The Forge Region – Ruomo Constellation
Itamo System – Planet VI, Moon 6
Science and Trade Institute School Station
10 January YC 121
I’d been working with Annukka for a few weeks and thought it was about time to get to know her a little bit better, so I invited her for a lunch. By way of icebreaker, we started chatting about work matters.
“Tell me, Annukka,” said I, “is this Seeker investigation going anywhere? I’ve been running missions for CONCORD for quite a while but I have no clue whether my efforts were any help.”
“Oh, don’t worry about that. You certainly helped to advance their Seeker research. But information I am getting from the analysts is provided only on ‘as needed’ basis.”
“That’s not very motivating. Sure, I work for money, but I’d like to know how my work benefits the society.”
Annukka smiled, “And would that make you more efficient?”
“No, I always give 100%. But it would increase my self-esteem.”
“You are a contractor, remember? CONCORD doesn’t give a shit about your self-esteem. All they care about is to get the job done, and this is what you deliver.”
I shrugged, “Fair enough. But I am still curious about this investigation. What we know so far is that the Seekers are attracted to miners, holes in space and Sisters of Eve. Do we know why?”
“Miners are easy to explain – the Seekers need raw materials to build more drones, so the are trying to steal the ore or capture the mining colonies. Don’t know about space rifts, though. The Seekers don’t seem to come out of them, but it looks like they want to establish stargate-like connections with the places at the other ends of those holes.”
“And what about Sisters of Eve? The interest appears to be mutual. I saw a lot of Nestor wrecks during my missions.”
“That’s a puzzle,” frowned Annukka. “Sisters have not shared any information about Seekers with us.”
The work theme started to wear thin and I thought about moving the conversation to personal matters when Annukka’s datapad flashed red.
“Sorry,” said she, “this is urgent.”
After reading the message she raised her eyes looking concerned, “Well, now we know why the Seekers were so interested in Sisters. Some renegade faction has been running experiments designed to disrupt Seeker activity. The Seekers didn’t like it and now Sisters are in trouble.”
I held her gaze, “Do I have time for a dessert?”
She shook her head apologetically, “I am afraid, no.”
I stood up and sighed, “Sorry, ma’am, it was a pleasure, but I have to leave. Send the bill to my apartment, and the mission coordinates to Aura.”
Annukka chuckled, “Let’s split it – you take care of the Seekers and I’ll pay the bill. And the pleasure was all mine.”
I saluted and ran to the dock.
When I boarded the capsule Aura materialised on my HUD and rapped on a table with a ruler, “Attention, class! Today we are learning how to solve two-step equations.”
I stared at her, “Where did you get a ruler?”
She stared back and said earnestly, “Bought in Jita.” The ruler then disintegrated in her hand.
I blinked, “Sorry, it was a stupid question. So, what did you say about two-step equations?”
“The Sisters’ station is in a deadspace pocket. We’ll have to warp to an acceleration gate first, and then use it to get to the pocket.”
“Sounds simple, like a two-step equation,” smiled I. “Let’s go.”
The Forge Region – Ruomo Constellation
Itamo System – Mission Location
Unsurprisingly, the gate was guarded by Seeker drones – three Circadians and two Circadian Resisters. The latter did not live up to their name, at least not for long, as they didn’t put up much resistance against Ampuhaukka’s railguns. When the gate was cleared I approached and activated it. It was a strange experience – the acceleration gate did not work as your typical stargate; it was more like a cannon which propelled the ship in the required direction.
The flight to the deadspace took just a few seconds, but I found that I came too late – Sisters’ ships had already been destroyed by the drones. I could only hope that their pilots were capsuleers and the support personnel could be evacuated in time. The good news was that the station was still intact, but that could change any time as there were five Seeker drones around it: two Retainers, two Circadian Basals and one Resister. The mission was not a total success but it was not over yet. I targeted the drones.
Honestly, there was nothing exciting about the slaughter of the stupid machines; even with a lot of empty low- and medium-power slots my Merlin easily outmatched the whole drone wing. After I finished popping the first group the Seekers sent one Safeguard and one Circadian as “reinforcements”. It delayed mission completion by another 30 seconds, and then it was all over. I tried to contact the Sisters’ station but no one responded to my call. Then, I flew around and performed a visual inspection, but could not find any signs of structural damage. There was nothing I could do from the capsule, so I decided to let CONCORD and the Navy deal with this situation.
“Aura, how do we get out of the deadspace pocket? I don’t see any acceleration gate here.”
“Don’t need it,” replied she, “just warp wherever you want.”
“Ok, let’s go back to the School Station then. I need to talk to Annukka.”