To Sarkan Hazar the woman who entered the cell seemed just like the man who would beat him and humiliate him. The man who would ask the questions and whom he could not look in the eyes for what he saw there always caused him to recoil in fear. They were empty people. An emptiness inculcated through experience in power and violence. Imperfect flecks of sympathy and pity chipped away with acts of savagery and cruelty until all that remains is ruthlessness and merciless intent driven like slivers of shrapnel into the heart. Leaving only her features of impassive stone artificed in an expression of casual arrogance.
He felt cold tendrils of dread creep across his naked skin as he tried to look at the woman. Intertwined patterns of deep blue-purple bruising visible beneath encrusted blood that didn't wash off with the ice-cold water dumped over his body by the man who would beat him. Restrained and bound to the metal crucifix-like device the woman's deliberate and silent pacing around him could only make him think of her as a predator stalking a helpless prey. Calculating when to go in for the kill.
"Greetings, Mr. Hazar," The woman finally spoke in measured Amarrian. Standing next to his feet he had to crane his head down awkwardly to see her from where he lay. "It appears my associates have caused you some discomfort."
"They are..." Sarkan responded through broken lips and a swollen jaw, "They are monsters."
"Monsters, Mr. Hazar?"
Sarkan let his head fall back onto the metal of his crucifix and stared up at the bare concrete of his cell. He was tired. He had not been permitted to sleep. Not in the cramped small box he would be pushed into when all he could feel was the pain in his body - the lingering effect of being struck with uncaring fists and boots while he was chained by the neck to a wall like a dog - subjected to ceaseless discordant noise and bright flashing lights.
"Yes... they're monsters," Sarkan affirmed.
"I would agree. However there is something to be said about monsters, Mr. Hazar. When walking in a forest full of monsters, only the truly monstrous can survive when all the rest are devoured," The woman remarked with a chiding laughter as she grinned. Like how a Syrikos Hound would grin at a slave: all teeth and malice. The sight made Sarkan want to crawl away into the corner but the restraints made the effort futile. "You might think yourself a man of faith, a good man, indeed perhaps you are. But it is you and not I, that finds themselves helpless and at the mercy of another."
Sarkan closed his eyes to fight the tears and despondency that rose up from within him. She was still there when he opened them again - now standing over him to his left side. Attractive with her grey eyes looking down at him with long black hair that fell across her shoulders. In a black singlet that clung tight to her body made brown in the sun. The shape of firm breasts made clear beneath the fabric. Combat fatigues made out of a camouflage pattern of black and grey squares tucked into polished black boots that rose up to just under her knees. Brown leather holster clipped to her right hip with the end-grip of a pistol exposed. A long and thin black dagger-scabbard on her left hip where he could see embossed on the pommel a silver grinning skull. A motiff of death and mockery that suited its owner well.
"Why... why are you doing this to me?" Sarkan groaned, "Do you not have... pity?"
"No." She answered sharply in condescension. "As for why? Why, I have not done anything to you Mr. Hazar. But I will."
Her last words were delivered with a derisive laughter as she ran her hands underneath the crucifix device and it tilted upwards to leave Sarkan resting feet down to the concrete floor at a forty-five degree angle. When the woman disappeared behind him, the latent anxiety he had been feeling burst in a flash of terror.
"Why! I answered all of your questions! All of them! Ask him please... the man, that man that kept on asking his questions --" His jaw snapped shut at a stab of sudden of pain at the base of his neck as he felt something inserted into his flesh and spine, his muscles tensing against his restraints.
The woman stepped back into view in front of him with a wry smile on her lips, "I am more than aware of the questions you have answered. However, there are some questions you simply cannot answer." She paused before speaking again, "Do you know what a neurological circatrice is, Mr. Hazar?"
Sarkan could only shake his head no as his chin hung limply against his chest.
The woman pressed her index finger between his brows, pushing his head back against metal as she spoke, "You have one, Mr. Hazar. Deep down in that mind of yours something has been implanted. Now, whoever did it, also ensured that simply cutting it out would likely destroy its contents. There are however alternate methods to recover what was put in your skull."
Sarkan trembled when he saw that Syrikos Hound grin of hers again, "Wh.. What are you going to do?"
She slid her long dagger from its scabbard and stated her intention simply: "I am going to skin you alive and tear you apart, Mr. Hazar."
The aluminium sky was visible through the broken glass panel roof of the factory building. Striated bands of dusk illumination falling upon motes of dust that hovered above industrial detritus and abandoned machinery whose chewed carcasses now left no clues as to what they may have once produced. The walls had become bowed and broken to thick trunks of vines that sprouted large, broad leaves along their lengths. Natives intent on destroying an unwelcome invader in their midst to reclaim their land once more.
It was into such desolation that two figures -- a man and a woman -- walked through side by side with precision cadence steps. Their polished black boots crushing the tangled vegetation of white gossamer filigree underfoot. The austerity of grey-blue eyes was reflected in each with their attire: black clad suit-jacket, trousers, and gloves worn without adornment or affectation. Neither the oppressive humidity that clung to the skin in warm rivulets of sweat nor the lingering scent of putrefaction that hung in the air like a cloying miasma elicited no more of a response from either than indifference.
It was the woman, Karaitamo Gesakaarin, who spoke first. She was tall and had short black hair cut into a bob trimmed to just beneath her jaw. The rolling tonal inflections of an ancient De'teeas dialect flowed from her lacquer-red lips in a soft velveteen of disdain: "It appears they've started with the disposals. I can smell it from here."
The man, Hevaima Gesakaarin, responded. Taller with medium length black hair combed back. He spoke the De'teeas dialect in a smooth baritone: "Yes, it would appear so."
"We really need to requisition larger transport, Hevarin. At least we'll be able to just drop the bodies from orbit instead of having to dig out the damn burn pits."
"You know that's impossible right now, Kararin," Hevaima said, "We'll be done soon enough, and then this forest will bury all our sins."
"Which cycle was that from, again?"
"What do you mean?"
"The forest burying sins. Which parable was it?"
"The cycle of Akuravastaa. In the third passages."
"Ah, yes. I remember now. The verses about killing your children in a forest."
"That would be the one, yes."
"That one never did make any sense how some explain it."
"Why do you say that?"
"Now you're going to be droll and tell me, well of course Karaitamo it wouldn't make sense to you because you just don't know how to appreciate ancient Caldari bardic verse."
"Never Kararin. Come now, why didn't the Akuravastaa cycle make sense?"
"Fine. So it's about the King Akuravastaa who kills his children in a forest, right?"
"There's more to the story than that."
"Yes, I know, I'm just establishing some preamble."
"So King Akuravastaa kills his children so he can marry the widow of his brother, the former King. Those were the terms of his sister-in-law."
"Yes, that's about right."
"Except, he didn't actually want his sister-in-law, did he? Who he really wanted was her daughter, his niece, Lady Savukio."
"So he marries his sister-in-law after he kills his children and then tries to seduce his niece. And that's where current explanations don't make sense."
"Is that so?"
"Yes, because after the historical and cultural revisionists got their hands on the piece, it had no semblance to the original. Less a parable and more the usual fable about the Winds acting and then the spirits of King Akuravastaa's dead children push him off a cliff after he kills his new wife."
"Why wouldn't that make sense, Kararin? It's all the usual narrative about how a leader without supposed merit will face justice under universal laws. Even if it is through supernatural agency."
"So you believe in the supernatural as enforcer of laws now, Hevarin?"
"Not at all. I am saying that the revised version of the cycle as edited is intended as a reaffirmation of cultural tropes. That's the entire point of the historical departments. To edit out anything that is not the official State narrative. The masses don't need truth. They need lies told often enough, and well enough that they become truth. Lies that they will defend to their death, crying out, for the State."
"You always were such a cynic."
"And you're not, Kararin? You can pull a trigger just as well as I."
"Yes. I can. No, I suppose I just prefer the original text. The one where in the final passage it turns out it was Lady Savukio all along. Who convinced her lover to kill her father, the King. Tells her mother to marry Akuravastaa but only if he kills his children. Who in fact in secret she was the one doing the seducing..."
"Then she frames her lover as sleeping with her mother and Akuravastaa executes them both. And it's only after all that, when Akuravastaa is pondering jumping off a cliff over all his guilt, she tells him she was in fact his daughter from a tryst he had with her mother..."
"And then pushes him over the cliff. And the dear, sweet, innocent victim of the tyranny of King Akuravastaa becomes not the Lady, but the Queen Savukio ruling the kingdom on her own."
"Yes. Is it any wonder they revised the text? It's far too close to how real corporate politics work. No, far better the children's fable than the black parable."
"It is amusing in a sense, you must admit."
"Yes of course. If Lady Savukio was a real historical figure I am sure she would be amused that most reading her story, obscure as it is by the way, would believe she was the victim redeemed happily ever after. And not in fact a schemer and manipulator who seized power for herself."
"Lies are always pleasant when it's what you want to hear."
"Although I have my own interpretation of that cycle."
"Oh, and what is that?"
"Never make decisions with your cock, it's always such a terrible judge of character."
The statement brought out in both of them a laughter of amusement as the sleek, flat diamond shape outline of a small black shuttle came into their view in the fading light of day into the dark of night.
Her name was Veikitamo.
Sarkan Hazar had a name for the woman who would sing songs he did not know in a language he did not understand. Melodies unperturbed as the blade of her dagger working upon his flesh would expropriate from his lips another wounded howl; another sibilant lament as a strip of skin and meat would be neatly flensed from his body. Peeled away by her fingernails as he would thrash against his restraints, spine arching in agony. He would scream out the Catechisms against Molok to give him strength through the rictus of his pain. But when he would collapse from the suffering he could not escape he did not wish for the strength of his faith but salvation in the silence of his own death.
It was when he was granted salvation not in death but in silence and darkness that he first knew her name. A woman's voice that caressed his shattered and lonely spirit. Different to the cold of his torturer in its warmth: Her name is Veikitamo, Sarkan Hazar. She will not release you from this pain.
The words spoken in the abyss threw him into confusion: Who are you?
I am your only chance at salvation. I can take the pain away.How. What do you want from me?Surrender, Sarkan Hazar.
He felt himself a disembodied entity like in a dream. Falling in the void. The softness of a woman's body pressing her breasts against his chest. Her arms embracing him. Her legs intertwining full of promise and delight as the voice whispered like honey in his thoughts: Surrender to me.
He wanted to push the ethereal woman who spoke of surrender away from him: No, you are not real.I am very much real.You can't be... this is impossible.Every test of faith requires doubt, Sarkan Hazar. Salvation is only through submission without doubt.
Then why would God do this to me! Why would God let me... that woman, Veikitamo. Why!All tests differ, Sarkan Hazar. Just as this one differs. You are not innocent in your sin.I did not deserve this! Not this!Who are you to decide the mercy of God, Sarkan Hazar? You who have sinned against His Word. Did you enjoy your time fucking whores and prostitutes while you lied to your wife? Was there any guilt when you broke your vows and the covenant before God? Who are you to say what you do and do not deserve?
He remained silent at the revelation.You are not a good man, Sarkan Hazar. You did not have faith. Even now you do not believe.
Silence.You believe only in what you feel you are entitled to, Sarkan Hazar. What you think you deserve.
Silence.How many good people did you kill, Sarkan Hazar? How many of the Faith did you bury? When you took the money. To pay for the expensive whores and the Estate in Chamemi. To seduce the widow of a man who called you friend. For all the parties and the sex.
Silence.Even now you denounce the Deceiver, Sarkan Hazar. But it is you who is a deceiver. Of yourself and others.
Silence.You are an evil man, Sarkan Hazar. You are a faithless man. It is only God's justice you should deserve.
He tried to reach out in the darkness like a blind man when he felt her touch leave him. He was still falling: No! Please. Come back. Don't leave me! I'm sorry! I loved her... but I couldn't... Don't make me go back. Not there. You are weak, Sarkan Hazar. You still doubt.I am weak... Oh God I'm so weak.. please, don't let me go back. I surrender! I submit!You are a liar, Sarkan Hazar. You wish to surrender only out of fear and the fear of pain. When you submit, when you surrender out of a desire for absolution so shall I spare you. It will be your only chance to knock upon the gates of Paradise.
He continued falling. Like in the terror of a nightmare. He awoke when he hit the ground back to the pain of his ruined body. The bare concrete walls. The bloody pieces of his skin discarded below his feet on the dirty floor.
When his eyes met Veikitamo standing before him, smiling in silence, he did what he had done so often in her presence: he wept openly.
The cabin interior of the shuttle was appointed in a black wood with golden-brown grain that glowed in the amber light of alcoves set into the roof with a beeswax polished sheen. The seats and lounges upholstered in a contrasting white of soft lambskin. Hevaima and Karaitamo sat at either side of a table set at the starboard side, near the middle of the shuttle. Each wore their Kaalakiota Home Guard insignia and rank pins on their collars and on the epaullettes on their shoulders: Colonel for Hevaima and Major for Karaitamo.
"When do you think the V2 will get here, so we can deal with the Tash-Murkon questions?" Karaitamo asked as she lifted an ivory-porcelein cup of black tea to her lips.
"Oh, I think dear Veikarin and Vaikurin will get here when they are good and ready. A slash and burn is always a bit like playing jazz. An act of extemporization that takes as long as it needs to. You should know." Hevaima responded, swirling a measure of brandy in a snifter.
"About torture or jazz?"
Karaitamo shrugged, "I never was a fan of slash and burning, myself. Too much of the physical brutality and you just end up with a broken piece of meat covered in their own shit. Too little and you'll never force the personality sequestration into a wetgrave. Not much of a point to torture like that unless you have to when it's better to flip them to your side."
"It certainly would make our job easier in that regard if we didn't always have to resort to force and finances to ensure compliance."
"What else can we do, Hevarin? It's not like we can entice them with living a better life in the Caldari State. Sure, come over and defect to the Caldari State. I hope you enjoy leading a life of social prejudices and workplace discrimination based on ethnic division and racism. Maybe if you work hard and earn your place, you too can enjoy being the victim of a violent riot like or patronised with a pat on the head like with the Achur."
Hevaima laughed as he emptied his brandy, "Oh my, Comrade-Major Gesakaarin, it very much sounds like you harbour some most unpatriotic and I daresay even treasonous thoughts. Are you not aware we are building the soldier's and worker's paradise of the Caldari State as an example for all of humanity? A shining beacon up on the hill as to the virtues of hard work and sacrifice."
Karaitamo rolled her eyes as she offered a salute in response, "My apologies, Comrade-Colonel Gesakaarin, I will seek to read the latest pamphlet on what it truly means to be Caldari. So that I may internalize the neurotic doubts necessary to externalize my feelings of inadequacy and self-loathing by trying to be the very model of a true Caldari patriot."
Hevaima nodded with a chuckle, "For the State. A true fanatic."
Karaitamo laughed, "For the State. A true fanatic, indeed."
"Oh, and I agree by the way. There's always that risk of wasting a potentially good agent. But brutality like anything else can serve a purpose when it's required, and sometimes you have to take risks."
"Such as with our Amarrian accountant."
Veikitamo Gesakaarin knelt over the mangled and dismembered body of Sarkan Hazar on the concrete floor like a bloodied predator that has successfully made their kill of their prey. The dagger flicked through the side of Sarkan's neck and she stood up to let his lifeblood flow into a grate like a slaughtered animal. Standing up she wiped the blade casually between her index and middle finger before she sheathed it. She looked at a tall man wearing a black suit in the shadows of the corner of the cell, next to the door.
"Well that's that. Did you send the scan?" She asked the man.
"Arbiter has it, yes." The man replied.
Veikitamo nodded and produced a crumpled packet of cigarettes from her pants pocket, "I'm going to have a shower," Placing a cigarette between her lips she lit it with a cheap plastic lighter and exhaled a breath of smoke, "Someone else can take care of the body."
Tucking the cigarette packet and lighter back into her pocket she walked out the door of the cell.
- First, a thank you to Samira Kernher for providing their thoughts and editing advice on my initial attempt with this.
- This piece was an experiment in attempting to condense a much longer draft into a shorter chronicle type format. I do not feel I succeeded in replicating the same dark undertones and tension in this short format compared to the long draft due to what I think is a narrative structure and dialogue issue.
- This piece is also the result of trying to make things fit in a sense, to much frustration. Eventually, I decided to just re-write the entire thing in short format in one day and live with whatever was produced.
- Whilst frustrating, it was also satisfying being able to finally write for what I'd say is the real animus of the different Gesakaarin characters instead of feeling trapped in the wasted efforts of constructing their false masks and facades when I had to use them as roleplay devices and not purely fictional characters.
- As a simple character writing exercise, I feel this piece conveys how I view these characters and how I will try to iterate them further in fiction: Caldari intelligence operatives with deeply cynical and ruthless streaks. They did the dirty jobs for, "the company". They are intended to be professionals and the products of years of uncompromising violence. As hopefully seen with this piece as an example, torture and executions are just part of the job description for them and mostly just exercises in banality that have to be done.
- These Gesakaarin are intended to be the villains for future pieces. Where the lives of different sorts of people intersect with theirs in some kind of noir or hardboiled crime fiction style. Honestly, I sort of find characters as capsuleers a bit boring these days to write for. I feel writing for Eve as a concept more engaging when it doesn't involve operas in space.
- In a sense, I also feel their current pursuit of complete obscurity as they exist in-game is exactly what they'd do and I suppose not roleplaying and interacting in-character with others is in fact playing the Gesakaarin to how they are. A reclusive and unknown life is exactly what former intelligence assets would go for. I certainly have no interest pursuing some kind of public, "Oh look at how evil and badass I am," with them.
- Also, this piece was an insight into these characters well before they become freelance capsuleers. Take from that what you will.
- Anyway, I hope this first effort in a long while was a fun read. Hopefully I can write better things in future with my meagre creative writing ability.