The Forge Region – Anttanen Constellation
Uitra System – Planet VI, Moon 4
State War Academy Station
1 February YC 121
The start of my Business course was pretty unimpressive but I hoped it was just prolegomena to juicier stuff. With such thoughts I entered Hakkaras’s office a day after the first mission.
“Good morning, Mr Korff,” the agent raised from his chair and went around the table to greet me. “You did a great job yesterday – perfect delivery in the shortest time!”
I thought he was joking but, on the other hand, his enthusiasm could have been completely genuine given he had saved about 30 million kredits on that delivery.
“Thank you, Mr Ihora,” I answered earnestly. “I’ll try to keep the same level of performance in all future missions. Talking of which, have you got another one for me?”
“Of course, I do. You may find it more interesting than transportation. Have you done salvaging before?”
“No. What’s that?”
“You know, when a ship is destroyed its wreck may contain some intact modules and cargo that can be looted. The loot can be extracted by any ship with a big enough cargo hold. But even after the wreck is looted it contains a lot of useful parts which can be salvaged with a specialised module named, rather unimaginatively,” smiled Hakkaras, “a Salvager. And this is exactly what I want you to do today.”
I scoffed, “This sounds like some kind of junkyard operation, and you call it business?”
“Business, Mr Korff, is anything that lets you earn kredits, and salvaging is a huge business in New Eden. Do you know how many capsuleer-piloted ships are destroyed every day? 15,000! And there are also countless civilian ships, pirates and rogue drones which get blown up. Almost all of those wrecks can be salvaged and a smart Noctis pilot can turn over a decent coin in no time.”
“Okay, I got it. So what’s the mission?”
“One of our transport ships was destroyed by pirates. It carried some sensitive cargo but it was secured in such way that it couldn’t be simply looted. It can be extracted with a Salvager and I’ll give you a civilian version which should be sufficient for this mission. The thing that you need to bring back is called Black Box which, in fact, looks like a blue egg. Any questions?”
“Yes. About those pirates…”
“Ah, apologies,” Hakkaras interrupted me and slapped his forehead. “I should have mentioned that the area has not been cleared so be careful out there.”
“That was close,” thought I leaving the agent’s office. “I could have gone there in Mole without any weapons.”
“Say that again,” frowned Aura, “we are going to do scavenging?”
“Not scavenging,” said I. “Salvaging.”
“What’s the difference?”
“According to Hakkaras, the latter is so lucrative it can be called business. That’s why it’s part of the course.”
Aura rolled her eyes, “Whatever. I hope the reward is good.”
“Depends on how you look at it. It’s another Venture. I’ve run out of names, so I’ll either sell it or call it Mole II.”
“Is it a boy or a girl?” suddenly asked Aura.
“Well, if we had two moles of different gender we could open a farm to breed them,” said Aura earnestly and then, seeing the look on my face, burst out laughing. “Just kidding.”
I raised my brow, “Is it something that you read about in one of the Fanny’s books?”
“Yes, it’s actually exciting. The heroine had two rabbits which…”
I interrupted her hastily, “I don’t want to know the details.”
“As you wish,” said Aura and pouted her lips.
The pirates obviously planned to extract the black box themselves as they left one of their own to guard the wreck. By the look of it, the ship was another Bantam, although its CONCORD classification was Guristas Rookie. As I soon found out, the naming was apt. What would you do if you were on guard duty flying a tin box, and a hostile combat frigate landed on the grid 15 klicks away from you? That guy did nothing; he just continued to orbit the wreck as if nothing happened. I watched him for a while, then targeted the ship and opened fire with just one railgun. Five rounds later the Rookie exploded without even trying to do anything. I noticed, though, that the escape pod was ejected after the second or the third shot and immediately warped away. My guess was that the hapless noob was playing video games or watching holovids when I arrived, crapped his pants when I started firing, and abandoned the ship. I wondered if he was returning back to the pirate base; if I was him I would not be looking forward to attending a debriefing with his commander.
Having removed the OHS hazard, I approached the wreck and checked for survivors. The scanner did not show any signs of life – the crew was either dead, or captured by Guristas. There was nothing else left to do but to retrieve the black box. Salvager operation was simple and automated – I just pointed it at the wreck and activated. Ten seconds later it disentangled the box from the twisted remains of the hull and I loaded it to my cargo bay. It really looked like a blue egg, and I wouldn’t like to meet the bird which laid it.
The egg had some really sensitive material as upon my return to the station I was greeted by a squad of marines whose commander gave me a receipt for the cargo and also asked me to sign a statement where I declared that I had not downloaded, or even attempted to extract, the contents of the box. I sent the receipt to Hakkaras and almost immediately became a reluctant owner of a second Venture. If only they could really breed…