“Ho, brother,” said the newcomer.

The big man turned and grinned, “Ho! It is good to see you, clansman.”

The newcomer sat down next to his friend and they shook the secret shake and said the secret words. Afterwards the big man waved to the bartender and ordered a scotch for his friend. The pixelated glass appeared on the ground next to the newcomer. He tapped it with his foot and it disappeared, replaced by a contented sigh.

“I needed that. So what’s a celebrated General doing in dive like this?” asked the newcomer, feigning some good humour out of concern with for his old friend.

“I could ask you the same thing, but we both already know the answer.”

“That’s true.” The newcomer signed, his humour going with his breath, and ran a hand absently over his shoulder where there was a embroidered patch with a star in a pentagon, the highest rank a soldier could reach. The patch was faded and well worn. The big man had the same patch. On the other shoulder both men wore their clan patch, a wolf howling at the moon surrounded by lightning bolts.

Suddenly a group of loud men burst through the doorway. They were pumped up, celebrating a recent battle. Although they didn’t look younger than the two clansmen, they looked clearer. Sharper somehow. Their uniforms more detailed.

“They make me feel old,” said the big man.

The newcomer nodded, “Me too.”

“We knew this day was coming,” said the big man and his friend nodded.

“Are any of our clansmen still playing?”

“Last I heard ill.kill.kid69 was still in the field. His gamer ordered his copy from overseas to save some cash and it’s taking awhile to arrive.”

“Lucky bastard.”

“Yep. So what are you going to do now that you’re retired.”

“I don’t know. I never really wanted to think about it. I’m a soldier. That’s what I was made for. I guess I should be thankful that I had a gamer who spend so much time playing. Other guys might spend an hour or two a week in combat. We were lucky.”

“True. Still it makes it harder to adjust to civilian life.”

“I figure we’ve got another year ‘til the next gen consoles are out. Another six months after that ‘til they deactivate the servers.”

“Feels like a long time.”

The two men sat back and had another drink. They talked about the matches they’d fought. The legendary kill streaks. The big comps their clan had won. They laughed at their mistakes, the crazy long shot weapon loadouts their gamers had experimented with. They shared a hope that they would one day play again. That their gamers would would put their game disc back in, maybe for old times sake, maybe because Battlefield Call of Honour 8 just wasn’t as good as 7. In their hearts they knew it would never happen, but that hope was all they had.



Find Alex on twitter @alex_braude