The Forge Region – Anttanen Constellation
Uitra System – Planet VI, Moon 4
State War Academy Station
28 January YC 121
“That was quick,” said Kokseri. “My friend will surely appreciate your prompt service and may send other manufacturing orders your way. See, you are already building your business network.”
I had my reservations regarding the value of such network in my career but one never knows, so I politely replied, “Thanks, Kokseri. I’ll keep that in mind. By the way, do you have another mission for me?”
“Sure,” smiled he. “How about some mining?”
“Oh, no,” groaned I. “I’ve done it a thousand times! Don’t you have anything more exciting?”
“Hmm… Let me see,” said the agent and checked something on his datapad. “This one should be right up your alley. I need your help to catch a spy.”
“Catch what?” asked I, totally flabbergasted by the change of tack.
“Not what but whom. One of my production assistants has been spying for Guristas. We monitored his activities for a while trying to get a lead to his contact in the pirate organisation. So far he was just a paid informant but yesterday the situation escalated – we learned that Guristas offered him to join their ranks if he passed the initiation.”
“And what does that ‘initiation’ involve?”
“Killing a miner,” replied Kokseri brusquely.
I made a pause trying to digest what I had just heard, then said, “Excuse me, Kokseri, I am not sure what you want from me. You need to go and report this to the police.”
“Oh, we did that and even more – we actually went to the court and they gave State War Academy and its legal representatives a permission to apprehend the spy. Look, I’ve seen your CV and your combat record in Caldari Navy during Seeker Investigation, and I know you are the right man for the job. And the best thing is – this mission will be credited to your Industry course.”
“How is that?” I asked suspiciously. “Are you going to cook the books to shoehorn this combat mission into the Industry curriculum?”
“Not at all,” smirked Kokseri. “The thing is, in order to draw the spy out, you will have to actually mine some asteroids. Anyway, the choice is yours – you can do some mining and help me catch an enemy of the State, or you can simply do some mining.”
“Hello, handsome,” greeted me Aura when I boarded the capsule. “Have I missed anything?”
“Nothing important,” replied I, “but you may be pleased to know that we have one less mission to do.”
Aura’s face grew long, “What do you mean? Did you fly a mission without waking me up?”
“No, I didn’t fly anywhere. It was a manufacturing mission which I completed without leaving the station. I remember you said you wanted to pause your brain until the end of the course.”
“Hmm…” frowned Aura.
“Also, last time, when I needed help with the control board, you said that you wanted to be a ship AI. This time I knew which way to insert the blueprint, so I decided not to disturb you.”
“Is anything wrong?” I asked, trying to make my voice sound genuinely concerned.
“Hmm…” repeated Aura. “I don’t know. I have to think about it. I feel like I am missing out on something but not sure on what. Forget about it. Better tell me what we are doing today.”
I sighed, “Believe me or not, protecting law and order in the universe.”
At the mission location we found a fine collection of kernite asteroids. I targeted one of them and started mining.
“And I was wondering,” said Aura, “why you suddenly decided to disgrace your beloved Ampuhaukka with a Miner. Now it makes perfect sense.”
“Huh,” snorted I remembering how during undocking one of the capsuleers nearly broke his neck trying to check if he actually saw a Miner fitted to a Merlin.
“By the way, are you sure we won’t scare the spy away by appearing here in a combat frigate?”
“Kokseri assured me that all that mattered was Miner activation. The pirates had installed here some basic surveillance device which could detect mining activity but not the ship class.”
“And what if they send a cruiser, or even a battleship?” asked Aura wide-eyed.
“I don’t think they would trust an inexperienced pilot with such an expensive ship. But even if they do,” smiled I, “you know, we only live twice.”
“Captain, we are under attack,” suddenly said Aura using the dry pre-loaded miltary vocabulary.
“I see,” replied I noticing the red triangle that appeared on my overview. Then I pointed one of the camera drones at it and zoomed in. For a few seconds we were inspecting the image of the ship.
“Are you pondering what I am pondering, Vlad?” finally said Aura.
“I guess so,” replied I. “It’s a Bantam. They sent the poor sod to a combat mission in a logi!”
“Neocom classifies it as ‘Pithi Arrogator’.”
“You can call it Filthy Alligator but it won’t turn a logistics frigate into a cruiser.”
“So what do we do with it?” asked Aura.
“I don’t know, it’s pathetic. Let’s just make sure that we don’t use excessive force on it lest they call it police brutality.”
“Then you should have fitted a civilian railgun, not those wicked one-twenty-fives.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll use just one of them. Besides, they are loaded with the gentlest of charges – the iron ones.”
It took me just four shots to pop the Bantam, all the while orbiting and mining the asteroid. Just before the Arrogator exploded an escape pod ejected out of it and hung helplessly in the void. I inspected its contents, confirmed that the wannabe pirate was inside and scooped the capsule.
Switching my intercom to the cargo hold, I said, “How are you there, mate? Comfortable?”
There was no response.
“You know,” continued I, “I have a hard choice to make. I can either bring you back to the State War Academy and hand you over to the police, or I can warp to Uitra star and jettison you into it. Given that you tried to scratch my favourite frigate, I am inclined to do the latter.”
“No, please don’t jettison me!” I heard a very satisfying scream from the hold. “I am not guilty! They made me do it.”
“And I heard a rather different story – that you agreed to become a pirate and kill a miner to prove your loyalty. I am aligning to the star.”
“No-o-o! Please listen, I had no choice!”
At this point Aura gave me a wink and said, “It’s never too late to dump him into the plasma. Let’s hear what he has to say.”
I nodded, accepting the game, and aligned to the Academy station.
“Tell me first, what’s your name,” said Aura.
“Viljo, my name is Viljo.”
“Okay Viljo, so how come you were piloting a ship which attacked an innocent, unsuspecting miner?” asked Aura sternly, while her eyes were smiling.
“Erm… Wait! What’s happening? I feel we are warping. Where are we warping?” cried Viljo.
“That really depends on how honest you are with us,” said I. “Currently, I am going to a safe spot midway between the station and the star. If you tell us the truth then I’ll warp to the station; but if you lie…”
“Don’t scare him, Captain,” said Aura. “I am sure Viljo will tell us the honest truth.”
Ten minutes later, during which the aspiring pirate was incentivised alternately by Aura’s gentle nudging and my thinly veiled threats, we had a recorded confession of Viljo’s downfall. Aura gave me a nod and I requested the docking permission.
“Docking request accepted,” said the station AI while the intercom line to the hold was still open.
Viljo overheard the announcement and said, “Wait, are we already at the station? I thought we were at the safe spot.”
“A safe spot? Nah, I haven’t got one in this system,” replied I while Ampuhaukka was being tugged into the docks.