"The one good thing about repeating mistakes is you know when to cringe."
“So, who is he?”
Eta’s question caught me unaware, and I almost choked on my coffee.
“Who is who? The guy who war-decced us?”
Eta’s eyes gleamed. “No, the guy who you are having the hots for.”
I sighed mentally. It was always fun to meet my sister and catch up on the recent events, but she had a way of changing topics which always tripped me up.
I shook my head. “There is no guy.”
“Tut-tut,” she wagged a finger at me, “I know this expression of yours. So who is he, so that I can break his kneecaps if he doesn’t behave.”
I grimaced. “Can we please not talk about that?”
“I knew it!” Satisfied, she leaned back and took a sip of her drink. “Now this war of yours - what was that all about?”
“We weren’t sure at first,” I replied, happy to be back on safe terrain. “As we haven’t annoyed people recently - at least not too much - we thought: trade hub campers. But then my old corporation suddenly got a structure notification: somebody really wanted their POCO in Akhmoh.”
“Ah, that’s why you had me prepare some Scythes!”
“Yes.” I took a sip from my coffee. “Unfortunately the stars weren’t aligned for us: the POCO came out at an inopportune time, Akhmoh was too remote for us to form a good response, and worse: our scout told us that all POCOs in that system had been attacked. Our war-deccers were intent on controlling the system, while we weren’t, so it was an unwinnable situation.”
Eta nodded. “Kinda like the Flyers in their old home system.”
“But what did you do then? I don’t think that your boss would just roll over.”
“And you’re right on that.” I grinned. “Remember Aunt Xi’s operation?” Eta nodded, and I continued. “Well, she sent down an agent, and as soon as our POCO popped, her agent set up an empty gantry, away from the grid.”
Eta looked confused. “But what good does an empty gantry do?”
I counted off my fingers: “One, as long as the gantry is there, nobody else can claim the spot. Two, as the gantry has no subspace beacon, it needs to be probed out. And three, even the gantry has 15M structure to chew threw.” I smiled. “So you see: pure harassment, and it’s not too expensive either.”
She laughed. “So that’s why Auntie got war-decced as well - I was already wondering. They did take out the gantry, I presume?”
“Yes, they did. And a number of our other POCOs along the pipe as well, just because. But they kinda lost interest - some of our POCOs survived, as did another empty gantry.” I looked at my cup. “So in essence we now have an undeclared truce until the wars expire.”
“And then, will you rebuild?”
“Doubtful. The income wasn’t that great, and as this war has shown, they exposed us too much.” I sighed. “It was nice while it lasted.”
“Don’t I know that feeling.” Eta looked pensive for a moment, then gestured her drink at me. “So, when are you going to see him again?”
I rolled my eyes, but couldn’t repress the visual memory of a back vanishing into the crowds of a station.
“I really don’t know,” I replied quietly. “Maybe never.”