The Forge Region – Anttanen Constellation
Uitra System – Planet VI, Moon 4
State War Academy Station
28 January YC 121
Despite my resolve to finish the Industry course as quickly as possible, I couldn’t make myself take another mission straight away. The formal excuse that I presented to Kokseri was a weekend – a man needs to have rest after all.
Not having any specific plans, I just caught up on the holovids that I started watching during my previous attempt to take a leave which was unceremoniously interrupted by the urgent mission from Annukka. Most movies did not leave a lasting impression – they were just means to pass the time – but one film really stood out from the sea of mediocrity. It was about a nightclub singer’s career and love affairs during the rise of Tibus Heth and Caldari Providence Directorate. The plot was not too exciting, but the musical numbers were absolutely delightful, and the sinister presence of Provists in the background created a fraught atmosphere of the world driven to hopefully resistible but, as history showed, imminent catastrophe. The holography was also outstanding and I replayed several episodes from different angles to fully appreciate the scenes.
On Monday I came to Kokseri for a new mission.
“Let’s do something more complicated this time, Vladimir,” said the agent. “Let’s build a ship.”
“Wow! That sounds exciting,” said I. “What ship?”
“A friend of mine needs a fast vessel, so take this blueprint and construct a shuttle for him.”
I checked the material list in the blueprint and it didn’t look right.
“Tell me, Kokseri, why does this blueprint require only tritanium? No doubt, there is a lot of that mineral going into the construction, but you can’t produce glass, electronics or, for that matter, leather seat trim from it.”
“You are absolutely right, Vladimir. Good catch, not every student even thinks about it. The truth is, the real material list for even a primitive shuttle contains thousands of parts. Almost all of those parts are standardised and are used in production of any ship, from shuttle to Titan. They can be easily premanufactured and stocked by the factory – that’s why you don’t need to procure them yourself. On the other hand, more than 90 percent of parts by volume are produced from minerals like tritanium. The parts manufactured from tritanium are varied and are bulky to store. Even raw minerals storage requires a lot of space which is extremely expensive at space stations. For that reason, factories ask industrialists to provide their own minerals and storage, like a personal item hangar, each time they hire a production facility.”
“Hmm, it kind of makes sense, the part about the storage, but I still don’t understand who pays for all those other materials and parts. The only cost that I pay on top of provided tritanium is the price of the facility hire, and it’s obviously too low to cover everything else required for shuttle production.”
“You pay for everything, Vladimir. You see, the amount of tritanium specified in the blueprint is actually excessive for the shuttle production. This is done on purpose; the factory will use the surplus to cover the cost of procuring all other parts.”
“Why don’t they simply ask for cash payment?” wondered I.
“This arrangement started very long ago, when first capsuleers had more ore and minerals than cash. It was convenient to barter at that time, and now no one wants to break the status quo.”
“Interesting. Thanks for explaining this Kokseri. Are there any restrictions on this mission? Should I mine the ore myself, or can I buy refined minerals on the market?”
“No restrictions whatsoever, Vladimir. For that matter, you can even buy a shuttle, but you may have trouble transporting it as it won’t fit in a frigate’s cargo hold. I suggest that you go through the whole industrial pipeline starting with asteroid mining – this will give you appreciation of all activities involved in shipbuilding.”
I accepted the mission without committing to any particular course of action. Having left the agent’s office I checked my item hangar and found that I had more than enough tritanium for one shuttle. It didn’t make sense to go through mining and reprocessing again, so I considered that exercise done and went straight to the factory. Boy, I couldn’t imagine how efficient those assembly lines were – construction of one shuttle took less than five minutes, and that was with the basic level of manufacturing skills. It actually took me more time to get to the factory and back. I don’t know about the real industry career, but these industry missions are lucrative – in half an hour I earned almost half a million! I thought I could fit another mission into my diary today and went back to Kokseri.