The Forge Region – Anttanen Constellation
Uitra System – Planet VI, Moon 4
State War Academy Station
12 January YC 121
I called the new frigate Chabo; somehow it felt appropriate. I should have been excited about having a new ship but I wasn’t. A Bantam was only good in fleets and I was not going to join one any time soon. Anyway, it’ll do for training.
“What do you think about our new friend Chabo, Aura?” asked I while the capsule was being loaded into the frigate.
“Squishy, uncomfortable. Can we get back into Ampuhaukka?”
“Don’t know. They gave us this ship for reason. I just hope we won’t find this reason the hard way.”
“Very encouraging,” grumbled Aura.
I undocked and warped to the provided mission location. There I was greeted by Rulie Isoryn, the SOE instructor Chigas mentioned before. She was flying a huge industrial ship which looked like Gallente Iteron Mark V. Don’t ask me why an exploration teacher would fly a cargo hauler. Hopefully, not to bring back the sorry remains of failed students.
Rulie explained that I had to go through several deadspace pockets connected by acceleration gates. She would give me further instruction when I arrived to each location. The first pocket was a supply area. There I was guided to a cargo rig named “Exploration Supplies” which contained a Core Probe Launcher, eight Core Scanner Probes and Civilian Relic and Data Analysers. I collected the supplies and jumped to the next pocket. Just as Chigas said, it was mostly sightseeing – the pockets contained examples of Data, Relic and Gas sites.
“Is there anything, er… explorable here?” I asked Rulie.
“No, everything of interest has already been extracted,” replied she. “Whatever remained has been ferried to this location and we organised an exposition for students.”
“What, gas too?”
“No, the gas is ordinary hydrogen with a bit of colour. If we created a real Mykoserocin cloud here it would have been harvested by enterprising capsuleers long ago. From time to time you can see someone cursing hydrogen in local – it means a beginner miner mistook our ‘museum’ for a real thing,” chuckled Rulie.
“How do I know if a cloud is valuable?” wondered I.
“We’ll teach you in the following missions. As for now, your task is accomplished. Please report back to Chigas.”
“May I ask you one more question?”
“Sorry, there is another student waiting for me at the acceleration gate. We can talk later when you get another mission from Mr Ovoken,” apologised Rulie and signed off.
“Staff shortage”, I remembered Chigas’s words and warped back to the Academy.
Having finalised the mission with Chigas, I thought it was enough for Saturday and retired for the day.
13 January YC 121
In the morning I came to Chigas’s office only to discover that he was on leave. I was a bit surprised, as Annukka, the only other agent I had worked with so far, was always available. On the other hand, a person needs to have a leave from time to time, I just didn’t think about it.
I thought that since I was there to study exploration, why wouldn’t I explore the station. And so I did. Can’t say I found anything remarkable. The War Academy station had a rather bland military flavour. The only interesting aspect was the cuisine. Some dishes, like steaks, had tongue-in-cheek names like Lieutenant or General; the difference was in size and quality. Also, there were some regional specialities like Three-Cup Kana, a stir-fry made of and named after a local fowl. It would have been inedible – too fatty and salty – if it wasn’t accompanied by refreshing Uitra Original Ale. I guess, the publicans added extra salt to the dish on purpose, to increase beer sales.
14 January YC 121
On Monday Chigas was back.
“Hi, mate,” I greeted him, “how was your leave?”
“Oh, brilliant, brilliant,” replied Chigas.
“Did you do anything special?”
“Yeah, it was my birthday. So I went to my home system Uuhulanen to celebrate it with my family.”
“I didn’t know that. Although belated, many happy returns of the day!”
“Thank you, Vladimir,” beamed Chigas.
“Uuhulanen, Uuhulanen… Hmm, can’t place it. Where is that system?”
“It’s on Gallente border in Black Rise region, thirteen jumps away.”
“Thirteen jumps!” gasped I, remembering how long civilian transports took to fly between stars. “You probably spent all your leave travelling. How much time did you have with your family?”
“Not much,” Chigas gave me a lopsided smile.
“Why didn’t you ask me to give you a lift? My Bantam has a few passenger seats; I could get you to Uuhulanen in no time.”
“Er…” Chigas looked uneasy, “I can’t afford capsuleer services.”
I was taken aback, “I didn’t mean to charge you for that. While you were on leave, I didn’t have much to do, so I could just do you a favour and fly you to Uuhulanen.”
Now it was Chigas’s turn to be shocked, “Um, I didn’t think about. Usually, one doesn’t ask a capsuleer for a favour unless one is also a capsuleer.”
That statement drove home the perception of capsuleers held by general public. Before I became one myself, I discounted all those stories about aloof and arrogant empyreans as urban legends invented by people who never met capsuleers. And here was a man who dealt with pod pilots on a daily basis and who was astonished at the thought that one of those pilots could spare an hour of his life to help a non-empyrean. I wondered what happened to all those normal firendly people after they were cloned, and if I was going to live up to that reputation myself.
I didn’t want to discuss that with Chigas, at least not at that time, so I changed the subject, “What is the next mission in the exploration course?”
Chigas looked relieved, “Oh, you’ll like it. That’s where you get your hands dirty with scanning down cosmic signatures and hacking data containers. Fit all the modules you’ve got from the supply area and undock. Once you are in space, scan down signatures until you find a Training Data Site. When you warp to the site, Rulie will give you further instructions. And, by the way, don’t forget to recall your probes when the scanning is over. There are more abandoned probes in this system than lost golf balls at a driving range.”
“How do I scan down signatures?”
“Talk to your Aura; she knows the basic process. Sorry, I have a lot of things to catch up on after my leave,” said Chigas indicating that the meeting was over.
I thought he was simply trying to finish the awkward conversation we had, but I didn’t mind as I didn’t feel comfortable continuing it myself. I saluted and headed to the docks.