It took me a while to come to this decision. Stars know I didn't make it lightly.
I ran my fingers over the new patch which I'd just finished attaching to the sleeve of my battered old leather jacket, the one with the Hellcats' feline skull and crossed, flaming swords logo stitched to the back. A grinning skull with rabbit ears, comical and sinister, now rested below the faded Federal shield on the left sleeve; the black and red triple-scythe of my first corporation, Under the Wings of Fury, had taken the space on the right sleeve nearly three years earlier, back when I was young and stupid and thought I was rebelling.
What was I rebelling against, anyway?
Creaky old ideals and stubbern warhorses too long out to pasture to see that the problem was no longer external. The Federation was crumbling apart, hedonistically eating itself alive. Not that the other Empires were any better; I simply saw no reson to fly in defense and support of people who didn't give a shit about your work for their benefit.
Perhaps I was being harsh. I could have joined the FDU when the shit really hit the fan, when people were begging for help. But they only seem to appreciate you when they see the need. My brother, who'd graduated six months after I had, said he'd felt more like part of a pretty display on a pedestal for politicians to roll out of storage when they wanted to look impressive.
One entire wall, running the length of my new apartment, was solid glass overlooking my personal hangar; a small lift in the corner allowed me private access to the ships on display. Veto had money, and the corporation had used it to house their members in style. The process of applying, joining and settling in had been far more personable and rapid than with any other corporation I'd joined in the past -- and this time my cold-storage can full of combat trophies hadn't been disposed of as unnecessary.
I still bore a grudge against the long-dead Tygris Alliance for that particular insult.
The difference between pirates and the larger alliances is that pirates have to trust one another. They need to trust one another; if you treat your flight buddies as simply numbers on a tally-board, eventually you'll 'accidentally' end up on the opposite side of that equation.
What the hell took me so long?
Part of it was a willful denial of the obvious choice. It would be far too predictable of me to join a corporation I'd already worked with and begun to associate with on a regular basis.
'Ha!' Sitting there at the table, I doubled over, cracking up laughing at myself. Yeah, that was so fucking stupid of me, wasn't it?
It wasn't til I'd returned that it was made clear to me what I ought to have been doing all along. When both your partner and one of your closest friends say almost the exact same thing, six hours apart from each other, you might as well get the Clue-Bat out and start waving it around threateningly.
I owe Caellach and Raxip for that.
Cael, I know, was rather hoping I'd follow him into Electus Matari. Reawakened Technologies certainly did their best to get my attention. They liked that I would of course know pirates' MOs and how they operate; I can hardly begrudge them wanting that little edge. But it's that whole trust issue, again. I've worked in Molden Heath. I know pirates who still operate out there, and working against them would have simply felt wrong. It's not loyalty so much as it is respect.
Plus, I'd have had to bring my security status up. Aligning with Empire factions... no. Not really going to happen, is it. A pirate's life for me.
Which was why, when the subject of joining Veto was finally levered over my head like a cartoon safe on a fraying rope, I gave it some serious thought.
Political affiliation neutral? Check.
People I respected? Apart from shooting one of them a year earlier near Evati, I had no bad impressions of them. The reputation for blobbing that most people attributed to the corp seemed entirely unfounded; and in the current combat climate of lowsec, outgunning one's opponents was the only way anyone dared to fight. From the time I'd spent socialising with them, they were a solid unit of men and women who supported each other and cared for their own.
Sounded good to me.
It was difficult to believe it had already been over a month. I shrugged the jacket on, settling the heavy, worn leather on my shoulders, and headed out into the hall toward the meeting-room. It was time to make my place here.