Watching the Paint Dry

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

21 January YC 121

Luckily, I didn’t promise Kokseri to get back for a new mission yesterday. Because I didn’t. What started as one pint segued into a dinner, then another pint and, you know, by the time I left the bar it was too late and hmm… too risky to start a new mission.

Today is another day, and fresh as a daisy (or a cactus, as I forgot to shave) I turned up at the doorway of Kokseri’s office. If he disapproved of my early end of the academic activities yesterday, he didn’t let it show. Although I noticed a suspicious glint in his eye.

“Ah, Vladimir, good to see you,” greeted me Kokseri. “Want another mission?”

“Sure thing. Can’t wait to finish the course,” replied I wondering if he realised how ambiguous that phrase was.

“Excellent. You see, mining ore is not a safe activity, even in hi-sec. There are pirates, sleepers, drifters who will happily blow your Venture up just for the fun of it. You need to be prepared for such encounters, that is why I am sending you to a mining area infested with rogue drones.”

“Hmm… I thought you were an industry career agent, not a military one.”

“And this is an industrial mission because its objective is to obtain 7,000 units of tritanium from veldspar that you will mine. And you’ll also get a very industrial reward – a new Miner,” Kokseri looked at me expectantly.

“Okay, let’s do it,” shrugged I and went to the docks.

There I thought about what ship I was going to fly. On the one hand, this time I needed the Venture because I had to mine a lot of ore and the mining frigate had a massive ore hold. On the other hand, Venture was poorly equipped for any kind of combat. After some deliberation I decided to make two trips – one in Ampuhaukka to kill the drones, and another one in the Venture.

When I warped to the mission location I saw a couple of Moth Apis drones about 70 kilometres away. The little bastards were lightning fast and agile, so I decided to kill them from the distance – I was afraid that they might go into a tight orbit around the Merlin and its turrets would not be able to track the drones. Moth Apis appeared to be either narrow-minded or nearsighted – they allowed me to approach within the optimal distance of my railguns and didn’t even try to retaliate when I targeted and shot them. The whole disinfection procedure took only six small iron charges.

Moth Apis, Rogue Drone
Moth Apis, Rogue Drone

I returned to the station and looked at the Venture which was assembled during my brief outing. The ship looked unmistakably industrial – squat fuselage, bulging ore holds and yellow high-vis paint. Unsightly. But whether I liked it or not, the ship needed a name. Rather unimaginatively, I called it Mole.

Mole, Venture-class Mining Frigate
Mole, Venture-class Mining Frigate

Five minutes later Mole, Aura and I arrived back to the mining area and started excavation. To produce 7,000 units of tritanium with my current skills we needed about 4,000 units of veldspar. Mole had managed to extract that amount of ore in mere four minutes. I was impressed and decided to make some calculations, mumbling under my breath.

Mining Veldspar in a Venture
Mining Veldspar in a Venture

“If I get 4,297 units of veldspar in 4 minutes then I can get around 64.5 thousand units in an hour. With Jita buy price of 13.5 kredits per unit I can earn 870 thousand kredits per hour. If I work the standard eight-hour shift and use two Miners then I will get thirteen million kredits per day. Again, working 20 days per month I’ll get 260 million kredits. And this is if I mine only veldspar, the cheapest of the ores. Whew!”

At that moment I felt a strange sensation, as if I was being watched. Raising my head from the calculator I saw Aura staring at me with round eyes, without blinking. Well, a hologram did not really need to blink, but that was part of her program to make her look more natural. I had a sinking feeling that something went terribly wrong.

“What?” asked I turning my head just to check if she was staring at something behind my back. “Are you okay?”

Aura started, turned her eyes away, and murmured as if talking to herself, “And this is the man who just three days ago could not picture himself in a mining frigate.”

“Yeah,” I took the bait, “but I didn’t realise how much money I could earn in that frigate! Thirteen million kredits a day – imagine that!”

Aura shook her head, “And this is the man who dreamed of raiding ghost sites and earning millions of kredits in a minute.”

“But… but mining gives you a guaranteed profit, while exploration is hit and miss!”

Aura was still not looking at me, “And so says the man who has just remapped his stupid brain to boost memory and intelligence in order to learn exploration skills for the next five months,” then she finally turned to me and looked into my eye, “but I’ve got a feeling that the remapping was not successful.”

“For goodness sake, what do you have against mining?” cried I.

“Me? Nothing. I can just pause my brain from 9 to 5. The question is: can you?”

I was taken aback, “What do you mean? Why do I need to pause my brain?”

“But what are you going to do for those eight hours? This mining thing is more boring than watching the paint dry! And you are planning to do it day in and day out. How long do you think you can carry on like that?”

“Erm, but this is not entertainment, it’s a job,” objected I.

“It is but not the job you are used to. You were a software developer and even your simplest tasks required some kind of brain activity. With mining, you just point the laser at the rock and wait. Imagine that you spent 5 minutes writing code and then waited for an hour for it to be compiled and tested.”

I shuddered. Even slow LCQ emulators managed to finish building and testing in a matter of seconds. Honestly, I did not think of mining from that perspective. I was not a Gallente kind of guy with a five-second attention span, but spending hours on end without external brain stimulation will eventually turn any dolce far niente into a bitter one.

“You might have a point there,” reluctantly conceded I.

I went back to the station, reprocessed the ore and walked to the agent’s office, all the while thinking about our conversation with Aura. Kokseri, seeing a frown on my face, gleefully said, “If you’ve come to ask me for a new Venture, I don’t have one for you. I’ve told you about the dangers of this mission and you had to prepare yourself accordingly.”

“New Venture?” I emerged from my thoughts. “Why? I don’t need a new one. I’ve come to report the completion of the mission.”

Kokseri’s smirk disappeared, “You mean you’ve managed to overcome the drones flying the mining frigate?”

I snorted, “Why would I use a mining frigate when I have a combat one? I flew my Merlin to the danger zone first, eliminated the threat, and then came back in a Venture to mine the ore.”

“But you were not supposed to fly there twice. The idea was that you would encounter the drones in your mining frigate.”

I took out my datapad, opened the mission description and showed the screen to Kokseri, “Where does it say so?”

“Well, it doesn’t,” admitted Kokseri, “What you’ve done obeys the letter of the assignment, but is against its spirit.”

“So what?” I raised my brow.

“Hmm… I think I can make an exception in this case and accept the mission,” said Kokseri reluctantly. “You reward will be delivered…”

Things finally clicked into place in my head and I interrupted the agent, “Ah, the reward. You know what, pass that Miner to your next student with my compliments. We need more people like them.”

Then I turned away and left the office. When I was closing the door I glimpsed a bewildered look on Kokseri’s face – it was the best sight I had seen since the beginning of that course.

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