The Forge Region – Kimotoro Constellation
6 August YC 121
Of course Mr Albaf was happy to produce and sell the Mid-grade Ascendancy Epsilon Implant for me. Being a regular visitor to Jita, he had no trouble procuring the remaining materials and transporting them to his industrial facility. We agreed that I would drop off the Villard Wheels and the blueprint at Jita for him and he would pick them up at his earliest convenience.
Mercantile matters settled, I returned to exploration activities – there were still two cosmic signatures waiting for me. The first signature that I managed to scan down was identified by Neocom as Pith Merchant Depot.
Aura quickly looked up this type of site in the Net and whistled, “No wonder this base has not been raided yet. Guristas store stolen goods here and they guard them really well. By some accounts, the first pocket alone contains 20 frigates and 5 sentry guns. They will eat Ibises alive!”
I winced, “Hmm… I feel like I am missing a cloaking device – there are so many interesting places around which could have been safely explored If I had one.”
Aura could not let pass the opportunity to look at me triumphantly and say, “I’ve told you! Why don’t you ever listen to me?”
I murmured something that could be interpreted as either an apology or a cuss, depending on the listener’s mood, and started scanning the second signature. Soon I found that it belonged to a wormhole, and a quick visit revealed that it was another tail end. I collected my probes and was about to warp away when Aura asked me, “Can we take a look at this place?” and pointed at a beacon on the overview.
The beacon was named ‘Rogue Cloning Facility’. I looked at Aura suspiciously, “Why would you want to visit a cloning facility, and a rogue one at that?”
“Don’t you see? The name doesn’t make sense. Who do you think has installed and named the beacon?”
“Dunno, probably the facility owners.”
Aura scoffed, “If it’s the owners then why would they call themselves ‘Rogue’? Doesn’t sound like a great marketing decision – gives the place a bad rap.”
“Who else then? Government?”
“Ha! That’s funny. Why would they advertise an illegal cloning facility?”
“Wait a moment,” exclaimed I, “that doesn’t add up! How come the same beacon is bad advertisement if installed by the owners and good advertisement if installed by government?”
Aura waved her hand dismissively, “It’s all relative. But you see now that this beacon makes absolutely no sense. That is why we need to go to that place and check it out.”
“And maybe buy a clone or two,” smirked I and warped to the site.
As soon as we arrived my overview started flashing with red ship icons.
“Fuck! This is a pirate base!” yelled I and started aligning to the safe spot.
“Hold on,” said Aura urgently. “These are just corvettes.”
“So what? A corvette can make short work of an exploration frigate like ours. I know, I flew one myself,” objected I but unwilled the warpout.
Still maintaining the alignment and the speed I looked around and took stock of the the tactical situation. There were three groups of corvettes, each at least 30 kilometres away from me, which were orbiting various anchored structures. I waited for a couple of minutes, ensured that none of them tried to approach or lock me and only then brought Haikarat to a stop.
Still keeping one eye on the overview I sent my camera drones to explore the site. The place looked like an old mining colony refurbished to host a cloning laboratory and a supporting chemical complex. All structures were either attached to an asteroid or were constructed from several rocks held together by metal tubes. The whole site was enveloped in a cloud of red gas which stood in stark contrast against the backdrop of a striking blue plasma planet.
While I was taking in the view, one of the corvettes detached from its group and requested a private communication line. That was unusual – normally pirates preferred to abuse me in the public channel. I looked at Aura inquiringly; she shrugged leaving the decision to me. Curious to find out what it was all about, I opened the line.
The holoprojector showed a head of a sleek young man who smiled at me and said, “Good afternoon, Sir. How are you?”
“I am well,” I replied curtly and waited for his next move.
Seeing that I was not inclined to exchange pleasantries, the young man went straight to the business, “Does Sir want to have a good time?”
I furrowed my brow, trying to understand what he was getting at, but then I noticed Aura wildly gesticulating at me. She opened an overview information screen in Neocom and pointed at the description of the said corvette – Narco Pusher.
I looked back at the hologram and smiled pleasantly, “Of course, I do. Nothing will give me more pleasure than shooting a filthy scumbag like you out of the sky.”
The drug dealer realised that I was not his client but instead of quietly slinking off he decided to show me who was the boss around here. His ingratiating smile snaked off his lips and was replaced with a contemptuous grimace. “And where is your gun, egger?” scoffed he.
“He has scanned us!” whispered Aura.
“Just a simple visual check with his camera drones,” I whispered back. “Know Your Client is their first commandment.”
Turning back to the drug dealer, I said, “It’s just three jumps away, in Jita.”
“Ha! You have to make those three jumps first.”
“And why wouldn’t I? Or should I believe that an ordinary narco pusher flies around with a warp disruptor?”
That seemed to take him aback but he quickly rallied and replied with an insolent smirk, “I don’t but I have friends who, for all you know, may be warping in as we speak.”
“Wanna try your luck? You aren’t the only one with friends here.”
“Oh, really? A pipsqueak like you have friends too! And who would they be?”
He got me there. I had only two capsuleer friends, one was an industrialist and another a limo driver. But I refused to yield.
“You know, there are a few guys in Science and Trade Institute School who aren’t too squeamish to kick a drug dealer’s butt?”
“Ha-ha-ha, that’s a good one! Did I get it right. you are talking about STI schoolkids who don’t dare to confront a Guristas frigate unless they fly a Gila?”
I couldn’t think of a smart repartee, so I turned to Aura and said, “Aura, darling, is there anything else you would like to see here?”
I forgot to shut down the comms channel and the narco pusher overheard my question and sneered, “Who are you talking to, egger? Is it a blue-faced girlfriend of yours? Tell her to buy a wig!”
Aura’s face became stony and she replied, “I think I’ve seen enough.”
Without another word I closed the line and warped to the State War Academy Station. I planned to visit more systems in Kimotoro Constellation today but after the encounter with the thug at the Cloning Facility I didn’t feel like exploring anymore. Having docked the ship I went straight to the bar, ordered a glass of stiff whiskey and shot it. Putting the glass on the bar I wondered if I needed another one. The old bartender looked at me with sympathy and said, “Take it easy, son. Give it some time to find your brain.” I took his advice and ordered a long drink.
Looking around I noticed a familiar face in the crowd – it was Katsuro, a guy with whom I studied in the State War Academy in Uitra. It turned out that he continued his education in Kisogo since the Uitra Station did not offer the courses he was interested in. As both of us studied exploration, the conversation naturally turned to my real experience in that area after graduation. By that time the whiskey kicked in and encouraged me to tell the most outrageous furphy I had ever invented in my life. It was loosely based on my visit to Lesser Guristas Covert Research Facility but I did not let facts stand in the way of a good story. For starters, I had managed to hack not one but all four cans before the guards arrived. Then I single-handedly fought off an armada of Guristas cruisers using just one Electron Blaster. And finally, after killing the pirate fleet I had to travel to Jita and buy a Tayra to transport all Villard Wheels that I extracted from the site.
Katsuro and his friends listened to me with their mouths agape. I don’t know if they believed everything I said but my street cred shot through the roof. Basking in artificial glory gave my self-esteem a much needed boost but the effect was short-lived as I knew the real score. Unable and unwilling to keep up small talk I soon said good-bye to the company and called it a day.
7 August YC 121
Next morning I woke up in a foul mood and knew exactly what I had to do to improve it. Without having a breakfast (very uncharacteristic of me) I jumped to Jita where I bought a 150mm Railgun… and a Salvager… flew back to the Rogue Cloning Facility in Kisogo and terminated the filthy-mouthed asshole with extreme prejudice. Not only I blew up his corvette, I also salvaged every last bit of metal scraps from the wreck to make sure that his employers would not be able to repair the ship. I didn’t have illusions about the drug dealers and fully expected them to replace the deceased with a new pusher but I hoped that the total loss of the ship had sent the bosses a message which would encourage them to polish up their customer service. It might not happen today or tomorrow, but I am a firm believer in the survival of the fittest – kill enough bastards and, eventually, the manners will improve.