Although I’d passed the required tests I was not immediately entitled to become a capsuleer. To be honest, my control of the capsule engine was still rudimentary and I knew absolutely nothing about the ships I was going to fly, so further training was in order.
The education programme I received at Caldari Navy base was light on theory and heavy on practice. Its main goal was to ensure that my brain-machine interface was developed to the point where I could use it unconsciously. In addition to the engine, I also had to master control of various slots where ship modules were installed. Each slot was represented by a separate neural path which had to be activated in my brain. Interestingly, their activation happened much quicker and smoother than the first one. That had always been the case for all candidates who had passed the initial tests, and no one knew why. It was like the initial breakthrough raised the control of our brains to a new level and enabled us to easily adopt new appendages in the form of ship modules. At the end of the training I was able to manage up to 8 slots in each of low, medium and high energy categories. Other brain-machine interface functions that I had learned to use were navigation, drone control and Neocom – a ship’s information system.
As you can guess, I spent most of my training time in a capsule, just like during the initial tests, but this time the atmosphere was quite different. There was no fear of failure, no breakthroughs and no celebrations. Having passed the tests, the candidates had confirmed their ability to learn and to control capsules with their minds. The rest was pretty much a routine which required only time and diligence; it felt like a uni course. The only difference was – there weren’t any volumes to learn. Occasionally, we were given a rather shallow overview of some topic, such as CONCORD operations, security zones, the current state of Caldari-Gallente warfare, but nothing directly related to the task of piloting the ship. I asked my supervisor Midori about it but she told me not to worry.
The programme took several months after which I was able to fly the capsule as easily as I could walk. I passed all the exams and was told to prepare for graduation. Still, I had no idea how to pilot an actual ship. A couple of days before the ceremony I was called by my supervisor. She produced a small device which seemed to be compatible with the slots on my back.
“Sit down and relax,” said Midori.
“What’s that?” I asked suspiciously.
“Wow! I’ve never seen one before. Can I take a look?”
“You can, after injection. Now, just relax.”
She went around the chair and plugged the device into the slot at the base of my skull. For a few seconds I had a strange feeling as if there was some noise inside my head. Then she removed the device and handed it to me. It was black, lightweight and had a prominent label “Spaceship Command”.
“The whole content of this book has just been injected into your brain. Start learning the first level,” ordered Midori.
I opened my mouth to ask how, but quickly shut it because I realised that I actually knew how to do it. I then commanded my brain to study the first level of Spaceship Command skill and immediately felt some background disturbance at the edge of my attention. It was like seeing movements at the border of a field of view, or hearing whispers which you couldn’t comprehend.
Seeing my reaction, Midori started a stopwatch. “Every skillbook has a usage guide which is learned by the recipient on injection. Study of the actual material has to be consciously triggered as you have just done. Let me know when you are finished.”
“How will I know?”
“The sensation that you feel now will disappear. Shouldn’t take too long,” said Midori and started studying something on her datapad.
While I was waiting, I tried to focus on the activity inside my brain, but it was like spotting a leprechaun – as soon as I thought I nailed it, it disappeared. Frustrated, I wanted to ask Midori how I was supposed to learn anything if the information just slipped away, when suddenly the sensations disappeared.
“It’s stopped,” mumbled I, feeling perplexed.
Midori clicked the stopwatch, “Eight minutes twenty seconds, just as expected. Now, I’ll ask you some questions which you need to answer as quickly as possible, without thinking. Ok?”
“Ok,” nodded I.
“What bonus does Ibis give to ECM Target Jammer strength?”
“Thirty percent,” blurted I.
“What is the signature radius of Velator?” Midori continued her questioning.
“Fifty four meters,” I answered immediately.
“What’s the cargo capacity of Impairor?”
“One hundred and fifteen cubic metres.”
“Good,” murmured Midori and typed something in her datapad.
At this point my analytical faculties kicked in, “Hold on, how come I know all these things? I couldn’t grip anything from the information stream sent to my brain.”
“Oh, you are not supposed to do it consciously. The learning process bypasses visual and audio symbols normally used to transmit information and stores it directly in your brain. What you thought were scraps of data flowing from the skillbook were just echoes of the concepts already absorbed by your mind.”
“And how much have I learned?”
“Now you should know how to pilot all shuttles, corvettes and a variety of factional ships, including even one battleship.”
“Whew!” whistled I. “And all this in less than ten minutes?”
“Impressive, huh?” winked Midori. “Before graduation you need to get to the third level of Spaceship Command and also learn how to fly Caldari industrials and ORE mining frigate Venture. Let me inject the required skillbooks.”
“The ceremony will be in two days. Will I have enough time to learn everything?”
“Well, the higher skill levels require more time, and industrials and mining frigates are harder to learn than
general spaceship command, but you should be able to finish everything by tomorrow morning.”
“Hmm… If I need to stay up all night, I will, but I wish you injected those skillbooks earlier so that I didn’t have to do it in a rush,” grumbled I.
“Why?” Midori looked surprised. “You don’t need to be awake to learn the skills. The process will continue even when you are asleep.”
“Oh, that’s handy. I wish I could do it when I was in a uni.”
Midori chuckled, “Even if you had the slots to inject the books, I doubt you had the money to buy them.”
“Are they expensive?”
“Relatively. The three skillbooks you’ll have injected today cost 360,000 ISK.”
I reeled, “Do I have to pay for them?”
“No, these are provided by the government for free just as the rest of your training, but you will have to pay for any other skills you want to acquire.”
“Err… I have some savings,” I remembered the generous bonus received from Gerhardt, “but I don’t think I’ll be able to afford other skillbooks if they are as expensive as these ones.”
Midori smiled and patted my hand, “You will be surprised how much you’ll be able to afford once you become a capsuleer. Now, sit tight, I’ll inject the other books.”