The Forge Region – Ruomo Constellation
Itamo System – Planet VI, Moon 6
Science and Trade Institute School Station
As soon as we docked, Aura transferred the salvaged data to the Navy. I went to the local Navy office for debriefing and to finalise the transfer of Yatagarasu. Shockingly, the agent who supervised my mission told me that it was not completed: my objective was to retrieve datacores, but what I brought back was a raw dump of the backup system. My objections that it was the same data but in a different format didn’t get me anywhere – the lady stubbornly stuck to the letter and insisted I had to fly another mission before encumbrance on my Yatagarasu title could be lifted. While we were bickering about T&Cs, the agent received a message on her commlink and excused herself. After reading it she said, “Take a look at this. I’ve forwarded the message to your address.”
I opened the message on my datapad and saw that it was from CONCORD. My heart sank as I thought about the research ship which was blown up before my eyes. It was quite possible that they could construe a case against me for not assisting a civilian ship in distress. In fact, the message didn’t mention the research ship at all. CONCORD thanked Caldari Navy for help with retrieving the data and expressed regrets that they did not warn the Navy about possible hostiles in the area. The data, they said, revealed another location of interest that they wanted to investigate but long-range scanning confirmed the presence of Seekers there. CONCORD requested Navy’s help with clearing the site of drones.
“You see,” exclaimed I, “I’ve brought you the right data. CONCORD is happy.”
The agent sighed, “I know. For me it would be good enough, but the instructions were very specific and the AI does not accept delivery of backup data dump as a condition of successful mission completion. Computer says No.”
“Oh, please don’t tell me that you don’t have manual procedures to override AI decisions. I am… I mean I was a computer programmer myself; I know how such things work.”
“Of course we have manual override, but it will require an approval from an officer three ranks higher than I and will take 3-4 weeks. During that time, the corvette is considered Navy’s property and can only fly on official missions. Look, why don’t you simply take that Seeker-clearing mission from CONCORD? It will take you at most an hour after which the Ibis will be all yours.”
I bit the lip. That was unfair. I did my job and earned Yatagarasu. At the same time, I desperately wanted that mission. The thought that I had a chance to pulverise more Seekers made my heart beat faster. After several painful seconds of indecisiveness I thought, “To hell with fairness!”
“Sign me up,” grumbled I.
“Wise choice,” said the agent and sent me the mission briefing.
The Forge Region – Ruomo Constellation
The Itamo System
The Mission Location
I warped to the mission location and the first thing I saw was a humongous space station. Its architecture was nothing like I’ve seen before, and even with my limited space experience I could say that the structure was alien. CONCORD thought it was built by Seekers. The station used to have a circular shape but now it was broken apart and huge segments were floating in the space around the common centre of gravity. The segments themselves were intact as if someone just broke the ring into pieces. Thinking of a force that could do it, on the one hand, scared me, on the other, made me grateful that there was a powerful ally in our fight against Seeker infestation.
I was distracted from my sightseeing by a comet which was moving fast in my direction. Before I could do anything it smashed into my shield and exploded. At that very moment I felt a familiar sting, this time on my chest. Cursing myself for stupidity, I sprang into action…
Let me make a pause here and explain a few things that I realised in that split second. Firstly, it was not a comet, it was a freaking rocket. Secondly, having arrived at a site which potentially contained hostiles, I should have been looking at my overview instead of a viewport. If I had done that I would have immediately spotted three red symbols which indicated enemy ships. And finally, those were not stings from parasites, they were sensor feedback signals which were sent through brain-machine interface and imitated tactile perception, as if the surface of the ship was my skin. If I was attacked, I would feel stings on parts of my body which were mapped to the collision locations on the ship surface. They told us about this tactile feedback during Navy training but didn’t give us an opportunity to really feel it at that time. This is a bit of a lame excuse for a capsuleer who is supposed to learn quickly, and I should have realised the nature of those stings during my first encounter with Seekers.
Anyway, I sprang into action. It was a familiar sequence – target, orbit and fire until the clunker exploded. I had repeated it three times, once for each drone, all the while keeping my eye on the shield status. By the time I killed the last Circadian Seeker the semicircle which indicated the shield status was half-red. Not too bad, thought I, given there were three of them against me, and I had only a civilian version of Gatling Railgun.
Aura told me that the mission objective had been achieved and I could return to the station, but I lingered for a while. Looking at the wrecks I wondered if they were the same drones that blew up the CONCORD research ship. Somewhat irrationally I wished to avenge the death of the ship crew by killing the ones which destroyed the ship, even though they might not have any identity. Then my attention shifted to the destroyed, or should I say broken, space station. If it belonged to the Seekers it could have been used for drone production. Could still be used, as the station lights were shining brightly, indicating there was power supply. I didn’t like the idea and decided to ensure that nothing else would ever emerge from that station, by finishing the destruction. I targeted a station module and activated the Gatling Railgun. The effect was underwhelming – the locations where the charges hit the surface glowed brightly for a second and then faded revealing the pristine surface. That was embarrassing. I turned off the gun and looked at the overview to check that no one witnessed my pathetic attempt at structure bashing. Then another thought crossed my mind: CONCORD planned to investigate this site and I was potentially interfering with their research. What if they decided that the mission had failed because I had destroyed some valuable artefact along the way? I didn’t need that kind of negativity in my life. All I wanted at that time was to get my Ibis, so I followed Aura’s advice and warped back to Perkone Factory.