Genesis Region – Mih Constellation
Zoohen System – Planet III
Theology Council Tribunal
14 June YC 122
I briefly popped back to Zoohen to drop off the loot and was about to undock when Neocom chimed indicating that there was a new transaction. Aura checked the wallet and her eyes grew wide.
“Look here! Someone has just donated 250 million kredits to you!”
“Who did that?” asked I, more surprised than pleased.
“A lady, apparently,” replied Aura and smirked, “So you don’t remember what you were doing those 3 days after receiving the medal?”
“What are you trying to insinuate?”
Aura looked innocent, “I dunno. Maybe you had an affair and made some lonely, and rich, lady so-o-o happy…”
I snorted, “I wish! Actually, not. I don’t. If it’s true then I probably missed the best part of the celebration. Does the lady have a name?”
Aura put her spectacles on, produced a datapad and, squinting at it, announced in a formal tone, “Ms Lunarisse Aspenstar.”
“Oh, that lady! Nah, I am not her type. But that raises the question why would she give me money? Hold on! Aura, quickly, open the NECWC site!”
A window appeared on the HUD and showed the announcement of YC 122 New Eden Capsuleer Writing Contest to which I sent a short story some time ago. I eagerly scrolled the page down and found the contest results. And there it was, my name in the list of winners in Prose category! I won the fourth place!
“It’s a prize! A prize for the fourth place!” exclaimed I.
“Fourth place? Normally, there are prizes for the first three places only. Why is there a fourth place?” frowned Aura.
“Why not? What’s wrong about it?”
Aura shrugged, “Just strange.”
“Hey, come on! You should be happy for me – my story got recognition from judges!”
“Yeah, I see. They recognised that you are between the third place and an honourable mention,” said Aura sarcastically.
At this moment Neocom notified me of a new message. It was from a courier company that informed me that I had a delivery from Ms Lunarisse Aspenstar. Intrigued, I scrambled out of the pod, put my suit on (yeah, remembered this time) and went to my item hangar. There I found a small box with a short note which contained just one word “Congratulations!”. I opened the box and gasped. After a few quick manipulations I called Aura.
“Hey, look at me! How do you like it?”
“I see,” said Aura gloomily. “They didn’t even go to the trouble of creating a special medal for the fourth place.”
“Oh, damn you, girl! Don’t be a spoilsport. Why can’t we just celebrate receiving a prize, even if it is for the fourth place? It’s the first time I see you so downcast after getting 250 million kredits.”
A faint sparkle appeared in Aura’s eyes, “Yes, about that. What do you intend to do with all this money?”
“Now we are talking! Let me get out of this over-decorated suit and we’ll discuss our shopping plans as we fly through Anoikis.”
8 July YC 122
The last three weeks I mostly spent in Anoikis, tending caches. One day the corp sent a request for help to all Signaleers – a stranded pilot was waiting in a C5 system for almost a month and the Search and Rescue Division offered a special monetary reward for finding that system. Do you know how many C5’s are in Anoikis? Five hundred and twelve! Hunting the right one was like looking for a needle in a haystack. Nevertheless, the money was good and, with active encouragement from Aura, I halfheartedly agreed to join the hunt. What it meant in practice was that instead of taking the first wormhole out of a system I scanned the signatures until I found one which led to a C5 and jumped through it.
I went through eight or nine systems on the C5 highway and eventually got blocked. I have a habit to warp to signatures at a distance and this time it saved me from almost certain death. As I came out of the warp, my overview flashed with an explosion of red triangles – the wormhole entry was teeming with Kikimoras! I had never seen a Kikimora before and there were like ten of them. I silently retreated to my safe spot and started scanning the remaining signatures. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find another wormhole which led to dangerous unknown space, and had to veer off the highway. While I was looking for another entry, it was announced that the stranded pilot was found. Can’t say that I was too disappointed – I didn’t count on finding that system in the first place – but I made a mental note that my credit with Lady Luck was still low, so I shouldn’t be doing anything, erm… unreasonably optimistic.
That approach paid off in a couple of systems further down the pipe. I found a quiet C2 where I hacked Central Guristas Sparking Transmitter and Central Guristas Survey Site. The third signature gave me Ruined Sansha Temple Site. I was rubbing my hands and preparing for warp-in when something appeared on the D-scan.
“Shit!” exclaimed I. “Aura, launch the probes. We are scanning another signature.”
“Why?” asked she. “We should hack this site first, while no one else has found this system.”
“Someone already has. Didn’t you see the D-scan.”
“I did, but it was just a capsule. Surely, you don’t expect it to scramble you, huh?”
“No, I don’t,” replied I.
“So why are we abandoning the site?”
“You really don’t understand?” I asked, surprised.
“No. Tell me.”
“I can, but I don’t think you’ll believe me. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. I will demonstrate the danger of capsules to you some time, but for now just trust me – you don’t want to hack sites in a system with a capsule.”
Such opportunity presented itself a week later in a C3 system. After tending a cache I returned to the safe spot and started scanning signatures. While I was at it, I periodically ran D-scan over my surroundings and, as in a time-lapse video, watched the following scene:
- Probe-class frigate Dmitriy 968691 appeared on D-scan.
- Dmitriy 968691 was joined by a Tengu.
- The Tengu and Dmitriy 968691 both disappeared.
- Dmitriy 968691 capsule appeared on the radar.
“See this?” I asked Aura, pointing at the screen. “Do you now understand why capsules are dangerous?”
“I still don’t think they are but now I realise that it was a figure of speech and what you actually wanted to say was that a capsule represents a sign of a possible danger because there is a good chance that the pilot’s ship was destroyed by a hunter and the same can happen to us if we try to hack a site in the same system,” babbled Aura beaming at me as if she had just solved a difficult problem.
I buried my face in my hands and muttered, “For some people the only way to appreciate a joke is to kill it.”
“What do you mean by ‘killing a joke’?”
I raised my hands pleadingly, “Let’s not kill another one today. Just take us to that wormhole, dear. We are leaving this system.”
Looking slightly offended, Aura shrugged and said, “Warp drive active.”