I hadn’t expected to hear from Stoogie in this regard. I hadn’t expected him to pursue it further once I had deflected my answer to that of our CEO, Cytral. Yet he had, and here we three sat, discussing the offer Stoogie had made.
“I completely understand your position, sir.” I began. “They are not unfamiliar words.” I had flown previous skirmishes under Stoogie’s command during the war. And though I outranked him, I still addressed him as ‘sir’. There was a time when rank mattered; there were more often times when ability commanded respect. Stoogie had my full respect, even though at this moment I couldn’t agree with his opinion.
Cytral spoke up. “While I think there is credibility to these wormhole rumours, I’m not entirely convinced it’s worth moving our operations into nullsec at this point in time. A lot of our pilots are still rookies, getting their wings so to speak, and I think our movement might be more than most of them can handle. Then again, I may be surprised at how well they adapt. After all, that is what existence is in the end. And the lure of profit is great.”
“Exactly.” Stoogie seemed excited by Cytral’s response. Neither of them had the military access I did. Neither of them knew for fact that the rumours were indeed true, and moreso, that the enemy waiting beyond the wormholes was of a like never seen before in New Eden. And while the rewards were potentially great, the risk was equally great. I could foresee a lot of pilots dying pointlessly in pursuit of this new ‘T3’ technology, as it had been dubbed by the upper brass.
Stoogie continued on. “The war is exhausting our Republic pilots out of their own pocket. The government isn’t subsidizing us, or offering us incentives to continue the fight. Our losses are ours alone to cover, and frankly, it’s draining everyone’s isk reserves. We’re not making headway against the Amarr, nor are they making any real progress against Republic space. In the end, to me, it all seems to be a political game, and I no longer willing to be a pawn.”
I grunted to myself in disdain. As I said, his words weren’t new. I had heard them dozens of times from other pilots I had flown with, briefly. I had a tendency of only flying with like minded individuals; those dedicated to the cause of freedom. I never held someone’s point of view against them, though occasionally I would present logic to twist their own words on them, but inevitably it accomplished nothing, so why bother?
I was more than a little dismayed that Stoogie felt this way. He had been an inspirational role model to me early on in the war. In fact, if he hadn’t been popped in one of our early endeavours, forcing me to step up to command the remainder of the fleet, I don’t think I would even have begun the journey I had found myself on since that fateful day.
“Roc, I value your thoughts.” Cytral said, both of their attentions turning towards me. I took a moment to collect myself, prolonging the silence, though not for any desired effect.
“You know my position.” I said to neither of them directly. “I serve the Republic. I am a soldier. I am told to go, I go.” That was it in a nutshell really. I let what was unspoken remain so. Should Freeform Industries choose to go to nullsec, I would resign what was left of my corporate life to continue fighting the good fight. I would always be available for contract should they need me in nullsec, but my higher duty was to my people, all of them. I could tell by Cytral’s eyes that he understood my implication. At the same time it seemed my words had excited Stoogie, for knowing I would go if the corp decided to go was a bonus in his eyes. I knew he held me in high regard as well, or this conversation would never have happened in the first place.
“Then discuss it some more at length amongst your people.” Stoogie said. “But please don’t take too long. It will be a bit of a logistical nightmare getting this all together in the short window of opportunity we have.” With that, he rose to his feet. We followed his lead, and after a round of handshakes, sat back down, just the two of us.
“Our pilots aren’t ready.” Cytral said. “We both know it. Still, there is the potential for a large influx of income from this venture.” He was very contemplative. A part of me felt I was betraying him, not able to speak on the military secrets I had witnessed first hand. I hoped that should these memoirs ever get published, that he would understand my position that day, and know that my leaving Freeform Industries was an attack against him personally.
I grumbled some more. Those few whom were close to me knew that my inner struggles often were expressed in primal sounds. “Speak your mind, Roc. That’s what I value you for.” Cytral said.
“I won’t go with you.” I replied bluntly.
“I know.” Cytral said without anger or hurt. It was at these moments that my respect for this man grew. He would joke with the best of them, and was lighthearted with the corp, but Cytral was a brilliant, caring man, who only wanted the best for each of his employees.
“Roc,” He began, waiting until he had my full attention. “You are a valuable asset to Freeform, there is no denying it. But I have to tell you, you’re destined for so much more. You possess such potential and haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of it. Your talents, your steadfastness, your honour to duty, you are what this war needs. You are a natural leader, an inspiration. You are the type of man that will be at the very front when the Republic is victorious, with a vast sea of supporters beside and behind you. Do what is right for you, and I will always support that, as your friend.”
I wasn’t very good at receiving praise. For all my arrogant bravado, I was a man filled with insecurity. There were some things about myself I was confident in, and that is what I let the universe see, but worry and irrational doubts plagued my every thought. I was constantly second guessing myself. It was something I was working on.
“And I will always honour you, Director Cytral.” I stood then, showing him the highest form of respect I knew. I saluted him, crisply and strongly, and did not break that salute until Cytral finally stood, returned the salute, then extended it into a firm handshake, and a warm embrace.
“You’re a good man, Roc Wieler. I have a feeling we’ll be flying together for a very long time still.”