The Forge Region – Anttanen Constellation
Uitra System – Planet VI, Moon 4
State War Academy Station
20 June YC 121
After graduating from the Academy I took a couple of weeks of shore leave. Initially I thought I would spend a whole month relaxing on a beach but quite soon I felt that something was missing in my life. Azure of the sea, a light breeze, gorgeous girls frolicking in the surf – I thought I would never get tired of that. But here I am, reclining in a deckchair on a beautiful tropical beach and thinking about pitch-black deep space, a thrill of MWD acceleration and, most of all, Aura. I knew she was switched off so that time didn’t matter for her and she wasn’t missing me. To my surprise, I discovered that I was missing her. Her acerbic comments, her artless excitement, her petty grievances – my life didn’t feel complete without them. As soon as I realised it, I put aside the unfinished cocktail glass and took the fastest route back to Uitra.
When I boarded my capsule and heard a familiar voice say, “Hello, Cap! Or should I call you Doctor now?” I knew that finally I was home. And it felt good.
“Er… No, not a Doctor,” said I. “For that, I still have to write a thesis, something like ‘Effects of Cheeky AIs on Capsuleers’ Performance during Combat Missions.’ But I think you can call me a Bachelor.”
“Ha, you were a bachelor before you enrolled in the Academy,” teased Aura. “I knew that education was wasted on you.”
“True. I need no education – my ship AI knows everything. Even what career path Ijumachi recommended when I completed his course.”
Aura stopped smiling, “What did he recommend?”
“Ah, so there is at least one thing that you don’t know and I wouldn’t know either if I didn’t finish the training,” chuckled I. “Mr Vuonolailen told me that he could see a brilliant military career lying ahead of me and gave me a referral to Factional Warfare Militia.”
“And?” asked Aura, narrowing her eyes suspiciously.
“I told him that he wouldn’t be disappointed.”
“And?” repeated Aura urgently.
I made a dramatic pause and then said, “And I decided that Exploration would be a more suitable occupation for me.”
“Phew!” exhaled Aura with relief.
“But mind you, I am not totally averse to fighting; in fact, I quite enjoyed thrashing drones and pirates. It’s just that I don’t fancy being shot at by Federal Defence Union in hi-sec. I would rather be an unaligned mercenary or a freelancer.”
“Oh, we’ll see to that,” said Aura dismissively and quickly changed the subject. “About exploration, you’ll need a new frigate. I found an excellent offer – Ishukone runs an end-of-financial-year Buzzard sale.”
I baulked at such proposal, “I don’t need a Buzzard! Why would I pay 34 million ISK for a new frigate while I already have a Heron?”
“It’s not 34, it’s just 31 million!” said Aura excitedly.
“It doesn’t matter. Even if it cost one million, why would I spend it on something I don’t need?”
“But of course you need a Buzzard. If you are serious about exploration you have to have a ship which can fit Covert Ops Cloaking Device. Otherwise, how do you expect to escape null-sec gate camps?”
I threw my hands in the air, “Whoa there! Who is saying anything about null-sec or, for that matter, low-sec? I am not leaving high-security space until I hone my scanning and hacking skills to perfection.”
“But you already have most such skills at level V,” objected Aura.
“I don’t mean injected skills, I mean actual practice with probes and analyzers.”
“Ah, that’s where the Buzzard can be really helpful. It has better bonuses for probe and virus strength than the Heron and will make your scanning and hacking much faster.”
I shook my head, “No, no, no. For one thing, I don’t care about time – I have all the time in this world. Besides, making my practice easier will not prepare me to real hard stuff in null-sec. I don’t mind adding some reasonably priced modules which can improve probe and virus performance but I am not buying a bloody expensive Tech II frigate.”
Seeing my resistance, Aura backed down and said, “Okay, but when you are ready for null-sec, you will buy a Buzzard, won’t you?”
“Well, then it will make sense. A Buzzard or an Astero…”
“Astero!” Aura’s eyes lit up. “You know that Sisters of EVE have just announced a new model which will become available…”
“Aura, stop!” I said firmly.
“Right, right. Let’s discuss fitting then. While we were talking I did some research. If you could buy modules according to this specification,” she produced a list, “then you would be well prepared for any hi-sec exploration challenges. All top-class modules except the rigs – the Heron can’t fit two Tech II models so we’ll have to install Tech I.”
Here is what the spec looked like:
[Heron, Aura's Hi-Sec] Republic Fleet Nanofiber Structure Republic Fleet Nanofiber Structure Zeugma Integrated Analyzer Scan Acquisition Array II Scan Rangefinding Array II Scan Pinpointing Array II 5MN Microwarpdrive II Sisters Core Probe Launcher Caldari Navy Cloaking Device Small Emission Scope Sharpener I Small Memetic Algorithm Bank I RSS Core Scanner Probe x16
“That was quick,” said I and Aura beamed at me proudly.
I loaded the specification to the Fitting Centre and first thing I noticed was a red cross in the top-left corner.
“Erm… What’s that? Ah, looks like I don’t have skills to use this configuration.” Then I checked the detailed information and exclaimed, “What the fuck! (Pardon my Gallentean.) I need a month and a half of learning before I can fit all those modules.”
Aura blushed, “Oh, sorry, I didn’t check the skills requirements. But you don’t have to wait – just buy a few skill injectors and you are good to go.”
“When did you last check prices on skill injectors? They cost a fortune! By the way, talking about prices, how much is this fitting?”
I ran a market price check and the total cost made my hair stand on end, “What?! Seven hundred and fifty three million kredits? Are you crazy? I don’t have that kind of money!”
Aura’s eyes became shifty and she averted her gaze, “You know, I thought there were some unneeded things in your item hangar that you could sell…”
“Even if I sell every bloody pile of metal scraps I have, I won’t get more than half a billion! But that’s not the point. I don’t believe that hi-sec exploration has to be that expensive. How come the fitting costs three orders of magnitude higher than the ship itself?”
“I can explain everything,” quickly said Aura.
“I am listening,” scoffed I and folded my arms.