The Forge Region – Anttanen Constellation
Uitra System – Planet VI, Moon 4
State War Academy Station
11 February YC 121
I walked into Hakkaras’s office full of excitement – whatever mission he’d give me, it would be the last mission in Business course. The training was not especially hard (although, I admit, some of my business decisions could be better) but nevertheless its completion was a certain achievement which I was looking forward to celebrate.
The agent greeted me as an old friend, “Vlad, come in! How are you doing? I have something to show you.”
He turned his monitor toward me and I saw… a pile of metal scraps.
“Let me guess,” said I. “Metal scraps?”
“Exactly! But not just any metal scraps. These were looted from a wreck of a pirate frigate which was blown up by one of the Academy’s escort ships. That ship was fitted with the afterburners you delivered yesterday. The pilot said they made all the difference during the fight, and sent you her compliments.”
“Um… Yeah, that’s, er… that’s cool. Glad you put them to good use,” stammered I, suddenly feeling socially awkward despite all my training. That praise from a professional pilot, and also a lady, threw me off-balance, and I hurriedly changed the topic, “By the way, have you got a mission for me?”
“Absolutely. It’s your last assignment and I have something special for you.”
“Invention?” I asked hopefully.
“Er… No. Invention should be part of Industry course.”
“It wasn’t. I hoped I could learn it as part of Business training.”
“Sorry to disappoint you, Vlad, but Invention is not in Business curriculum. The task that I have for you is not exactly the Rocket Science you wanted to try,” smiled Hakkaras, “but it’s as close as it gets – rocket manufacturing. You see, Guristas pirate ships are especially vulnerable to kinetic damage, and we use almost exclusively Scourge Rockets against them. With the recent surge of pirate activity we have started running out of our stock. Your mission is to produce 1,000 Scourge Rockets for the Academy.”
“What, as always, no blueprints and no strings attached?” I asked resignedly, my hopes of trying Invention dashed.
“Oh no. Not this time. To complete this mission you must manufacture those rockets yourself. And for that,” Hakkaras tapped his datapad, “I am sending you a blueprint for 200 runs.”
“Just two hundred? I thought you needed a thousand.”
“Ah, you see, this course teaches you something new until the very last mission. Blueprints for ammo produce a hundred charges per run. So you need to run the job only ten times.”
“And what do I do with the remaining 190 runs?” asked I.
“Consider it a mission reward. You can sell the blueprint or you can produce the rockets for yourself and give Guristas a good thrashing.”
“Or I can manufacture the rockets and sell them to other pilots,” suggested I.
“Now I hear a businessman talking,” laughed Hakkaras and nudged me with his elbow.
After the last mission I decided that before I would touch anything in Neocom I should consult Aura. I have explained the mission conditions and objectives to her and asked, “So, what do you think? Should I get out of the station today?”
Aura slowly yawned and said, “Buy pyerite here and run the jobs. Wake me up when you have something more interesting.”
“Hold on!” exclaimed I. “Why shouldn’t I, for example, mine the ore myself?”
“Bad reprocessing skills.”
“Well, I can mine the ore then sell it and buy refined pyerite instead.”
“Bad timing – it’s 10:05 EST. Wanna spend an hour looking for asteroids?” Aura raised her brow.
“Hmm… And why should I buy pyerite here? It’s probably more expensive than in Jita.”
“Yep. 30% dearer here.”
“Thirty per cent!” cried I. “That’s a rip-off! I am going to Jita.”
“You really want to spend 20 minutes jumping between systems to save 300 kredits?”
“Just three hundred?” I stopped in my tracks.
“Yes, you need only 247 units of pyerite to produce 1,000 rockets. In Jita you’ll pay 913.9 ISK for it; here it will cost you 1235 ISK. The choice is yours, Captain,” smirked Aura.
“And what about tritanium? I also need tritanium for the rockets.”
“You’ve got enough for 10 runs in your item hangar.”
I ran out of questions and looked at Aura with admiration, “And you have figured all this out in a fraction of a second?”
“Um, it took a bit longer,” said Aura coyly, “I did it while I was yawning.”
I was in my item hangar checking the pallets with Scourge Rockets delivered from the factory when Hakkaras turned up.
“You’ve got them manufactured already? Well done, Vladimir!” said Hakkaras excitedly. “Just in time for our today’s convoy.”
“I guess, in the next few days I should expect a steady stream of photos of metal scraps in my mailbox,” I said sarcastically.
“I bet, you should,” laughed the agent. “So, this is it. Here is your certificate of accomplishment. Of course, nothing beats real experience, but with this little piece of paper you can count on a decent job offer from any mega-corporation, and even from some capsuleer-owned corps. But, if I may be honest with you…” Hakkaras made a pause and looked me in the eye.
“Yeah, spill it,” smiled I.
“I’ve just noticed that you performed much better in missions which had elements of combat. Don’t get me wrong, you can become a fine businessman, Vlad, but before you commit to anything why don’t you talk to my colleague Ranta Tarumo who runs a Military course here, in the Academy? Who knows, maybe you are better suited for military career.”
Looking at the rows of tungsten-tipped rockets, I remembered my Seeker Investigation missions during which the drones launched swarms of these little angry wasps at me. I thought that after weeks of mining and refining I wouldn’t mind fitting a couple of launchers with these hard-nosed comets to my frigate and punching a few holes in Guristas ships.
Turning to the agent I shook his hand and said, “You might be right, Hakkaras. You might be right.”