On Knowing One’s Place

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Dirichlet Orbital, Yum Kamcabi System

The campaign to empower Felicia Winters in the power play for control of the Federation continues to occupy galactic policy in this part of the galaxy. While it means in some ways that low lifes like me can eke out a few credits and gain more favor with the people handing out permits in certain systems, it also means that we sometimes have to expose ourselves to undue danger.

There were two missions ongoing at the same time. The bad guys (not us) had blowed up some cargo ships, and it was our job (us) to recover that cargo and any occupied cargo pods that might be found.  At the same time, any wanted pilot that was blowed up in the same area would grant a bounty voucher to the Upright Citizens that might be lurking around the area.

I think you know where this is going.

I manged to recover some cargo before I worked out which bits of cargo would not get me in dutch with the authorties. After dumping my illicit cargo on the black market, I headed back to the area to help in recovery … and as soon as I had anything good in the cargo bay, the Upright Citizens opened fire on me and blowed me up. Turns out, I was ranked “hostile” to the powers that be in the system, making me a wanted pilot, and therefore worth a few bounty vouchers to the Upright Citizens. They didn’t even thank me.

After a few episodes of “I dun got blowed up”, I decided to make like a tree and lumber on outta there. I had gotten my minimum participation credit for Felicia & al, so I wafted out of there seeking other exploits with which to earn my fame.

Fortunately, there’s a thing in Yum Kamcabi that mostly involves getting cargo and delivering it, so I have high hopes. If you need crap hauled, I got yer gig.

I’ve managed to more or less double my cargo capacity, and even if the power plant and distro box are beefier, I wasn’t happy with the four-laser arrangement I had, so I’ve replaced the secondaries with seeker missiles. So far – knock on silica substrate – they’ve been pretty effective, even though the expense might be a bit higher per trip, but only if some butt head decides to try to liberate my cargo.  They are 0 for 3 so far. Fingers crossed.

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Be prepared; that’s the Cobra pilot’s sacred creed!

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Lalande 27055, Polya Terminal

I took on support of Felecia Winters and her posse simply because it was the quickest way to get a permit for the Sol system. And yet, over time, it’s proven to be  pretty lucrative.

By basically camp-following the conflict between Winters and her rivals, I have been able to rake in some decent cash, managing to upgrade Star Fury in several ways along the way.

The most recent event, which took place around 150 LY from here, involved shipping military supplies to a Winters faction outpost embedded in hostile territory. And while I had a maximum of 18 tons of free space at any given time, my first load was enough to guarantee me 700,000 CR as part of the “top 100%” – i.e., anyone that even bothered to help.  That’s a pretty decent reward for doing the least I could do.

With that take, I upgraded my power plant from a 3C to 4A. It was tempting to also upgrade the power distribution system as well – I had the cash – but that would have taken me below my “rebuy” value – this being, essentially, the deductible on my ship. Let your cash balance fall below this value, and you’ll be flying a starter Sidey next time you get blowed up.  So, never, EVER take your cash balance below the Rebuy value of your ship, or you’ll be very sorry.

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I’ve now officially encountered my very first neutron star. The star drive stops you WAY the hell out from the center of gravity because, ya know, gravity sucks, and it sucks really hard within .1 AU of a neutron star.  When you drop out of Witchspace, it looks like it’s several AU away, like Sol as viewed from Earth, but in reality you’re less than the diameter of a G type star from it.

I’ve never encountered a red giant before, so I’m kinda curious what the drive does with that situation. How’s it know? Is it the Navicomp?  I did pop out next to Rigel once (a blue giant) and I was a respectful distance away, not nestled deep into its core. So I’m guessing Navi is lending a hand.

Winters has another big thing going on out in the Colonia sector, so far away that Navi can’t figure how to get me there. So I’ve been doing short trade routes in that general direction until I can get within striking distance. I downloaded a nice app into Navi called EDDB, which not only provides trade data to stations as I dock with them, but downloads trade data left by other ships as well. You use it to help plot trade routes given some basic parameters, so I’ve been using that to pad my pockets a little as I go along. It more than pays for refueling, though sometimes not for repairs.

Still, I’m coming out in the black so far.  Here’s hoping that’s a trend. I’ve heard about some harsh villains hanging out in the Colonia sector.

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WTB more space

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Britnev Platform, Raguvii System

I hate politics.

A perfectly useful rare goods run turned into a grim death march when the tide of politics shifted faster than my star drive could compensate, and, suddenly, Star Fury was behind enemy lines.

That’s the bad news. I’m behind enemy lines, and every major star port is a shooting gallery if I try to dock.

The good news, as much as I can garner, is that each star system, regardless of declared allegiance, has pockets of neutrality (or better) within it. These pockets are not, in fact, declared, nor are they obvious to the casual observer, nor are they, in retrospect, the “good guys”.

Basically, all the major star ports are evil. Everyone else, is possibly not evil, and possibly okay long enough to top off the ol’ fuel tanks before running like hell.

What they are is, in fact, ports in a storm.  Places to refuel, resupply, and, if we’re lucky, re-arm.

And that, ladies and gents, has been the story of my life for the last four months.

The insurance I purchased on my ship covered everything except the cargo in her holds and the nav data in her navcomps. That got me past the initial shock of the rapidly changing political landscape and into a survival mode that has made it possible for me to lurk my way from the heart of Empire territory into a gray area in which neither Alliance nor Empire has complete sway over the local constabulary.

In other words, I’ve been sleazing my way through the galaxy.

While that sounds somewhat amusing in a Better Call Saul way, it’s a life or death situation from behind the joystick. Here’s the deal. While the whole Alliance/Empire thingy has its little moments on the Galactic News Network, us little grunts in the virtual trenches are getting shot up like swiss cheese.

By the way, the “virtual trenches” are a lot less beautiful to the pilots manning the ships-cum-shrapnel than our “faction leaders”, and the only thing keeping us from being  footnotes in the galactic epic is the fact that we can afford it. The various refugees and passengers buying passage in our holds … not so much. Nobody mourns them. Not even the pilots. We’re just too happy to be alive to really have opinions on the gunfire erupting around us.

The Milky Way is huge, and any sane being would appreciate that all of Humanity forms a little bubble that accounts for maybe 1/6 of the entire galaxy, which, I must point out, is a speck in the grand scheme of things.

And that’s the punch line in all of this. While we’re struggling about who’s flavor of poutine is the best poutine, some unusual critters are scoping us out.

I want to point out that I have had nothing to do with any of these discoveries, and in fact, I, for one, welcome our new Thargoid Overlords. Business is business, after all.

 

http://xboxdvr.com/gamer/DP%20Sayre/video/25338081/embed

OOC: not saying the Elite guys are borrowing from other peeps, but:

https://youtu.be/ZLZW8Deq8vE

All I ask is a piece of the action.

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Recovering

 

Jael Dock, Verner System

There’s an old addage, “Never sleep with someone crazier than yourself.” One of my ex-girlfriends shared that with me just before she came at me with a fusion spanner.  You would think that I’d remember that kind of lesson.  You would be wrong.

One of the great things about the Cobra classes is that they come with a little bunk enclave, meaning you don’t have to pay for on-station lodging if you don’t want to. That is also a down side, because it does tempt one to host a friend of copasetic gender, and that’s not always the best idea. When  you’re someone like me, it’s a good idea to look back on your past history of romantic entanglements and ask yourself, “do I want that person in an enclosed space that my life depends upon?” Sadly, I have a history of not listening to good ideas.

So, here I am, several months later, having spent several weeks in a hospital bed, and the rest of the time serving time for my part in a very bad first date.  But I’ve kept out of trouble, and there was enough cash in the account to keep Star Fury out of the pound, so I’ve finally gotten myself back into the cockpit and started to pick up the pieces of my life.

The good news is that, even though I’m no longer on track for some of the improvements I wanted ot make to Fury, I am also nowhere near wiped out. I wasn’t going to get my next upgrade until I had a million in the bank, and I was 100K short of that when things went to plaid, so take out hospital fees, fines, and dock rent for several months, and I still have funds to restock the galley and refuel the old bird.

Unfortunately, my entanglement managed to totally frag the control cluster in the cockpit when I managed to be better at ducking than she was at swinging. I’ve had it replaced with what parts where on hand, but everything’s in the wrong place, and getting used to the new controls has been difficult.  Fights I would usually walk away with are a challenge at this point, and in one case I managed to limp into the station at 3% hull integrity. I mean, hell, having rough sex inside the ship would have taken it the rest of the way at that point.

I also spent some of my funds on a new pair of shorts.

So, I’m taking it easy right now. Easing my way back into the swing of things, hoping the new controls grow on me at some point.  I’ve largely kept myself limited to low-risk ventures, and I’ve been farming that nav data like it was going out of style. I should have a good chunk of change waiting me at Aerial when I get there.

Unforunately, my past reputation did not go away when I lost that control cluster, and as a result I am constantly attracting the attention of the sort of attacker that I am not really up to handling any more. I’ve taken my share out, don’t get me wrong, but when a Master-level pirate drops you out of Supercruise without a second thought, it keeps you from napping in the cockpit.

New long term goal: I’ve spent some of my time in the, um, village perusing Cobra forums on GalNet, and am slowly piecing together a good loadout for my ship. Step two will be to map out what’s missing, then find out where said parts might be had, and hope none of them are restricted systems.  As I get deeper into Imperial space, I have my doubts on that one.

I’d prefer to  avoid any Imperial entanglements.

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Another Leg Completed

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Ford Dock, NLT 19808

Over at the bar Pigs Before Swine, we’ve all been rooting for CMDR Ol and his friends as they fly over 25,000 LY out of civilized sectors of the galaxy. It’s not like Ollie’s competing for some prize at this point – it’s been done before – but more that we’re all in the corner of someone daring to leave it all out there in The Black.  It’s like watching that daredevil fly a space scooter through the loop of a Stellar Prominence; you wouldn’t know him if he ran you over on the street, but we all appreciate the chutzpah of the act itself, and are happy to see the triumphant procession afterward.

Either that, or we all secretly want to see it crash.  Centuries after chariot races went out of style, we’re still all secretly rooting for the horses.

At any rate, it was about time to pay up my bar tab and head on to Aegaeon, which was all of four jumps away at this point. I had some work to do, too, as the locals had hired me to go after pirates in a neighboring system.

Boy, those were some angry pirates.

Rarely have I encountered a group if pirates that would gang up on you outside of a military conflict zone. Generally, they either hunker down and hope you won’t notice them, or skip out at the first sign of trouble.

Not so these guys.

Time after time, I would engage what appeared to be a valid target, only to get pounced by one, two, or even three others that for whatever reason decided that solidarity among pirates was a new and exciting trend.  And this wasn’t just one spot. This kept happing again and again.  Hell, when I decided to stop by a local station to get repairs (34%, yoiks!), I got Interdicted not once, but TWICE.  This system wasn’t a hive of scum and villainy.  This system was the friggin’ motherlode!  I need to mark it on the map, HERE THERE BE PIRATES, in case I ever need to shoot more indiscriminately.

One of these fine purveyors of hot death dropped a load of gold.  At first, I was suspicious. Usually, when I see cans of gold floating around, there’s either an ambush or the rozzers lurking about.  Not so much this time.  But grabbing several cans of duty-free gold does come with its challenges, not the least is voiding any Official entanglements. At the next station, I flew in as fast as I could, shwooshed the mail slot, and ended up not having a black market to sell to. I spent the next three stops sweating the inevitable cargo scan before I finally found a pirate outpost that took that gold off my hands, no questions asked.

Finally, after several false starts and much strife and hard learned lessons, I’ve completed this leg of the journey. Schweikart Station hoves into view, and, even though I don’t have my original cargo of Aepyornis Eggs, I did manage to hang on to all my nav data.  After loading up on Chateau De Aegaeon, I’m ready to embark on the next leg to Aerial.

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Getting Political

Screenshot_0000.bmp My new ship configuration is still working out well. I’ve managed to pump my power systems to 12K MW but I’m always aware that I’m dancing on the edge of power failure with the current system. The Cobra definitely makes power management a much larger challenge than on my humble Sidewinder. In a way, I kinda miss Wild Heart. Then I encounter a very angry Imperial Dropship and I remember why I’m happy to be flying a Cobra. Nobody likes seeing their shields disappear in three seconds, which is an altogether too common situation when flying a Sidey.

Serving Felicia Winters’ cause has proven to be far less gratifying than I would like. Maybe it’s due to my low rank in the organization, but so far all they want from me is to deliver propaganda. Which I can do, sure, but I’d rather be blowing up bad guys in the name of the Shadow President.

The Cobra Mk III is a comfy, warm cocoon around my frail body that protects me from the turbulence of the magnificence of the evil of the Galaxy.  I love it in here. Just enough cargo room to get in trouble, just enough firepower to see me through most battle, just enough shielding to keep me safe. This ship is the Just Right of the Galactic Shipyard. Star Fury may not be able to hold her own against an Imperial Dropship, but she’s up to just about anything else.

I’m a few jumps away from my next destination, and I’m minus my special cargo.  However, I’ve avoided dying since my last special port, so hopefully I have a lot of dosh coming from exploration data. And that’s a nice thought.

Aegaeon, my ultimate destination, is in the middle of Felicia’s area of influence, so I’ve made an unusually serendipitous selection for my destination. Hopefully, I’ll curry more favor from her team.

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Work at it long enough, you’ll find a sweet spot

Screenshot_0001.bmpAfter a number of bad decisions and some moderately disastrous ones, I reconfigured Star Fury’s weapons systems once again.  This time, I swapped out the secondary mounts for ballistic mounts. After hitting up the Board, I headed out looking for pirates to bash.

So this feels like a winner, folks.

A pair of gimbaled multi-cannons seems like a perfect counter to the heavy beam weapons in the primary mounts. Generally, while the beams cool off, the cannons can hammer away. While they reload, the beams can cook the target.  Rinse. Repeat. Reload. Repair.

You get the idea.

Today I got a packet from the office of Felicia Winters.  Apparently, the Shadow President sees no problem accepting the services of an occasional smuggler, mercenary, and sell-ship. A small stipend of 1000 CR and a suggestion of more where that came from. Liberal, schmiberal – pay me well and I’ll spread your propaganda from here to Sag-A*.  

Though I was hoping for something more violent.

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Power Distribution and You

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Feyman Orbital, Hai Ho

A very humbling lesson was taught me when I first outfitted Star Fury, when I failed to realize that the fittings that had been fitted required more power than the power plant I had could provide. Okay, well, fixed that.

Fast forward to today, as I docked at a station that had a decent selection of pieces parts.  I upgraded two items, neither which were marked as having any effect on the power distribution system; the second item was a shiny new Power Distro box that had major improvements in the recharge rate of all subsystems. 

After that, I set out in search of mischief and found some … deployed my weapons … and the ship went dead.

I mean, it’s a good thing the hardpoints are spring-loaded, or I’d’ve had to go for a walk in order to get my systems back online.

After I ran diagnostics, I came across the cause, and a good reason to remember to continue to do a test firing before heading out each time. The shiny new distribution box actually DOES have a power draw, but it’s not actually disclosed in the spec sheet. As a result, my power draw was .3 more than expected, and that took me right over the line.

Thus endeth the lesson.

After a lot of soul searching, I’ve elected to align with Felicia Winters, the Shadow President, and her opposition party. They’re right, there’s just a lot of fishiness in the loss of Spaceship One; the numbers don’t add up. Or if they do, it’s to something pretty damned ugly.  I’m not always the biggest fan of the Fed government, but I just can’t take the Hudson administration seriously.

I don’t mean I’m going full-on foil hat here. I’m not ready to stand with the RedditNet personalities that insist that Halsey’s disappearance was a deliberate act of sabot age by one of her own senators.  Winters at least isn’t going there, either. Not yet. She’s at least insisting that facts need to back the allegations first.

So I’ll gladly stand with the voice of reason over that blowhard Hudson that seems to think that the best solution to anything is to blow it out of space.

I mean, that’s my job, but I’ll do it for someone that would rather I not do as much of it.

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Laying Low

Screenshot_0001.bmp Boucher Terminal, 84 Ceti

There’s a bit of a shakeup going on, and it’s really harshing my buzz.  I have a Grand Vision for myself, to get to Sol and see the ancient sights, but this damned war is getting in the way.  The Feds are in an uproar, with Spaceship One having been blown out of the sky, and various senior polis jockying for political advantage.  The crisis in the Federation has maybe triggered more unrest in the Alliance and Empire.

Work is coming in from all over the place; the best way to get ahead is to curry favor with one of these factions.  Those that do not, I’m hearing, are having a harder time of it than they used to.

My dilemma here is that if I pick a side, my travels may be somewhat constrained. And that’s going to make it harder to curry favor with the Feds. Unless I side with that weasel Hudson … and that’s gonna take a pretty thick rug. So, in a way, I’ve unpicked a side, haven’t I?

All this stupidity comes on top of some major changes that are taking place on the technology front. Right now, we should be enjoying some new toys, but it’s all tainted by the changes taking place.  I hear about little cargo-retrieving drones, improvements in mining technology, and even the GalNet interface has been updated.  The Galaxy map even has new shineys – I swear, I saw a button that would point out known black markets in the area.

But no – we gotta focus on the gritty underpinnings of this galactic bruhaha.  Okay, fine.

First of all, it really did feel like the pinch was on; bounties were smaller, rewards were smaller, and the smiles were less frequent and of lower than usual quality. But, on the other hand, business was brisk. I can’t complain.

I fit a third beam laser on the new heap, upgraded to homing missiles, and went out and asserted myself. The verdict is: keep trying.  The problem with beamers is that they share a common energy pool.  What this translates to is: more beamers = higher burst damage, but you use up your juice a lot faster.  If I keep this configuration – or go with four – I’ll need to change my tactics somewhat.  If I keep the missile launcher, I’ll need to upgrade to something with more oomf. It’s nice to use as filler in between laser cooldowns, but it would be nice it was more … decisive.

While I’ve been romping all over the galaxy like I owned the place, it’s important to realize there are bigger fish out there.  I was served that lesson anew when some goon in an Imperial Dropship got the drop on me (c wut I did thar) and I was lucky to escape – though, I must say, I was in a lot better shape when I escaped than last time I encountered one of these terrors.

Well, I have a lot to think about as I cozy into a nice warm hostel and look at the litany of misery that is the GalNet newsfeed, run power distribution simulations on my wristpad, and try to figure out where I should stand in the big picture.

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Pip Dancing for Fun and Profit

Sometimes the art of flying any ship is the art of Pip Dancing.

Cockpit Pips “Pip Dancing” is the practice of modifying your power distribution settings effectively to match the situation you are in.  It is so called because most ship power distribution displays represent the power distribution biases as three little pips below the power bus status bars. The more pips illuminated, the higher the power distribution bias is to that subsystem.

There are three major subsystems

  • Systems, which affects shield recharge rates among other useful things.
  • Weapons, which most notably affects energy weapon recharge rates and possibly reload rates (YMMV).
  • Engines, which (no surprise) most notably affects engine capacitor recharge rates and total thrust availability, as well as your turning “sweet spot” on the throttle.

Your skill in manipulating these three settings can affect the outcome of an encounter tremendously.

There are generally four controls associated with these settings – a “reset” button that returns all controls to defaults (two pips each), and then one button to increase the level for each of the three systems.  I generally bind these to buttons that are easy to get to. In current conditions, there are six buttons surrounding the joystick, so I’ve delegated three of those to subsystems, one to reset, and one to reverse thrust (unrelated).

The tricky part is that there is a maximum amount of energy to be distributed, represented by the six pips.  If you crank one system up to maximum (four pips), the other two will decrease equally to compensate.  So, for example, if you set Weapons to three pips, then increased Engines to four, then Weapons would decrease to two and Systems to zero.

Anyway, it’s good to keep these four controls mapped to easy-to-find buttons, so that you can adjust things appropriately.

Let’s run some scenarios.

  • You materialize in a group of highly skilled, heavily armed pirates.  You’re going to run, but you need to survive the onslaught as well.  Initially bias to four Systems, two Engines, zero Weaps.  After you survive the initial onslaught, drop chaff and crank Engines to 4.  Run like the wind, engage jump drive, and pray.
  • You materialize in an area that is full of weakly armed, inept wanted pirates.  Boost Weaps to 4, Engine to 2, let Systems fall where they may.  The need for efficiency overcomes the need for safety when your opponent can’t hit you.
  • Your opponent realizes he’s going to die and runs for the hills.  If you don’t stay in firing range, he may escape. Crank up Weaps and Engines and hope for the best.

Generally speaking, if I’m fighting smart (i.e., against an opponent that can’t pod me), I’ll be less concerned about incoming fire and more about shutting her down before she decides to jump out of the system. Therefore, I’m going with three weaps, two engine, and one system. If they have decent weaponry I might bias more towards systems than engines, but I keep weaps as high as possible.

These are the fundamentals. As with all things, learning comes with practice.

You have all the weapons you need. Now, fight.

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