The bar The Bastards frequented was bustling and busy this time of the night, full of raucous pirates, ladies hopeful to catch their roving eyes, and slummers who'd come down to rub shoulders with the riffraff who contributed to a substantial portion of their paychecks. Mynxee was off somewhere, doing something -- heaven knew what the girl got up to on her down-time -- and I'd successfully found a relatively quiet corner table to relax at after a gruelling training session in preparation for the Alliance Tournament.
I was curled up on my chair -- I've never been one to sit reasonably at the table, so I had my boots off and one leg tucked under myself, the other propped on the chair so I could rest my chin on my knee -- with a cup of coffee slowly cooling in front of me and my notepad open so I could work on the next part of a story I'd been writing and publishing on the public journal I've been keeping. I'd been drawing a bit earlier, but my heart wasn't in it.
People largely left me alone, here. The men quickly learned it was foolish to treat me like the other women who frequented the place, and the women weren't interested. The bartender had long since stopped looking surprised that my coffee consumption far outweighted my alcohol purchases and had acquired a special cup just for me from somewhere; it was white, with a cartoon of a pale blue squid holding out its tentacles for a hug, cartoon hearts and everything. It was incredibly cute, but I hadn't been able to resist telling the bartender, 'You know... everyone wants squiddy love, but nobody wants a beak-job...'.
A shadow fell across the table, and I glanced up. It was The Bastards' own Flashfresh, frosted bottle in hand, looking at me quizzically.
'Heya, Flash.' I gestured to the other chair. ''Sup, mate?'
He dropped into the seat, made himself comfortable and took a swig from the bottle before looking at me over the rim of his shades. I hadn't noticed before that his eyes were that shade of brown, nearly golden, but that could simply have been that he never took the shades off.
'You feeling alright?'
Flash never used two words when one would do. I shrugged and sipped my coffee, enjoying the taste.
'You seemed irritated after training. And you've barely been active for the last month or so. Is something going on?'
'It must be bad, you're the fifth person to comment on that, and the last guy who said anything isn't even in the alliance.'
I sighed and put the notepad down. 'I dunno. About tonight... meh. You and I both know there's no chance of me flying with you guys in the tourney, but I'm happy to help test your setups. It's just... lately I've just been feeling like everyone's favourite punching-bag. I really hope Jed wasn't serious about hanging that one killmail on her wall...'
Flash chuckled. 'I have no idea.'
'Freaky Amarrians, man.' We drank in shared silence for a moment while the bar rumbled around us.
'I had a lot of heavy losses toward the end of the year. I've bounced back fast, with the alliance's help.' I nodded to him. 'But... maybe I've just decided to take a break, without realising it. I know, it worries me, too, that I've not felt like getting in on the action. I think maybe I just got too cocky, made bad calls. I'm still trying to bring my new Hype's crew up to operational optimal, but hiring down here is tough. And we've had a lot of new people around the alliance. The My First Bastards guys... I don't know them enough to feel comfortable on their runs.'
Flash ran one hand over his shaved bonce. 'A lot of little things, all at once, huh? Maybe you just need a change, Shae.'
I grinned. 'That's what I was thinking, too. And I think I know just the man to call.'