An Interesting Hobby
An Interesting Hobby
By Shiu Juan
Recently, I was a approached in a bar by a very scared looking fresh faced rookie who looked at most two weeks out of a basic technical degree wondering how I started mining. A little taken aback, I asked what made him think that I was a miner, since I usually trade for a living. He hesitantly pointed at the line of veldspar dust in the folds of my skirt. I laughed ruefully, a little more heartily than I was want, just to put him at ease, because I was inwardly iritated that I had been caught out being less than impecably dressed though it did explain why the agent had been bargaining extra hard when I sold my cargo. I shook my head, and set that aside. I told him that I don't normally mine for a living, but that I was happy to tell him how I got started, and that I could definitely recommend it for a living if he had that bent. He looked eager, and I laughed at how much like a puppy dog he looked. He looked cute, and it might be nice to talk to someone after spending a month holed up my pod. He did not really look like he had alot of ISK to rub together, and so when he offered to buy me dinner for my story, I said yes, but that I had a small job for him tomorrow if he wanted it. I offered that if he brought me the Multispectrum Coating I had bought three jumps away to me by next week, I would give him ten thousand ISK so he had some idea of how much he could spend. He looked relieved, and we sat back to enjoy dinner as I told my tale:
I was a young trader, always looking for an angle. I had just landed in CBT's Aldrat station after a month-long run hauling cargo for the Aliastra Corporation. I opened the door to my pod and poked my head out, wrinkling my nose at the mentalic smell of the air. I stepped out a little shakey after that long in space and steadied myself on the railing beside the stairs. I stood there for a few minutes just feeling the sense of open space around me and getting used to it.
Suddenly, I gave a little shiver and realized the reason I was so cold was that I was just wearing my work coveralls. “Ugh, this is unseemly.”, I murmered and ducked back inside the pod. I came up short just inside the door catching a wiff of the stench coming from the inside of the pod. “Horrible! How did I stand it for so long?”, I thought, gritting my teeth as I went to the locker for my station clothing. Hurrying rather more than I wanted, but needing to get out of the enclosed space again I quickly stripped off the coveralls, ran a sink of recycled water and sponged off as much built up grime as I could before putting on the good clothes. “God, I hope I don't stink too much.”, I murmered, “Can't look too desperate when I go to unload the goods and get paid.”
Glancing in the mirror I tucked a stray strand of hair back into place under my hood, grabbed up the accounting book and credit chit, and rushed out of the pod, taking a deep breath when I got out the door. Once out in the open, my mind started back on the usual tracks. “Ok, 500 ISK for the pod cleaning. That is not optional.” Glancing whistfully through the porthole at “Lilting Plum”, my Iteron, I shook her head, and sighed, “I can't leave the damage to the port middle cargo hull, it is just too obvious, and no one will give me a courier contract if they think the goods are going to be vented into space. Another ten thousand.” Muttering, “Sales taxes on this stuff is going to cost dearly, probably another 100 thousand. I can not go in there until they finish cleaning, so it is another 750 for the sleepover tonight. I think this run is only going to net me 500-600 thousand. Ugh, why do I put myself through this?”, I realized I was starting to get odd looks from the stationers passing by, and clamped my jaw before I said anything else out loud.
Collecting myself, I set off at a brisk walk to the market sector to find a buyer for my cargo. Arriving at the market sector, I quickly found the chemicals trading floor and breathed a sigh of relief to discover that the market feed I got at the edge of Metropolis region had not gone stale yet, and I was going to make a profit, albeit small, on the run. With the credit safely in my account, I started looking around for deals on ship fittings. However, my quick scan of my usual products did not turn up and deals and I decided to leave the hunt for the next big deal for tomorrow.
There were just too many people around and the effort of looking people in the eye, trying to follow their conversations, and not talk to myself was getting too much. I decided to go find a sleepover and get a little rest. I was suddenly overtaken by a wave of exhaustion and barely managed to weave my way into the “Blue Flamingo”, hammer the innkeeper down to 650 ISK, grab the key and make it to the room before passing out on the bed.
The next morning, I luxuriated in the bath for 2 hours, before rushing out 10 minutes before checkout time to avoid getting charged for another day. I was feeling much more clear-headed and up-beat today and thought maybe it would be nice to take a shuttle across to Pator Tech to see if there were any interesting classes going on. I just wasn't ready to face trying to line up deals again so soon, and suddenly realized I never managed to book the pod cleaners. I braved the stench just long enough to lock down the controls, lock up the accounting book, and put the dirty clothes out for the laundry service to pick up. It frustrated me that the pod cleaner managed to push me up by an extra 100 ISK, but he insisted on continuing the inspection everytime I started her run at him, and I had to get out of there. The guy either had long ago burned out his sense of smell with cleaning products or just had a stronger will than me.
I took a commuter shuttle across with the “may flies”. I breathed a sigh of relief when the trip ended. These short lifed stationers were so chatty and there were so many of them pressing in on me. I was happy to get into the relative quiet of the Uni offices. Being capsuleers they understood the proper way to act.
Unsurprisingly, there were not any classes currently running, so I sealed myself into a listening cubicle and listened to a recorded lecture while leafing through the newsfeed. Partway through the lecture I noticed a pamphlet on the desk that had been left behind by a previous student. It said “Project: Noah's Ark”, and seemed to be an ad for a program for new industrialists.
I almost put it down, when the phrase “won't pull to the right during deceleration” caught my eye. No matter how many times I tried to explain the problem to the repair shop, they still had not been able to resolve that issue with Lilting Plum. I had even put on a suit and gone crawling along the hull, scrubbing the vanes, hammering out some of the dings, and such, and nothing had fixed it. Apparently, this program would deliver a complete set of blueprints to build a ship from scratch, all I needed to do was find the materials and hire a production line. A new ship for just the materials cost? One that had not been abused by the former owner, that did not do blank the instruments for those heart-stopping extra few seconds after every 15th jump, or flicker the coolant leak light if you ran the afterburner too many cycles in a row? This seemed too good to be true, and I rushed over to the message centre to write to this Milla Astrea to request permission to sign up for the program.
Once the message was sent, I sat back and took a breath to calm my excitement. Nothing more happened for a few minutes, so I went back to finish listening to the lecture. When the lecture was over, there was still no news, so I went down to the market sector to start hunting around for the next deal I could afford.
After the first day or so, I looked at the flyer again. It was looking a little yellow. Maybe the program was not running any more. I tucked the flyer into the locker, and shortly thereafter the laundry came back, and it was buried behind all the clothes. A few more days passed, and I had totally forgotten about it. I had found a sweat deal on polytextiles in Alf, and had just committed my entire working capital to a remote buy to make sure no one scooped it before I could get there to pick it up. I was completing pre-flight checks and revelling in that just cleaned smell of a pod at the beginning of a run when my neocom started flashing. Apparently, some one had just assigned her a contract. How odd. With a few deft clicks, I brought up the contract and looked at it quizically for a moment before realizing that it was a complete set of blueprints to build a ship with all its fittings. I quickly accepted the contract, shut down the engines and started unplugging and unbuckling. I fairly skipped down to the station hangar level, and arrived at the same time as the courier robot delivering it into my station hangar.
I ripped open the envelope and spread the plans out on top of a crate of ammo, tracing the lines and steps and working through the whole thing. I had done some basic manufacturing in my days at the Center for Advanced Studies, and it was coming back to me. “I can do this.”, I thought with confidence. It would not be machine-perfect, but it would be mine, and I would know every nook and cranny and have some idea of why anything was going wrong. I pulled the data tablet from my pocket and started making a list of materials I was going to need.
Suddenly it hit me: I had a holdful of polytextiles in Alf waiting to be picked up, and only the emergency funds to work with. Everything was tied up in the deal. “Ok, this was a nice hobby thing anyway. I will just wait until I get paid, and then start. No worries”, I thought. I carefully folded the plans up, put them back in the envelope and filed them in the document storage section. I sealed up my hangar again, and went back to the start prepping the ship again for departure.
Everything was green, and I was just finishing up arranging a departure lane, when the neocom started flashing. Alliance Mail flashing. I shrugged and decided to wait until I was safely in warp to open it. Undocking went smoothly, and I lined up for the Eygfe gate and started up the long acceleration for entering warp. I had to ease off a bit as an Ibis careened across my path. “Damn rookies! What are they teaching them these days?!”, I cursed. However, eventually the path was cleared, and I had enough speed. I kicked in the warp drive, and leaned back with a sigh letting the tension release from my shoulders. Ok, time to catch up on the mail. What did the alliance want? I keyed up the message, and started scanning it with one eye while keeping an eye on the instruments. “Message from CONCORD: Billy's Barbarian Raiders has declared war on your corporation. Hostilities can commence within 24 hours. Please do not haul, or mine. All hands required on deck to defend the corporate assets from attack.” I swore viciously, before taking a deep breath and focussing on dealing with the flair of data as I came out of warp. Sighing, I started the lateral thrusters to pull out of the approach into the jump range at the gate, and let the ship coast to a stop before starting up the thrusters and then the main engines for the approach back to safe dock.
There followed weeks of watching holoreels in dock, the daily trip down to the market to see the price of polytextiles sliping deeper south, interspersed with days of sleep deprivation out on picket duty or trying to chase down the attackers. When it was all over the polytextile market was in a deep slump, and the pod needed another visit from the cleaners.
I spent three days and nights without leaving the sleepover before deciding I could not wallow anymore and I needed to do something. Walking out of the sleepover, I passed by a table of grubby characters discussing the finer points of hitting the Veldspar meteor at the right angle to get optimal yield. Oddly, while they seemed to be covered head to toe in dust, they were drinking really expensive liquor.
I passed on without thinking about it much. However, when I got to the market to do my long delayed check on the polytextile prices, on a whim I brought out the data tablet to see how much this hobby ship was going to cost and looked up the price on Mexallon. Twenty-four ISK for just one ingot, and I needed 64 thousand of that alone. It was then that an idea started tickling the back of my mind. My parents had insisted that I get a good basic technical education before striking out on my own, and I knew the basics of mining from my school days.
I figured I was burning ISK just sitting around waiting for the price of polytextiles to improve, and I might as well do something, so I went down to the hangar and pulled out Jumping Cricket, the old Velator I had ridden into port so many years ago, with its little civilian mining laser. I figured I would take a little day-trip out to the belts and see what I could get. By mid-afternoon, I had enough veldspar in a jet can to fill the hold of Lilting Plum. I had also listened to the entirety of Klaxion's latest album seven times, and watched “The Haunting of Ta'Shiana”, the only holoreel I had happened to have in the pod so many times I felt like I could repeat parts of the dialogue from memory. I took measurements off the nearby celestial objects, and saved the results in the navigation computer so I could find the can again, then I set the can's radio beacon to broadcast my name in case anyone happened across it they would know it was not abandoned. After flying borrowed combat ships for the last month, it felt like ages in warp getting back to station to get the hauler to come back out for the ore. The handling on Plum was even worse and it took forever to point in the right direction and get up to speed. By the time I got out to the can, filled the cargo hold and got back to station, I was seriously wondering whether moping around the sleepover might have been a better way to spend a day. I transferred the ore into my hangar, and decided to go down and take a look at the result. On opening the door, I swore as a rock fell on my foot, and a cloud of dust blew out coating me from head to toe. To top it off when I picked up the piece sitting nearest the door, I got burned because it was still hot from the laser. I sealed up the door in disgust, and went over toward habitation for a bite to eat, but figured I would swing by the market on the way. After looking up polytextiles, I looked up veldspar and tritanium, and then punched it into the data tablet to see if my days work was worth anything. “Well, 270 thousand ISK is pretty good for someone who was just burning ISK in the sleepover.”, I thought. I wondered what would happen if I had some better equipment. Pensively, I looked up the price on a Navitas, and some Miner I lasers, did some calculations on the data tablet as how they compared to the yield with a civilian miner and was suitably impressed, especially since if I sold off that first load of veldspar I could afford to buy them outright from the profit. An idea started hatching to build this hobby boat from minerals I had mined myself.
However, if I was going to go down this road, I figured I really should know what I was doing. The basic classes were all very fine, but if I am going to spend that long in a pod on repetitive actions, I wanted to make this worthwhile. It was time for another trip over to Pator for some manuals. I landed in Pator and went over to the Uni offices. I checked the library for a copy of “The Basics of Mining”, before remembering that I had a copy in the data tablet it was just that I had only read the first 2 sections before getting bored. They did not have Stringer's “The Study of Astrogeology”, so I bought it on my student credit chit.
There followed a week where I would check polytextile prices in the morning, and then spend the rest of the day in the belts. After reading up in the Uni discussion forums, on recommended things to fit with, I started a program of trading up from Miner I's to EP-S Excavation Pulse, to a XeCl Drilling Beam. Rather than watching holoreels, I studied my mining textbooks, and was really getting the hang of it. There is a rhythm to it, start a laser, wait a few minutes, start a laser, wait a few minutes, start the cargo arm to transfer from the hold to the jet can, read a page, start a laser, etc. It is very calming on the nerves for those that are jittery about everything being tied up on one deal. What also calms the nerves is getting back to station, selling off a third of the load and watching as the bank balance slowly recovers without having to wait for a break on the market. The pile of ore for the boat was also building up pretty steadily, and that was very satisfying. There were a few hairy moments when pirates showed up at the astroid and told me if I did not clear off in the next 2 minutes that they would destroy my ship. There was also the incident where someone showed up beside me, pried open my jet can and stole all my ore. I have to admit the invectives going out over the ship radio was really quite unladylike, but I kept my hands off the weapons, because having been out on the hull to realign the lasers, I was not all that thrilled with the fragility of the hull if it came to a fire fight.
After a week, my calculations suggested that I was getting pretty close to what I needed in terms of Tritanium, Mexallon, Pyerite, and Isogen, but I never seemed to come across any astroids containing Nocxium, nor Zydrine. It was puzzling, so I took a trip to the Uni library. Stringer's said that you could get both of those from both Jaspet and Hemorphite. However, I never seemed to see those. I arrived at the library and pulled out “The Big Atlas of Eve” and started leafing through checking each system trying to find those. Oddly, everytime I came across an entry saying that the system had astroids of that type, there was a note saying that CONCORD never seemed to respond to distress calls in that system except if you were actually at a gate, and then they only seemed to have an automated presence. I let that percolate a bit, and took another trip to the market.
Fortuously, it looked like the polytextile market had recovered and I set the hobby aside to finally go out and unload the cargo that had been burning a hole in my pocket. After the many jumps to Alf, then out to Uttindar, I was exhausted, but happy to finally have a healthy bank account again.
I figured at this point it was time to get a little professional advice, so I started trolling the various bars looking for those individuals who always seemed to have an aura of dust and calmness about them. I finally, found one that looked friendly in the “Implacable Rock”. Turning on the charm, I offered to buy him a drink. We chatted about our younger days and seemed to be hitting it off. His name was William, and things were going well until I steered the conversation towards what he flew. I could see that I had taken a serious wrong-turn in trying to get the information I needed. I was puzzled, but deftly steered away from that topic. After a few more drinks, it looked like he was a little more at ease, and I tried going back a bit and asked what he did for a living, and he allowed that he spent a fair amount of time bringing sorrow to the rocks that float out in space around the moons. I let it slip that I had recently been trying my hand at that, but was not really very good at it. He laughed, and asked why I thought that. I pointed out that it seemed to take forever to fill a container, and that I could not seem to find any 'roids with the materials I was looking for. He suggested I get a bigger ship, one that the designers had considered mining when creating it. He also confirmed that I was very unlikely to find the minerals I wanted in high security systems. It seems that the conditions that form such astroids also tend to play hob with the particular communications system CONCORD chose and so they find it harder to secure those systems, and often leave them to the pirates. He recommended that I not tempt fate and risk my life and ship to mine in those systems. The drinks must have been starting to affect my ability to control my expression because clearly picked up on the mixture of disappointment, and determination crossing my mind. He said that if I really wanted to do this, then I should bring something that was decently agile, cheap, and could make the most of the time that I was there. He suggested an Osprey cruiser. I was a little non-plussed to learn that a Caldari ship was good for anything besides being shot at, but I held my tongue. He was looking a little nostalgic, so I figured that ship had a special spot in his heart, and that it would be best not to say anything about that. He sketched out what I needed to fit to the hull for it to work better, and I learned about mining laser upgrades, and that you could put in a coprocessor to make the computer run faster if they taxed your computer too much. He also told me about survey scanners and how they can tell you which rocks have the most ore in them. I think he must have seen the flicker on my face when he suggested the Caldari craft, but he looked like he was enjoying himself when I looked a little mystified at the comment “and ofcourse the shield extender.” and started giving a mini-lecture on how shield systems worked. It was very instructive, though the next day I was happy that I was taking notes on the napkins because by that point in the evening I was none too stable in my chair.
The next morning, I felt like hell and there was a note on the bedside table “Have fun in the clone vat, I did the best I could to keep your pretty backside safe. - William”. A little digging through my pockets reconstructed the later part of the evening, and state of the room gave me some hints about the rest. The nasty look I got from the guy in the next room over as I was coming out to try to force down some breakfast confirmed it. It looked like maybe I should try to get some more lessons in mining if I survived my latest whimsical foray.
Once I had puzzled out the napkins, and looked up the numbers, it looked like he had really been very forthcoming about his profession, and had given me alot of good tips. Felling flush and reckless, I decided to visit the market and commit to this trip. I obtained all the equipment he had suggested, and assembled the ship. Crawling around on the hull attaching things, I was really not all that impressed with how flimsy the structure and armour seemed to be, but it seemed to have alot better weight to it than the Navitas, so I felt a little more comfortable. Coming inside, I checked over the controls and instruments. There seemed to be something wrong with the meter on the shield generator. It was giving crazy high numbers. I tapped it hoping maybe this would fix it, but it still kept registering high. I wasn't comforable with flying something where it could not even get out of dock without malfunctioning, and I was starting to think that maybe William had steered me wrong after all. I gave up in disgust and went down to the repair shop to get it fixed. The Caldari mechanic took one look at me and I could see the hatred written all over his face. Grimacing inside, I smiled broadly and turned on the charm before telling him my problem, hoping I could at least knock a little bit off what was sure to be a massively over-inflated repair bill. He burst out laughing and walked off tossing over his shoulder, “Go RTFM, and stop wasting my time.” Finally, a nice Amarr junior mechanic took pity on me and explained that the instruments really were not broken, he pulled out his copy of the Caldari Cruiser Operations Manual and pointed out the tables for shield operations that I had not yet gotten to in my rush to get going. “I know their ways are strange and wrong, and I agree, but I have to admit that we see alot fewer Caldari in here for repairs than Amarr and Gallente wanting resurfacing of their armor after a particularly nasty incident.... Though it might be because they are all dead after the shield fails.”, he said with a laugh.
Feeling suitably chastened, I went back to my pod to launch myself on my hair-brained scheme. On the trip out to Molden Heath, I carefully researched the traffic stats, and hazard warnings in several systems that the Atlas said would have Jaspet in it. I finally settled on one that seemed pretty quiet and did not have any recent ship losses reported. The trip to the last CONCORD outpost before my system was uneventful, and I gathered my courage to jump into low sec without 50 other pilots and a fleet commander calmly whispering things that would keep me alive in my ear. I took the jump and held cloak on the other side as I had been drilled to do. I was shocked at how brazen the pirates were, nestling right up to the gate to catch the unwary. This was a whole different place than I was used. Praying that my training and reflexes were up to this I leaned over the controls and and took a sighting on the nearest planet. I set the course in the computer and kicked in the main engines. I jack-rabitted off the gate, and the computer did not fail to kick in the warp drive when I reached critical velocity. I breathed a sigh of relief that the pirates had not even had a chance to react before I was away. I would never have managed that maneuver in Lilting Plum. Apparently, the Caldari could do something right building ships. During warp I grabbed some measurements off various celestials and programmed some fake bodies into the computer so that I could disappear into the deep dark if necessary. Once I hit the planet, I jumped back to one of those and started to evaluate the environment. The stats seemed to be correct, and there were very few folks in the system. I took a breath and prepared to start taking a tour of the belts to see what I could find. The first belt I landed in had a bunch of lumps of Jaspet, and I felt a thrill of elation that I had finally tracked down this illusive ore. The elation turned to panic when I suddenly saw another ship come onto my overview. Worse it was classified as hostile. Apparently, the pirates were not just hanging out at the jump gates, and but also wandering around the asteroid belts too. I hurriedly started sighting off, and running the thrusters to line up for my bookmark in the deep dark, cursing my stupidity for taking on this fool errand. I was too late, and shot hit me directly midship, and the shields flaired. My heart racing, I prepared myself for the shock of waking up somewhere else with the nasty taste of goo in my mouth. Then I caught sight of that “damaged” shield generator meter. It had flared, but not really moved nearly as much as I would have expected. By the time the third shot hit my panic was subsiding and I was able to focus on getting the sighting right so that I would not come out of warp inside the sun. The engines fired and I was pressed back in my seat as I came up to speed, and slipped into warp.
Sitting in the dark after the warp bubble collapsed I let the shield generators recover and thought about how lucky that had been. I also started to think it was possible that I could take these guys on. Once the shields had recovered, I warped back, and came out of warp shooting. Once I had the first missile off, I deployed my drones and the first frigate went down quickly. The second frigate soon followed, but the cruiser was holding his own. Not really trusting my luck in a glorified tin can once the shields went down, I pulled in the drones and fled to my safe spot to recover. I came back and managed to finish him off, and I was alone in my field of Jaspet. I felt a little bad about the senseless killing, but hey, they shot at me first, and they have no right to be shooting at innocent people who happen to be surveying an asteroid field.
Not really trusting that that was the last I would see of them, I left the drones out and started up the mining lasers. While I quickly settled into the routine, I found it impossible to concentrate on the book I was studying, and instead checked the scanner nervously between each cycle of the mining lasers. The other thing that prevented me from studying was that I could barely keep the hold empty between cycles of the lasers. It is probably because I had to keep my hands on the controls and eyes on the instruments that I noticed so quickly when I had company in the belt. I have to admit I paniced again, not being prepared for this, and warped out without pulling in my drones. I sat in the dark again sitting over the glow of the directional scanner trying to deduce this newcomers intentions. I looked up his ship in the database, and it definitely was not a mining craft. He hung around in the neighbourhood for a bit before he disappeared from my scan, and I went back to see whether anything of my hard work was left behind. The can was still there, and as full as I had left it, but the drones were gone. Shaking my head, I loaded up the ore, and decided it was time to perform a strategic retreat before I lost my ship and my life.
I got the ore back to safety at the next high security system, and decided to go back to trading for a bit until I got over the twitches everytime a ship came up on the sensors.
A month later, my twitches had stopped, no thanks to being involved in another war. However, having a fleet commander calmly instruct you to free you from second guessing your decisions and watching in every single direction for the next threat really calms the nerves.
My next trip into low sec was similarly eventful, and similarly successful. However, I suspect I was the cause of some twitches myself, when I warped into the first belt I had chosen and the person who was already there warped out immediately.
In the mean time, however, I had gone looking for my sweet mining advisor again, because I wanted to properly thank him for all his advice that had kept my “pretty backside” safe. I did not find him, but I did find something else. I had been to three or four bars frequented by miners, without seeing him as I scanned the room, when I arrived at “The Damage Cloud”, a bar around the corner from the Uni offices. I was scanning the crowd, and seeing nothing, when a young looking woman with jet black hair and disturbingly old eyes noticed me and invited me over to sit with her and her companions. She commented that I looked like I was looking for someone, and I said that I was looking for someone named William who I wanted to thank for getting me started mining properly, though I glossed over the details of how our conversation had gone. She said she had seen him around, but that she thought he was currently out in the belts right now. She introduced herself as Jen Loo, which shocked me because I had heard that name before as one of the very experienced people in the Uni. We sat chatting around the table a while longer, when she said that if I was interested, she was getting a group mining operation together. “Just meet up at the door between red and yellow sectors at 21:00.”, she said. “I can't really fly anything that can get fantastic yields yet so I am probably not really ready to partake in something like that.”, I said. “No, just fly what you can, it's really relaxed, just come out, have some fun, and earn some ISK. You will need to make sure your radio set is able to handle broadcast mode though.”
I had never tried to run it in that mode before, so I said I would try, and would see them there. The party broke up an hour later as everyone dispursed to get their ship ready. I went back to my ship, and made sure that all the rest of the gear was in order before sitting over the radio set to see if I could make sure it worked correctly. After a bit of fiddling I thought I probably had it working correctly. Unfortunately, I had lost track of time and was late to the meeting. Everyone had left. I went back to my pod in disappointment. I sat for a few minutes before I thought to fire up the person to person text message system to see if maybe it was not too late. It was not and I was invited into the fleet. I got a fix on them, and warped out to the site to see them spread out around the asteroid field chewing it up. A very impressive sight and I was thrilled to part of it. The thrill turned to shock when I turned on the radio set to static. The damn thing was totally broken. Eventually, in disgust I messaged that I had equipment failure and I was dropping out, with thanks for the invitation, and that I would try to get it working for next time.
For the next little while, I spent my time trading and doing odd jobs for the corporation agents. However, around the New Year, with everyone thinking about seeing old friends and such, I thought of William again, and thought maybe I would take another round of the bars to see if maybe he had come in from the belts for the celebrations.
It was at the “Damage Cloud” again that I came across Jen and a big group of miners. She was pitching the idea of doing a really long charity mining operation for the Uni and there looked like there was alot of interest. She beconned me over, and gave the pitch, “After the night of reveling, get up when you can and just come out. Come and go as you please, we will not be tracking yields or anything, it all goes to the University. Our goal is to wipe out the asteroid belts in as many systems in and around Aldrat as we can.” It sounded intriguing, and I was eager to test out the repairs to the radio set, so I said I would be there with bells on.
It was then that I noticed William walking in. I turned back to excuse myself, but she was already dismissing me with a knowing glint in her eye. That young face with those eyes that had just seen too much, it was vaguely disturbing. However, I set that aside to approach my lovely advisor to see if he remembered me any better than I remembered his advise without the aid of notes. It turned out that he could hold his alcohol far better than me, and he very much remembered my “pretty backside”, and was only too happy to give me some more “advice” if I wanted to hear it. We spent the evening bouncing from bar to bar, and catching up. At one point, I started to tell him about my trips to low sec, but he looked a little pained so I changed the subject.
I woke up to another note on the bedside table. “I hear you have a big day today. Please protect your backside and stay with the fleet. -W.” I don't know how he manages to slip out like that, normally I am not such a deep sleeper.
The charity mining day exceeded my expectations. I came hoping to get a little experience in how such an operation worked and to test my radio set. We were wildly successful and denuding Aldrat and several other systems of all the asteroids in the entire system. At one point, I actually held the record for most Veldspar mined, which gave me a huge sense of achievement. However, more importantly, I learned why miners are so friendly. The long hours sitting over the controls chatting to each other without radio discipline leads to stories and political discussion, trivia contests, and other fun activities. I enjoyed the event enormously, and vowed to participate again at the next opportunity. Unfortunately, I learned that a basic technical education is not a well rounded education, and was chided for not paying attention in history and civics classes. I was caught out over and over during the quizzes with my lack of knowledge of our history, and current affairs. I vowed to get out some history books and a newsfeed to take with me to read between cycles of the laser.
I came across Jen again a few weeks later as I was walking by a miner's bar on my way to the market for my compulsive price checks. She seemed to have a crowd around her again, and it looked like she was organizing something. I figured I would stop in and see what it was. I was very happy to have done so, since I was invited to another mining fleet. It was as fun as last time, and I learned a lot more about the world of EVE. I went away thinking that it was another fun afternoon spent in the company of nice people, which is a pleasant break from my normal world of cut-throat business deals followed by nervously looking over your shoulder at every gate to avoid being attacked for your cargo. However, a few hours later the my neocom started flashing to report that something had happened in my wallet. I opened it eagerly to see if my play in Energized Regenerative Membrains had been a success, and some had sold. No luck, a check revealed that the lack of sales was because I was underbid again. I was puzzled why the wallet was flashing if there were no transactions until I flipped over to the Journal to discover that I had received a payout beyond my dreams from the mining operation. It turned out that my afternoon was not just a pleasant vacation from greed and paranoia, but also quite profitable.
It was a few months later that I figured out what had gotten William so spooked when I asked about his ship. It turns out there are people out there who enjoy attacking miners in their relatively fragile ships. While there is a the normal random attacks that everyone (except those that stay docked at station and play the market from the safety of their bar stool) must endure, there had been rumours circulating that there was a group organizing a coordinated pogrom on miners. At first I saw reports of it on the inside pages of the newspaper that I was now reading, then I was shocked to see that this group had taken out an advertisement in the newspaper to expand it, though this did serve as warning to the those miners who remained up on current events. Finally, the Uni started giving warning to their students. I was scared for the friends I had made out in the belts, and I stayed to my usual trading habits. I also finally started the production of my hobby ship now that I have assembled all the minerals necessary.
However, this campaign of destruction did have the happy result that when I arrived back in station after a trading run, at the bottom of the stairs was William again, stuck in station rather than out in the belts. I was not pleased that he caught me in my jumpsuit stinking like that, but he did not seem to be too put off, so I invited him in while I got myself ready to go out. When he got to the door, he politely declined and said he would meet me at the “Impacable Rock” once I was done my market activities.
“Now, I must bring my tale to an end as there is someone at the door wondering whether I my dance card is full tonight, and I do not want to disappoint.”, I said.
“Oh yes, yes, I understand completely. Thank you very much for your time.”, the puppy dog enthused.
“I very much hope that I have answered your question, and have very much enjoyed your company for dinner.”, I said, thinking that maybe I had made a little too many detours in my story and he understood a little too well why I wanted to leave. “I hope I will be seeing you tomorrow to get the access key for the courier pack in Olbra. I would also recommend that you look up the EVE University, as they have classes in any topic you might want to know about, which will serve you much better and at lesser cost than listening to me ramble on.” I stood up, and the puppy dog lept to his feet to shake my hand.
I walked to the door trying to maintain decorum for my all too knowing dinner companion. At the door I thought to look back and make sure that he was not going to have trouble with the bill. The waiter was taking his chit, and seemed happy, so I turned back to enjoy my evening.