I awoke to a shrill sound from my Neocom, a message notification. Bleary eyed; the light from the clock felt like a laser burning through my retina. It was 03:24 AM. I was accustomed to being woken at all hours, but tonight was different, I’d not been in bed long and was extremely fatigued from the weekend frivolity at a planet-side conference called Fanfest (a gathering of capsuleers discussing the state of New Eden).
I closed my eyes; what ever the message was it could wait until I had rested. Again, the Neocom gave the same shrill sound, again the light from the clock burned my bleary eyes, it was 03:34 AM. I staggered from my bed, half naked, the cold metal floor of my quarters was as bad as the light from the clock; another assault to my weary senses.
I had no intention reading the message, just simply disable the notification alarm, I needed rest. Opening my Inbox I glanced the subject of the messages, which read:
URGENT: Matter of Extreme Importance <encryption seq. ASTRO-Ω-514-445553543531342D4E4F54494649434154494F4E>
The subject didn’t pique my interest; the encryption sequence did. It was like a cold shower; a rush of chemicals through my brain and I was awake.
I had created the encryption sequence over three months ago when I first became aware of the Clone Soldiers and the technology used to transfer their conciousness at the point of death. I had not made anyone aware of the sequence nor shared it with the Minmatar Militia. How then was someone using my encryption sequence and how did they find it?
I opened and decrypted the first message using my private key and biometric data; it simply read:
Encryption test; await further instructions
I opened and decrypted the second message:
Greetings Khai Astroyka,
My name is [redacted], I’m contacting you regarding the Clone Soldier situation and have a proposition for you that will provide you with the intelligence you have been looking for and secure you the appropriate assets for planetary conquest.
Please contact me on channel [redacted] at your earliest convenience to discuss the matter in further detail.
Kind regards, [redacted]
My heart skipped a beat; I wasn’t sure what to make of the message nor how the person found an encryption sequence only known by myself. I quickly got dressed and ran a security scan of my room and terminal; no anomalies found. This didn’t reassure me, I had no way to tell if my scanning equipment was simply being fooled by an unknown signature. I had to find out what the “proposition” was and the only way to do that was to connect to the channel and find out.
Could be risky; but what’s one more entity in New Eden hunting for me? I decided to open the channel using the encryption sequence; both as a signal to the end user that it was me and to provide a modicum of security. I masked my bio-feed, best as I could, but my name still appeared in the communication list. Within seconds [redacted] entered the channel.
[03:52:14] Astroyka > How can I help you?
[03:52:20] [redacted] > Thank you for responding to me. I’m aware you are fatigued so will keep this short.
[03:52:35] Astroyka > How did you breach my system and find this encryption sequence?
[03:52:42] [redacted] > That does not matter at this time, we have more important things to discuss.
[03:52:51] Astroyka > Proceed.
[03:53:10] [redacted] > As I know you are aware of the recent escalation of Clone Soldiers and Mercenaries in New Eden I won’t bore you with the history.
[03:53:21] [redacted] > New Eden is changing fast and these new entities will be making a huge impact.
[03:53:33] [redacted] > The cloning process isn’t perfect in the eyes of the four factions; not all of the soldiers are mindless automatons they need, and this scares them.
[03:53:56] [redacted] > Many soldiers are making freewill choices and already see the factions as how you and many like you see them.
I wasn’t sure where this was going; my mind raced as I read the words on the screen, wondering what would come next.
[03:54:02] Astroyka > Who are you and what’s your proposition?
[03:54:10] [redacted] > Who I am doesn’t really matter; who I represent is what’s important.
[03:54:15] Astroyka > So who do you represent?
[03:54:25] [redacted] > I represent those soldiers that want to be free!
Still unclear on what was going on here; and to continue with an air of ambivalence, I pressed the question.
[03:54:58] Astroyka > OK, and your proposition?
[03:55:08] [redacted] > How would you like to sponsor a mercenary?
The words left me cold. I slumped back in my chair and stared at the screen. I wasn’t sure what [redacted] was truly offering.
[03:56:19] Astroyka > Explain.
[03:56:24] [redacted] > I’m being contacted daily by soldiers that are looking for honourable sponsors to support them and provide materials and resources needed to fight on the frontlines.
[03:57:02] [redacted] > In return they will pledge allegiance to their sponsor and provide ground support in tactical or strategic offensives the sponsor requests.
[03:57:40] [redacted] > I have three candidates who are aware of the Minmatar struggle and wish to join the fight and are looking for an established capsuleer to follow.
[03:58:07] [redacted] > Is this something of interest to you?
I didn’t want to let this opportunity pass by, but this sounded like a slave trade.
[03:59:22] Astroyka > You sound like a slaver. What’s in it for you?
[03:59:25] [redacted] > You injure me! I have no financial interest in this and do not take any remuneration for my services. I’m simply an agent connecting capsuleers with mercenaries.
[04:00:10] [redacted] > I will let you consider the proposition and will await your response.
— connection terminated —
The agent left the channel and I was left staring at his final words. I was none-the-wiser about how [redacted] gained access to my encryption sequence, but that was trivial compared to the proposition that was made.
Fatigue washed over me, I was exhausted, I needed to rest and clear my head before I could process what had been discussed. I undressed and fell back into my bed.