It was September 5th, YC120. I was standing in a big hall with several dozens of other graduates and listening to Admiral Nobuyuki Oshiro. He commended us on our skill and dedication. He told us how lucky we were to be able to join the elite ranks of capsuleer pilots. He reminded us of our duty to protect Caldari State and a way of life of Caldari people. He said many other things expected on such occasion. Then he shook hands with every graduate and exchanged a few phrases which showed detailed knowledge of our personal files. To me he said that I was lucky to meet Gerhardt who was an outstanding role model for all aspiring capsuleers. Despite my rather cynical self, I felt inspired by the Admiral’s speech and his personal touch. Later I was told that he was always invited to capsuleer graduation events because of his exceptional people skills.
Although I’d passed the required tests I was not immediately entitled to become a capsuleer. To be honest, my control of the capsule engine was still rudimentary and I knew absolutely nothing about the ships I was going to fly, so further training was in order.
The education programme I received at Caldari Navy base was light on theory and heavy on practice. Its main goal was to ensure that my brain-machine interface was developed to the point where I could use it unconsciously. In addition to the engine, I also had to master control of various slots where ship modules were installed. Each slot was represented by a separate neural path which had to be activated in my brain. Interestingly, their activation happened much quicker and smoother than the first one. That had always been the case for all candidates who had passed the initial tests, and no one knew why. It was like the initial breakthrough raised the control of our brains to a new level and enabled us to easily adopt new appendages in the form of ship modules. At the end of the training I was able to manage up to 8 slots in each of low, medium and high energy categories. Other brain-machine interface functions that I had learned to use were navigation, drone control and Neocom – a ship’s information system. Continue reading “Navy Training”
The second test had finished. Out of our group only I passed it, and only Lenka was able to activate the pod, but she was never able to repeat her breakthrough. Before leaving I came to her room to say good-bye. She hugged and kissed me, wiping away a tear.
“Lenka, I am so sorry that you…” started I, but she interrupted me.
“Don’t worry, I am not crying because I flunked the test. But it’s always sad to lose friends. We had a good company here and there were many happy moments, but I don’t think I’ll see anyone again, especially you.” Continue reading “Farewell”
I was surrounded by darkness. I looked around and saw a blue light. I flew to it. The light was growing brighter and brighter as I approached it. I was curious if there was something behind it and circled the light. I didn’t find anything but then I saw a yellow light in the distance. I went to it but again didn’t find anything except steady luminescence. Then I noticed a red light and, like a moth, I got attracted to it and made a full circle around that light. By the time I finished my circumnavigation I heard a strange noise. It was getting louder and sounded like a loose sail flapping in the wind. The noise was very disturbing and I couldn’t concentrate on anything else. Finally, when I decided to investigate the source of that sound I… opened my eyes and woke up. Continue reading “At the Drop of a Key”
“Professor,” pleaded I, “what else can I do? Every time I see that dream where I fly in space, I wake up and find I have moved the pod, but I have no clue how to do it consciously. Daydreaming does not produce the same effect. Your theory about strengthening neural paths either does not work, or requires much more time. But I don’t have that time – there are only two weeks remaining before the end of the test.”
Professor avoided my imploring gaze and drummed his fingers on the table. He seemed to fall in trance and nodded his head following the steady rhythm. After a while his fingers performed an intricate coda and he surfaced from his reverie. “I have to admit, Vlad,” he sighed, “I am totally out of my depth here. As I’ve already said, your case is nothing like I’ve seen before. I am as desperate as you, and would buy snake oil if someone told me it would help.” Continue reading “Sleeping with a Key”
I didn’t know at what time Professor Muhamad normally had his breakfast, but mine started at 16:00 next day. After weeks of pushing myself to the limit my mind welcomed the opportunity to catch-up on the missed rest, and as a result I soundly slept for twelve hours straight. I guess, all that time Prof was anxious to interrogate me, but I was grateful he gave me R&R I badly needed. When I woke up I felt light and energised, like I was newly cloned.
After the “breakfast” I knocked on the Professor’s door. He greeted me as if nothing happened, “Come in, come in. Had a good rest?”
“Yeah, thank you for letting me oversleep.”
“Don’t mention it, you needed some downtime. Not sure if you noticed but for the last week you looked like a zombie. I wonder if that contributed to the breakthrough you had. It would make your case extremely unique – you would be the first person who tortured himself into a capsuleer,” said Prof and chuckled. Continue reading “The Dream Continues”
Lenka started coming to our evening catch-ups and also visited us in the docks having a chit-chat with the guys and me during the breaks. It lasted about a week and then she got bored. Looking at our consistently unsuccessful attempts to activate the pods was as entertaining as watching the paint dry. So one morning she simply returned to her dock, boarded the pod and everyone pretended that nothing happened. After that I got a message from Professor Muhamad with just three letters – IOU.
Now that I had a plan, my daily visits to the pod became worklike – I had a project with a deadline. Every day I went through a number of tests, and the fact that all of them were unsuccessful did not depress me as before; on the contrary, I felt anxiety and was motivated to try out as many reports as I could.
The days went by following pretty much the same routine: after breakfast I went to the docks and tried my best to move the capsule; then I had a lunch break and continued my exercises until dinner. Then, depending on the mood, I could return to the pod for “one more try”. Although other candidates in our group had a similar regime, we rarely saw each other in the cafe as all of us had different circadian rhythms. Still, every day we tried to get together after dinner in a bar where we exchanged our, mostly disappointing, experiences and at the same time encouraged each other to carry on. I was usually the first to come and had a quiet couple alone reflecting on the day’s events and waiting for others.
One evening, while I was sipping my beer and looking through the viewport at the busy traffic around the station, my reverie was interrupted by the sound of running feet after which the swinging bar doors almost exploded letting a new visitor in. It was Lenka; she was breathing heavily as if she ran all the way from the docks, but her eyes were shining. Her gaze found me in my seat and she yelled across the bar, “Vlad, I did it!” and rushed towards me. Continue reading “The First Success”
Professor was pacing up and down before the group; we were patiently watching him. After a while he turned to us and said, “You know, this is my least favourite part of the test. All our data shows that successful activation of brain-machine interface is a unique experience for every capsuleer. Yet here you are, expecting me to give you a silver bullet. I truly believe that sharing successful candidates’ experience with you not only adds no value, but in fact hinders your progress, as your minds get locked onto specific techniques. What I want you to do is completely opposite – release your mind, broaden your horizons, think out of the box and find your own way to control the pod. This is your best chance to achieve the goal. If you trust me, I ask you to leave this room and return to your pods.”
We looked at each other – no one was going anywhere.
“Ok,” said Professor, “I see – you tried hard for a month, nothing came out of it and you are frustrated. But please understand that one month is nothing, it’s just…” Continue reading “A New Hope”
On the first day of the second test we rode on the internal station train to the remote arm of the station where corporation’s private docks were located. Each candidate was provided with an assistant, a capsule and a cubic kilometre of personal space. The space contained three beacons which marked a triangular route. All we had to do to pass the test was to guide the capsule through that route using only power of mind.
When we arrived to the dock, Hughard, my assistant, escorted me to the capsule.
“All yours,” he smiled.