When I looked up again from my data pad, it had turned night, meaning that the automatic lighting system of the station had dimmed all auxiliary lights. My data pad was a candle in the darkness of my private quarters, barely illuminating the cup of (now cold) tea standing within arm's reach on my desk. I got up and stretched, limbs somewhat stiff from sitting at this desk for the last couple of hours, ergonomics or not.
There were a few more things I needed to go over, but I could do that as easily from my bed, in much more comfort. It was rare that I got to spend significant time ‘home’, and I aimed to enjoy it.
Gathering both the pad and the cup from the desk, I briefly considered making some fresh tea - but decided against it. Cool and spicy was just right that moment.
Unceremoniously I discarded my clothing where I stood, hopped into the bed - a Real Bed! - and boxed the pillows and blanket into the perfect shape - only to be interrupted by a furtive knock from the door.
Strange - usually people would either knock strongly, or just page me on intercom. But, as I couldn’t hear weapons fire, it was probably safe.
Triggered by my voice, the door lock disengaged, the door opened partially, and a black-haired woman peered inside.
“May I come in?”
I relaxed. “Sure!”
“Thanks!” The door opened fully to allow Eta entrance. She made her way through to dark room, door automatically locking again, and sat down on the foot end of my bed.
“I couldn’t sleep, and needed somebody to talk,” she said almost apologetically, “but I didn’t know if you were ... well, busy... being back home for once, and all that.”
I chuckled. “Busy is right, but sadly the other kind.” I waved my pad. “Roster cleanup.”
“Oh, ...who did we lose?”
I leaned back and looked at the ceiling. “Brad and Liza - they’re planetside for the near future. And Unholy vaped, again. And we’re going to lose our WH crew to the Bunnies - but that was my idea. Can you believe that: they actually miss WH life; something we can’t support at the moment. But...” I winked at Eta. “...they are only on loan.”
I sat up again. “But that’s not what you wanted to talk about. What’s bugging you?”
“Well,” she shifted uncomfortably, “you remember that I thought of doing some market speculation?” I nodded, and she continued. “It sounded so easy in my head: ride the mineral wave in the market, use my reaction fund to buy them low and then hold on to them until the new DED regulations kick in next month. So I did that - to the tune of 2B.”
I whistled through my teeth - that was most of her liquid capital.
“Exactly my thought when I ran the tally.” She looked at me. “And frankly, I’m scared. Scared that I bit off more that I can chew.”
I must have looked surprised, because she added: “No, really!”
“But...”, I tried to put my thoughts into words, “when you ran your reactions you routinely moved billions worth of stuff around - through lo-sec and in tin-cans no less. And you also had the market exposure!”
“Yes, but this - is different.” I recognized the tone - it didn’t happen often, but every once in a while even my independent sister needed somebody to lean against, but didn’t know how to express it.
I held out my arms. “Come here.”
She moved up into my embrace, and rested her head on my shoulder.
“When I ran my reactions, I could control most variables: Covert transports. Scouts. Backup reactions to cover a market slump. The market for the materials was sorta predictable. And I knew what I was doing. But this - ”, she gestured into the air, “is mostly out of my hands. And the market mavens are probably laughing at my rookie attempts.”
“What did you do?”
“Going in, I knew that have neither the patience nor the experience to play the Buy order-shuffle, so I figured I get the minerals on the cheap by buying up all those Sell orders which happen to be below the main hub’s Buy orders.”
“The ones where people don’t want to or can’t move the goods themselves?”
“Precisely. But what I underestimated was how much of the minerals are offered that way - I reached my financial pain threshold in just two days. ...aaand at the same time the prices started to flatten out, some even dropping.”
She sighed. “I knew up front that this would be a long term deal, that I would have to ride out a few intermediate drops - but it doesn’t make it any less scary. And I can only watch!”
“Shhh”, I gently caressed her hair. “It’s scary because it’s new and you’re pushing out of your comfort zone - something I have a hard time doing. I admire that. And if this fails - well, you bootstrapped yourself once.”
“You helped, with a generous loan!”
“Which you paid back in full, so shush!”
“You’re probably right.” Her voice still betrayed doubt, but I could feel her relax. “Still, until I get used to this, I have to make sure I don’t make mistakes through pre-occupation. Like the two last night.”
“Whatever they were, they can’t have been that bad.” I tried to keep my voice playful. “We haven’t been war-decced, yet.”
“One was really stupid: I needed to buy 10k units of Sulfuric Acid for our corp reaction, but accidentally bought 100k. Classic rookie mistake - the only saving grace is that the projected revenue should cover the extra expense, so we can take the profit hit right away, and the corp gets 90k units Acid for free.”
She fell silent, and after a short moment I felt it prudent to nudge. “You mentioned two mistakes?”
“The other one...”, she squirmed uncomfortably, “I figured, since I’m gambling anyway, on the market, I could use some of my funds and play SOMER.blink. At first it was just to participate in their anniversary promotion, but I think I got carried away a bit.”
SOMER.blink - that name sounded familiar. I used my free hand to look them up on my data pad.
“Ah, the lottery operation.”
She nodded into my chest. “And a pretty slick one. If you’re easily excitable, they make it really easy to lose your ISK. Couple hundred million - poof!”
“You won a Thanatos.”
It took a few seconds for my words to register, then Eta sat up in shock.
“You’re fracking shitting me!”
As answer, I held out the pad towards her. She snatched it from my hand, and double- and triple-checked it.
“I’ll be damned ... Awesome!”
I gently rescued my pad from her hands before she could get any strange ideas, like framing it. “See, beginner’s luck does still exist. Just be sure to quit while you’re ahead!”
“Damn skippy!” I almost smiled - the rapidity of her bouncing back to her normal self was always astounding. “Let’s see - they offer to pay out the value of the price in cash, but considering that capitals will only get more expensive, I’d be stupid not to take the ship. Except...”
“You can’t fly it?”
“Nope. Can you?”
“Then this might be iffy.”