The Forge Region – Ruomo Constellation
Itamo System – The mission location
You’ve gotta love CONCORD analysts – this time they called the mission Fortress in the Rocks. I would have much preferred if they offered me something on the rocks but we were not on drinking terms with them yet. Anyway, they took their time to decode the data that was provided to them after my very first mission. It led them to a patch in an asteroid belt where the scouts found another Seeker enclave attached to a piece of mined-out rock. Further investigation was hampered by the presence of perimeter defences – a couple of anchored missile batteries. My task was to take them out.
The warp-in location provided by CONCORD landed me 12 clicks away from the nearest battery. It immediately targeted me and started firing rockets in my direction. Each rocket flew until it ran out of fuel and then exploded harmlessly a few kilometres away from me. I watched the fireworks from the safe distance, wondering how much longer the battery could waste the ammunition, and whether I could outwait it and then safely blow it up. Five minutes later I decided that the Seekers had more rockets than I had patience, and engaged the structure.
My expectation was that rockets fired by a stationary launcher would hit harder than the ones fired by drones, but I didn’t feel much difference. Retaliating, on the other hand, was much easier as the target wasn’t moving. A few minutes later both batteries were reduced to smoking heaps of metal while my shield level was still over 50%.
“Captain, the mission is accomplished. You can return to the station,” said Aura.
“Thanks, Boss,” muttered I, thinking that that phrase started wearing thin. “How much am I getting for destroying the batteries?”
“You have not received any payment for this mission, Captain.”
“What the hell? When are they going to transfer the bounty?”
After a slight pause Aura informed me that there was no cash bonus for that mission. Fuming, I ordered her to get me back to the station.
The Forge Region – Ruomo Constellation
Itamo System – Planet VI, Moon 6
Science and Trade Institute School Station
Half an hour later I stormed into Annukka’s office.
“Oh, my favourite empyrean,” greeted me Annukka. “I see you have already finished the mission. Impressive. I didn’t expect you back so soon.”
“Well, I must say that you haven’t lived up to my expectations too,” replied I, seething with cold fury.
Annukka was taken aback, and then, noticing my state, carefully asked, “And what were your expectations?”
I leaned to her and looking in her eye slowly said, articulating each word, “That I was not working for free.”
Annukka appeared confused, “Who told you that you were working for free?”
“My Aura. She contacted your office and confirmed that there was no payment for this mission.”
“Are you sure?”
“Of course, I am. She said there was no cash bonus. I can bring you a certified recording of our conversation.”
“Ah, that’s true,” said Annukka looking relieved, “there is no cash bonus, but it doesn’t mean you don’t get paid.”
Now it was my turn to be confused, “How is that?”
“I was about to give you your payment when you threw a tantrum.”
She opened the safe, took something from it and gave it to me. It was a skillbook labelled “Social”.
“What’s this?” I asked suspiciously.
“Something you are in dire need of,” said Annukka with a smirk, “social skills.”
“What the hell do I need them for? To charm Circadian Seekers?”
“Don’t forget that between shooting the drones you have to talk to flesh and blood people like me,” said Annukka pointedly, “who would appreciate a bit of courtesy on your part. If anything, social skills will help you avoid making scenes like the one I’ve just witnessed.”
I raised my hands, “Sorry, it was due to misunderstanding.”
“Oh, you see, even holding the skillbook in your hand already makes a positive change to your behaviour,” smiled Annukka.
“But, honestly, job is job: I take a mission, shoot the bastards out of the sky, and get my payment. How does being a nicer person change that? Do I get paid more?”
“Hmm… Have you you heard of faction standings?”
“Of course I have – it was part of my training. Are you saying they are somehow related to my table manners?”
“You’ll be surprised, but they are. Each time you complete a mission your standing with me, Caldari Navy and Caldari State increases. But the amount of that increase is determined purely subjectively, by a single person,” here she made a pause, and then looking straight in my eye finished, “Me.”
When the significance of this revelation had sunk in I said, “Ouch,” and made a guilty grimace, “Have I done anything that can’t be repaired by sweet talk and a bottle of Amarrian sparkling?”
“Oh, don’t worry, love. Dealing with capsuleers, I have grown a pretty thick skin, so I am not easily offended. But if you want to impress me you’ll really have to brush up your social graces.”
Standing at attention I barked, “Point is taken, ma’am. I’ll make it my priority,” and then made a spectacle of inserting the skillbook into the interface slot.
Annukka giggled, and I realised that the episode was over. Then I added in a normal tone, “And if I am still in your good books, have you got anything new, interesting, and most of all, lucrative for me?”