The Forge Region – Anttanen Constellation
Uitra System – Planet VI, Moon 4
State War Academy Station
6 February YC 121
Looking back, I’d say that the last mission taught me more about business than all others in this course. Hoping to dig deeper into the intricacies of business planning, next day I came to Hakkaras for another mission.
“Ah, Vlad,” smiled the agent when I entered his office, “glad to see you. You did an awesome job on that tracking computer yesterday. I didn’t expect you to turn it around so quickly. Tell me honestly, you bought it?”
“Well, I did,” admitted I, “but you said there were no restrictions.”
“None whatsoever. You know, I didn’t give you a blueprint for reason, and you saw straight through it. You made an absolutely right choice buying the module instead of building it.”
I made a mental note to pass Hakkaras’s compliments to Aura; after all, it was her light-bulb moment. Aloud I asked, “What about a new mission? I’d like to get more exposure to the planning side of the business.”
“Oh, definitely. I have a task which is a direct segue from the yesterday’s mission. That tracking computer will help if our convoys get attacked but we can, and should, go further and minimise the risk of such attack in the first place. Our scouts have found an ancient site which pirates are using as a staging outpost. Go there and destroy all hostiles that you can find.”
I frowned, “And where is business here? Those wrecks yield only metal scraps which hardly cover the cost of my after-mission drinks.”
That was obviously an exaggeration but I thought I saw a passing expression of disbelief mixed with respect on Hakkaras’s face. It lasted for just a moment after which he said, “Ah, business. Of course. The site contains remains of an old ship. Take a Relic Analzer and hack any intact containers you can find. This will make it a proper business mission because…”
Here I joined him and we finished the sentence in unison, “…Exploration can be really lucrative if you do it right.”
“Keep saying that,” said Hakkaras, unabashed, “and one day you’ll be rich.”
I snorted, “Under your wise tutelage, I take it for granted. Send the coordinates of that pirates’ den to my ship AI.”
“What? Another hacking and slashing mission?” asked Aura.
“Oh no. It’s not hacking; this business activity bears a noble name of archaeology and relic analysis,” explained I.
“Mmm…” said Aura and a pair of spectacles materialised on her nose. She adjusted them delicately and asked, “When do we start, Captain?”
“Right after slashing,” replied I and warped to the mission coordinates.
The location was in deadspace so I had to use an ancient acceleration gate for the second leg of my journey. On arrival I noticed with surprise that it was not the last one – there was another acceleration gate in the area. And it was guarded. The sentries looked different from Guristas Rookies I encountered so far; instead of ungainly Bantam-class logis, they flew streamlined ships that could have only one purpose – destruction. And they didn’t waste time starting it as soon as I appeared. Luckily, the Merlin’s hide was too tough for their little gnawing teeth, and using just one railgun per each I blew them up after a few shots almost simultaneously. One of the wrecks had some loot which, to my disappointment, appeared to be a heap of metal scraps. Well, at least I earned enough to pay my bar bill tonight.
The second gate led me to the actual relic site. It was dominated by a humongous structure which looked like a cut-off hand. Despite reaching level IV in Archaeology I could not tell if it was a wreck of a ship, remains of a space station or something else altogether. But what I knew for sure was that it was inhabited or, should I say, infested – two Pithi Arrogators were patrolling the area about 20 klicks away from me. As in previous missions, these were quite docile and did not even try to return fire when I targeted and attacked them. Quite soon Aura and I were the only living creatures on site. Guristas obviously got informed of my unfriendly attitude and perfunctorily decreased my standing with them by 0.001. I took it as equivalent of giving me a dirty look.
“Look, a container,” exclaimed Aura and pointed at the overview.
Indeed, out of all debris floating through the area the Neocom classified only one piece of junk as being of archaeological value. I targeted the object, started the Relic Analyse and asked Aura, “Wanna try you hand at Archaeology, Professor?”
She added a mortarboard to the spectacles and replied, “With pleasure, Captain.”
Aura was luckier than I and managed to lead the virus to the system core without being blocked by firewalls. When the core went down I opened the container and found a datacore with elementary civilian tech in it. It didn’t have any market value but at least it would earn me a mission reward.
“By the way, how did you choose your path to the system core in such a way that you didn’t encounter any defence subsystems?” wondered I.
Aura made round eyes, “Randomly, of course.”