The Forge Region – Ruomo Constellation
7 January YC 121
Unfortunately, the VIP transfer service I received from Caldari Navy was only one way; once the emergency was over I had to use public transport. It would take the better part of the day to return to my hotel and, as I thought of it, the idea of continuing the vacation seemed less and less attractive. Also, my involuntary return to active duty made me realise how much I liked and missed the thrill of the capsuleer life. If I didn’t have time to go fishing today, I thought, I could still run another mission. So, I called Annukka again, and for the first time in many weeks was disappointed by her reply – there were no available missions that day. With all my plans ruined I returned to my station apartment and spent the rest of the day catching up on capsuleer news and browsing corporate recruitment ads.
8 January YC 121
Next day things returned to their hectic norm. While I was finishing my breakfast and pondering if I was still in a holiday mode and whether a glass of stout was an appropriate start of the day, I got a call from Annukka.
“Hello, honey, have you finished your beer?” said she.
“I am sober as a judge,” said I trying to look offended, “and something tells me that I’ll stay that way for a while. What’s up, busybody?”
“Once you told me that you were fascinated by holes.”
I made round eyes.
“Holes in the sky,” clarified Annukka seeing my expression, “and we’ve found a pretty curious one recently. Archaeologists believe it is more ancient than Eve Gate and are keen to explore it. The only problem is that Seekers found it earlier and already started building some kind of a gate around it. We can’t allow them to control the wormhole, so the gate must be destroyed. But we need someone to take care of the guards before we send a demolition squad,” here Annukka raised her eyebrow.
I rolled my eyes and sighed, “Do I have time to finish my breakfast?”
“Plenty, those gates are not built in a day. But go easy on drinks.”
“Yes, Mom,” saluted I and signed off.
The mission was called The Dreaming Stones and I understood why when I arrived to the destination. The wormhole was surrounded by a circle of “standing” stones of a uniform height whose formation was too regular to be natural. Another unnatural presence was five Seeker drones standing sentry around the structure. Luckily for me, they were split in three groups separated by 20-30 kilometres: one Elite Interceptor, two Circadian Seekers and two Circadian Seeker Basals (whatever that meant).
Keeping my distance from the Circadians I first approached the Interceptor and ensured that it would no longer be able to intercept anything. While I was at it, the other Seekers made no attempt to assist their comrade. I expected that after all prior encounters they would realise that a capsuleer-piloted frigate was a superior force, overcoming which required a concerted effort on their part. After all, don’t they say that drones are controlled by artificial intelligence? Anyway, while they were manifestly artificial, calling them intelligent, in Aura’s and my view, was too generous.
Having finished with the Interceptor, I used my divide-and-conquer strategy to deal with each of the remaining groups. That wasn’t the end of the story because, shortly after, reinforcements, or rather replacements, arrived – two Safeguards and two Guardians. Once again, they chose to form two groups which could easily be dispatched one by one. I wasn’t impressed.
“What do you think of your poor cousins, Aura?”
“Cousins? Ha! Itamian Eel is your cousin! Those clunkers had to be scrapped so that they wouldn’t taint the ranks of true AI creatures. And thank you very much for doing that.”
“Sorry, no offence was meant,” said I in a conciliatory tone.
“None taken. So what do we do now? Wanna try diving into that wormhole?”
“We don’t know what’s on the other side. What if there is another universe where artificial intelligence eclipsed and enslaved its biological progenitors, and I’ll be bossed around by some kind of cybernetic person called Aura? Nah, I like it here.”
“Oh, I would be a very kind mistress,” said Aura in a sultry voice.
“But since we are staying in this world where the situation is completely different, would the mistress be so kind as to navigate this ship back home?” asked I putting my hands behind my head.
“Yes, Boss!” replied Aura and stuck her tongue out at me.