The fourth of my many entries for this year's Pod and Planet. The first eight are all very short fictions, entered in the 'Eight Thousand Suns in New Eden' category. This one is 750 words.
Inspired by the starter mission, “Angel of Mercy”. What other game gets you to commit war crimes in the first hour or less!
The Angel of Mercy
Emperor Family Academy Station.
Aya Puhkastu knelt before the mirror, braiding her fiery hair into a long ponytail. When that was done and it curled over her shoulder, she attached the golden jewelry of her faith. On the right, an earring of the Ametat and Avetat. From her left ear to her nose, the thin golden chain that was also from her Holder, a reminder of the bonds of fealty and faith shared between them. It was not Ni-Kunni to wear it, she knew, but it was not done to reject a gift.
First part of the ritual complete, she withdrew her mother’s small brush box. Three brushes with bright silver inlays, which must have cost her mother a fortune, lay within. Each was engraved to perfection, and she treasured them deeply. She began with the Brush of the Sun, mightiest but indiscriminate. Two broad strokes, on her right cheek, twisting down to the corners of her mouth. With practiced efficiency, she lifted the chain out the way and repeated the gesture on her left.
Having done that, she withdrew the Brush of the Desert, generous yet forgiving. Drawing out the ink from the stroke of the Brush of the Sun, she copied the whorling dunes. Finally, she drew out the Brush of the Water, smallest yet most fundamental, dotting her cheeks to mimic the sacred oases that had sustained the life of the Ni-Kunni. It was superstitious and shamanistic, she knew, but once she was inked, she did not feel so alone. The box was inscribed carefully: “To carry us with you, out amongst the stars,” and so she always had.
Stowing the box carefully, she shrouded herself in grey. Making sure that the neck covered the silver sockets of her implants, she let the robes twist loosely around her. Finally, she lifted the veil to her face. Made of spun gold, it was her only personal affectation. She did have to present an image, after all. Assessing the effect in the mirror, she smiled sharply.
She was leaning against the concourse wall, out of the crowds, waiting for her Holder to come, when the Deacon had passed. The Deacon’s attendants called out to the faithful, summoning them to prayer. Aya had attempted to leave, but they singled her out, so she knelt with the others. Existing as a Ni-Kunni who wasn’t attending to their every word seemed, bizarrely, to offend some True Amarr. It was worse below, in Dam-Torsad, but even orbiting far above Oris, she couldn’t escape it. Didn’t they understand that they were all servants of God? He led the faithful, and she … chided the recusants. She pondered this as she repeated the prayers. Was she not a paladin? God knew that she was.
Her Holder appeared eventually, guided through the throng by his attendants. It would have been so much easier, she reflected, to not be baselining. The commoners expected Capsuleers to be ill-behaved, scattering all before them. As a ‘commoner’, she didn’t have that same privileges. Still, once ensconced within his protective detail, passage became so much easier.
Eventually, they reached their destination. A Ni-Kunni merchant’s office, deep within the cargo decks. There, they sat and ate and talked of little things. Eventually he got to the meat of the issue.
“A pirate force,” he began hesitantly, “has begun to interfere with our off-world shipments. I didn’t worry, at first.” He hesitated. “The Navy sweeps the Mayonhen constellation regularly…” ”
“ — but it got worse, didn’t it, my Lord? The Navy couldn’t or,” Aya paused significantly, “wouldn’t find them?” He nodded fitfully. ”Do you think it’s a fellow Holder?”
“I just don’t know,” He reflected. Then he grimaced. “They began to abduct people. We think, well, we fear that it might be the Sani Sabik.”
“Oh”. Oh. “Then they rest safe within His presence, my Lord.” She took the cup of water, and chanted the prayer of Safe Travel. He nodded, whispering the words to himself.
“Aya, I – I would ask you to find them, or commit their bodies to God. Would you do this, for us?” She nodded, and bowed low.
“For you, my Lord, I would do anything.”
Her agents went to work immediately, tracking illicit shipments in the space around Mishi. Eventually, it all came back to one Capsuleer’s abandoned tower. The Blood Raiders were consummate scavengers, after all.
Aya went in alone, a Paladin in form and thought, and brought God’s purging light to the unbelievers.