Leaning against the bar, Amar sipped the beer he had been cradling for the past hour. The amber liquid spin slowly as he sat the glass back on the wooden counter. Above his head hung a neon sign with the bars name, “The Wayfarer’s Rest.” This cast a warm red glow blending with the soft colors of the light fixtures, which clashed poorly in comparison to the various holoscreens placed strategically around the open room. . There was hardly anyone in the bar other than himself, but he liked it this quiet. Unlike the dives of the stations red light district, famed for rough parties, quick relationships, and cheap thrills. He sat on a metal stool, which had been cheaply shaped to mimic wooden furniture, then painted a dark brown to disguise itself even more. Over the quiet sound of the holoscreens, he could hear a slow song coming from the jukebox in the corner, heralding back to a long forgotten time.
Relaxing, he enjoyed the melody, closing his eyes as he raised the glass to his lips for another drink. Leaning forward, he looked down towards his arm which had a long faux leather armband that ran from his wrist almost to his elbow. Grafted into the armband was a long thin pda, that lit up whenever he directed his gaze towards it. For now the screen was darkened as if sensing he did not want to be disturbed, and yet as if by fate a small blue light began pulsing from the top right corner, begging for his attention. Annoyed he turned back to one of the holoscreens, knowing what the incoming message would bring. They don't deserve this, the crew doesn't deserve to just jump from one mission to another without rest, he worried to himself. Amar only paid half attention to the melody now, lost in his conflicting emotions.
Finally, he relented, the light had one, he moved his forearm into a better position, while setting the glass down before tapping the display. The soft blue screen flickered to life, displaying what could only be described as a document of significant importance. Formal bold lettering, seals of authorization, it was all there, he thought as his eyes skimmed the document rapidly. Finished, his gaze returned to the holoscreens above his head only half paying attention, mind focussing on the task about to begin. With a sigh, he shook his head and signalled the barkeep indicating his intention to leave. He consumed the rest of his beer and reached into his long coats pocket for his wallet. Grasping it in his hand he started to draw the billfold out when another hand caught his arm giving him cause to pause. “Relax Commander, I got this one,” Jansen said joining him at the bar, letting go of his arm. Unable to come up with a suitable refusal, Amar relented and drop his wallet back into the cavernous depths of his pockets.
“You want another,” Jansen asked, even leaning against the bar hunched over, he was still four inches taller than Amar, fiery blue eyes scanning the room, long unkempt brown hair swaying with the air circulator’s motion.
“Sure,” Amar shrugged going back to staring at the monitor on the wall.
While they waited for their drinks, Jansen asked, “Well Commander, what do you think?” indicating the screen they both were watching.
Amar took a moment to read the headline before responding, “Just another turf war between factions in another system.”
“I mean, don’t you find it odd that the Empire is sending a battle group in support and the Federation is responding in kind? Seems a little larger than a simple turf war…” Jansens voice trailing off before picking up again. “You would think that they would have declared open war by now.”
“They won’t, it's cheaper to use proxy factions.”
“Even so, might be time to head for Alliance space, they seem to be the only ones sitting out of the bloodshed.”
Amar nodded thoughtfully before responding, “Until war actually starts, let's stick with the fleet.”
The two remained at the bar, in silence watching the new reports. Finally the beers arrived and the two moved to an unoccupied booth. A soft red light illuminated the round table, the seats a red faux leather that squeaked as they sat.
“Cheers,” Jansen said lifting the bottle towards Amar. He nodded and responded in kind, a subtle klink of glass echoed about the room. In unison both drank. Amar set his bottle on the table, resting his hands around it. In hushed tones he discussed the message he had just received with his compatriot.
“I just received the confirmation, we have the green light.”
“Knew something was up, we didn’t finish our patrol, the crew’s not going to like being recalled.”
“They knew exactly what they signed up for working as ‘gladiis mercede.’” Amar said, emotionlessly before taking another drink.
“So what is it this time, some pirate went off on a killing spree? Or maybe someone's cat got stuck in a tree.” Amar’s eyes narrowed as Jansen continued, “I’m just saying that when we started this gig, we used to pick and chose our jobs, now it seems you just go with the highest bidder.”
“We can no longer afford to be captious about where the credits come from, and you know it. So how about you leave the choice of assignment to me, and I’ll leave the crew welfare to you.” Amar growled.
“Alright,” Jansen sighed, “You gonna tell me what it is now?”
“Remember the Ascendancy?”
“Sure, the imperial cargo freighter that vanished. Save for the crew.”
“Mhhm, our benefactor wants us to find her.”
“The fleet? Really...”
“She was spotted recently in the Tau Erandani system.”
“Lot of space to cover, I’ll have Lobel recalibrate the deep range scanner to narrow our search down.”
“Don’t even worry about doing that, it was spotted enroute to a small moon.”
Jansen raised his eyes, “Which one?”
“The same one we pulled the crew off of.”
“That’s a place to start, I’m still going to have Lobel perform the calibration and...”
Amar raised his hand to to interrupt him. “The Ascendancy’s pilot is coming with us.”
Jansen froze, eyes narrowing, jaw clenched, “Why?” he asked abruptly.
“Bonus. The fleet offered us...”
“I get it,” Jansen interrupted before finishing his beer. While he waited for Amar to do the same he paid the tab and headed for the door. Following suit Amar drank the rest of his and stood up, taking in the sight one more time.