“You know why you’re here?” the question hung in the air.
System strode to the small platform that had risen out of the hangar floor revealing a collection of swords on a stand.
The capsuleer glared back at System from her kneeling position, her dark wet hair hanging down across her face partially concealing her lips as they tightened, pulling back exposing a row of enhanced razor sharp teeth.
“Yes, I can see by your response you know who I am and why you are here,” System pickup her family blade Heosphorous, it’s scabbard discarded as she drew it’s black blade forth.
System pointed the tip down, then back, then rotating her arm and drove the blade high above her head and then down hanging above and slightly behind her head. She then flicked it’s tip across and down to her side, it’s point making a barely audible ‘swip’ sound as it cut through the air.
She then turned her back on the other capsuleer, who stood some 10 meters on the other side of the weapon stand and walked back to the edge of the platform keeping her back to the Krusual capsuleer that had devastated her family.
“I imagine… the worst thing that you are thinking right now is that this is forever. There is no clone at the other end of this fight. There is no rebirth,” System turned and stared across the hangar floor at Arachne.
Arachne rose to a standing stance and pulled her black hair back ringing out the Hydrostatic gel that clung to it.
She then quickly skittered across the hangar to the weapon stand. Keeping her eyes on System, she tore a strap from a sheath and tied her hair into a tail with it. She then began to inventory the weapons before her.
She picked up several blades weighing their heft and balance in her hand, until she finally decided on a Nihontō Wakizashi that measured 1.4 shaku and it’s sister Nihontō Katana that was 2.3 shaku long forming the Daishō pair.
She spun the Katana in her right hand in a very confident manner, displaying years of training and skill as well as familiarity to it that only came with intense training.
The Wakizashi stayed in the left hand, pointed down, and slightly behind her left leg.
“You are the Baud child,” she spoke with a slight breath of discomfort.
System was unsure if it was a question or a statement, but remain silent waiting for the Krusual to speak further.
Arachne, stepped to the side of the weapon stand exposing her full tattooed naked body to System.
System, still with her back to the darkly tanned body of the Krusual turned her head and shoulders just enough to see the position of her opponent.
She was taller than System thought she would be.
Arachne started to pace back and forth impatiently.
System was not ready to go just yet. She had questions that would never be answered if they engaged each other.
“Krusual, why…” she paused, “Why did you slay my parents? Was it just a job?” was there more she thought, hoping.
“Does it matter?” Arachne spat.
Yes, it does thought System, but she suddenly felt this conversation was not going to go anywhere.
System turned fully now facing the Krusual capsuleer.
“Do we talk more or do we do this? I presume you seek my death, my permanent death.” the Krusual spoke again.
System pondered this.
All the preparations, all the fortunes spent, all the favors redeemed… it came down to this moment, and strangely System had not given much thought past this moment.
She looked again at the dark skinned capsuleer pacing across from her.
Something compelled System to pause again.
There it was.
Something about this woman, something about seeing her face to face. What was it nagging her mind?
And then like the sun bursting forth from behind a wormhole, the memory came flooding back.
She knew this woman. Well, she knew her from her childhood. How could it be?
“Sherrazie.” The name drifted off her tongue. “Sherrazie Belinay.”
The Krusual capsuleer’s back stiffened and she stop dead in her pacing and turned her head toward System.
“How do you know that name? HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT NAME?” she shouted.
Like a torrent Arachne sprinted toward System, catching her off guard. Just three meters from System, she leap into the air both blades pointed directly at her chest.
Instinctively System lunged with her sword, fist tight, in front of her, as her left hand palm braced the flat end side of it deflecting the Daishō pair to her left as Arachne’s hip crashed into her knocking her down.
Arachne stood over her body heaving in breath at the expenditure of energy she had just released.
Again she said, “How do you know that name? Where did you hear it?”
System looked up at the woman standing over her, “I knew you Sherrazie, when you were just a child. I was a child. My father found you, and the others. He rescued you form the Triad, the Orion Syndicate. I know of your past. I was there.”
Arachne paused, turned to her left looking away from System as the memory came flooding back.
Aurthrian had found and rescued the children of Talinus Prime back in YC95. System had been 12 years old at the time, and was aboard her father’s Abaddon, the Yumai D’ni, when he had brought the thirteen children on board.
Her mother had tried to isolate and hide her from the situation, but her father had insisted that System was old enough to know what had happened to them.
In that day the Orion Syndicate’s Triad traded in young girls they had taken from Minmatar worlds as sex slaves. The abuse they experienced was vile and was the inspiring source of renewal by Aurthrian in his emancipation endeavors.
The thirteen girls stayed on the Abaddon for three days until they were dropped off at a Ziddi orphanage that dealt with such traumatized children.
System had spent many hours with them and had gotten to know a little about each one. All of them except Sherrazie. Sherrazie never spoke. Sherrazie never interacted with the others. Sherrazie always sat quietly on her bunk and watched the others.
“I, … I, I don’t remember.” Arachne whispered. But she did remember. “Your father rescued me? Your father rescued me.” she said trying the words out loud.
Blood rushed to her face. Had she murdered the man that had rescued her as a child? It could not be. It mustn’t be.
Her eyes turned down and she breathed erratically. A dread shame descending on her.
System spoke, “Sherrazie, you could not have known.” with those words System felt an overwhelming emotion of regret, of melancholia.
She rolled out from under the Krusual and keeled, sitting up from a prone position.
Both women just stared at each other or a few moments, their faces in agony.
System could just not find reconciliation between the anger and vengeance she felt, and the empathy of this woman’s childhood.
Then her father’s words came rushing into her mind.
“The truest release, and freedom, any man can have is to forgive the unforgivable. In doing so one saves themselves from the emptiness of vengeance.”
Tears welled up in System’s eyes and streamed down her cheeks.
Waves of emotions washed over her, heaving deep sobs from her lower abdoman.
She had never understood her fathers words. He had spoke those words to her when she was sixteen and at the height of her teenage rebellious years.
How had she not understood him?
How did she move forward now?
Could she do what she felt obligated to; returning purity to her House by slaying this Krusual assassin?
She tightened her grip on her swords hilt drawing the blade back behind her leg. She stood and stepped back from Sherrazie.
Sherrazie, still holding the Daishō pair of blades, looked toward System, her head tilted low.
System thought and contemplated.
After a minute or so, she resolved to what she knew she had to do to bring back balance.
“Sherrazie, this is the end. I will not pursue you any longer. You are free from your crime, you are free from House Baud.” she took a deep breath and continued, “I will always hold you responsible for my parents death, but I will forgive you of it’s crime. I do this for me, not for you. Now get off my ship.”
System strode toward to her pod, stooping to pick up the scabbard sheath, she slipped Heosphorous into it’s tight leather walls, and then strode over to her pod.
She felt free again.
She felt like she had her life back.
She felt renewed.
Now was time to put this matter behind her.
She buttoned up the pod and willed it to come to life. It rose two meters off the hangar deck and started to head toward the Helios further down the hangar.
“Sherrazie,” System thought into the pod coms, “You have three minutes to get in your pod and get off my Orca. After that the Orca is going to warp. Your Gila is adrift fourty seven kilometers toward planet three. Goodbye.”
“Thank you Amarrian.” the response came. “May we never meet again.”
May we never meet again, thought System.
Her pod docked into the Helios and it’s engines came alive.
She pointed the vessel toward the outer hangar door and looked over as the Krusual pod slipped out ahead of her.
After clearing the Orca, she pointed the Helios towards the Thera wormhole that had just opened up on her probe scanner. The Sister’s probes slipped forth from the Helios and winked off the grid heading for the area just past the star-ward side of the system, toward the center of the galaxy.
She would finally be home in Paleo in the next few hours.
UNDER the wide and starry sky
the clone renews, ready to die:
Glad did I live and safely I die,
And I laid me down with my will.
This be the verse you ‘grave for me:
Here clone lies where she long’d to be;
Home is the starship, home from space,
And the explorer home from the hunt.