Finer Things

The Forge Region – Anttanen Constellation
Uitra System – Planet VI, Moon 4
State War Academy Station

18 January YC 121

After lunch I returned to the agent’s office. He met me with a frown, “Where have you been? I expected you at 12:00.”

I looked at the clock; it was 12:07.

“Er… I didn’t know the mission was that urgent, Kokseri,” said I wondering why the asteroids could not wait for seven more minutes.

“It’s not about urgency, Vladimir. It’s about discipline. If you want to become a successful industrialist, make sure that you meet people’s expectations.”

“Um. Okay. Sure. So, what’s the new mission?”

Kokseri gave me a piercing look as if he was not sure I was ready for the task, and then said, “This time you will learn about refining. Go out there, find a veldspar asteroid and mine some ore. Then return to the station and refine it. To complete this mission you will need to deliver 150 units of tritanium. Questions?”

“Yes, I have one: where should I look for an asteroid?”

Kokseri looked disgusted, “In an asteroid belt of course. Where else?”

“Ah, okay. No more questions,” said I and left the office. The guy was starting to get on my nerves. Anyway, I thought, I had to bear with him only until the end of the course – an incentive to finish it earlier.

Having boarded Haikarat I warped to a randomly chosen belt and approached the biggest asteroid; it was classified as “concentrated veldspar”.

Asteroid Belt in Uitra System
Asteroid Belt in Uitra System

“What do you think, Aura, is it the right one to refine into tritanium? I am a bit concerned about this ‘concentrated’ qualifier.”

“Should be fine,” said Aura, “it just means that you’ll get a better yield.”

“You sure I won’t get something like ‘concentrated tritanium’ on the output? I can imagine Kokseri rolling his eyes and droning about stupid students who can’t finish a simple task.”

“Nah, there is no such thing as concentrated tritanium. Just hit that rock with your Miner before someone else steals it from under your nose.”

And so I did. Soon I had almost five hundred units of concentrated veldspar in my cargo hold, and warped back to the station. There I unloaded the ore and moved it to the industrial section of the station where I hired a refining facility. The refinery manager told me my facility number and showed me the way to the control room. The space was filled with rows of control boards most of which were occupied. I found mine and stared blankly at a massive board littered with various gauges, switches, sliders and buttons. Other miners were actively manipulating the controls but I had no idea what any of them meant.

I took out my commlink and called Aura, “Do you know how to use this thing?”

Aura made a grimace, “I am a spaceship AI, and plan to stay that way. But if I were you I would press that big red button labelled START.”

“And what about all those settings? Should I tweak them?”

“Without knowing what they mean? Sure, Cap, at you risk.”

I tried to say something smart… and then just pressed the red button. One of the displays came to life and showed a progress metre. After a minute or so I became a happy owner of 872 units of tritanium.

“It worked!” I cried happily, earning a few looks from the neighbours.

Aura was not so excited, “Tell me, Captain, what do you call this process of converting ore to mineral?”

“It’s called refining, didn’t you know?” snorted I.

“Aha, refining. So it means that we are getting something ‘finer’ on the output. Finer and probably more expensive, right?”

“Right. Now tell me what your point is,” I asked testily.

“The point is that when we arrived to the station we had 6270 kredits worth of ore in our cargo hold. After you paid 140 kredits for ‘refining’, the value of goods in your possession dropped to 3990 kredits. I am not the one to argue about terms but I was taught that if you take a thing and do something to it which reduces its value, it’s not called refining; it’s called vandalism.”

Veldspar Reprocessing
Veldspar Reprocessing

I stared at the numbers for a moment and then said, “I need to see Kokseri. Now!”

Kokseri raised his eye from the monitor and said, “Ah, it’s you. Have you made tritanium for me?”

“Yes, I have,” replied I, “but tell me, Kokseri, why did you ask me to refine the ore?”

“I told you before, Vladimir, you should have paid attention – because we need tritanium to build ships.”

“I’ve got that, I am not dumb. What I don’t understand is why I had to obtain tritanium by reprocessing veldspar. For that matter, I don’t understand why anyone would do that when one can simply sell the ore and for that money buy more tritanium than one can get by so-called refining.”

“Ah, I see,” smirked Kokseri, “the point of this exercise was not to satisfy the State’s need for tritanium at the cheapest price; it was to teach you how to reprocess ore. The reasons why the output was cheaper than the input are, firstly, your low skill level which resulted in low yield, and secondly, your low standing with the station owner which caused high reprocessing tax.”

“Okay, what skills do I need to train?”

“The general skills which will help you with every ore type are Reprocessing and Reprocessing Efficiency. At level V they will increase the yield by 13.25%. Then, for veldspar you may want to learn specific skill Veldspar Processing which will add further 6.3% to your efficiency. Altogether it will take you about a month to get your veldspar refining proficiency to a decent level.”

“A month. Hmm… Are there other ore-specific skills?” asked I.

“Oh, yes. There is a special skill for each ore.”

“And how long will it take to learn all of them?”

Kokseri made a quick calculation on his datapad, “Should be 15-18 months, no more.”

“Eighteen months. Hmm…”

“And if you process your ore at some modern capsuleer-owned station in null-sec, then you can increase the yield even further,” continued Kokseri enthusiastically.

“In null-sec. Hmm…” I’ve heard enough and was even more keen to finish this course as soon as possible. “What’s the next mission?”

“Wait, aren’t you interested to know what your reward is for the previous one?”

“Mildly,” shrugged I.

“We are giving you a real Venture-class mining frigate!” announced Kokseri grandiosely.

“Er… Thank you,” mumbled I without even trying to pretend I was excited; I didn’t see myself in a mining frigate.

Kokseri obviously misread my lack of enthusiasm, “Ah, you don’t know what a jewel you’ve just acquired. You will truly appreciate its value when you read its specs and fully train Mining Frigate skill – it’ll take you only eleven days.”

“Sure, sure,” said I, “so what about the new mission?”

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