The Forge Region – Onirvura Constellation
Poinen System – Planet IV, Moon 13
Nugoeihuvi Corporation Development Studio
10 September YC 121
After leaving my body with expensive implants in the safe hands of clone bay workers at Expert Distribution Retail Centre I came to at NOH station and went to the dock to board the capsule. On my way there I woke up Aura to let her know that the clone jump was successful. Before I could utter a single word she overwhelmed me with a stream of blabber.
“Vlad! Where have you been!? Are you okay? What happened!? What took you so long!?”
“Long?” I asked, surprised. “It’s been just half an hour or so.”
“What half an hour? Look at your watch! No, look at the calendar!”
I checked my datapad – it showed 20 February YC 122.
“What the fuck?” muttered I.
At first, I thought there was something wrong with my datapad but then I checked a few GalNet news sites and they all had the same date. That could mean just one thing – my clone jump, instead of minutes, took almost half a year!
20 February YC 122
Five minutes (and 163 days) later I was standing in the clone bay and screaming at the tattooed guy behind the counter. I don’t remember all the swear words and their combinations that I used but the essence of my expletive-laden tirade boiled down to a simple question – why did my clone jump take so long?
The guy was not offended (I guess, he expected a reaction like that from me sooner or later) and said good-naturedly, “Oh, it’s all bloody auditors. If they didn’t delay the audit we would have brought you back much earlier. They planned to come to us in December but what with the festive season, most of their employees took leaves and they only managed to come back in the new year.”
I stared at him blankly. What he had said made zero sense to me. It was like he was talking to someone else on a completely different topic.
“What in seven Hells does the audit have to do with it?”
“But it was them who discovered that your clone jump was not completed. You see, the brain snapshot went through fine but then as the brain imprinting job was queued there was a power outage and the whole system went down. When we brought it back the job was gone. It was only when the auditors compared the list of brain transfers and imprints, that the discrepancy was found. As soon as they produced the report, we ran that job on your clone and woke you up. So, you see, if they came to us in December we would have finished your imprint much earlier,” he concluded triumphantly.
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, “But aren’t you supposed to deliver your service in time without audits?”
It was a stupid question to ask but I wanted to plumb the depths of this cheerful idiocy.
“Oh, of course, of course. Since then we have implemented the end-to-end, what’s the name,” he knitted his brow, “recollection… relocation… Hey, Yoshiro, what is that thingy that the audit asked us to do?”
A dishevelled young fellow who was playing a video game in the corner of the office replied without turning to us, “End-to-end reconciliation.”
“Yes, reconciliation,” brightened the tattooed receptionist. “That’s our computer whizz-kid,” whispered he. “Now, if something like that happens again we will know straight away.”
“But… what about me? I’ve lost half a year of my life!”
“Yeah, right… that wasn’t pretty, was it? You know what, as a token of our apology, next time you jump from us I will offer you not one hundred year warranty but, say, one hundred and fifty! How about that?” said the guy and beamed at me.
It felt surreal. It was like I didn’t really finish my clone jump and was stuck in a dream. A bad dream.
“What are you talking about? What 150 years? The average clone storage time is just one month! No, you are not going to get off that easy. Do you know how much a capsuleer earns a month? You will have to compensate me for the loss of my income caused by the breach of the service level agreement!”
The receptionist looked nonplussed, “Breach of agreement? What agreement? All we promised was to store your clone for a hundred years but there is no defined timeframe to revive it after we receive the brain snapshot.”
“Doesn’t matter. Surely, you have to execute a reasonable duty of care and any court would consider a five-month delay excessive!”
The receptionist shrugged, “These are standard SCC terms; we didn’t invent them.” Then he leaned over the counter, put his heavy hand on my shoulder and said confidentially, “My advice – don’t waste time on court proceedings. You’ll spend more time on hard court benches than you’ve spent in our comfortable clone bay, and to no avail.”
I threw his hand off my shoulder and stormed out of the office.
An hour later I was sitting in a bar, looking mindlessly through the rows of bottles behind the counter, again and again replaying the conversation I had at the clone bay.
“Ha, a capsuleer, a pod pilot, an empyrean, a god of the skies!” scoffed I, “And all that glorious existence can be paused or even terminated by a press of a button by some snotty baseliner.”
I shot a glass of whisky, put it on the bar with a thud and gestured the bartender to refill it. I heard a similar thud to my right and turned to see what caused it. The next bar stool was occupied by a male Achura capsuleer who also finished his drink and was demanding a top-up. I recognised the look on his face – it was a mirror reflection of myself. That guy was not enjoying himself.
Feeling my gaze the capsuleer turned to me and acknowledged my attention with a faint polite smile.
I raised my glass by way of greeting and asked a straight question, “Lost something?”
The guy sighed and replied, “A Loki.”
I whistled – that was an expensive loss.
“To Loki,” said I and downed my whisky.
“To Loki. She was beautiful,” repeated the Achura capsuleer and shot his glass. Then he extended his hand and said, “I am Null.”
I blinked. Well, I knew that capsuleers took some crazy names on graduation but Null was rather special. Outside programming languages its usage was normally confined to legalese such as ‘If you peel off this sticker then the warranty will be null and…’
All those thoughts, it seemed, plainly reflected on my face (and I was not in the mood to control my body language anyway) because Null raised a corner of his mouth in half-smile and said, “I know what you are thinking, but Void is another capsuleer in our corp.”
I blushed and protested lamely, “I didn’t think anything like that,” and then shook his hand, “Nice to meet you, Null. I am Vlad.”
“Nice to meet you, Vlad.”
After the introductions my thoughts returned to what Null said earlier.
“I’ve never had a Loki. In fact, never had enough money to buy one. How much time do you need to recoup its cost?”
Null shrugged, “Dunno. Maybe a month or two. And what’s your loss?”
“Five months,” I replied glumly.
Now it was Null’s turn to whistle, “And you’ve said you have never had money for a Loki! What were you flying? Naglfar Justice Edition?”
“No, this is not a money equivalent; it’s pure, irreversible loss of five months of my life,” said I and told him my sad story.
“Yeah, nasty business,” nodded Null and patted my shoulder sympathetically. “And I agree with that receptionist – don’t try to sue them. You’ll probably waste more time and, even if you win, money won’t be able to return your life. By the way, how come your corp mates didn’t try to find out what happened to you all that time?”
“Corp mates? I hardly know anyone in that Science and Trade Institute.”
“Oh, so you are in one of those default government-run corporations? No wonder they didn’t care about you. But then you probably didn’t miss much – fleets, corp functions…”
“True,” agreed I, “but I missed New Year fireworks in Jita.”
“Oh, so you like fireworks…” Null made a pause thinking about something, then smiled and asked, “What if I told you I knew a corporation which specialised in fireworks? And did it much better and more frequently than the Jita crowd.”
I looked at him with disbelief, “Is there such corporation? What’s its name?”
Null turned towards me and pointed at a round badge on his chest, “We call ourselves Signal Cartel.”