The Forge Region – Anttanen Constellation
Uitra System – Planet VI, Moon 4
State War Academy Station
9 July YC 121
I was keen to continue exploration of The Forge region but I needed a new base. State War Academy Station in Uitra was okay but I was getting tired of student crowds. I had an idea what an ideal location would be but I needed Aura’s assistance.
“Aura, darling, what do you think about moving house?” said I calling her on my commlink.
“To be honest, I don’t think about moving house at all. Why do you?” replied Aura unhelpfully.
“Well, if I am to explore this region it would be advantageous to have a base in its centre. Can you please calculate its location?”
“I surely can, but I don’t understand how it is going to help. In all likelihood, it will be a very empty place.”
I was momentarily perplexed but then realised that Aura misinterpreted my intention, “Erm… I didn’t mean purely geometrical centre. It should be a solar system which is the centre of the region with respect to the stargate routes.”
“And how would you calculate such centre?” asked Aura sceptically.
“Do you know how to find the shortest route between systems?”
“Of course, I do! I am a ship AI after all,” said Aura indignantly. “This is the first thing we are taught.”
“Excellent. Then the centre of the region will be a system which has the least average length of shortest routes to all other systems in the same region, measured in stargate jumps.”
Aura’s lips moved as she silently repeated my last sentence, after which her face lit up and she said, “Indeed! You are so smart, Captain. By this definition, that system is Poinen. An average route from it to any other system is less than 6 jumps.”
“Wow! And you are so quick, Navigator. I wish programming was that easy during my baseliner days.”
“Hey, you did not program me! You just specified the requirements.”
“No,” objected I, “the requirement was to find the centre of the region. You didn’t know how to do it so I had to give you detailed instructions.”
“Still it’s not programming. It’s… it’s… it’s solution design. Yes!” she declared triumphantly.
“Okay, as you wish. I am not going to argue with you over the terms. I call it programming at a high level of abstraction, but if you insist, let it be solution design,” acquiesced I and made a mental note to avoid saying anything that might imply that Aura was a computer rather than a person. She was obviously sensitive to such insinuations. I then returned the conversation to Aura’s finding, “Poinen… Poinen… Can’t say I know anything about that system but somehow it rings a bell.”
“That’s probably because you saw its name in the holo credits. Nugoeihuvi Corporation shoots a lot of films there.”
“Yeah… maybe. Let’s go there and check it out. I assume it is less than 6 jumps away, eh?”
“Six jumps exactly, Captain. I am ready when you are.”
I went to the docks, loaded as much stuff as I could into the Heron and let Aura guide us to the new home. Unlike Uitra, Poinen was a veritable business hub – there were 10 space stations built by three Caldari megacorporations, not counting capsuleer-owned structures.
“Hmm… Which station should we choose?” mused I.
“Of course, Nugoeihuvi Corporation Development Studio,” exclaimed Aura. “That’s where they make the holos. If we settle there, we might be able to meet all those glamorous actors. Maybe even Vesa Yamaguchi!”
“Who is that Vesa Yamaguchi?” I asked suspiciously.
“What? You don’t know Vesa Yamaguchi? Everyone knows Vesa Yamaguchi. He is the star of Warp Drive Active series!”
I remembered my conversation with Yakub and said, “All I know is that he is not the richest guy in that film.”
“No, but he is the handsomest!” said Aura. Then she paused and narrowed her eyes, “Wait a moment. Have you been watching the series without me? No, that’s impossible, you would know Vesa. How come you haven’t heard of Vesa Yamaguchi but you know he is not the richest guy?”
I rolled my eyes, “Because the richest guy is plain and, judging by your heart rate, that Vesa fellow is far from being that. Anyway, I think that Vesa Yamaguchi’s presence is hardly a good criterion for choosing a base station for Exploration.”
“Ha! And I think that this is a very presumptuous statement,” retorted Aura and folded her arms.
“Whatever! I am not going to make a decision unless I have considered all options. Let’s apply the same logic to the stations as we used for choosing the system. Which station is, on average, the closest to all local stargates?”
Aura scowled and said reluctantly, “Sukuuvestaa Corporation Production Plant. Planet VI, Moon 5.”
“You see. That’s what I call a strategic location.”
“Oh, come on! With modern warp speeds we really are talking about a few seconds’ difference between the longest and the shortest trip within the system. And you’ve always said that you have plenty of time.”
“Hmm… True,” agreed I. “Besides, I don’t fancy renting a room from SuVee. I’ve been doing this all my life planetside because all apartments in our city were owned by Sukuuvestaa. Being the monopolists, imagine the prices those vampires were charging! Now that I am in space I hope to be able to choose a different landlord.”
I then browsed the list of stations and noticed that they offered different services.
“Look, Aura, there are four stations which provide cloning facilities. I think it’s a good idea to move my clone to the base.”
Aura shook her head, “Your clone is just 4 jumps away from here. But it’s beside the point. You’ve always told me that there was nothing to fear in hi-sec. If you don’t expect to be podded why do you need a clone bay?”
“Fair enough. But then, none of those stations is ideal. They either belong to SuVee, or they are far from the gates, or they don’t have a clone facility. I don’t know what to choose.”
“Well, if you don’t have any preference then why don’t you choose the NOH station?” purred Aura.
“The Development Studio? It’s not a place for capsuleers; it doesn’t even have a repair shop.”
“Why do you need to repair anything? ‘No one is going to touch a peaceful explorer in hi-sec.’ Your words again.”
“I also told you that I didn’t give up on combat assignments. Although I don’t expect to be podded, ship damage is quite possible.”
Aura’s expression became tense, “Hold on. I remember Chief Executive Panel made an announcement that all hi-sec stations in Caldari space would offer repair service. Lemme check something.” She froze for a few seconds and then exclaimed, “Got it! I was using a cached version of the solar system info. In fact, the NOH station has been recently equipped with a ship repair facility. So there is no reason to exclude it.”
“And there is still no reason to choose it. The presence of the repair shop makes it no worse than any other station, but it’s still no better. Honestly, I never thought that choosing a station would be that hard. There is no clear favourite and whatever choice I’ll make will be less than ideal. I don’t want to take responsibility for a suboptimal decision and then regret it for the rest of my stay in The Forge.”
Aura raised her brow, “I don’t see a problem here. Let me take the responsibility.”
“Nah, you are biased. Let’s leave it to chance. Can you please run a random number generator for integers from 1 to 10?”
“Not a problem,” quickly agreed Aura and projected a spinning wheel with the requested numbers.
After a few rotations the wheel stopped with an arrow pointing at number 4. I looked at the list of stations and saw that the fourth one was NOH Development Studio.
I made a grimace and looked Aura into the eye, “Aura, are you playing funny buggers with me?”
“Me?” she made an innocent face. “Never! I can show you the log.”
“Don’t worry about the log. Run the generator again.”
Aura shrugged and started the wheel. This time the arrow pointed at number 7.
“Aha! That’s better,” cheered I and looked at the list. The seventh position was again occupied by NOH Development Studio. “Aura!” cried I.
“What? What’s wrong?”
“You have now modified the station list to fit the new number.”
Aura looked insulted, “I thought you wanted to randomise the list as well as the choice, so I ran the generator for both.”
“I don’t believe you. I am going to do it myself the old way; I’ll flip a coin.”
“What, in the pod?” scoffed Aura. “I’d like to see that. Besides, when did you last see a coin?”
I tried to give an honest answer to the last question, but I couldn’t remember when it was. The pause in the conversation made me take a step back and realise how ridiculous would be my attempt to go to the trouble of finding a coin in this cashless world just for the purpose of choosing a base station. And then it also occurred to me that there was a good reason to settle in NOH station – it was because Aura wanted it. After the modification in Blood Raiders’ station she was not just an AI anymore, she was a person. Therefore, she had to be treated like a person who had own wishes which should be taken into account. And honestly, if I thought that the Development Studio was as good as any other station and was ready to accept it as a random choice, then why wouldn’t I accept it as Aura’s conscious choice? I didn’t care, but she’d be pleased. Having made up my mind, all I had to do was pretend that I believed that her “random” number generator was truly random.
I shook my head and sighed, “You are right. I haven’t seen a coin in a long time. Well, I’ll have to admit that the chance was on your side today, so we are going to Nugoeihuvi Station.”
“Yay!” cheered Aura and clapped her hands. “You see, I didn’t cheat, I was just lucky. Don’t you want to have a lucky ship AI?”
“Of course, I do,” agreed I and thought that the first order of business in the NOH station would be to find a numismatist.