The Forge Region – Anttanen Constellation
Uitra System – Planet VI, Moon 4
State War Academy Station
19 March YC 121
At last, the wait was over – I got a call from Tarumo requesting my presence in his office.
“Where is that bastard?” was my first question when I stormed into his room.
“Good morning, Mr Korff,” was immaculately polite Tarumo’s reply.
“Yes, of course. Good morning, Mr Tarumo,” said I catching my breath. “So where is he?”
“We don’t know.”
I was flabbergasted, “You don’t? But…”
“Mr Korff,” interrupted me Tarumo, “I suggest that you take a seat and listen to the mission brief.”
“Okay,” I said gloomily and complied.
“I want you to destroy a narcotics warehouse,” continued Tarumo. “We have solid reasons to believe that it funds Tahamar’s operations.”
“But shouldn’t we set up surveillance and try to trace their connection to Tahamar first?”
“That’s what we’ve been doing for the last ten days. Unfortunately, there were no physical contacts between warehouse staff and Tahamar’s people. We can’t wait any longer – every passing day fills Tahamar’s account with credits and makes him more powerful and dangerous. So, I am asking you, are you ready for the mission?”
I shrugged, “This sounds like the next best thing I can do. Why not?”
“One more thing, Mr Korff. Although your main objective is destruction of the warehouse, I would appreciate if you could also exterminate all hostile ships in the area.”
“Avec plaisir,” nodded I and walked out.
“Good morning, sunshine,” said I waking Aura. “Are you any good at chemistry?”
“Not particularly. What do you need?”
“I have a mission to blow up a narcotics warehouse and wonder what type of hybrid charge would produce the most spectacular fireworks.”
“Narcotics?” Aura’s ears perked up. “Have you ever tried them?”
“Me? No, never.”
“Hmm…” Aura made a disappointed grimace. “I would try them if I were human. Oh, by the way, are there narcotics for AIs?”
“Narcotics for AIs? I have never heard of such a thing. Why would an AI need narcotics?”
“For the same reason as humans – to be happy.”
I rolled my eyes, “Do you know the price of this happiness? Do you have any idea how many lives were ruined for a few minutes of high?”
“Pfft,” said Aura nonchalantly, “it’s all because of your imperfect human anatomy. Surely, you can develop narcotics for electronic brains which don’t have side effects. Besides, they will be in a form of a program or data which can be easily replicated – I’d have an unlimited supply of drugs and would live in a state of a permanent bliss!”
“Maybe you can invent such drugs but I wouldn’t do it for two reasons. For one thing, what’s the point of creating some kind of AI mood modifier when you can simply hard-code the state of happiness into that AI?”
“Well, that may be an option. I wonder why I wasn’t created like that from the start? Don’t you want me to be happy?”
I sighed, “I do want you to be happy, Aura, but there is a reason why you are equipped with that indecently expensive module which allows for a whole gamut of emotions.”
Aura looked at me sceptically, “And that reason being?”
“To be a sociable person. I wouldn’t like to associate with an individual, electronic or otherwise, who is constantly happy.”
“Because they have no empathy!” exclaimed I. “Imagine my brother died. What I would hear from such a blissful idiot would probably be ‘Wonderful! Your share of inheritance has just increased. Let’s celebrate!'”
Aura’s eyes widened and she said indignantly, “I would never say such a thing to you!”
“But you would. What else can you say if you continue being happy no matter what?”
Aura opened her mouth to reply, then shut it and looked away. After a while she said, “I need to think about it. It doesn’t sound right.”
“Good idea. And while you are thinking please load iron charges into the railguns, antimatter into the blaster, and warp us to the mission location. If you have better suggestions as to the chemical composition of ordnance, do let me know.”
“Um-hum,” said Aura looking into the distance.
I waited for a few seconds and said, “Aura?”
“What? Ah, yes. Warp drive active.”
Predictably, the warehouse was hidden in a deadspace pocket, so the first area contained only an acceleration gate guarded by three Guristas Rookies. They weren’t any threat even for an Ibis so I just headed to the gate, offhandedly targeting and shooting the bandits from my rails. As soon as all three of them were down, reinforcements arrived. ‘Reinforcements’ is probably too strong a word since the new group again had two Rookies and one Pithi Arrogator. If anything, they were just going to delay me for another minute. Not wanting to waste time I decided to spend that minute looting the wrecks of the first group. By the time I finished, there were three more piles of junk floating around. As they were on my way to the gate, I looted them too – got more metal scraps and a box of hybrid lead charges. Better than just metal scraps, I guess.
The acceleration gate led to the pocket which had an asteroid and three Rookies, but no sign of an acceleration gate or a warehouse. I willed my camera drones to zoom in on the asteroid and only then noticed an anchored object which was classified as Narcotics Warehouse. Apparently, it belonged to the category of Large Collidable Structures which was not part of my overview. I quickly fixed that and found that it was not the only structure of that class – there was also some kind of rig which leaked radioactive gases.
While I was tweaking my overview, the Rookies noticed my arrival and targeted me. I targeted them back and shot the thugs out of the sky before they got into their firing range. Then I had a feeling of deja vu as another group consisting of two Rookies and one Arrogator arrived to the scene. It was the exact replay of the fight before the gate except that this time I didn’t even bother moving Ampuhaukka.
I expected Guristas to send at least a cruiser to defend their precious warehouse but all they managed to scramble was two more Rookies and a Pithi Invader. Those guys did not rush into the battle; instead, they took a defence position in a close orbit around the warehouse. Apparently, it was time for my move. I targeted them and started the approach which looked more like a slalom course. Instead of flying straight to the pirates I took a scenic root between the wrecks of their former comrades, looting them one by one. At some point I probably moved too close to the warehouse, as the defenders suddenly targeted and attacked me. I responded in kind, adding three more wrecks to the already polluted landscape. The looting in this area yielded a box of iron charges, which I appreciated, and F-293 scoped remote tracking computer, which I had no idea what to do with.
Still hoping for a cruiser, I waited for a couple of minutes but nothing happened and I decided it was fireworks time. Approaching the narcotics warehouse I targeted it with all my turrets and ripped it apart with iron and antimatter charges at point blank range. The explosion was breathtakingly beautiful and my soul desired more destruction. Aura told me that the mission was over but I resolved to leave scorched earth, or rather space, behind me and proceeded to annihilate the radioactive rig.
Sated with apocalyptic aesthetics, I looked at the overview to check if there was anything left and noticed an intact cargo container which was ejected from one of the structures. Having looted the box I became an owner of ten flagons of Drop – a highly hallucinogenic drug which was known to cause temporary dementia.
“Look what we’ve got,” I told Aura with a chuckle. “This amount will be enough to waste a hundred clones.”
“I hope you aren’t going to use that filthy substance,” replied Aura, clearly disgusted.
“Hey, wasn’t it you who advocated the use of narcotics not an hour ago? Don’t you want me to be happy?”
“I do but I’ve changed my mind. Happiness is worthless if it hasn’t been earned. Trying to achieve happiness through chemical stimulation is like trying to find true love by masturbation.”
“Whoa!” I was impressed and disturbed at the same time. “I’d say you’ve been overthinking this, darling.”
“It’s not me. These are the words of an Amarrian philosopher. I went through a lot of literature on the topic of happiness and drugs while you were having your fun.”
“Ah, right,” mumbled I. There was actually a lot I could say about Amarrian philosophy but I restrained myself as at this instant it was playing into my hands. “So, should we go home?”
“Yes, Captain! Warp drive active.”