The next day, I called a friend.
I did wait until afternoon, according to my internal clock. A lot of pilots keep various and sometimes insane hours. Sure enough, when he answered the call and the visual snapped on, the other pilot was bare-chested, his long features looking rather bedraggled and a bit hung-over. Though he may simply not have had his morning coffee by that point.
Sard Caid scrubbed a hand over his face and squinted blearily into the camera. 'Shae. How goes?'
I smiled, discreetly admiring the view -- sexy, shirtless Sebiestor, rrrrr. 'You look like something the cat dragged in.'
He pulled a face. 'As long as it kills the cat, why not?'
'You're so heartless,' I sighed in mock-sorrow. 'I was wondering, sweetie, if you would be amenable to showing a girl around Molden Heath sometime. I'm feeling a bit third-wheelish out here.'
After a moment spent blinking at me through the feed, the Minmatar pilot threw his head back in manic laughter, one hand pressed to his forehead. I raised my eyebrows at him and waited. 'Ohhh, crap, man!' he gasped when he'd calmed down a bit. 'I was just trying to figure out how to lure you out here into some solo and small gang fun...'
Still chuckling, he rubbed at the corner of his eye, then reached out of view of the feed. I heard keys tapping and an invitation to an intel channel popped up in the corner of the screen. 'Channel I just invited you to can be used for calls for backup, however lately it's been dead. Populated by pirates with a common cause: yarr.' Sard produced a grin that would have made a demon envious. 'I base myself out of Egbinger, so I can help you set up if you decide to do the same. I'll give you a general run down of the region and surrounding space when you have time.'
I felt a smile tug at the corner of my mouth as I called up maps on my computer and started looking over travel routes and area statistics; the mad, reckless smile that seems to scare people. 'It's just that I could use a change of scenery for a little, maybe keep a jumpclone out there for the times I just need a break. I remember you mentioned you feel a little lonely sometimes, so I thought maybe we could do a bit of roaming together.'
Sard was rubbing out a kink in his neck. 'Well hon, I found the solo life drew me away from my peers, but hopefully it won't be the same for you... I know you love flying with the Bastards.'
I glanced up from the maps. 'It's a blast, but... I've never done any solo work before. Sometimes I feel like I'm not a proper pilot because I've never gone into a fight without backup.'
'It's rather exhilarating the first few weeks you're at it. Even the ganks.' The other pilot's mouth curved down in disapproval as my ginger tabby cat hopped onto the desk beside me and sniffed at the vidcomm.
'Well, you tell me what's best-suited for small-gang and solo work out there, I'll move some gear out your way,' I said, already plotting a shopping-list in my head.
'Just tell me you're not bringing that thing with you.'
'You punt my kitty, I break your toys,' I answered mildly, rubbing Asa's head with my knuckles. She purred loudly, nearly drowning out Sard's snort.
'Right, I gotta go. I'll be on comms later if you want me to give you a brief rundown.'
'Alrighty. Thanks, sweetie.' I gave him a wink and he grinned back as we closed comms.
After a few minutes' work, made easier when the Contracts pages flashed for my attention, announcing that Sard had left me a small selection of solo-capable ships in the nearest highsec system to Egbinger, I placed another call to a mercenary hauler who'd done work for me on occasion.
'Ohhh it's you. Wassup, pirate scum?' Lara chirped.
'Got a bit of shopping needs to be done.' I sent the list over and she eyed it, then looked at me with a raised eyebrow.
'Thought ya already had a stash of this stuff.'
'It's not coming to Evati.' I explained the situation, asked if she could manage moving the contracted ships as well, and watched the numbers tick over in her head.
'Double me usual rates, sugar. It's hostile territ'ry you're asking me to go into there.' Lara was already calling up maps of her own off-feed.
'Done. And thanks.'
She laughed, pixie features crinkling cheerfully. 'It's what you pay me for, innit?'
I leaned back in my chair after I transferred the money and signed off, and stretched. I really had no idea what I was doing. It wasn't the first time I'd set up a secondary base for myself separate from the alliance home system; the last time, things hadn't gone so well, but I'd been impulsive and inexperienced. Now I was impulsive and experienced, and I wondered if that would make any difference at all.