Evanda Char jumped up from the table where she had been sitting alone, reading a datapad in the dim bar. The bartender looked up from the glasses he was reshelving behind the bar, but since he didn’t recognize the Minmatar he went back to his work. The rest of the patrons didn’t even react.
Smiling, Barrick took off his sunglasses and slipped them into a pocket of his coat, then took Evanda’s hand in greeting. He was very pleased that she remembered him, and almost as surprised by her reaction as he had been to discover himself still a member of Re-Awakened Technologies. It had been over two and a half years since he left space, left behind his ships and his life as a pod pilot. It was strange that nothing seemed to have changed, not even Eva’s daily routine.
“Evanda. It’s been a long time.”
“That it has! Welcome back! I didn’t know you were coming back–we didn’t even know where you had gone. Where have you been?”
Evanda’s gaze had gone from surprised, to excited, to calculating as she wondered what had happened to her old… pilot? Barrick wasn’t exactly a friend–they’d never known each other well, though they had flown in a few engagements. He had handled himself decently, but their cycles seemed to be different so they didn’t see each other often. Nevertheless, Re-Aw was her corporation, and he had been a dedicated member at one time.
They sat and Evanda gestured to the bartender, who brought a second drink to the table. Nodding his appreciation, Barrick took a sip and sat back.
“Truth be told, I didn’t know I was coming back either. As to where I had gone, that’s an easier story. Last I wrote, I was getting married. Remember?”
“Yes, though I also recall not being invited,” Evanda replied with a smirk. “Don’t tell me you’ve been on a two-year honeymoon.”
Barrick laughed. “No, not exactly, though things have been just fine on that front. The truth is, my wife… she did not like me being a pod pilot.”
“You gave it up for a girl?”
Shrugging, Barrick spread his hands in defeat. “What can one do, in the face of love?” he asked with a smile.
“But yes, I disappeared, and I’m sorry for that. I should have written. We got married and toured around for a bit, then got a house, and one thing led to another. I kept thinking I’d talk her into a compromise, but the next thing I knew, I was fixing home computers and personal drones for a living.
“Up here, I can hook into a pod and fly damned near anything. But down on the ground… what I knew, it wasn’t too applicable, you know?”
“You can’t tell me you were hurting for ISK,” said Eva, disbelief making the statement into a question.
“No, no… I was never wealthy by capsuleer standards, but we certainly didn’t want for anything. I was just… bored.”
Evanda nodded and looked down at her glass, which was somehow empty. Signaling the bartender, she looked back to Barrick.
“So what now? Did you two split?”
“No,” Barrick replied with a wan smile. “I created a compromise. I’d visit daily, take regular vacations from flying around and killing thousands of our people’s enemies, and she’d let me share her bed when I returned home.”
Evanda laughed, the clear sound filling the bar.
“So, I’m back. I was surprised to find myself still in Re-Aw. It’s been so long, I assumed…”
Evanda smiled. “Your standings were too good to kick you.”
“What can I say, even absent the Tribe loves me.”
“And what now?” Evanda asked. “What’s your next move?”
“First, I need to get reacquainted with flying. I was hoping to find you here and catch up, but I also came here to recover.”
“Recover from what?”
Barrick grinned with embarrassment. “Well, my agent, he didn’t really remember me. But he did call up my record, which hadn’t changed any, so he gave me a helluva mission. I just wanted a quick fly-about, shoot some pirates, you know? Get used to the ‘ole girl. Haven’t seen my Wolf in ages.”
“I take it the mission didn’t go well?” Evanda asked, raising an eyebrow and smiling just slightly enough to not be mocking.
“You could say that. Since when do petty kidnappers keep half a dozen battleships on standby? My agent, he tells me about this “damsel in distress,” as if I’m some gorram knight from the Amarrian fairy tales. Says she’s in a pleasure house and there’s some guy there guarding her. No biggie, right? One of my drones taps him, though, and suddenly I’m surrounded.”
“So you got blown up and warped out?” Evanda asked.
“No… I killed all the battleships, and the piss-ant who called them. But when I had almost taken out that friggin’ pleasure house, another wave of ships warps in all around me, with webbers to boot. They had me down before I knew what was happening.”
“You need help clearing them out?”
Barrick snorted. “Hell no. I went and bought a Typhoon and sent them to join the emperor.”
Evanda laughed again, wetting her lips with the drink as Barrick finished his first.
With a sigh, he continued. “Anyways, I’m back. Haven’t kept up with the news at all. What’s going on in your neck of the galaxy?”
Evanda raised her eyebrows again, this time in surprise. “You mean, you haven’t heard?”
Evanda took a deep breath and gestured to the bartender. This was going to take a while.
“The Sansha have risen.”