Once the Velvet Presley was safely stowed in a hangar down in the depths of Coney Gateway station, Furieux slowly made his way to the Star & Garter on floor sixty one. There were many ways to get around star ports, from station shuttles and high speed elevators to great arcing enclosed walkways that led deeper into the station interior. Usually, Furieux would almost certainly take the quickest route to get to the bar – in his mind, the most important facility on any station – but on this occasion decided to dodge past overalled station personnel and flight-suited fellow pilots on the walkways instead. It had been more than a year since he’d set foot on Coney Gateway, the home port of the 8th Dragon Squadron, and he wanted to re-familiarise himself with the station layout. Cantrell, the port official who’d assigned him the hangar space had directed Furieux to the location of the Star & Garter but seemed genuinely surprised to see the commander back in Patocuda. Furieux had the feeling that Cantrell wouldn’t be the only one who felt this way. As one of the formative members of the mercenary group, the circumstances surrounding Furieux’s quick and unexpected exit had been something of an enigma to the crew. He’d simply up and left with no explanation as to why or where he was going. He knew that a few of his closest Dragon brothers were aware of his reluctance to drop anchor and call any one place a home, but his sudden abandonment of everything the Dragons had worked towards and achieved would have baffled anyone. His return had proved equally secretive and without ceremony, choosing to quietly dock at Coney with no formal contact with any of the crew.
At the bar, Furieux sat down and hailed the bartender, careful not to draw any attention to himself. He scanned the area but failed to see any of his old crew, yet fully aware that there might be new members of the squadron spending hard earned credits during their downtime. Not that they’d recognise him anyway, but it always paid to be invisible. Just in case. Slamming a bottle of Centauri and a highball on the counter, the bartender grunted and went about resuming his duties which appeared to involve watching the latest sports news on Galnet.
Furieux poured the liquid to the top of the glass, licked his lips and sunk half of the drink in three or four quick swallows, the last of which was interrupted by a slap on the back hard enough to make him cough and splutter. “Where’s your feathers now, crow?” The words were followed by booming laughter and a voice Furieux recognized instantly.
“Walford,” Furieux answered gruffly. “Have some respect for the divine refreshment will you?”
“That shit you’re drinking?” answered Walford incredulously. “A woman’s drink, that. Have some respect for yourself!” Walford grabbed a bar stool and sat down, rubbing his hands together enthusiastically.
Furieux responded by drinking another mouthful. “Good to see you too, Wally.”
“So? What brings you back to Patocuda with your tail between your legs?” Walford pressed. “Wait, wait, let me guess. You finally found a place where you belonged and you hated that feeling. Had to move on. Correct?”
Furieux shook his head. “Are you going to have a drink or are you purely here to run a diagnostic on my psyche?”
“As long as you are buying, sure. Lavian if you please.” The rare brandy was Walford’s favourite tipple, Furieux remembered. “I haven’t forgotten about those credits you owe me. You know … before you walked out on us to join a bunch of birdies.”
“I didn’t walk out on anyone.” Furieux protested. “I had my reasons for the time out and you all seem to have done alright for yourselves.”
“Yes, we have. Our industry is booming, we have offices in several neighbouring systems and our political clout is immense here in Patocuda.” said Walford, proudly.
Furieux turned his head slightly in disbelief. “Your industry? I thought we were a mercenary band?”
“There is no ‘we’. You don’t make the decisions anymore. Not after you buggered off to Bedaho or wherever for an entire year without so much as a goodbye.”
“I’m not disputing that. I…”
Walford cut him off. “We are doing well. I can sit here in the bar, play poker and never spend a credit I don’t choose to. That’s more than you ever offered us when you were in command.”
“I wasn’t in command.” Furieux huffed. “Never wanted to be. All I wanted was…”
“What about what we wanted? You ever think about that, you selfish arsehole?” Walford said, a little too loudly.
Furieux sighed and sank the rest of his drink. “I think I’m done here.”
Walford pointed to the empty glass. “You want another?”
“Nah. Not in the mood.”
As Furieux stood up to leave, Walford grabbed his arm. “Hey, we have contract in the 49 Arietis system. The Shannara is being fitted for the trip right now. You in?
Furieux turned to look at the man he’d spent time with fighting the enemy in Eta Draconis during the founding of the 8th, and in many campaigns since then. He was sporting an inane grin, its meaning Furieux could only guess at. “Yeah. Sure. See you there.” he managed.
Furieux left the bar, heading back to the hangar deck knowing full well that he’d never make it without hitting another bar on the way.