Monday, February 2, 2009

The Price of Loyalty

I slowly glide my shuttle into the final approach. It feels odd to be piloting something manually for a change. There was an old Amarrian man on the platform, waiting for me.


As he gave me the tour of the facilities, I saw that this place was ideal for my purposes. Many of the residents looked quite anemic and thus were appropriately passive. Nobody would have the strength to interfere. The rest of the evening was uneventful. We dined and there was some entertainment. I politely declined to participate and eventually retired into my room for the rest of the evening. After breakfast, I made my proposition.

"It seems that some of your residents have some health problems."
"As much as it pains me to say so, nobody lasts forever. We do perform purgings when we must."
"What do you mean by.. purgings?"
"Ah. Such a waste."
"Excuse me?"
"Just because the blood is tainted it doesn't diminish the value of the rest."
"I'm listening."
"If you would give the unsuitables to me and provide me with a room where my privacy is ensured, I would make sure that you are appropriately compensated for your kindness."
"We are not supposed to.."
"Think of it as a means to an end. You get some much-needed funding to support whatever goals you may have."
"And what about you?"
"I get to do whatever I want inside that room."
"I think we can reach an agreement."


At first, Desmond didn't know what he had been drafted to do. All he knew that people who were in above-average shape were ordered to report to the shuttle platform. Aside from the two guards, there was nothing there.
"Sir? Work group reporting as ordered."
"Stand by. Our client will arrive soon."
Eventually, a golden shuttle descended from the clouds and landed on the platform. Out came a figure dressed in a simple, white robe. He motioned them forward and they carried several large crates from the shuttle into one of the unused rooms.
"Thank you. That will be all."
There was a distinct accent in his voice.

Throughout the next night, they heard screams echo across the facility. In the morning, they carried a crate back into the shuttle. Next week, the visitor would come back with an empty crate, and depart with a full one. Old "patients" were gradually replaced with new ones. Rumors spread. Eventually, it was Desmond's turn. The guards dragged him up from his bed and restained him into a gurney. The room was grimy, and dirty surgical implements were strewn across the makeshift tables. And in the center of the room stood the visitor.

"Welcome. This is the room where you will be reborn. Close the door, please."
The guards left the room hastily.

Desmond's patience had paid off. The guards had not noticed that he had been whittling his restraints into a breaking point with a makeshift knife. He lunged at me and my head hit the floor with a telltale clank. His hand squeezed around my throat, with his other arm ready to strike with the knife..

"You have the divine implants, but you're a Vherokior. Blasphemy. And you work for the Sani Sabik. Heresy."
I can hear the guards pounding on the door.
"They won't get here in time."
Fortunately, I do not need my vocal cords to speak. My voice blares out from the hidden speakers.
I crossfade my exclamation into the pre-recorded track. Screams and sounds of violence fill the air. The pounding on the door stops.
"What the.. What trickery is this?!""
Desmond eases his grip, but only a little.
"I apologize for the theatrics. It was necessary for your safety as well as mine. My blood is quite valuable to them."
"What is a capsuleer doing here?"
"Saving as many as I can."
"Lies, we're like insects to you."
"I'm not doing this out of the goodness of my heart, no. But I'm the only chance you have. Nobody's going to look for you. You don't exist anymore."
"You've all been dead for a month. Ever since the emancipation."
"What emancipation?"
"They didn't tell you? Ah, of course. No need for you to know."
He tightens his grip.
"I do need to know."
"Empress Sarum has set you free. Employees require more upkeep than slaves, so your holder sold you and claimed that you all had died."
I can feel him easing his grip.
"And what does all this have to you with you?"
"I'm always on the lookout for workers, and the emancipation flooded the black market with viable candidates, so to speak. It turns out that not only loyalty can be bought, it's also rather cheap. That shuttle and my arrangement here with the Sani Sabik are a small price to pay for a factory that runs like clockwork."
"Of course, I couldn't participate in the auctions myself, that would have attracted undue attention. But few people dare to ask too many questions about the Sani Sabik. And those that do, tend to bomb from orbit and ask questions later."


"So.. what now?"
"You can stay here, or you could let me smuggle you out in that crate."
"What kind of choice is that?"
"An easy one. Nobody has refused yet."

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