One and a Half Afterburners

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

18 January YC 121

“This time I want you to manufacture two Civilian Afterburners, Vladimir. They will be used to fit corvettes for new capsuleers like you. Here is the blueprint. You will need 128 units of tritanium for this job. It’s up to you how you get them, but I see you are eager to try out your new mining frigate,” here Kokseri gave me a wink and laughed. I managed a polite smile which implied I agreed with him without actually committing to any particular course of action.

Civilian Afterburner Blueprint
Civilian Afterburner Blueprint

“Um, Kokseri. It’s rather late today. And I also planned to take a day off tomorrow. Can we move the start of this mission to Sunday?”

“You may plan your education any way you like, Vladimir,” frowned the agent, “but remember, while you are relaxing, our enemies are working tirelessly on building their military power. Every missed day plays into their hands.”

I mentally rolled my eyes. If he meant Gallente, I would be surprised if they found any time for work – it was such an encroachment on their vaunted individual freedoms. Aloud I said, “Totally understand, Kokseri. I’ll make up for it next week,” and then quickly left his office.

As a matter of fact, I needed a free day to arrange new accommodation. What started as a three-day visit to State War Academy now looked like a fully-fledged education course. I checked the location of other career agents and guess what – they were all here, in Uitra. So I was stuck at the Academy for quite a while and it made sense to rent something more comfy than a hotel room.

20 January YC 121

On Sunday I came to the industry department and hired a universal manufacturing line. Just as with reprocessing, the facility had its own control board.

I activated the commlink and called Aura, “Listen, babe, you can insist on being a spaceship AI all you want, but we aren’t flying anywhere for this mission and I need your help here and now.”

“Okay,” surprisingly quickly acquiesced Aura, “anything is better than counting electrons in the empty capsule. What’s your problem?”

“My problem is that again I have no idea what to do with this board. And don’t tell me to press START button; I’ve already done that and got an error message saying a blueprint was missing. But I couldn’t find any way to feed the blueprint into it.”

“Lemme check,” mumbled Aura, “this manufacturing line looks like Kaalakiota’s model ERPO.36.5.767. If that’s the case then the slot for a blueprint must be in the vertical panel which covers the space between the board and the floor.”

“I can’t see any slots on it.”

“Look lower.”

“Still can’t see anything,” said I.

“Hmm… This may actually be model ERPO.36.5.767 Mk II. Then the slot will be on the rear panel.”

I walked around the board and found an opening on the other side of the control board almost at the floor level – I had to crouch in order to feed the blueprint into the machine. This board was obviously designed by a person who had never heard of ergonomics.

As soon as the blueprint was sucked in, the machine chimed and displayed the material flowchart. On the left-hand side were source materials, namely 128 units of tritanium; then there was a blueprint; and on the right-hand-side was a picture of a civilian afterburner.

“Aha,” said Aura, “we’ve got all the input materials and you have the required skills. Now all you need to do is, guess what?”

“What? Press START button?”

“Who’s a smart boy?” purred Aura.

“Wait a moment. You’ve said I’ve got all required skills but are they high enough to produce the required number of afterburners? What if I get one and a half afterburners on the output because I haven’t spent eighteen months studying some kind of Civilian Afterburner Manufacturing skill?”

Aura made round eyes, “Dunno. Wanna ask Kokseri?”

I shuddered and then resolutely pressed START.

The machine chimed again and informed me that my two jobs would be finished in about ten minutes.

Civilian Afterburner Production Job
Civilian Afterburner Production Job

“Now what?” asked I.

“Just sit down and relax.”

“Do I need to play with the controls or somehow supervise the process?”

“Nah, once it’s started you can’t do anything about it. Go to the bar and have a drink if you wish,” said Aura and rolled her eyes.

“Mmm. I think I’m gonna like manufacturing. Although ten minutes isn’t a lot of time to enjoy a pint.”

Aura made a pause, checking something, then said, “If you get into Titan production, you’ll have whole two weeks before one gets constructed.”

“Now we are talking!” exclaimed I. “This course may not be a complete waste after all.”

“May be a waste of your liver, though,” teased Aura.

“I always have a fresh clone for such contingency,” riposted I.

While I was having a banter with Aura I didn’t notice how ten minutes had passed by. The afterburners were ready and were delivered to my item hangar. It was time to report to the agent.

“Thank you for your valuable contribution to the State,” earnestly said Kokseri. “As a reward for this mission I grant you an expanded cargo hold – an absolutely essential module for every industrialist. Whether you need to move ore, minerals or goods, this module will allow you to carry more stuff than your ship was originally designed for.”

I thanked Kokseri and headed to the bar to catch up on the pint that I missed during my ‘manufacturing shift’.

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