The Forge Region – Onirvura Constellation
15 July YC 121
As we came out of the warp, we saw a strange opalescent coruscating blob… and nothing else. Neocom classified the blob as Hyperfluct Generator. For a while I just sat there mesmerised by the lightnings on its surface. Then Aura’s voice raised me out of my reverie.
“Okay, I hope you’ve seen enough. Let’s return to the safe spot. We have three more signatures to scan.”
“Hey,” cried I, “what do you mean, ‘seen enough’? All I’ve seen so far is a giant plasma globe. Where are the riches?”
“Oh, they are not here, they are in a deadspace pocket.”
“And how can I get there? Where is the acceleration gate?”
“Sleepers did not use acceleration gates,” said Aura. “They created rifts through space.”
“What, like wormholes?”
“Cool! I’ve always wanted to jump through a wormhole. Where is it? Is it this shimmery thingy?” I asked impatiently.
“No, this thingy is a generator. It creates a rift when it is activated.”
“And how do I do it? Is there a password, a song, a ritual?”
Aura looked hesitant and I nudged her, “Come on, don’t waste time. You know I can just log in to GalNet and find all this info myself.”
Aura sighed, “Okay, you need to hack it with your data analyser.”
“So, let’s get cracking… I mean, hacking!” exclaimed I and targeted the generator.
The node field that I saw on screen was much larger than anything I had encountered before; the defence nodes were bitier too. Still, they were no match to my Tech II analyser, with 35 points of virus strength amplified by Heron bonuses, which went through firewalls and antiviruses like a hot knife through butter. It didn’t take me long to find the system core which was, lo and behold! red and had 90 points of coherence. At that point, my virus still had plenty of coherence points itself, and it made short work of the core. When the Hyperfuct Generator was finally hacked, it emitted strange glow, and a patch of nearby empty space became opaque and started pulsating. Neocom indicated that it was a gate.
“Wow!” said Aura with a hint of disappointment, “You are good! Managing to hack a red core within two minutes on your first attempt is quite an achievement.”
I wanted to play an arrogant pro and say something brash like “Yeah, baby, it was a walk in the park for me” when my mind latched onto a particular detail in Aura’s remark, “Why did you say ‘two minutes’?”
Aura for a moment looked unnerved but then composed herself and blabbered, “Oh, you know, it was just the closest minute boundary to which your actual hacking time could be rounded up so I chose to say ‘two minutes’ for brevity rather than pronounce the actual time up to microseconds which would be quite a mouthful and not as readily perceived by human brain as a nice round figure such as two minutes.”
I narrowed my eyes and peered into her face, “Aura…”
She quickly continued, “And it’s also the time limit after which the hacking attempt would fail automatically.”
“And what would happen if it failed?”
“Nothing horrible. It’s just that the Hyperfluct Generator would become permanently disabled and there would be no way to create a rift into the Cache.”
I rolled my eyes, “You knew that and didn’t tell me? What if I was distracted and missed the deadline, eh?”
“But… but I thought it would be safer if we didn’t go there,” stammered Aura. “Even if you failed to hack the generator it would be a better outcome than getting into the Cache unprepared.”
“Aura, you are a living illustration of an old saw.”
Aura perked up and asked, “Which saw?”
“They say that the best way to lie is not to say the whole truth.”
“I didn’t lie to you!” she cried indignantly.
“Then you have missed the point of the saying. Let’s make it simple – if you have important information which may influence the outcome of my actions, just tell me. Okay?”
Aura assumed a look of offended innocence and said formally, “In such case, Captain, I need to inform you that after warping to this deadspace pocket you will encounter sentry guns which can alpha a frigate off the grid, and clouds of corrosive gas which can destroy not only your ship but also your pod in a matter of seconds.”
“Hmm… And will I be subjected to such attacks immediately after going through the rift?”
“No, they are triggered only by certain actions.”
I smiled, “Ah, the devil is in the details. Let me then add this to my previous instruction: The information that you convey to me must be sufficiently detailed.”
“But how do you know what amount of detail is sufficient?” said Aura petulantly. “With you, humans, it is never clear what you want. What is good enough for one may be too much for another.”
“Aura, you are called Artificial Intelligence for reason, and I want you to use your reason, pardon the pun, to eventually learn in what circumstances what amount of detail is sufficient for this particular human. You will make mistakes before you improve but I have good news for you – you have one less mistake to make.”
Aura looked askance at me and asked, “How is that?”
“Because today you have already made one,” beamed I.
Aura snorted and looked away.
“Now that this is out of the way, let’s take a look at the actual Cache,” I said brightly and willed Haikarat into the rift.