Great Cosmic Balance

C-R00015 Region – C-C00147 Constellation
J132907 System

31 March YC 122

After my unfortunate attempt to appropriate an unanchored starbase I continued my travels through Anoikis. The intent was the same – maintain caches and make money from exploration sites. Jumping through a near-dead wormhole I found myself in Class 3 system J132907. Having tended the cache and parked Nosuri at a safe spot, I opened the probe window and gasped.

“Look at that, Aura!” exclaimed I.

The window showed a list of signatures so long that I had to scroll through it.

“I wonder, how many of those are data and relic sites?” asked Aura, equally amazed.

“My thoughts exactly! It looks like this system has not been visited for quite some time. Actually, Allison, when was the last time the cache was tended here?”

“The cache was tended recently by Vladimir Korff,” replied Allison unhelpfully.

I saw Aura roll her eyes and rephrased the question, “Allison, when was the last time, before 31 March YC 122, the cache in J132907 was tended?”

“The cache was tended on 17 March YC 122.”

“I bet we are the only ones who have visited this system in these two weeks,” said I.

“And if you want to keep it that way, you better start scanning now,” noted Aura, the practical part of the crew.

With the usual precautions it took me a few hours to go through all signatures and sites I had found. When the job was finished my cargo hold was full of salvage which was worth 155 million kredits in Jita. During all that time I didn’t see a single ship or probe on D-Scan, which was quite unusual, in my experience. Normally, as soon as I uncloaked and approached a container, the scanner would reveal an unwelcome presence of another ship within an uncomfortable distance of 14.3 AU from me.

“There must be some great cosmic balance,” purred I after appraising the loot, “so that each misfortune is evened out by lucky finds like this.”

“Do you really believe in this kind of nonsense?” asked Aura sardonically.

“No, but it’s a warming thought when you are in dire straits. Gives hope, you know.”

“All I know is that this universe is run by a random number generator with unknown parameters and distribution. Believing that it is uniform is wishful thinking.”

I shrugged, “Don’t know and don’t care. It’s not like I make practical decisions based on this theory. Talking about practicalities, I think it’s time to decant ourselves from Anoikis and sell the loot. I am getting nervous about flying in J-space with all that expensive cargo in our hold.”

J132907 had many wormhole connections but only one of them led to k-space, specifically low-sec. Not as good as hi-sec, but better than null, thought I and dived through. When we emerged at the other end, Aura started laughing hysterically.

“Look… look at that,” she said between laughing fits, “do you still think that your universe is balanced?”

“I don’t understand,” said I, confused. “What’s wrong? Where are we?”

“What’s wrong? Out of all possible systems we ended up in Aeter, Solitude!”

Solitude Region – Orvanne Constellation
Aeter System

It turned out that Aeter was probably the most remote low-sec system from Jita. I didn’t plan to fly to the trade hub with all this loot but even to get it to a place which had a continuous hi-sec route to The Forge region one had to jump through 17 low-sec systems.

“I am not doing it,” said I, looking grimly at the route.

“Then we have to go back to J-Space.”

“Not doing that either. I need some rest. Why don’t we spend some time in, hmm… Solitude?”

I unloaded my loot at Federation Navy Testing Facilities Station and for the next two weeks occupied myself with lazy day trips to the neighbouring low-sec systems and Anoikis, whenever a new wormhole popped up on the probe scanner.

Low-sec sites were low-risk, compared to Anoikis, but also low-income. A couple of wormholes brought me to null-sec systems with promising signatures but I gave up on those due to high traffic which made me nervous. All in all, that fortnight was pretty boring, with days filled with scanning and nights spent in the local bars where I mingled with resident miners listening to their complaints about pirates.

One of those days I was browsing corp forums and got involved in a Credo discussion (nothing to do with me this time) in which I criticised the poor structure of the Credo which caused unnecessary confusion and suggested to revise it. I should have known better. As the old saw goes, initiative is punished with responsibility, and I ended up with CEO’s offer to do it myself, which I arrogantly accepted before realising what a mammoth and ungrateful task it was. So if you don’t hear from me for a period of time, it probably means that I am turning pages of the dusty volumes in forum archives.

The only highlight of my time spent in Aeter was a discovery of a J-space system which didn’t have a cache. It wasn’t the first system like that but normally I could reuse a bookmark left by one of the corp members to sow a new one. In this case the cache seemed to be intentionally destroyed so I had to find a new spot for it. Such spot had to be located on a straight line between two planets and within a certain range from one of them. That’s when I got acquainted with the famous “bounce” method.

The idea of the method is to warp between the planets and leave bookmarks as you approach the desired range. If you miss the range then you use the bookmark as your new starting location and warp again. That was easier said then done. My first bookmark was 300,000 km from the target planet which was way too far. My subsequent attempts showed that having 8-AU-per-second warp speed was great for travelling but horrible for bookmarking. Each time I dropped a bookmark in that 300,000-km range it was either at the very start of my warp or at the very end of it.

Aura who was watching my manipulations asked me curiously, “What are you trying to achieve?”

I explained the method to her.

“Sounds reasonable and much quicker than slowboating to the spot,” nodded she, “but why do you bookmark the ends of your warp tunnel rather than the target range?”

“Because I just don’t know when to drop the bookmark?”

“But it’s so easy to calculate. Suppose you start 300,000 km away from the planet and you want to drop the bookmark at 30,000 km. Flying at the speed of 8 AU per second you need to count 1,805 microseconds and then drop the bookmark. It will be roughly 270,000 km from your starting point.”

I looked at Aura, stone-faced, “Erm… Do I look like a person who can count microseconds?”

“What? You can’t?”

I shook my head.

Aura looked surprised, “Can you at least count milliseconds? You need to count to two. Surely, you can count to two.”

“I can count to two but not milliseconds. That’s too fast for me.”

“Hmm… If that’s true it explains why I have a built-in response delay in my human interface module. You, humans, are just too slow.”

“A very helpful observation,” grumbled I, “If you are so quick, why don’t you count microseconds and drop bookmarks yourself, co-pilot?”

Aura shifted uncomfortably, “I wish I could but I don’t have write access to the bookmark database.”

“For fuck’s sake!” exploded I. “What idiot has programmed a navigational AI which can’t set bookmarks? I need to see Behrooz again.”

Looking guilty, as if it was her fault, Aura asked sheepishly, “Who is Behrooz?”

“Behrooz is…” started I but checked myself, thinking it was not a good time to tell Aura she had been modified. “Nevermind. Look, it’s not your fault. If you can’t help then just keep quiet while I trying to nail that sweet spot.”

It took me five attempts and more than a bit of luck to finally drop the bookmark in the required range. While I was at it I noticed that Aura was silently moving her lips.

“Hey, what’s the matter? What are you doing?” asked I.

“Oh, sorry,” Aura blushed. “I was just counting microseconds.”

2 Replies to “Great Cosmic Balance”

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: