SJ sighed and slumped in the chair, kicking his boots off. Another day, another mission done. Caldari Navy paid ok but it was scrub work. Some recon here, a problem to eliminate there. Thankfully his old agent hadn't asked too many questions when SJ had turned up out of the blue and asked for his contract back.
Sighing again he poured a scotch and idly punched at the console. Ammo resupply, repairs, replacement drones. SJ authorised the requests and skimmed the agent pages again. More grunt work. As he leant to turn off the console he paused. A contact request and Eve-mail?
Tapping a key he browsed the request and accompanying documentation.
"Curious..." SJ mused.
The contact was unknown, but the referral? Allard was an old CLS contact. Curious that he should pass on SJ's details. Still... a break from the Navy contracts was welcome. He tapped a short reply and sent the request back with a request for further information. Letting the console idle he stripped and strode for the shower.
Hot water cascaded over him as he leaned against the wall. The heat soaked into him, relaxing muscles and the water sluiced away sweat and grime. His thoughts swirled. It had been a while since CLS. He sighed and washed his hair. Too many memories. Still, for old friends. Plus, how the hell had Allard even tracked him down? SJ's curiosity burned for answers.
Stepping out of the shower he towelled dry and grabbed a robe. There was still time to go up to the Navy bar if he was quick. Dinner was closing in an hour.
A soft chime broke into his thoughts as he finished dressing. The console blinked with a message. SJ leant down and read it quickly. As he reached the end another chime indicated a call. Sighing, he slipped into the chair and answered the call.
A short, redheaded Minmatar lady stood next to a desk in a dull office.
"Good evening, Jack. I presume my brother's request was in order?" she asked.
SJ's eyebrows rose. "Brother? Allard never said he had a sister."
A soft smile broke her lips. "He knows you too well. My name is Eternal and I have a proposition for you."
SJ arched his eyebrow. "The last young lady to offer me that was... somewhat less clothed?"
Eternal's lips hardened. "Not that sort of proposition. I see my brother was indeed right about you. This is more a role to suit your more... unique expertise? You see, we have an opening for an expanding role in a difficult location."
SJ let a smile spread over his face. "In other words m'dear, you have a problem that requires solving? In a 'don't ask questions'-manner?"
Eternal shook her head. "An opportunity. Beyond Concord, with limited hostiles, and further expansion required."
SJ sat up and looked carefully at Eternal.
"And just where do you have in mind, young lady? That's an awfully large area of known space you just referenced. It also requires some equipment and skills. Not cheap things to buy."
Eternal smiled and sent him the location. SJ looked and raised his eyebrows.
"You do know that this is what used to be my home turf, don't you?" he asked.
"Yes. That and your skills make you an attractive individual for our group." She paused a moment.
"This is assuming you would like to join us in our venture."
SJ stared at the map, the little point of light shining like a beacon in the night, the rest of the cluster dimmed but visible. Home... after so long, even more so now with the loss of CLS. He still felt far too alone without the friendly faces he'd known for so long. Emotions jostled in him, each vying for their moment. A familiar place, but no friends. A new start, doing what he loved, no, what he was good at. But yet... riskier. No crowds to hide in like there was in Poinen. He could stop doing those Caldari Navy contracts to earn the isk to live. Ironic considering that if they really knew who he was they would be highly unhappy and he would more than likely have an "accident" on his next contract.
"I... don't know," he murmured. "Moving... all my equipment is here. It would mean hiring logistics to move it."
"That can be arranged. Several of our members have Jump Freighters. We have a regular supply route." Eternal sent him another update and the single point of light on the map blossomed to a chain linking it to a low-sec gateway. "You would merely have to arrange for it to be couriered there and we will deal with the rest."
She watched him closely, a slow smile crept across her face as she saw the spark her brother had spoken of. The slouch was gone. He was sitting up straight, eyes sparkling.
SJ toyed with the map and idly added other locations, not realising he was showing her his updates. His fingers flashed and locations brightened and dimmed as choices were pondered and then ignored. Stockpiles queried and short lists created.
"Catch is dangerous still. I assume we will refuel in Stain? Longer route, but less noticeable. I dislike being exposed without backup." He paused and ran some more queries. "I would think a week would be sufficient for me to be in place."
"Then I will take that as a yes. I shall let Larado know." She smiled again. "It will be an interesting meeting." With that she closed the call.
SJ sat, barely realising she had left. He sat still, staring at the map as the route glimmered like a golden chain to the star lit up in Fethaboylis. Fingers tapped out codes and the route updated with Concord information and intelligence reports. He grimaced when some warned of outdated information. Still... it was manageable. He went back to checking assets and dug into his stockpiles of reserves.
"Well I'll be..." he breathed as he stared at the screen. At the top of empire space a new star twinkled. An ident code blinked in purple. His fingers danced again as he placed a call.
"This had better be important..." the voice tailed off and the man hurriedly snapped to attention and saluted. "Admiral. I had no idea. My apologies."
SJ waved at him to relax. "Victor, relax. I'm not Admiral any more. Don't stand on ceremony for me, please."
"You may not have the title, sir, but you still are to us here. It's very good to finally hear from you again."
"Victor please, sit down. I can't have my friends saluting all day. Never get anything done." SJ chuckled. "Actually it's my fault I've been absent this long. I had no idea she still had you on my deployment. It's a curious thing. I returned everything when I left."
Victor looked uncomfortable. "It wasn't her sir. We requested it. Given the fact CLS didn't need us for our usual role..." He shrugged. "It just seemed the right thing to do."
"Well then... given that you usurped command chain and still want to play tag with me... how about a new job? It's kind of why I called." SJ grinned.
Victor raised an eyebrow. "And why do I suspect it's going to involve... creative solutions sir?"
SJ's grin got broader. "Because it's me and you KNOW it's always fun."
Victor chuckled. "The last fun you got us into involved new hull plating, sir. Thou it is rather boring here lately. The local pirates don't seem to want to play anymore. Seems they remember the last time we tangled with them you brought in six carriers. I believe that made a pretty stern impression."
SJ laughed. "So I did. Not my fault they interrupted our withdrawal. Fleet deployments are always fun. Anyway. How long would it be till you could be ready to travel?"
"Where to, sir? I suspect no more than half a day. Last report we had about twenty thousand isotopes in reserve. Any more would take twenty-four hours to get shipped in. Are we going solo then, sir?"
"No, Victor." SJ paused. "We're going home." SJ sent him the map.
Victor's eyes widened. "Home?"
"Yes, my friend. We're going home. I had an... interesting offer from an associate?" SJ smiled and chuckled. "It seems I am not able to hide like I used to be able to. Infamy caught up with me again"
Victor laughed. "Sir, I'd be disappointed if you weren't." He tapped away briefly and jump ranges ringed the map. "We will need about 50 thousand more for the trip, with reserves of course. Looks like about two cynos to reach their jump chain. Any ideas for them?"
SJ studied the map. "Not a clue at present, Victor. But let me see if I can ask her..." SJ started to add Eternal to the conference.
Victor rolled his eyes. "I should have guessed. Another lady."
"Shush you. She's answering." Eternal looked faintly surprised as SJ and Victor appeared on her screen.
"I was under the impression that you would be a week... and solo?"
"I had a brainwave..." SJ began. Victor snorted. SJ glared. "How do you feel about carriers... and do you have people for cynos?"
Eternal stared. "That... is a good question. I wasn't aware you had need of one."
SJ grinned. "Neither did I. It's sort of borrowed. It's Victors fault."
Eternal considered this. "I think I'd best not ask. Give me twenty-four hours. I will speak with Larado and get back to you." She closed the call.
"Sir? I think I'll get a few more supplies if you don't mind?" Victor asked.
"Whatever you feel is required, Victor. Your old authorisations should still work. I'll have Red Frog ship you some extra fuel. I'll be staging other supplies at the top of their logistics chain. I shall meet you there once we've arranged cynos and secure transport for you." SJ queried more stockpiles and then quickly added more requisitions. "I'll have that sub list for you in system. You can arrange your end?"
Victor scanned the list. "Looks good, sir. I'll have a few extra bits ordered and I'll request dual hardener set-ups."
"Don't bother. I'll be bringing these shinies with me" SJ pointed to another list. "The Amarr Navy generously donated them to my... reserves?" SJ chuckled.
Victor shook his head smiling. "With or without serial numbers?"
SJ's grin broadened. "Slightly singed"
"I won't ask. I know better. See you soon, sir. And sir? Glad you are back." Victor smiled and cut the call.
SJ leaned back and pondered. Maybe this time things would be different. At the very least this would be another adventure. He poured another scotch and delved back into his requisitions file humming as he tapped away. Yes indeed... defiantly another adventure.