The Forge Region – Anttanen Constellation
Uitra System – Planet VI, Moon 4
State War Academy Station
24 January YC 121
When I requested a new mission from Kokseri, I was disappointed to get another mining and manufacturing assignment.
“I’ve already done that before,” complained I.
“This one is significantly different, Vladimir,” said Kokseri. “You will have to produce Cap Boosters which require three different minerals, not just one as before. Of course, you can buy them on the market but if you want to learn how to plan your industrial pipeline you will have to do it the hard way. Firstly, you have to research which types of asteroids you need to mine in order to get the required minerals by refining. Secondly, you must calculate the minimum amount of ore required to obtain enough minerals for production of twenty boosters. And finally, you will have to jump into your Venture and actually find those asteroids.”
“And how can I find out which types of ore I need?”
“It’s actually quite simple – your ship database contains descriptions of all asteroid types together with the expected reprocessing output. I trust you know how to use reference materials, so to save your time I’ve included a list of the suitable ore types into the mission brief.”
“Then the remaining tasks are rather primitive. Calculation of ore amount is Math 101. As to finding the asteroids, the belt coordinates are on every star system map,” shrugged I.
Kokseri looked at his watch, smiled and said, “If it’s that easy then the mission shouldn’t take you much time to complete. And if you finish the task within 6 hours, you’ll get a bonus.”
He obviously knew something that he wouldn’t tell me. And the only way to find out what, was to go through all the hoops myself.
“Okay, I am taking this mission,” said I and left the office.
In the docks I boarded the Venture and undocked.
“Aura, darling, can you take this tin can to the nearest asteroid belt? I want this mining thing done and dusted as soon as possible.”
“What? Are we mining again?”
“Unfortunately, yes. Let’s just get this mission over with.”
“No problems, would you like to go to the asteroid belt aligned to planet number 1, number 3 or number 7,” asked Aura. as a waitress reading out daily specials.
“Whatever, make it seven.”
“There are two asteroid belts aligned to planet number seven. Which one would you like to visit?”
“Oh, for goodness sake!” exploded I. “Just use your random number generator!”
Aura giggled, then produced a coin and flipped it, “We are going to the belt number 1.”
“Where did you get a c…” started I but then remembered the ruler and shut up.
When we arrived to the belt, it was empty. All we could see were small pebbles who dreamed to lump together and become a mighty asteroid one day.
“Aura, are you sure you’ve got the right coordinates?”
“Absolutely. This is asteroid belt one aligned to planet seven.”
“But if this is an asteroid belt, where are all the ‘roids?” asked I.
Aura felt that her professional reputation was on the line, so she took a considerable pause before answering my question – I understand she was looking through documents and informal source like Net forums. Finally, she raised her hand on which she sported a luxury watch, and made a spectacle of checking the time.
“You know,” said she, “if you wanted to hunt the ‘roids you chose the worst possible time,” and showed me the watch.
“‘Hunting ‘roids’? Worst possible time? It sounds like they have their own circadian rhythm and hide from humans at,” I checked the watch, “10:30 every day.”
“That’s one way of putting it, I guess,” chuckled Aura.
“Are you serious? Do you mean that they appear in this area only at certain times?”
“Er… It’s actually other way round. An area marked as an asteroid belt has asteroids only at certain times.”
“You’ve lost me,” I said despondently. “I knew New Eden was weird but I could never imagine that asteroids could play hide-and-seek.”
“It’s actually very simple,” started explaining Aura. “Every day the surveyors inspect asteroid belts looking for mineral rich areas. The survey report is published daily at 11:00. At the same time, the coordinates of asteroid belts are adjusted on star system maps to point to the new areas.”
“That’s fine. But what happens to the asteroids in the old area?”
“They get mined out.”
“What? Completely?” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
“Well, not always but remember, you are in a system with an industrial career agent. Dozens, if not hundreds, of students undock every day and go looking for a juicy piece of rock to point their Miners at. By now, they have had 23.5 hours to clean out the area. Now they are all sitting in their Ventures and are eagerly awaiting the new report. I suggest we do the same.”
I remembered Kokseri’s smile and said, “No way! We’ll keep looking for asteroids until we find them. Let’s check the other belts.”
“As you wish,” shrugged Aura and warped us to the next area.
It was empty, just as the next two belts that we checked in Uitra.
“See, I’ve told you,” said Aura triumphantly.
“Uitra is not the only system in New Eden. Let’s go to Unpas.”
Unpas had a few asteroid belts. We chose one randomly, warped there and found that it was cleaned out. Aura raised her brow.
“Next,” I said resolutely.
We warped to another area and that’s where my perseverance, or call it stubbornness, paid off. The belt had about a dozen asteroids, among them solid pyroxeres which contained all minerals I needed. There were also three other miners who were grinding the rocks. I was not sure about mining etiquette and whether I could mine in an area which was already occupied. After some deliberation I decided that the other guys could hardly lay the claim to the whole belt, but just in case I should avoid the ‘roids they were already mining. So I pointed my two Miners (yes, I thought I’d better put Kokseri’s gift to good use) at a vacant solid pyroxeres asteroid and, while they were shredding the ore, quickly calculated the amount I needed to produce cap boosters.
A few minutes later I had just enough, so I warped back to Uitra and to the War Academy station.
At the station I reprocessed the ore and found that I didn’t get enough mexallon and pyerite.
“Aura, is this information about the mineral content in solid pyroxeres correct?”
“I believe it is. Our ship database is up to date.”
“Then why did I get less minerals than expected?”
“Well, that’s because the database shows you the actual content, not the refining yield. If you remember, with your current skills it’s only 50%,” said Aura.
Again, I remembered Kokseri’s smile.
“Aura, quickly, get us back to that asteroid belt!” cried I.
Luckily, the miners had not switched yet to the asteroid that I was grinding, so I could resume the excavation where I left off a few minutes ago. This time I decided to get as much ore as possible. At least that was the idea. When my ore hold was 20% full, a clear overkill for the task at hand, I got bored and returned to the Academy. I was grateful to Aura for not reminding me about my idea to become a miner.
The rest of the mission was pretty straightforward: reprocess the ore, hire a manufacturing line, insert the blueprint into the rear panel of the control board, press START, wait for 10 minutes and voila – I became an owner of 20 cap boosters which I immediately surrendered to the agent.
I didn’t discuss my mishaps with Kokseri as I didn’t expect any sympathy from him. Nevertheless, I had to admit that my engagement with the agent was educational. If I had to extract a moral from this story, it wouldn’t be around any arcane mining knowledge. It’s actually as old as the first profession and goes “you can’t beat experience”.