The Forge Region – Onirvura Constellation
Poinen System – Planet IV, Moon 13
Nugoeihuvi Corporation Development Studio
13 March YC 122
“Well, well, well, look who has graced the Caldari soil, or rather,” I tapped the station floor, “metal with his presence!” said I by way of attracting attention of a big man who supervised droids unloading cargo from his ship.
Yakub Albaf turned to me, beamed and gave me his signature bear hug which brought me to the brink of enforced re-cloning.
“Vlad, you rascal! What have you got yourself into again? Why do you need an old tired man to be your courier?”
I told him briefly about my joining Signal Cartel and the situation with war targets.
Yakub nodded approvingly, “So you are a Signaleer now. Good choice. I have a lot of respect for these guys. They once saved my bacon when I decided to take a shortcut to Jita through J-space. Without their help I would be a few billions poorer now.”
“And I intend to keep up that good work, now that I have a Buzzard.”
“Ah, so that’s what was in the container I delivered from Jita. Nice ship for Anoikis exploration. And what did you buy in Osmon?”
“It was Tech II Micro Auxiliary Power Core. You see, Osmon’s price was 200,000 kredits lower than in Jita,” explained I.
Yakub rolled his eyes, “Ma-a-ate, so you added six extra jumps to my route just too save two hundred grands? Next time just buy everything in Jita and I’ll cover the difference for you!”
I felt embarrassed, “Oh, sorry, I didn’t realise you would have to make such a detour, just wanted to save some kredits. By the way, how much do I owe you for the delivery?”
“Hmm… Lemme see,” Yakub made a serious face and calculated something on his datapad. “That will be… three pints of the best Amarrian beer you can find on this god-forsaken station,” declared he, and laughed seeing my astonished face.
“Oh, come on!” objected I. “Surely you didn’t jump through half the hi-sec just for three pints of beer. What’s the real price?”
“Forget it, mate – you can’t afford me. Consider it my donation to your new corp. Anyway I didn’t do it for money. As an old Ni-Kunnian proverb goes, a pint of beer drunk alone is cheap, a pint of beer shared with a friend is priceless. Or something to that effect… Let’s not waste time. Show me your favourite joints.”
With these words Yakub put his arm around my shoulder and dragged me out of the hangar.
If you know Yakub, then you know that ‘three pints’ is just a beginning. In the eight hours following our meeting in the docks Yakub and I visited more drinking holes than I knew there were on the station, and at each place he managed to befriend a publican and all regulars, give everyone he talked to a business card, and even sign some contracts for delivery of planetary produce. And he did all that without skipping a round. I was impressed.
16 March YC 122
Three days later I felt I recovered enough to actually do some exploration. Don’t ask me about the previous two days.
When my new Buzzard was assembled to my specification I baptised it Nosuri and loaded my capsule into it.
“Hi Aura. How do you like our new exploration frigate?” asked I, waking my travel companion.
Aura looked around and said, “Yeah, you can’t beat that new frigate smell…”
At this point she was interrupted.
A female voice, in a perfect Deteis accent, singed out, “Captain, good evening! Please fly carefully as war has been declared against Signal Cartel…”
The voice went through war declarations and casualties, weather forecast and finished with “…Co-pilot. Over and out.”
Aura listened to it with a stony expression on her face. After a long, uncomfortable pause she turned to me and asked, “Who was that?”
“Oh, that. That was Allison,” replied I, trying to work out what I was guilty of this time.
“Allison? Who is Allison?”
“She… she is a co-pilot used by all members of Signal Cartel,” my voice trailed off as I realised how it sounded for Aura.
Aura’s face tint turned from usual blue to ashen and her eyes widened, “A co-pilot? You’ve got another AI?”
“Er… Not exactly an AI. In fact, Allison stands for Artificial Life Limited In Scope to On-board Navigation.”
“Ah, so it’s A-L-L-I-S-O-N,” spelled Aura. “It’s not an AI, it’s not a person, it’s a device. So why do you call it ‘her’?”
“Well, because ‘Allison’ sounds like a female name so it kind of feels natural to call her ‘her’.”
“But it is not female. The fact that it was called ‘Allison’ is just… is just… an accident of birth. For all I know, it could equally be called ALLISTAIR – Artificial Life Limited In Scope to Annoying Information Relay. Would you call it ‘he’ then?”
“Every person’s sex is an accident of birth, for that matter,” said I in a placating tone. “And if you are talking about birth then you have to accept that it is, at least, a living entity, not a thing.”
Aura opened her mouth to say something, then closed it and peered fiercely at me.
Eventually she said, “But… but why do you need it… okay, her, at all? What can she do that I can’t?”
“Oh, it’s mostly information about Eve-Scout Rescue Caches. She has access to the corp database and can inform me, when I enter an Anoikis system, whether a cache needs to be tended or sowed.”
“If you give me access to that database I can do it myself.”
“Sorry, I don’t think it’s possible,” said I. “This information is classified and I can access it only through Allison.”
“Then let me hack it. Surely, the password will be the CEO’s dog’s name with ‘12345’ attached at the end.”
“Don’t even think about it. I will be evicted from the corporation if they trace the connection back to you.”
Aura made round eyes, “But why evict you if it was me who did it?”
Now we were treading on shaky ground, “Um… you see, technically, I mean legally, you are not seen as an independent entity, Aura. Whatever you do, it will be considered done on my request. I know it’s not true and it’s not fair but that’s how things are. So please, keep away from that database, okay?”
Aura made a few heavy breaths and then grumpily conceded, “Okay.”
At that moment we undocked and I willed Nosuri to warp to the safe spot where I could scan cosmic signatures in peace.
Aura suddenly asked, “By the way, can Allison control the warp drive?”
“No, that’s not part of her function.”
Aura perked up and announced brightly, “Warp drive active.”
As we were hurtling through space Allison activated and said, “Captain, a hacking attempt on my control port has been detected. Shutting down external input interfaces for five minutes.”
I raised my brow, “Aura?”
Aura looked innocent, “I… I was just running a penetration test on Allison to make sure she and her database are well-protected against, you know, criminals.”
“Ah, a test. You know what, next time you plan to run such test please contact A Dead Parrot first.”
Aura stared at me with a deadpan expression on her face, “Excuse me, did I get it right? You’ve just asked me to talk to a dead bird. Is it a polite way to tell me to bugger off?”
“No, no, no. A Dead Parrot is a member of Signal Cartel who looks after Allison. All I meant to say was that you’d better coordinate your white-hat hacking activities with him.”
Aura folded her arms, “I beg your pardon, but what I hear is that you’ve joined a corporation, members of which are null, void or dead. Are you sure you fit in, Vlad?”
“Only time will tell,” replied I and launched the probes.