were moving past them.
“Mm”, Bella responds noncommittally while chewing. It should be noted by now that Z had all but given up trying to stop her from talking with her mouth full.
“It’s you!” called out a startled but angry female voice from behind.
Z and Bella turn to see a white robed figure marching towards them. On closer inspection it turned out she was an Advent, though looking barely above twenty her face was twisted into an expression of unmistakable fury but it looked like she was alone. Unfortunately it didn’t look like there were any security officers in the vicinity so they were on their own until surveillance picked them up.
“Raosack Zaroday, the Butcher of Galkod” her voice simmered with anger “I’ve waited a long time to meet you”.
“Why hello to you to”, Z said grinning in just the way to aggravate her more, “Who might you be? And where did we last meet?
“You murdered half my family when you exterminated the Galkod system and killed two aunts and a sister when you massacred Advent prisoners of war” rage permeated through her shaking body but it seemed she wasn’t going to attack him in a neutral venue. She continued, “Do you feel satisfied with your crimes when you sleep with that whore?”
Z’s eyes narrowed in anger at the insult to Bella, “Ah… Galkod system, Aphrior Sector, Trader Space, that was nearly five years ago when I was a Rear Admiral. You’re remarkably uninformed though, you must have been out of the system, let me tell you what actually happened”, his suddenly cold voice shocked her into silence as she listened, “I didn’t kill the Advent prisoners since I never took them prisoner, the vacuum killed them for me, when the containment in their escape pods failed”, a choked sound came in response to his words, “I had a smaller fleet than the Advent faction in the sector so I allied with the local Vasari, the D’aum Legion who had a score to settle, I then drew your fleet out and we destroyed it in a combined ambush. Still”, he admitted grudgingly “your people fought well and caused significant losses, since I was in a hurry to invade before word reached Galkod I only picked up my emergency pods and went on, leaving the Advent prisoners for the Vasari. I assume they took some as slaves”, the words didn’t seem to reassure her, “but I later learned they didn’t bother to make a thorough search since their slave holds were almost full so I assume most of your people died”.
His adversary looked on the verge of tears as she pictured the horrible deaths of her aunts and sister. He pushed on relentlessly telling her the truth though taking a guilty satisfaction at her distress. He really disliked Advent for his own personal reasons.
“When I reached Galkod I had very few nukes for planetary bombardment due to an inventory error so I got the Ogrov’s to nail your orbital habitat’s, trade stations, defenses and generally cut of contact with the rest of the Unity”.
“You can’t cut contact with the Unity, Trader bigot” she replied angrily.
“I respectfully disagree”, Z said with a cold smile “when I wiped out most of the food sources I simply waited your people out, I never ‘exterminated’ Galkod or ‘murdered’ your family, starvation did it for me”. Now she was moaning softly at Z’s wretched story, “Though I believe your council was partly to blame, when they heard my fleet couldn’t bombard them into annihilation they thought they could wait for their fleet to return, they sentenced their entire system to starve on the off chance I was lying to them. They foolishly refused to surrender, though I’m probably should have taken time to slow down and take some prisoners to prove it. I never killed them directly, just destroyed the majority of their food, which was in orbital habitats and then firebombed your pitifully few planetary crops and herds. Still your leaders held out for several weeks while common people starved, they kept faith in the unity for deliverance, it didn’t. I stormed a few of the asteroids – your people didn’t fight well on empty belly’s – and waited for the planetary colonies to starve”.
“No… the Advent whispered softly, “You monster, how could you kill them all like that?”
“I didn’t, after two months I still hadn’t been resupplied with nukes due to pirate raids on supply convoys, your council had died in the food riots so I struck a deal with the Vasari, as a gesture of goodwill I let their slavers into the system and they took the remaining survivors as slaves, the D’aum Legion made a killing that day. I heard up to 80 percent of the population starved with the survivors reverting to cannibalism so I reckon I was doing them a favor”.
Z realized in hindsight he shouldn’t have sounded so callous as the woman straightened up paradoxically with a completely serene expression. Z suspected he had pushed her over the edge, beyond anger and still there were no security personnel. Bloody hell Roesh where in the heck was your people? They should have come while Z was busy recounting the story. Then his heart sank, to surveillance cameras it probably looked like a normal conversation instead of a time delaying tactic. The Advent’s eyes narrowed as she concentrated power. A rising headache and a pervasive presence in his mind told him that even if the Advent woman wasn’t fully combat trained she’d get the job done soon, replacing discipline with raw anguish and fury.
The headache turns into a shattering migraine and Z grunts as his hands start shaking. An intellectual part of him notes that the holovid feeds should be picking this up so there should be no doubt as to who was the aggressor. Mostly though, his existence is filled with mind-numbing pain as he relives negative life experiences. In a sick sort of poetic payback she digs up his most painful memories and replays. The detached part of him notes to never again rile up even a halfway powerful Advent to the point of losing her composure, especially when in striking distance.
Flashes… being taken away from everything familiar, the only people he knew… loneliness… learning an art long forgotten, thought obsolete… returning home to find ruins and ashes… hatred… shadows of people once treasured… loathing…
Whether in a fit of quick thinking or panic he never knew. The cream pie found itself plastered on the furious Advent’s face. Concentration broken, she cried out and staggered back. Exhausted, she tried to gasp but was well… impeded by the cream pie, which she quickly shook off.
Z reeled as the attack broke off, the tendrils being suddenly ripped out. Seeing the security personnel rushing in he judged the situation under control. He noticed Bella had already started on the second cream pie though he suspected it could be used as an improvised weapon at a moments notice if the situation deteriorated. The guards collared the Advent and escorted both parties to a security station.
There a supervisor on duty named Anton Rains was informed of what had transpired when he questioned the two of them.
“So it looks like from the holovid feed that she attacked first with a powerful mental attack, are you feeling alright admiral?”
Z nodded, “yeah but I’m a little shaken, is Bella in trouble?”
“Well since it was in self-defense she’s off the hook but didn’t she know that disrupting an invasive mind attack could have been dangerous?”
“Well… I don’t like to talk about it but she has memory and behavioral problems as well as cognitive issues”.
“Oh… okay never mind that then, as long as public order isn’t dierupted”, Rains appeared uncomfortable.
“Anyway, now I’m in contact with the authorities when can I negotiate a trade agreement?” Z was starting to get tired of lectures; he wanted to start with the important matters.
“I think that’s above my pay grade sir, Rains said dryly, “though I’ll send the message up the line, we’ll get back to you soon”.
“So I assume this matter is closed then?” Z queried.
“One last thing, do you want to press charges for the attack?”
“Hmm…” Z grimaced at the memories, “I’d rather like an interview with my assailant if that could be arranged, no one was seriously hurt, and pressing charges would be a misuse of your legal system”.
“Alright sure, that can be arranged”, Rains said gratefully glad that he wasn’t getting more paperwork.
She felt alone, drifting aimlessly. At every moment hating the collar around her neck. It felt wrong. Though she shouldn’t have caused trouble, lost her cool like that. After the 2nd chance she’d gotten and the new life she’d forged in Distant Stars it was the worst way she could have paid back her benefactors. But seeing him again… opened old wounds, the monster responsible for so much destruction grinning like that… seemed wrong. Now, stuck in neutral if not hostile territory what could she do now? She discovered she did not care. Now her mind was confused, in the process of gaining her revenge she’d opened his innermost secrets saw what made him tick and found that they were not so different. It scared her.
The door opened, a Trader stepped in. He asked for her name. Asuya. He went on talking but she didn’t pay attention to him, making noncommittal noises and monosyllable answers. He left. Soon after that, the man she’d loathed for four years stepped in. He was tall, had brown hair under his regulation TEC admirals hat. Cold grey eyes… It was the second she’d seen him in the flesh and it seemed unreal one man could cause much devastation.
“So… Asuya, do you want me to press charges?” He asked carefully.
She looked around, there were guards visible; she couldn’t do anything. At the same time she didn’t want to cause her new people more embarrassment. She shook her head.
“Then tell me”, his hands were pressed onto the desk, those grey cold eyes were staring at her, inscrutable. “How much did you take?”
She was unsure whether to tell the truth or not. But another look into those eyes dissuaded her from deception. “I know why you hate us so much”. Asuya laughed harshly, “its hard to hate someone who hates for the same reason as you do, I wasn’t expecting that when I entered your mind”. She felt sick, “it’s a vicious cycle, you hurt someone and they want to hurt you back”. Asuya felt a strange impulse, “I can help her you know; the damage can be healed”. It astonished her that she wanted to help someone who’d taken so much from her but she wanted some solace. She still hated him, but knowing the reason for that hate mollified her somewhat.
Zaroday looked like he wanted to slap her but there was a flare of hope in eyes. Wordlessly he walked away.
Soon she was released from confinement with a warning to control her temper.
As he walked away Z was so busy lost in his thoughts he almost walked into a pylon. Could she be lying? He wasn’t so lost in hate that he couldn’t look for a pragmatic solution.