A Touring 911 Operator

Region G-R00031 – Constellation G-C00324
Thera System – The Sanctuary Institute of Paleocybernetics Station

12 October YC 123

After finishing the Stubborn Dwarf doctrine test, I decided that I needed a change. So far, I had done ESR cache tending and Thera scanning, both of them solitary activities which required little interaction with other pilots. Maintaining caches in space was an important job but it was useless without Signal Cartel’s 911 operators who directed stranded pilots to those caches. I decided that that should be my next occupation in the corp.

Since this activity involved human interaction, it was not surprising that aspiring 911 operators were required to undergo a specialised training. I requested it from the Signal Cartel Academy and was pleased to learn that the training would be facilitated by Xalyar. Xalyar was an experienced rescue operator, ESR Assistant Manager, and an all-round nice person. She was so popular that even veteran corp members joined her lectures. I was looking forward to educational and fun pastime and I was not disappointed. There were instructions, but there were also stories, jokes and general banter. By the end of the course, I felt energised and eager to start my first 911 shift, when suddenly Xalyar’s tone and facial expression changed from jovial to dead serious.

“Signaleers, your training for 911 operator role is now completed. You will be given access to the restricted channel through which you will receive 911 calls from stranded pilots. Remember, you will be the face of Signal Cartel. Your words, your actions will define other pilots’ opinion of Signal Cartel and, consequently, our reputation. So far, we have had great feedback from New Eden community. Don’t let us down.”

Her words sent shivers down my spine. All of a sudden, I was not so sure that I was ready for the job and the responsibility which came with it.

In the meantime, Xalyar continued in a softer tone, “But also remember, you are not alone. If you have a problem managing your assignment, your fellow operators are always there to help. You are not expected to do everything perfectly from the get-go. Spend some time watching more experienced team members, shadow them during their assignments. When you think you are ready, take an assignment and ask another operator to ride a shotgun. They will be happy to help.”

I felt somewhat better. Indeed, every operator was a novice when they started, and then they gained experience and developed their skills. Why would I be any different?

Later, when I told Aura about my doubts, instead of encouragement she chuckled and said, “Don’t underestimate yourself, Cap. No one in Signal Cartel managed to steal a star base until you joined the corp.”

“Oh, come on!” exclaimed I. “It’s all ancient history now and I learned my lesson.”

Aura shrugged, “There is always a new lesson to learn and a new rake to step on. If you knew everything, why did you request a training?”

I gave her a worried look. For once, I had nothing to say in return.

Aura, satisfied with her little victory, steered the conversation to more practical matters, “And where are you supposed to work?”

I shrugged, “Dunno. Anywhere. I can receive alerts from Allison on a datapad or on Neocom, so I don’t have to sit in a call centre.”

“You’ve said that you are done with tending and scanning. Then what exactly are you going to do while waiting for an alert? Just sit and stare at the datapad screen?”

“Good question,” mumbled I. “Actually, I have an idea. How about sightseeing? You know, Yakub recently signed a contract for distribution of new camera drones with Carthum Conglomerate. He sent me an experimental model which, he says, totally transforms the way we see the universe from the pod. I think it’s a good opportunity to test them.”

Aura looked at me suspiciously, “Experimental? Are they safe to use?”

“Yakub mentioned some teething issues, something about the central data bus, but he said it was a rare problem and I shouldn’t worry about it.”

“Yeah, this is because you have me to worry about such things,” said Aura sarcastically.

“Oh, don’t be a spoilsport! It’s just camera drones. What can possibly go wrong?”

“Mm-hmm. The famous last words,” grumbled Aura but did not press the issue further. “So where are we going?”

“I actually have a bucket list. It’s called TripTiks, and the first journey on it is The Elder War Tour.”

In YC 110 the Elder War was on all news channels. I was a baseliner at that time and was fascinated by the events. It was like watching a space opera unfolding before your eyes in real life. It was history in the making, and I wanted to be part of that history. Funny how experience changes our priorities. As a baseliner, I dreamt of being an immortal capsuleer and fighting in epic space conflicts. Now that I have become a capsuleer, I don’t really want to do any fighting. Still, the memories of my dreams made my heart beat faster and I was excited at the thought of visiting the sites of the Elder War battles.

Aura made a sceptical grimace, “Not sure why you, humans, place such importance on observing objects through your own instruments. You will go to a place visited by millions of tourists before you, position your camera exactly as millions of amateur photographers did before you, and obtain a shot which looks exactly like millions of shots made before you. I don’t see a point in all that activity, but maybe it’s just a limitation of my electronic brain. Anyway, for the purpose of testing your new camera drones it’s as good a destination as the backside of Paleo station. When do we depart?”

Unperturbed by her ramblings, I exclaimed, “Right now!”

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