Babe, Where Have You Been?

Delve Region – XPJ1-6 Constellation
KFIE-Z System – Planet III, Moon 7
Blood Raiders Assembly Plant

14 December YC 120

When I entered the station I was surprised by how normal everything looked. To think about it, I was deep in the null-sec space, in a station owned by a pirate faction which was famous for harvesting human blood from their victims. At the same time, I was surrounded by ordinary-looking people, mostly Amarrians dressed in their traditional gold-coloured garments but with a vermilion tint, who went about their business without paying me any attention. After some time I noticed that they were very carefully not paying attention to me. I wasn’t sure if it was because I was an outsider or a capsuleer, but that made me uncomfortable. I decided to finish my business as quickly as possible and get back home. In the station directory I found the place where the hacker lived and took a lift to his level.

I was taken to the part of the station which looked posh and was guarded. An unfriendly security guy fixed his stare on me and asked, “What’s your business here?”

“I need to see Behrooz Karimi. Do you know him?” replied I.

“Yes, I know Mr Karimi, but the question is: who knows you?” said the guard still glaring at me without blinking.

“Oh, we haven’t met but I have a business proposal for him.”

“Do you have an appointment?”

“Are you serious?” exclaimed I.

“Do I look like a joker? Mr Karimi is a busy man. And he doesn’t like strangers.”

That kind of made sense in his line of business, but having been preoccupied with preparation to null-sec, I didn’t think that I would need an introduction, to say nothing about an appointment. There was only one person who could arrange that for me and I hoped he was not busy with transporting empresses at that moment. I dialled a number on my commlink.

“Hi Ger. How are you? Have a minute?”

“Oh, Vlad. Glad to see you. I am just relaxing here in the bar,” replied Gerhardt. “What’s up?”

“I need a favour. Remember our conversation about your Aura? Can you arrange a meeting with the guy who fixed her?”

“With Behrooz? Forget about it, mate – he never leaves his station.”

“It’s fine. We can meet at his quarters.”

Gerhardt laughed, “Vlad, he is deep in null-sec. Trust me, you don’t want to go there.”

“Ok, let me show you something,” smirked I and pointed the camera, first, at the guard dressed in gold-vermilion, and then at a prominent Blood Raiders logo on a wall.

Gerhardt choked on his drink, “Where the hell are you?”

“At Blood Raiders Assembly plant in KFIE-Z,” answered I enjoying Ger’s expression. “Remember, you told me you would lend me a million if I made it to this station in Yatagarasu? So, here I am.”

“But I was just joking!” cried Gerhardt.

I stopped smiling, “Are you telling me that you are going to back-pedal on your promise?”

“Of course not but I could never imagine you would actually do it.”

“So?” I raised an eyebrow.

“Yeah, sure, just give me a minute,” said Gerhardt and hung up.

Five minutes later I was greeted by Mr Karimi. He confirmed that Gerhardt had settled the financial matters and he could fix my Aura at my earliest convenience. I was impressed by how quickly he made himself available and told him that my earliest convenience was now. Behrooz grabbed his datapad and an instrument bag and we went to the docks. On the way there I discovered the reason why he was ready to do that job at such short notice – the whole procedure for which Gerhardt paid a million ISK took only half an hour! A damn good rate for a programmer, I’d say.

Behrooz Karimi looked thirty-something, wore casual clothes and had pretty poor social skills caused by spending more time with computers than with live persons. I used to be the same, but looking at him I realised how far I advanced thanks to the Social skillbook given to me by Annukka. Using even the first-level knowledge I had no trouble starting small talk with Behrooz and maintaining the conversation without those awkward silences. It also helped that I used to be a programmer myself. When I told Behrooz about my pre-capsuleer occupation he became quite talkative. I guess, it was not often that his customers could really appreciate his skills and he was glad to have a chat with a fellow professional.

Behrooz explained that Auras were based on a standard AI model which was trained to a certain level. After that, the self-learning capabilities were blocked, but not removed completely; they were just dormant. Behrooz’s task was to remove the block so that Aura’s character could start evolving. On top of that he added an emotions module which made Aura as human-like as possible.

“Behrooz,” asked I, “can you also rename Aura? If she starts developing her personality she deserves to have a unique name.”

“Sorry, Vlad, this is not possible. The idiots who developed the model hard-coded Aura’s name in so many places that it became an essential part of her AI. Changing the name will only confuse her.”

“That’s a shame. By the way, what happens to Aura if I get blown up?”

At that time we came to my dock and approached Yatagarasu. Behrooz looked at it and whistled.

“That’s a very good question, given your choice of transport. You were lucky to get here in one piece. But don’t worry about Aura. She is fully backed up each time you undock from a station. In the worst case she will have a bit of amnesia, but all modifications will be saved. Actually, after this procedure she will have a one-off loss of recent memory. Hope there isn’t anything important?”

I assured Behrooz that it wasn’t a problem and he could proceed. He worked quickly and professionally, explaining everything he did. I was quite impressed by his skills and started suspecting that Gerhardt and I were not the only clients who requested such modification.

As he promised, thirty minutes later the job was finished. I thanked Behrooz, we shook hands and he left. I didn’t plan to spend any more time in that station, so I immediately boarded the capsule and initiated system check. Invariably, at this point Aura would greet me with “Good morning/afternoon/evening, Captain.” What I heard instead was “Vlad, I haven’t heard from you for three days! I was missing you. Where have you been?”

I smiled, “I have the same question for you, babe.”

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