Monday, February 27, 2012

High Gain, Higher Loss


Erun sank into the couch in his Minmatar styled quarters with a relaxed sigh.  He tossed his feet over the armrest as he sprawled out with his head cushioned with the pillows he had taken from the rarely used bed in the corner.  He stretched his body and twisted around, eliciting numerous pops from his spine before settling back into the cushions.  Recent studies in long term clone health had indicated that the lengthy periods of weightless inactivity in pods had similar effects to long term exposure to zero and micro gravity environments.  Erun's childhood gymnastic, and later full contact sport conditioning had left him in pretty good shape but recently his love of the often heavy food available in Minmatar stations had caused his current clone to put on weight.  So for the last few weeks had been performing resistance calisthenics every time he had decanted from his pod.

Sinking deeper into the cushions Erun closed his eyes and pulled up his Neocom interface in order to contact his current agent.  She welcomed him joyfully, correctly anticipating and then recording another successfully completed mission for her logs.  After his payment was wired to his account he tiredly wished here a good night before closing down the channel.  Her commission for the missions he completed ranged from 1 to 10 ISK each but at current exchange rates she could be a non-capsuleer millionaire by the end of the week, even if she wasn't already, so he found her good mood easily understandable.  He noticed his wallet flashing again, indicating he had received the last of his approved bounties for the night, further increasing his current balance in excess of a billion ISK.  Soon he would be able to buy and fit a Proteus Strategic Cruiser, something he'd been looking forward to since seeing the sleek modular vessels for the first time in space.  He planned on using his for low sec exploration, something he enjoyed but couldn't do very often given the Helios Covert Op frigates' poor combat ability.  His only reason for not buying one before now was his personal rule of being able to replace anything he bought, something he'd be able to do within the next few months if his current missions were any indication.

His last task of the night was to pull one of the packaged Tech 2 Ogre's he had brought from his lowsec production plant out of storage and have it assigned to his - expensive, but well worth it - Navy Issue Dominix.  He'd lost one of his older units when it exceeded it's control range, disallowing him to recall it or issue it any commands at all.  Erun had checked the trajectory, hurtling directly into the flight path of a Mordus Mammoth more than 100 klicks away, and assumed the poor thing had finally gone mad.  The drone had likely been with him against numerous other Mordus fleets, and knowing their habit of shifting fire to nearby drones had simply found a loophole in it's coding enabling it to label a ramming maneuver as a valid combat tactic.  This blatant abuse of the drones' assigned "Aggressive" combat stance had worried him.

Erun frowned to himself at this thought as he pulled up the display of his implants and the skill they were currently imprinting in his cortex; Electronic Warfare Drone Interfacing.  His current path to mastery on this skill would enable him to use the latest gen high gain transceivers for drone control, as the e-war drones required both better encrypted and higher powered signals to be used in combat situations.  The new equipment had the added effect of increasing the effective range in which he could maintain control of the drones in his flights, hopefully enabling him to notice another runaway, at least until he could go back into the Ogre's programming and alleviate this and numerous other worrying quirks his drones had been picking up.  His continued research into drone programming had been bringing him increasing covert scrutiny from Concord, whom he had correctly believed were worried he was attempting to circumvent Directive Omega-1-5.  He'd read the Code Aria reports of course, and found disturbing parallels in his own research.  He had begun receiving veiled messages indicating that his research had headed into dangerous territory, eventually leading to a low-key confrontation when he reemerged into Concord patrolled space on a supply run.  

His first accident had occurred many months ago in Low sec, thankfully away from the prying eyes of Concord, but some of the techs had obviously been unable to keep their observations to themselves.  He had been scared out of his mind when one of the techs frantically opened a channel to him with a message;

"Sir, we just picked this out of Ogre #4's subroutines...! It's been on a repeating loop and it's core temp is rising!"

*01010111010010000100000101010100001000000100000101001101001000000100100100111111*
*WHAT AM I?*

Erun had paled as he instantly translated the binary sequence with his implants and told the techs to evacuate the drone bay.

 "Sir?"

"Just do it, now!"

The Techs had all rushed for the exits before he jettisoned the entire bay into space in a prefab container, which was then quickly vaporized with a blast from the 425 rails only recently installed on the Dominix.  His panic subsiding Erun had docked in his home station in lowsec before coming up with a plan.  He had given all of the drone techs a small fortune before letting them go with lifetime NDA's that would have made a Caldari lawyer red in the face.  The drones had always had anger and sadness issues but they'd never really given much though to their own existence before.  He had shut down all of his production facilities within lowsec in order to focus exclusively on the problem of the drones' self-consuming rage in their programming.  This seemed to appease his minders, as they seemed aware he had never made an effort to produce construction or repair drones.  His combat drones had no ability to reproduce or even self-repair (though he had considered it) and were therefore unable to become a threat unless he was actively building them himself.

Only a few of the drones with his original specifications remained now, deconstructed and stored in maximum security containers within a station deep in lowsec.  He was burning through them as their now obvious individuality drove them into either uncontrollable rage or suicidal tendencies.  Erun's personal research led him to believe he had given his drones far to much in the way of emotional capacities, something most other drone inventors never even gave thought to.  As it was though it took weeks of action before they began to be symptomatic, and he caught all the ones that became overtly violent or morose.  Erun was loathe to take away what he felt made his drones unique but hoped that his continued research into Gallente Drone Specialization would give him an insight into helping them get themselves under control, at least before Concord arrested him for his accidental breach of Directive Omega-1-5.  If it came to it he would remove the drones' capacity for emotion, though he would mourn the loss of what were often his only companions in the cold and lonely depths of space...

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