The Orientation Pack

Kicking back after a hard day’s training in the simulator, Vin had opened his “Frontier Developments Orientation Pack” and promptly gone slightly cross eyed.

So much had changed since he left all those years ago. At the time, all he had was an instruction book for the flight console and a copy of an old legend….. The Dark Wheel had proven to be a myth (either that, or as with Flight Club, the first rule had been that no one had spoken to HIM about it). He fondly remembered climbing into that already battered old Cobra, powering up the viewscreen and thumbing the launch button.

“Data on system” had been a sparse description of each and every planet and to be fair, he hadn’t needed to know much. Did they need tractors or integrated circuits? Could you buy oak panelling at a knock down price, or was it more profitable to ship a load of moonshine.

The inhabited universe had been broken along simple lines – a simple political description that boiled down to “am I going to get my **** kicked?” and an overview of the state of the planet below.

Hunting through the universe, maximum 10LY at a time, scratching a meager living and praying that the witch space drive didn’t eject you into the void to be used for target practice (or lunch) by multi faceted frisbees.

This tome in front of him really was something else… So he started from the beginning.

“Right – when Frontier are done with letting me test this ship, they’ll ship me out somewhere with a pocketful of change…” he commented out loud. That, at least was a familiar start.

First things first – staying on the right side of the law. The local station “Fanshawe and Brown” law chambers had furnished him with a beginner’s guide. The usual stuff. Nick things – you’re in the manure. Kill someone to nick them and the pile of manure is deeper. Trade in the usual illegal contents, much the same. Do any of the above in an Anarchy away from the police and as the song says: “Anything goes”.

The cover of the notes had a picture of a Viper on it. Not the sexy, lean, dangerous looking viper of old, but something with softer lines and more hardpoints. So – something had moved on in the intervening years. He sincerely hoped it didn’t have blue flashing lights – that would be too much.

Vin raised an eyebrow at the section marked “fines”.

“Sounds more like dishing out a bribe to get away with things to me.”

All in all – it looked familiar and fairly easy to grasp. Do small bad stuff and it was expensive. Do something nasty and something shooty would arrive at speed and attempt to turn you into space dust.

He cracked open another ale and swore as it sprayed over the new flight suit and dribbled down between the pads in the chair. Those maintenance bots were definitely shaking things up when he wasn’t looking.

The suit was looking more worn and a little less starchy now. Isinor Brown Ale was this week’s “must wear” colour, or at least it would be when he next visited the Thargoid.

The second book in the pile was the one on trading and it was this one that had him reaching for his notepad and pencil. Thousands of years of innovation and there still wasn’t a good substitute for the graphite filled pencil. Zero G fluid filled pens had a habit of exploding in your flight suit pocket on sudden decompression – something that was always a hazard in the old Cobra. If you think a pocket stain is bad in atmosphere, just imagine getting a few globs of the stuff in your eye just as you’re getting a bead on a Boa.

Over the decades, it looked like the basic station markets had evolved. Gone were the practically anonymous cargo pods labelled “food” and in were more specific purchases. What’s more, the improvements in interstellar communications and the massive increase in the numbers of pilots had put paid to the pricing cartels that had existed before and paved the way for a proper market economy.

“Damn, I need to get out more. I’m duller than a worm shuttle’s re-entry plating.”

He reached for his jacket, brushed off some more spots of the ale and headed for the Thargoid.


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