Welcome back, Colonel Wieler. Perhaps it’s a coincidence that you decided to rejoin the ranks just as ##### and I chose to come out of retirement. Perhaps not. Either way, it warms my heart to see you in Dal once more.
I remember your fondness for Rifters. Consider me at your disposal should you feel a yearning for a roaming wingman, or a practice target.
I read the message as I sat in the Black Hole Pub in Dal system. It had been under new management since the last time I’d been there, and I hadn’t recognized a soul. I’d felt like a relic even entering the station, so many new quadrants built over old, so many redirected or remodeled passage ways – it wasn’t the place I had known during my first tour of duty in the Empyrean War. Then again, I wasn’t the same man as I was back then.
Many things I hadn’t written about in this journal, many embarrassments and failures I chose not to expose – it had mostly become a tool of stereotypical motivation drivel. I needed it more than it needed me. More potatoes than meat simply wasn’t the man I had ever been, nor would ever be.
I took a long gulp of my beer, reading the message again.
I hadn’t seen Niko in years. He was one of my first CEOs early in my career. Good man. Last I’d heard, he’d suffered the True Death due to system malfunction while defending his wife, a lowsec miner, against a ragtag band of pirates. I’d honoured his passing with a drink, as was befitting the man. If he wasn’t dead, he owed me a beer. If it wasn’t him at all, but someone trying to pull a scam over on me, I might be drinking another beer soon to honour their attempt. I wasn’t in the mood for games any longer.
I ran my hand over my recently smoothed head, then my face. I felt old. I looked tired, soft. I had already turned down a fleet invite only yesterday, while waiting for my ships to arrive to this forward station in Dal. No way did I trust Shakor enough to leave his “gifts” in Rens.
I didn’t bring his crews either. I tracked down my old crew, hiring back those who were willing, though all demanded bigger salaries. So far, the ships seemed clean. Still, I was dubious.
Bad enough I was about to go back into a hostile war zone without having flown combat in over a year without having to worry about if my own allies were set to sabotaging me before I even began.
I drank down the rest of the beer.
If it were easy, you wouldn’t be here.
Welcome back to New Eden.