The Forge – Aulari Constellation
2 September YC 121
Half a month later I was still unable to fit my Heron for Standard Sleeper Cache exploration. Apparently, I had miscalculated the reduction of powergrid usage expected from improved engineering skills – it was still 1.6 MW over the limit. Replacing the afterburner with a less power-hungry model decreased the energy consumption only by 1 MW. From that point I had a few choices.
Firstly, I could replace my medium shield extender with Regolith model but that would set me back another 5 million kredits. Given the dangers of exploring Sleeper Caches and my lack of experience I wanted the fitting to be as cheap as possible.
Another option was to upgrade the Micro Auxiliary Power Core to Tech II. That would cost me only one million extra but it required 10 days of skill training.
In the end, I decided to spend seven more days training Shield Upgrades skill to level V which would decrease my shield extender power consumption by another 5%.
Even though I couldn’t use the offensive fit, I fitted Haikarat II with regular exploration modules and loaded my capsule into it. Then I called Aura.
“Hello, honey. Welcome to the new ship.”
Aura inspected the surroundings and wrinkled her nose, “This looks exactly like the old Haikarat.”
“Check the cargo hold,” said I.
Aura looked at the cargo manifest and whistled, “Whew! So we are ready to explore Sleeper Caches?”
“Not yet,” said I and explained my fitting difficulties. “Still, we can explore everything else. Where shall we go?”
“Hmm… There are a couple of constellations east of Onirvura which are 6 jumps away from Jita. I hope they are not as desolate as Jita’s surroundings.”
I looked at the map, “Aulari?”
“Cool. Let’s go.”
Flying through Onirvura constellation we soon arrived to the nearest system in Aulari – Osmon. The system had two signatures both of which were wormholes.
“I wish I had a Buzzard,” muttered I and collected the probes.
Aura perked up, “Buzzard?”
“Forget it,” said I glumly and jumped to a cul-de-sac consisting of Inaya, Wuos and Uminas systems.
I expected rich pickings from this quiet backwater which didn’t see a lot traffic but I was thoroughly disappointed because all three systems together had exactly zero cosmic signatures. It was like every other hi-sec explorer decided that that dead end had a treasure trove of hidden cosmic sites and felt obliged to scan them down and clean them out just before my arrival.
Next system, Korsiki, was a repetition of Osmon – two wormholes and another bout of yearning for a Buzzard.
When I jumped to Nuken, another dead-end system, I was confident that, just as Wuos, it would greet me with an empty probe scanner window but I was pleasantly surprised to see four cosmic signatures. Having established a safe spot, I energetically set to scanning. The first signature cracked pretty quickly – it was a wormhole. The second one, though, appeared to be a tough nut and I started suspecting that I came across a Sleeper Cache but it was eventually identified as Crumbling Guristas Abandoned Colony. As soon as I got it pinned I gathered the probes and warped to its location.
That colony was crumbling not only because it was abandoned; it was assaulted and half-destroyed before that. Large pieces of space junk which used to be part of a big structure could not simply come off because of the old age; they were subjected to heavy bombardment by a large fleet or by a capital ship with a siege weapon. After all that devastation Neocom identified only six objects as hackable containers – five Guristas Debris and one Guristas Rubble. If before that expedition you had asked me what was the difference between debris and rubble I would have been lost for words. Now I know that debris are protected by 50-point system core, while rubble’s core has 70 point of coherence. Whatever the core, Guristas defences were no match to my Relic Analyser and soon I extracted a whole lot of “treasures” like tripped power circuits, malfunctioning shield emitters and lumps of high-grade carbon.
Looking at the haul, I said conversationally, “I once watched a dystopian post-apocalyptic film where barbarians in wastelands salivated over a piece of burnt circuitry which looked exactly like this emitter. Do you know any barbarians?”
“Yeah, plenty,” replied Aura. “They all live in Jita and will offer you good price for this stuff.”
“What is it good for?”
“Rigs, mostly. From power circuits you can make ancillary current routers, from emitters – screen reinforcers, and from carbon you can make diamonds.”
“A diamond rig?” I asked sceptically.
“Why not? Increases a ship’s charisma,” replied Aura earnestly and then, seeing the suspicious expression on my face, laughed heartily.
I shook my head and warped back to the safe spot. Scanning the next signature was like trying to pierce a pea with a fork – as soon as you thought you had nailed it, it somehow wriggled out and shot to the edge of the plate.
“What are you hiding there?” muttered I once again trying to pinpoint the signature.
“It’s level V,” said Aura. “There is only one type of signature in hi-sec which is that difficult.”
“What is it?”
Instead of answering Aura pointed at the probe scanner screen. My last scan increased the signal strength to 77% and Neocom was able to identify the site as Superior Sleeper Cache.
“Oh, no,” groaned I. “Not now. I am not ready yet.”
“Don’t fret,” said Aura sympathetically. “It’s just one more week. And this is not the last Sleeper Cache in New Eden.”
“You never know,” grumbled I and reluctantly moved on to another signature.
The last site in Nuken was Local Guristas Shattered Life-Support Unit. It contained three Guristas Info Shards from which I obtained two Caldari Starship Engineering datacores and a couple of decryptors. After Nuken we flew to Airaken where we salvaged more recycling material from three Guristas Debris at Crumbling Guristas Antiquated Outpost. There was still one more system left in Aulari Constellation – Oijanen – but I didn’t dare to explore it as it was in low-sec.
When we finally docked up I took stock of the loot. It wasn’t much – just 4.3 million ISK for all my trouble. Interestingly, one data site produced more loot, 2.3 million ISK, than two relic sites together. I heard that relic sites were normally more lucrative but that was obviously not the case in hi-sec, especially if one took into account Superior Sleeper Cache which I had to skip.
“Just one more week,” muttered I stepping out of the cargo hold.