The Forge Region – Anttanen Constellation
Uitra System – Planet VI, Moon 4
State War Academy Station
7 February YC 121
“What was on the datacore?” I asked Hakkaras next day after the archaeology mission.
“Oh, it was a very ancient and very rare technology,” said the agent and, seeing interest in my eyes, finished, “Yes, very rare, because it is so primitive that we don’t use it anymore.”
My disappointment was so obvious that Hakkaras couldn’t help laughing.
I was not impressed, “Now that you’ve had your fun at my expense, I’d like to know what I can do at yours.”
Hakkaras slapped me on the shoulder, “Don’t worry, this cluster contains a lot of hidden treasures and one day you’ll be rich and famous if…”
I interrupted him, “I know, I know – if I do it right. Now what about a mission?”
“Oh yes. We are now coming to denouement where we put together all the scraps of information you gathered during your previous missions.”
“All of them? Does it mean that your friend has managed to decode the encrypted Guristas chip?”
“He has indeed, and surprisingly quickly. Apparently they have invented a new type of LCQ-controllers which allow to crack almost any industrial-strength encryption algorithm used these days.”
My interested was piqued, “LCQ-controllers?”
“Haha,” laughed Hakkaras, “of course – you were an LCQ-programmer, so you are naturally interested. Just watch the media, they will publish the details soon.”
“I thought such technology would be classified.”
“It was, and SuuVee has been using the new controllers for months to hijack their competitors’ encrypted communications. But recently someone leaked this information and now they are scrambling to patent the invention.”
“Makes sense,” nodded I. “Otherwise, both of us would have been dead. Now, about the information I have gathered – what conclusions have you made?”
“Well, I dare to hope that the Academy’s security is better than SuuVee’s, and this information still remains highly confidential, which means I can’t tell you the details. But in general, the extent of pirates’ infiltration in this system is so large that it warrants additional military funding. The central data core with the collated information must be delivered to my friend in Unpas. He has access to powerful people who are interested in keeping Uitra system safe. I hope you understand that what we have learned about SuuVee’s capabilities precludes sending this information through normal communications channels. So that’s where you come into play. I need you to deliver the data core to Core Complexion Storage Station. When can you fly out?”
I grimaced, “Another one-hop courier mission?”
“It is, so I hope you can finish it quickly and come back for a special reward that I’ve prepared for you.”
“What is it?”
“You’ll know when you get it,” smiled Hakkaras. “So?”
“Okay, give me that data core,” acquiesced I.
“Ha! It’s not like I have it in my pocket,” snorted Hakkaras. “It occupies five cubic meters and weighs half a ton. I’ll send it to your hangar.”
“Gosh! And you’ve just told me that we are not using primitive technology. It’s been centuries since information storage units took such volume!”
“Don’t get me wrong. The data core itself is pretty small. The rest of the space, though, is filled with security devices which prevent unauthorised intrusion, physical and electronic. I suggest that you leave its handling to certified stevedores, lest it explode in your face.”
“Are you putting explosives in my cargo hold?” I asked indignantly.
“Aren’t you flying with hundreds of railgun charges in that very hold?” retorted Hakkaras.
“Fair enough,” admitted I grudgingly and went to the hangar.
“Hello, sunshine,” greeted me Aura, and then corrected, “er… sorry, I should have said, hello thunderstorm. What’s the matter?”
“Don’t ask,” I said darkly. “Just get us to Core Complexion station in Unpas.”
“Playing courier monkey again? What are we ferrying this time?”
“Some super-duper data core.”
Aura immediately got excited and jabbered, “Is it encrypted? May I try to crack it? I promise not to go over the CPU limit!”
“Nooo!” yelled I. “Don’t even think about it. That thing is booby-trapped. If you want to reach Unpas in one piece stay away from that data core. Even if it wasn’t protected, I wouldn’t want my fingerprints anywhere near that information.”
“I don’t leave fingerprints,” grumbled Aura.
“And let it stay that way,” said I resolutely and undocked.
The mission was nothing to write home about: undock, warp to the gate, jump to Unpas, warp to the station, dock, unload. It was done and dusted in 3 minutes. I called Hakkaras about the special reward, and he told me that I had to come to his office to collect it. Fifteen minutes later I was at his doorstep – yes, these days it takes less time to traverse billions of kilometres of interstellar space than to walk through the station.
“Here you go,” said Hakkaras and handed me a small cylinder which looked like a mini version of a skillbook.
“What’s that?” I asked suspiciously.
“This is a Limited Social Adaptation Chip.”
“What does it do?”
“It increases your Charisma by one point,” explained Hakkaras.
I remembered my training priorities and said, “I am already charismatic enough. Can I get one for Memory or Intelligence, instead?”
“You don’t look stupid or amnesiac either,” quipped the agent. “Anyway, that’s all I have. If you want other types, you can buy them yourself on the market.”
“Hmm… I think I will, actually. As to this one, I’ll keep it for the next job interview. See you later, Hakkaras,” I saluted and walked out.