Chapter Two – Fear and Excitement

The waiting room was enormous.  The walls and floor were made of white marble with veins of gold and blue crystal running through it.  Large viewports were looking out across the space station at all angles, showing the incoming and outgoing ship traffic.  Tall marble and gold columns rose, almost organically, from the floor and appeared to hold the classical ceiling far above them.  Murals depicting scenes from the Amarrian Scriptures were hand painted on the stonework above.  The almost black leather furniture had the symbol of Amarr sewn in the headrests using golden threadwire.

Even though Sarai knew she came from a well-off family, she had never seen anything that was even close to this extravagant.  It took a good few minutes for the initial shock to wear off and to start appreciating the sheer beauty of the room.  The floor itself was so clean that her parents didn’t even bat an eye when she laid on the floor to get a better view of the murals above.  She started to point out various people from the scenes to her parents and Meira and was so enthrawled that she kept saying everything that came to mind.  “Wow, he has a big nose!”, “Do Slavers really get that big?”, “Oh that prince was so brave!” as well as other chatter kept coming, which her parents automatically replied, “Yes, dear” most of the time.

They had arrived several hours earlier than was requested.   When the Empress expressedly asked them the previous week to be here, her father wasn’t going to take any chances.  Merely being a moment late for her highness had ruined many Naval careers.  Her mother, Tian, commissioned a new dancing outfit from the finest tailors on their planet, not even caring that they weren’t Amarr.  Their slave entourage was outfitted with new green and brown clothing.  Their neighbors had a celebration in Sarai’s honor and offered much advice to Sarai, most of it common sense to her, but some seemed self-serving.. even ill-advised, to her young mind.  Still, Sarai easily got swept up in the moment and even danced with a few boys.. well, before her father caught her anyways.

It wasn’t long before Sarai, lying on her back on the surprisingly warm marble floor, that something was missing.  She sat up and looked around.  Questioningly, she turned to her parents and asked, “Where’s Meira?  In fact, where are the rest of our people?”

Tian looked up from her book at Adrien with a somewhat disapproving look.  Adrien caught the look, uttered a short sigh, and turned his attention to Sarai.  “Sarai.  Our baggage and the rest of the slaves, including Meira, are in the slave quarters below.  You do not need to worry about them, and you do not need to ask any more questions about them.”

Seeing Sarai start to protest, Tian said, “Honey, don’t worry about them.. they’ll be fine.  Do as your father says.  You have an important audience with the Empress Jamyl, so relax, go over your routines.. go sit and stare at the stars even..”

Sarai still was unhappy, but her mother was right.. she had forgotten about the fact that she was going before the high exhaulted ruler of Amarr, whose mere word could have her family executed and the family name banished for all time.  A knot started to grow in her stomach and soon worry after worry began to form in her mind.  Concentration on her routines were now out of the question, so she walked over and sat by one of the large viewports looking out across the stars.  She could see the engines and lights of outgoing and incoming ships as they docked and undocked, but she was too far away to see any of them clearly.  They seemed like little light bugs all marching in a row.  Absentmindedly, Sarai reached out to touch one and accidentally hit the viewport.

A soft, feminine voice spoke, “Blessings to you, the time is 6:00, standard galactic time.  Do you wish to have an enhanced view of the spaceport?”

Sarai looked around, but only saw her parents.  “Um, yeah.”  Suddenly, the viewport came alive showing each individual ship and its transponder.  Well over a hundred ships dotted the view screen.  She reached out and touched one of the ships.  The ship filled a portion of the viewscreen and the image slowly rotated around showing off its surface.

The computer voice spoke again, “Pilot: Vezidier”, an three dimensional image of the pilot showed in the corner “Corporation: Caldari State, Ship: Transport – Crane class, Concord Security Status: 1.2, Amarr Security Status: 3.4.  Would you like to see the cargo manifest?”

Mesmorized by the display and information, all Sarai could utter was a simple, “Uh.. okay.”

The viewport system responded quickly by putting up a listing of items in a spreadsheet next to the ship image.  It surprised Sarai to see several “classified” as well as some “unidentified” items listed.  Without warning though, the image disappeared and was replaced with a message “In warp” for a few moments before the screen disappeared.  Sarai selected another ship, and the computer proceeded to do bring up its image and give information about it.  She found this amazingly interesting, and started to pick more ships at random.. wondering who these people were.. and what their lives were like..

Sarai was in the middle of checking out a Jaguar class assault ship, when nose of a very large ship appeared and filled up the entire viewscreen.  The arrival was so instanteous that Sarai fell back, convinced it was going to crash into the station.  The ship however, slowed down and she could see manuvering thrusters aligning the ship for docking.  She touched the viewscreen again, this time on the new arrival.  “Pilot: Aralis”, a clearly Amarrian face was shown “Corporation: Curatores Veritatis Alliance – CVA, Ship: Battleship – Amarr Navy Issue Apocolypse, Concord Security Status: 5.0, Amarr Security Status: 5.0.  Would you like to see any additional fleet information?”  That last part made Sarai look around as she had not seen the rest of the fleet.  Not only was their an Amarr Navy Apocolypse dwarfing the docking ring, but two Amarr Navy Issue Armageddons, three Amarr Navy Issue Omens, two Guardians, and three Imperial Navy Slicers orbiting the main ship.  The words “CVA” and a what she recognized as its moniker, was brandishing the side of the ship.

She heard a soft whistle behind her as her father got up to get a better view.  “You don’t see that every day.  A full capsuleer fleet flying only Amarr Navy ships.  The best ships out there.  Daughter, I hope you remember to thank the Empress for her generous hospitality.”

“But, I thought you hated capsuleers Daddy?”, she asked.

“I do, Sarai, I most certainly do.  They are dangerous and powerful.  Some even consider themselves gods in opposition to our most illustrious Empress.  But of those, only CVA has proven itself loyal to her will.  They still fight to bring her will to the lawless lands.”, he explained.  Sarai was about ready to ask another question when the embarking door slid open.

Tian grabbed her husband and rushed to door and practically pulled Sarai with them.  While the antiseptic mist was still disapating, Adrien stood at attention while Tian and Sarai prostrated themselves beside him, looking down.  Sarai heard the hard footsteps of dress military boots, like her fathers along with the hard clumps walking in turn.

A kind, but strangely electronic voice made a polite cough and Sarai looked up.  A nice older man, dressed in a long gold and black jacket, stood smiling down at her.  “Pretty maiden, you may stand along with your mother.  This is a joyous day for you!  The Empress herself wishes to see you dance, even have you compete on the behalf of all Amarr!”  She stood up and noticed the two soldiers in power armor on either side of him.  “My name is Jealib, and I am the official court master for her highness.  She has direct me, along with a squad of her finest Paladins, to bring you to her directly.”  Both Paladins were in gleaming gold alloy armor which the segmented pieces covered every major part of their body.  A gleaming symbol of Amarr was pressed into the shoulder pieces.  Their family crests were also carefully etched on their chest pieces and golden cords attached to either side of the shoulder pieces acrossed it.  Sarai was beside herself in awe and fear at their size, even though she was well aware that was the entire reason for the display.

Sarai’s father then proceeded to salute Jealib, “You honor us and the mighty Empress Jamyl honors us more than we deserve.  We are your humble servants.”

Jealib smiled at Adrien, “Well met, son of Amarr.  The Empress is well pleased with your service, and has informed me that she has decided to expand your holdings.  Double its current size.”  Adrien and Tian eyes’ both open wide with surprise, “Now please, our escort is looking forward to meeting all of you and is also desirous of getting you to the Empress in short order.  So please follow me.  Your slaves and your baggage is now being transferred and you are free to inspect it after we depart.”

Unable to think of anything more to say, and with Jealib already walking back toward the ship, the three promptly follow the court master, with the two Paladins following in the rear.  It only took a few minutes before they were on the ship and introduced to the capsuleer himself, Aralis, who was also dressed as the Paladins were.  While her father was busy talking to him expressing his thanks for the effort, Sarai couldn’t help but look around the entry area.  It was covered in gold tile and adorned with precious gems.  There were even some rare paintings from someone that Sarai had read about in arts class.

“Wow, Meira would just love this!”, Sarai said suddenly.

“Excuse me, who is Meira?” said Aralis as he walked up to introduce himself to her.

Her mother butted in, “Just a house slave.  She works with Sarai to improve her dancing.”

“Ah, well I see.”, he said.  “Sarai, is it?  It is an honor to have you aboard my ship.  Please feel free to go anywhere as you are my personal guest.  As requested by the Empress, a special room has been made available to use to train while on our journey.  Your slave, Meira, will be available at anytime.  However, I request that you do not bring her up into the upper levels.”

“Well, why not?” she countered.

“It’s my ship.  That is the only reason you need to know.”  With that, he took her hand, gave it a kiss and bowed.  He then turned to her father and said, “Please, as my guests, make your way to the observation area and enjoy some refreshments while the rest of your cargo and slaves are loaded.  I will bring the manifest to you before we depart.  Thank you again for this honor.”  With that he smiled at Tian and left for the bridge.

As soon as Aralis left, Tian gave her daughter a stern look.  “I don’t want to hear anything more from you young lady.  You know better than to ask that.”  Her father nodded in agreement.

“Its just..” she almost got out her answer but her father held up his hand.

“My princess, mind your manners.  Meira will be fine.  And if she isn’t, we will find some to replace her.”  With the words, Adrien grabbed his wife’s hand and they walked to the observation lounge.. with Sarai unhappily following behind.

The observation lounge, while not as immaculate as the station’s waiting area, was certainly beautiful with its rare paintings and tilework.  It also had the advantage of having an actual bartender and kitchen crew.  However, Sarai didn’t feel all hungry or thirsty.  She missed Meira, and it bothered her that her parents didn’t give a second thought to her welfare.  She was staring out the window when over the speaker she heard Aralis inform the crew that the ship was undocking.  Sarai felt the ship reverberate as the docking clamps released and slowly drifted from the station.

She was still staring out into space, when five Hound stealth bombers uncloaked in front of her and released their bombs.