Getting to Know You

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Wafer Terminal, Shenich System

My first major expedition in Star Fury was all about getting to know the ins and outs of a Cobra and the new toys that were afforded me.

The first order of business: the fuel scoop.  I equipped this device as a hedge against hitting a big void in the population plot. I didn’t like getting stranded.  And it works fine. But there’s a fine line between maximum fuel intake and burning to a crisp that I’m still trying to suss. Still, after a few jumps I felt I had the fundamentals in place. The rest, as they say, is finesse.

The weapons package was another matter.  The two beam lasers were familiar enough, but it turns out that dumb-fire missiles are about as useless as a Nerf cannon. Out of my entire loadout, I got exactly one hit, and that was at point blank range.

The torpedo, on the other hand, hit with a mighty BLAM, helping me bring down a far superior foe in seconds. Unfortunately, with its limited capacity (one round per mount point), it really doesn’t fare well on a medium sized ship like a Cobra.  Unless you had a mission that required a hard, heavy hit right off the bat, this weapon is either a massively unrealized potential, or a wasted hardpoint.

So I also swapped out for a scatter gun.  Less said about that, the better.  I’ll investigate ballistics further, but I’ve drawn my conclusions on this one.

The next leg of my journey will have me evaluating homing missiles, which are a lot more accurate but have significantly less OOMF. And maybe another kind of ballistic. 

The great thing is, it’s great to have the freedom to evaluate without sacrificing the ability to defend myself.

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Star Fury

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Chaudhary Hangar, Mboyan System

The final few jumps of my journey to 47 Ceti were uneventful other than the occasional pirate giving his life for my buy-a-Cobra fund. No suitable missions, but plenty of hungry pirates just dying to get a piece of me.  I was not happy to oblige. But I enjoyed the bounties.

By the time I got to 47 Ceti, I had accumulated my goal of 500K and change.  They weren’t selling Cobras there, though, so the best I could do was stare at the poster taped to the bulkhead over my bunk. 

Oh, right, like you don’t do that, too.

Looking over my navcomp, I elected the Aegaeon system for my next destination.  Loading up two tins of Aepyornis Eggs, I headed out in search of a system some 40 jumps away.

A few systems away, I lucked out and found not only a good shipyard, but a good outfitter. I was also very pleasantly surprised to find out that Wild Heart was so well equipped that they practically gave me the Cobra in trade, plus 10,000 creds.  That left me with 500K+ to outfit with.

Here’s a sad truth: if you’re going to buy a Cobra and outfit it, it’ll cost you close to $800K creds.  As it turned out, I escaped with around $150K of my nest egg intact.

A little paint job, a christening ceremony, and she was mine. May I present Star Fury.

Screenshot_0006.bmpBy the way, you’re not seeing things. That is indeed a “Competent” combat insignia on the bow, not “Mostly harmless” like Wild Heart was wearing. Not sure how that happened. I hear there’s a navcomp patch coming out to give us a progress report on that sort of the thing in the near future.

But anyway – Cobra!

My first order of business was to take her out on a trial run just outside the station’s no fire zone.  And here’s where we all raise our hands and shout out “Hooray for testing!”.  As I deployed my weapons for the very first time, all the lights went out. And the life support. And the shields.

Turns out that while the Sidewinder is kind of bulletproof when it comes to outfitting – you just can’t overload it because there aren’t that many ways to suck power on it – the Cobra is a lot less forgiving, and it turns out that four beam lasers were too much of a draw on the power system. As was two beamers and two ballistics.  I eventually went with two beamers, a missile launcher, a torpedo launcher, and a bigger power plant (twice the weight as the Class A I had gone with initially). That took me from 10.6 K to 11K capacity, which brought the needles back out of the red.

So far, me and Star Fury have only experienced combat in one situation that was over before we even got started, but we’re getting to know each other.  For now, I’m going to spend a couple of days sanding down the rough edges and enjoying the amenities of a well-stocked space station.

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Recovery

Kennicott Holdings, Gautama System

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The Gautamian Flu is pretty nasty, so don’t get it. It keeps you down for a while. Except when you’re up. And on the Imperial Throne, if you take my meaning.

Having burned off a slice of my bankroll on antibiotics, hookers, and blow (well, one out of three ain’t bad), I staggered into Wild Heart’s cockpit for the first time in two weeks (plus change) and realized that she needed dusting in a serious way.

Two hours and a ten-pack of respirator mask filters later, I was finally ready to run the pre-flight checkout and check the Board. Just like old times – gold buyers, gold buyers, low-value courier missions, take out The General, miserable military missions, and zero cargo going my way or nice, clean anti-piracy missions.  Well, we’re getting close, at least.

So my first trip outside of medbay in over two weeks was into the Big Black without a mission but with at least a vague idea of where I was going next. I had to get inventive, though, because the next leg of the journey was into a void space that really didn’t have a lot to offer in terms of habitable systems – i.e., places to refuel.  But I spotted one system just one jump off my path that had all the amenities one could ask for.  I plotted my course and set off.

Even though I had forgotten to seed my cargo bay with some honey (i.e. pirate bait), the pirates were so happy to see me that I hardly had to work at it to get a few nibbles along the way. A procession of Asps, Eagles, Sidewinders, and even the occasional Cobra provided easily handle-able targets from which to glean a moderate living, and by the time I arrived at my ultimate destination, I’d accumulated around 50K in immediate bounties, plus follow-ups if I made it into Imperial or Alliance space. Not bad for a fella just stepping out of his own coffin.

The fuel situation concerns me.  Considering that I’m not toting cargo right now, maybe I should swap in a fuel scoop and stretch my range out.  On the other hand, I’m so close to my Cobra, I might just wait for that acquisition before doing so.  If I keep my head about me, and make sure to check for the availability of fueling points, I should be okay.

Which means we’re all waiting for the penny to drop, doesn’t it?

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Temptation

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Chernykh Works, Gami Musu System

Anti-piracy patrols aren’t all that bad if you remember the rules.

Rule number 1: tote a warrant scanner.

This device will give you credit for the kill in multiple juristictions.  It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Rule number 2: You don’t have to be the fastest ship in the sector. Just faster than the slowest ship in the sector.

While it’s tempting to enter a system with a full four pips on the engines, having a couple on systems will keep you alive long enough to point at the slower ship and go, “Hey – he’s LOADED!” and then run like you stole your own ship.

Rule number 3: salvage isn’t worth it.

When them pirates panic and dump their cargo in an attempt to distract you with shiny things, it’s really tempting to load up on that sweet ejecta. But the truth is, you’re probably not set up for smuggling.  You need lots of cargo room, and a known place to drop your ill gotten booty. It’s hard enough avoiding the rozzers when they show up every time you blow up a pirate; giving them another chance to scan you at an unknown space station is just asking for trouble.

Rule number 4: don’t bring a switchblade to a baseball bat fight.

Cargo scanners, a wet bar, entertainment systems, and other fluff are great if you’re running a passenger liner or actually engaging in piracy, but when your main objectives are to (a) go places, (b) see things, and ( c) blow pirates up, be sure to dress for success.  Upgrade your stuff, and make sure you’re equipping stuff designed to meet your objectives.  Especially if you’re flying a Sidey – these little beer cans aren’t made to multitask.   You compromise with these little ships, and you’ll be sucking vaccuum.

It isn’t get-rich-quick by any means, but I’m within 100K of my goal so I’m really not regretting the less aggressive pace.

For now.

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Marked

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Bulleid Beacon, Ngauningin System

After the rocky progress (i.e., no progress at all) of my last foray in the direction of 47 Ceti, I decided to take it a little more carefully this time around. I was missing my cargo, but I could still collect bounties if I played my cards right.

One of my quarry had a hold full of military blueprints, so I dipped my toe in to the pool and added a couple to my hold.

Bad idea.

I had taken out exactly 20% of my quota at this points, and failed to factor in that many of the pirates I would come across were fighting the rozzers … who, naturally, would scan me and notice the forbidden cargo in my hold.  So while I managed to, in many cases, shift the balance in their favor, they ultimately turned against me and started peppering me with fire.

Honestly, I’m not sure that’s what’s got them going on or not, but I do know that I’m getting damned tired of laser fire. So far, nobody’s presented me with an option to pay off my fine, or I would have by now, believe me.

The GalNet’s starting to chatter about these odd artifacts that have been showing up here and there. They say that these can be found around strong signal sources when scanning … I’m fancying a look at one myself.  They say there’s a message embedded in there somewhere.  Probably in some odd dialect that nobody today knows how to interpret.

We live in interesting times.

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Friendly Fire Isn’t

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Bowen Dock, HR 8061 System

Missions to hunt down pirates are becoming fewer as I go along. I’m not sure why, but I’ve found that hunting them is still a viable and profitable venture.

I am easily bored, however, and decided to take on a mission into a conflict zone.  I haven’t gotten the knack of these yet, and as usual I ended up huffing vacuum, all over a 10K  reward. I’m either lousy at picking factions, or just not in the right league to be engaging such events.

But the pirate hunting was good. System after system, I collected nav data and shot up pirates, and it was good.

And then there was the ship being flown by a minor lord of the local aristocracy, being hunted by pirates and doing a lousy job staying out of the way while I saved his royal bacon.  As a result, I got a minor bounty for taking him out, and a warm welcome at the next station I stopped at – warm as in the hot end of the lasers.

Total tally is that I gained around 50KCr while having to pay over 40K insurance deductibles.

Oh, bother.

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Targets of Opportunity

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Picard Settlement, Yenada System

For a mining outpost, Picard has a pretty lively Board. Unfortunately, when your best choices are between going after traders or Rozzers, you know you’re in the wrong part of the galaxy.  Pay my bar tab, fuel up, and I’m gone.

The next few systems were echoes of Yenada with variations. But, there were plenty of targets of opportunity along the way, as I investigated any signal source that didn’t look like a trap. The bounties have been small but plentiful, and I’m gradually closing on my 500K goal.

Some of these encounters are real heart breakers.  Take out the cargo hatch and see a virtual rain of cargo come spilling out … and just as you get ready to scoop a few up, the Rozzers show up.  None of the usual smuggler tricks work in this situation. If they scan you here, you don’t stand much of a chance of getting away without a fine.  So not worth it.  But, still.  Couldn’t they wait for five minutes more?  I did all the actual work, here.  Respect.

I’m starting to see offers from the Royals to turn coats and work for them.  I’m not really wearing a Fed coat to turn, but I want to visit Sol before I turn things around, and associating with the Empire just doesn’t sound like it would put me in good stead for a Sol permit, so I’m keeping them at arm’s length for now. 

This last encounter was one of those that usually ends up with you podded, flushing all that lovely nav data down the drain.  Caught a whiff of a signal, dropped out, found a freighter that was just skipping out.  Noticed the two other ships that where there were fairly high-powered, so turned my nose away and started my jump cycle up.  Before I knew it, theyd’ closed on me and were pummeling me like a sparring dummy.  I got out with my usual 18%, wincing at ever crack and pop the canopy made along the way. 

Never get complacent.  There’s always a bigger fish out there, waiting to pounce.

The mechanic tells me it’ll take a couple of days to fix all the holes, so looks like I’ll be inhabiting the nearest watering hole for a while. Suits me just fine. My nerves are still jangled over that fight.

Like my pappy used to say, sometimes you get the bear, and sometimes the bear gets you.

I have no idea what a bear is.

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Not the Greatest Judge of Character

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Haxel Dock, Asegezites System

Good news: I’d left the foul grasp of the Feds and re-entered civilization, where my precious Evil Juice was no longer considered the Worst Thing Since Dark Matter. The bad news was, Haxel wasn’t happening. 

You know when you look at the vid guide, and you decide to hate-watch that show that you constantly mock people for watching because everything else that’s on is even worse?  Well, that’s the Bulletin Board on Haxel.  There was a choice between going after The General (again), or going after traders.

I’ve always had problems with this kind of mission. Pirates are easy to figure out. If they’re wanted, or they shoot at you first, you’re pretty much guaranteed to collect a bounty. Trade interdiction missions are a lot harder to figure out.  And in this case I didn’t do any better than before.  Found a lone Hauler, took a shot, got a fine.  Finished the job, got a bigger fine. Didn’t get credit for the kill, so OBVIOUSLY I had it wrong.

So I slinked off to the nearest station to pay off a whopping fine so I didn’t end up with the rozzers up in my business. Going after traders is clearly not my strong suit.  Note to self: for now, let’s stick to pirates.

Another lesson learned in this general part of the galaxy is the difference between Combat Rating as a guide and Ship Type as a guide.

Lemme essplain.

You’re flying a Sidey and a Cobra manned by a Mostly Harmless pilot jumps your shit.  If you’re armed fairly well, you stand a decent chance against that Cobra. Play your cards right, and you’ll collect a bounty on this clown.

On the other hand, a Harmless-rated pilot flying an Imperial Courier starts the fight out around 2-3 times better off than that Cobra ever dreamed of being. Better armor, better shields, better power plant … assuming you land nothing but solid hits and your opponent lands one out of three glancing blows, your shields will STILL go down before the Courier’s. If you press this fight, you’re probably going to lose.

Know when to run.

Having fulfilled my anti-piracy obligations, and tallied my bounties, I limped in to port with 6% left on my hull integrity field, jumping at every crackle from the canopy. A few minor upgrades were purchased, but I’m happy to report that even after all that, I’ve cracked 300K in my savings.

The plan right now is to wait until I hit 500K before even shopping for a Cobra, because the chassis is just the beginning. I also have to pick the right place to buy it, because where ever that is will more or less become my new home port – either because I have a halfway-equipped Cobra parked there, or because I have a sweetly decked-out Sidewinder parked there.

I mean, sure, I could park a ship somewhere and travel to it on a regular passenger liner.

But I’ve seen the kind of people out there plying the spaceways. No way I’m going out there with anything less than a Class B beamer.

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Getting Places without Getting By

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Lichtenberg Gateway, Yorates System

Still steaming from losing my rare goods cargo to pirates, I decided to make a quick jump back to Leesti just to replace the lost cargo. Mostly, I was curious how much I would get for it at 47 Ceti, but there was also principle involved. With small things we are damned.

I got to Leesti and back to Lichtenberg without incident – I wasn’t looking for trouble, and it wasn’t looking for me. This particular arm shows just how far I had to stretch to get across the gap – the tank was close enough to empty as to make no difference. How much does it take to fill a Sidewinder? Exactly 100Cr.  You’re welcome.

Yorates offered no real opportunities, so I set out for the next manned point on the trail … then the next … then the next … this route wasn’t unmanned, but it was mostly just mining outposts. Not much in the way of action for someone looking to murder pirates for a living. Or anything else.

Then I hit Federation Space.

According to the Navicomp and any other number of sources, Leesti Evil Juice is a “legal drug”, and while it is disliked by a lot of the rozzers, it’s perfectly okay to transport it.  Apparently, nobody told my navicomp that the Feds have a different opinion. So, while I paid 500Cr each for two cans of the stuff, the Feds hit me up for 4400Cr in fines.  The trade net says this stuff can sell for 8K a can, but I’m sorely tempted to drop it at the first opportunity, because that kind of fine can eat away at the profit margins pretty rapidly.

But, you know, mining colonies.  No big stations at all, just these frameworks that look like some miner just bolted spare parts together randomly as needed.  And while that’s a distinct possibility for these things, they generally all gravitate towards one of a few generally useful configurations.  Hab module here, docking modules here and here, fuel modules all along here … after a while you get used to it and know where to look for the landing pad if you don’t see the landing lights.

It does mean, as I think I’ve mentioned before, that the orientations of the stupid things can be just about any direction. There are a few rules of thumb that’ll help out, such as the landing pad number is always at the longitudinal end of the thing, or that the blast shield  should be behind you when you start to land, but there’s still a lot of challenges in getting lined up right. The best solution, as always, is to be ready to react quickly.

Aside from a few pirates that donated to the cause, this has been an fairly unproductive leg of the journey.  I’ve got around 30 more jumps to go to get to 47 Ceti. If I don’t die of boredom first.

Probably jinxed it, didn’t I?

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Journey: Interrupted

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Lovell Depot, Bruthanvan System

The path towards 47 Ceti was open, so I plotted a course to bridge the gap between here and there and climbed into the comfortable, yet extremely constricted, cockpit of Wild Heart. The first order of business was to pop over to Leesti and grab some Azure Milk at George Lucase station.

I should have known this enterprise was headed for trouble when the supply of Milk had dried up to 1 whole can’s worth. To round the cargo up to 2 cans, I grabbed a can of Evil Juice.

A quick note: Leesti Evil Juice is not actually illegal on any system that I am aware of, despite its reputation. Cops hate it because it really makes you mean, but that could be said of really cheap tequila, too.

Well, that can be said of my ex and really chap tequila, at least. 

Well, okay … any tequila. 

Well, okay … anything alcoholic. 

Well, okay … if she was breathing.

SUBJECT CHANGE

So I picked up my goodies, and headed back to Lovell to top off the tanks, then flung my frail frame into the Black, which on reflection was a really bad decision.

Around Qube, I got jumped by, I dunno, 200 pirates or something. One of them splatted the cargo hatch and my well-gotten-gains were expelled to the void.  Considering my life well worth the loss, I jumped outta there a bit poorer, but also a bit aliver.

This did not help me on the next jump.  One guy, with plenty of firepower, blew through my shields and hulled me like he was at least two grades higher in combat rating.  I’d love to say that my attempts to K-scan his ass had a lot to do with that, but the hard facts are that he was just a really good shot, and I should have reacted a lot more directly than I did.

Complacency, thy name is “insurance payout”.

Say goodbye to: contraband, cargo, and nav data.

Say hello to: humble pie.

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